When I added a Black Magic Pocket Cinema Camera (PCC) to the tool bag, one of the reasons was because there was finally an affordable video camera that would allow me to color grade/correct images to the same level as photos. The looks that can be achieved can be subtle or as vibrant as commercials you see on tv. Besides the many operational and firmware limitations in the PCC, it is still an interesting camera to use for “bonus footage.” I demand a lot from the Nikons and Canons that I use for “work,” but the PCC is an odd, difficult camera that I continue to gain experience on because the final image quality is so high. Even if only one of the limitations from the PCC were in the big Japanese cameras–for example, not being able to format the memory card in camera or see the recording time remaining, well, the forums would be all ablaze with complaints. Not with this little camera that shoots 4:2:2 ProRes or Cinema DNG though, as all the creatives seem to give it a pass simply because of all the horsepower under the hood. I do hope the camera companies realize that future tech will inevitably bridge cameras with open source operating systems that can allow the enthusiast world to code all sorts of features and fix bugs.
All this tinkering with Hollywood level software isn’t because there’s a hope of that mythical career in the film world waiting at the end of this road by any means–no, this camera is a combination of many cool things that I enjoy. One of which is maybe a signaling of photography of the future–capturing video and taking a high resolution still frame from it. In a modern world where digital imaging has become basically a visual language on its own, and the old world standards of photography are dying, I still like this little camera because it forces you to sit down and develop the image how you want it to look.
This example isn’t as heavy handed as say the Vivid color setting on the Nikon platform, but looks good to my eyes on my laptop editing station. I like to compare the flat, low contrast out of camera video to a bowl of pho that is as neutral as you can get. You can always add spice to a dish, but can’t take it out afterwards. Photos and videos sort of work the same way. Due to the LCD screen being so low contrast and impossible to see outside, I’ve begun to just shoot as close as I can and hope I have something manageable in Resolve.
This was the first time I tried the Nikon 85mm 1.4D on the PCC. Used it many times on the J1, which has a similar crop factor. These images have somewhat of a 250mm field of view crop on the PCC’s sensor. However, I didn’t bother with an ND filter to cut down the light, so I had to shoot a maximum of about f/4 or f/2.8.
Taking still frames from video will not replace normal still photography though, as seen in the example below. The blurring of the hand is a give away that this is video. The reason is because the PCC is a proper movie camera, working off of Shutter Angles instead of Shutter speed. I believe for these sequences I shot 30 fps and a 90° angle, which is equal to about 1/120 second. For some things 24fps and a 180° shutter just isn’t enough for movement, because that is equal to 1/48 (or 1/50) in the DSLR world. If you’re coming from the still photography world, imagine shooting 1/50 of a second and f/22 at ISO 200 all day long, that’s pretty much the starting point for the PCC on a sunny day. Even a rinky dink 18-55mm kit lens in the photo world gives a shutter speed in the thousandths of second in P mode on a bright day.
I graded the above image to be similar to a Nikon still image in the normal color profile. Below is a bit more high contrast image, similar to the style you would see in most people’s fashion blogs, etc. I actually find grading in Resolve pretty quick. Maybe in the future one can use an iPad for the color wheels for surface like control.
In this example is an extreme color correction, giving it a mood that I think works better for this particular scene. Again, I don’t see a problem with vertical video, it does have uses, like in split screen 1970’s style montages.
If one requires a fast workflow and turnaround, DSLR video, especially from the Canon’s are definitely the way to go. The full frame and even APS-C/Super 35/m43 look is definitely nice out of the box. The PCC original video, on the left, isn’t going to impress anyone out of the camera, but that’s not the point. By sitting down, and grading it yourself you can take the image to whatever mood you want.
These examples were shot with the Panasonic/Leica 25mm 1.4 on the PCC. A very nice lens, and at that focal length still pretty hand holdable.
This particular camera, like the majority of the ones out there uses a CMOS sensor with a rolling shutter. Only the higher end models have a global shutter. Why that matters is that the sensor doesn’t do a complete scan of the scene for every frame. When there is a flash of light from a strobe or certain lights the flash effect won’t be complete. Normally it’s worse than the slight bar of darkness like in the above image. For motion video I think it is quite annoying and just a limitation of the technology right now. Next time you watch wedding reception HD videos or club promotion videos online you’ll probably see the distracting half illuminated frames when flashes are going off in the scene. When you notice it, you just can’t unsee it. On a somewhat related note, when you watch basketball games on tv, every single possession, shot or moment, there’s always the strobes going off, triggered by the sideline photographers and their strobes in the rafters. Once you notice them, paying attention to the game can be quite hard.
This example is from shooting Cinema DNG on the PCC, which is a lot closer to what a person would expect. You can even change the import rendering settings in Resolve. Shooting this way all the time though isn’t very practical. Each second of video takes up say 70 MB, and a $100 32 GB card fills up in about 12 minutes. So in some ways it really is like shooting film.
For Mardi Gras this year I thought I would have an opportunity to really shoot some colorful things with the PCC, but as you can see by the weather, it was dreadfully cold. You really had to give it up to all the parade folks and kids for making the trek through the freezing rain and cold.
Looking at these video captures just doesn’t give a sense of how ridiculously cold it was. Definitely not a good day for filming or being out.
When you don’t have models, or anyone really, you always have yourself… I’ve always used New Orleans as a thinking spot, gear testing place, and just all around recharging environment. In this posting these photo screen caps are about two months old. When I think back to the state of things inside my noggin then and now, glad I waited. Time does have a way of wearing down things.
Some scenes around Atlanta shortly after a Hawks game. The garish, and $$ ferris wheel in Downtown will probably make its way into a film at some point.
This was shot with that bargain bin 25mm 1.8 C mount lens.
As I was filming, some bridesmaids/prom ladies were rushing off towards the ferris wheel. Somewhat of a cinematic moment.
High ISO isn’t a strong point of the PCC, but even then, the noise pattern is a bit more like film grain. Think my next series will be color grading for high contrast black and white footage.
So these are just examples of the random things I shoot on my various outings and event coverages. The Pocket Cinema Camera is really a 3rd or 4th option in the bag, as I do my normal camera juggling. Probably could have had much more usable footage if I just focused on one camera, one task, but I don’t think I’ll ever be wired that way. One of my goals is to be flexible in all camera platforms, makes and models. I buy things to use, and this PCC has already been dropped, LCD screen scratched, but in a few short months, has produced some pretty pictures.