BMPCC4K One Year On

Way back in 2017 I wrote my first part of Making Movies and what I saw lying ahead for me in this new endeavour. Looking back at that story and subsequent ones, I realised that I hadn’t fully explained why I wanted to produce video as an adjunct or, at times, replacement for stills photography and what prompted me to buy what was a cinema camera. Part of my reasoning was that I was finding my stills photography becoming a bit stale and motivation to go out with my camera was waning. I used to carry a camera with me at all times, but found that I was increasingly leaving it at home when going out. The other reason for a cinema camera was that I wanted my documentary work to show something more than what still images could display and my existing cameras weren’t ideal for video. Even though static images can be very powerful and engaging, I’d come to realise that there are some significant advantages when trying to convey a story with video. Moving pictures really do add another dimension to a story.

BMPCC4K Rig

BMPCC4K Rig

That said, a good still image is better than a crappy video and that’s where an entirely new mindset is required. This became a motivation for me and I’ve now started to carry a camera with me again, as I’ve once again become motivated to ‘see’ things around me and look for those stories. The learning process in the last couple of years has also made me realise that when it comes to video, I’ve been looking at the process in completely the wrong way. I’ve had things aligned in my mind about how to go about composing and filming, but by watching explanations of how film makers have gone about their business and put stories into moving pictures, I’ve realised that everything I had considered was somewhat arse about. Or perhaps not arse about, but that I wasn’t looking at film making with a broad enough view or perhaps as open a mind. I found that I was being both constrained by my photographic background (being too conservative), as well as discarding the positive things about that photographic background (not focusing on the important things). I was in a sort of cognitive dissonance and seeing things somewhat through a fog.

Hidden in the mist, The Pinnacles - Gippsland Victoria

Hidden in the mist, The Pinnacles – Gippsland Victoria

Winter has been stifling for me as I haven’t been able to get out and do things, especially as we’ve had one of the most miserable Winters for a while, but what it has allowed me to do is study. And so I’ve been doing just that, studying by watching plenty of YouTube, which can be a curse and a blessing when it comes to informative video. But if you look hard enough and go past the usual vloggers that are promoting gear more than anything else, there are channels that give good insights into film making. These videos go into depth to show why films that film makers produce are so good, or bad, as the case may sometimes be and the techniques they use. It’s been a very enlightening period and while a soggy Spring rolls along, I’m hoping that Summer is better and that I can put the things that I’ve learned and observed into good use. That doesn’t mean that I’ll be able to produce excellent video, far from it, but I think I can now look at stories in a completely different light and hopefully produce those stories and come up with a much better visual story.

So back to why I bought a cinema camera. The camera gear that I own can produce some very good video, but each camera has severe limitations of one sort or another. The Olympus TG5 is a great camera for gimbal work (that’s changed once again) where you need a small and rugged weather-proof camera; however, it’s limited by the very small sensor when it comes to lighting conditions and has a limited recording time in 4K, which is my biggest gripe. It also has no audio input and and there are no real controls that allow you to change settings in video mode. The Olympus E-M1 MkII has audio input and a much better sensor, plus with the new video log format, it allows for much better post-processing but, most frustratingly, there’s again really no ability to control settings once in video mode. For whatever reason, Olympus decided that once in video mode, just about everything should be set by the camera. For these reasons I decided to get a BMPCC4K. It has none of those limitations, as I can control every aspect of the video taking process.

Olympus Tough TG5 on Feiyu-Tech A2000 Gimbal

Olympus Tough TG5 on Feiyu-Tech A2000 Gimbal

Olympus E-M1 MkII and Feiyutech AK2000 Gimbal

Olympus E-M1 MkII and Feiyutech AK2000 Gimbal

In fact, the BMPCC4K is pretty much a fully manual camera, as I’ve noted before, and that’s exactly how I like it. Automation is all well and good, especially for stills photography but, other than say for vlogging, things like continuous auto-focus is not always a good thing. For many years before digital cameras came out, all that I or anyone else for that matter used were fully manual controls for every aspect of the picture taking (some still do). You planned, measured and then took your photographs and I think that sort of ethos still applies to film making. Certainly modern cameras are getting a lot better at maintaining and determining all the necessary settings for good exposure etc and digital sensors are far more forgiving, but for some reason this is one area where I prefer the old way and I think it perhaps has to do with learning your craft. By relying totally on the technology built into a camera to assess everything for you, you never really learn what’s happening and why. If something goes amiss, you don’t know what happened nor how to correct for it in future.

BMPCC4K Rig

BMPCC4K Rig

There’s also another aspect to the BMPCC4K, one which some used to DSLRs/mirrorless cameras don’t like, and that’s the fact that you pretty much have to add accessories to the camera to make it a functional unit. I’m not saying you can’t use it with just a lens added, but the accessories simply expand on the camera’s capabilities and it would be disingenuous to suggest that accessories are not required for DSLR/mirrorless cameras used for video. However, the BMPCC4K as a cinema camera has been designed to take professional accessories and make full use of these accessories compared to what you have available on most DSLRs/mirrorless cameras. These include a proper power input, a full HDMI output, an XLR audio input, the ability to record to external media and other features devoted to actual recording formats and methods. Very few DSLRs/mirrorless cameras provide even a few of these features natively.

BMPCC4K Rig

BMPCC4K Rig

So despite the many YouTube and other reviews where reviewers lament the lack of many DSLR/mirrorless camera features in the BMPCC4K and now the BMPCC6K, it’s the lack of these features that makes the BMPCC4K a very desirable camera for me. There is also the added bonus that it produces some of the best video in the industry and provides outstanding RAW capability, something definitely lacking in most, if not all, hybrid cameras. My year of ownership of the BMPCC4K has been very enjoyable indeed, even though I haven’t produced as much video as I would have liked. But now that Summer is once again approaching and I’m far more familiar with the camera and done a lot of studying over the last six months, I’m on the road to producing a lot more video than I have to date. While the Blessing of the Bikes video could have done with a lot more editing (and better editing), it was by far the most educational video I’ve done so far. I’m hoping to do a more motor sport in the near future.

Now that the latest BMPCC4K version 6.6 update has arrived, with many new features added to the camera, it once again shows how much Blackmagic is dedicated to film makers and providing the best possible cameras for their use. There are many new features that may or may not interest the user, but many are, what I understand, something a lot of user have been wanting. However, as a multi-camera user, I’m going to have to see whether any of these new features fit into my routine. As an aside, I’ve written to Olympus asking whether they could investigate the possibility of implementing Blackmagic RAW into their cameras which, if possible, would stir the hornets nest quite a bit in the video world.

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