BMPCC4K – The Rig Gets Better

Again, the more things change the more they seem to stay the same, sort of. As I get to use and practice with the BMPCC4K and the rig, there are small and not so small issues that arise and which need to be addressed. One thing that I’ve been waiting impatiently for is for someone to produce a small and affordable Electronic Viewfinder (EVF). But, sadly, no one has yet taken up the challenge and so the only option was to get a larger and brighter field monitor. And, as I started to use more lenses with the camera, I found that changing the position of the follow focus and matte box introduced its own problems, so more things to remedy.  Additionally, I really wanted to have a slider with me when I went on our bush trips, but the 120cm one I had was simply too cumbersome to take along, so that issue also needed to be addressed. While some of these appeared to be minor issues, some ended up being quite annoying in the long run.

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Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K Rig

The monitor I ended up getting is the Feelworld FW297 a 7″ 2200nit field monitor. My F570 field monitor is a great monitor, but absolutely terrible in bright conditions, even with a hood. And as no one was coming out with an affordable EVF, the only option was a bright monitor. And I have to say that this monitor is brilliant (no pun intended). Even at 50% brightness, the screen is crisp and easy to read in daylight (though not yet tested in very bright sunlight). And one very noticeable improvement is the focus peaking, it’s simply so much better. I also discovered that I can use the rig on my shoulder now, as the screen is so much easier to use, almost as good as an EVF. With regard to the controls, the FW297 is much the same as the F570, so nothing new to learn, but I think not having a touch screen has its benefits, as you’re not constantly cleaning finger prints off the screen. Surprisingly, the FW297 is just 50g heavier than the F570, but becomes 200g heavier with a cage. Given that the Feelworld FW297 is at least five times cheaper than any similar brightness SmallHD or similar monitor, the FW297 is an absolute bargain.

Feelworld FW297 7" 2200nit Field Monitor - (source: Feelworld)

Feelworld FW297 7″ 2200nit Field Monitor – (source: Feelworld)

As I noted, the other thing I bought was a field monitor cage a SmallRig 2233. Now I bought the cage because I didn’t want to attach the monitor just by its 1/4″ thread mount, as this simply didn’t instil any confidence when it came to bouncing around in my 4WD or anywhere else for that matter. The F570 sometimes gave me cause for concern with it’s single mounting point, as no cage was available, but the FW297 was too large to mount just by the bottom thread. The SmallRig cage is excellent, lightweight, yet very strong and the monitor fits perfectly, held in by three mounting points (one at the bottom and two at the rear). It also has a plethora of 1/4″ holes for attaching things like clamps and whatnot if required.

SmallRig 2233 Field Monitor Cage - (source: SmallRig)

SmallRig 2233 Field Monitor Cage – (source: SmallRig)

What was a side benefit of getting the brighter monitor was that I could now use the smaller one on  my gimbal with the TG5, to better see what was going on. So nothing has gone to waste so far, as bits that didn’t quite work out with the rig are now put to use in other ways. I’m actually quite happy that things have worked out this way as, at one point in time, I looked at some of my stuff and thought what a waste of money that has been; talk about recycling. And when I discovered that I could now fully use my other Olympus 4/3 lenses, I also had to do some further revisions to my rig so that I could accommodate the larger lenses that I’d be using, such as the 35-100mm f2. That meant adding a small 100mm rail extension to the front of the rig, so that I could shift the matte box further out as the 35-100mm lens was too long for the matte box to close. Thankfully I didn’t have to attach a gear ring, as the follow focus gear mated perfectly with the lens focus ring. I don’t think this was an intentional Olympus design, but I’m thankful for such lucky coincidences.

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Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K Rig – Rail Extension

My rig is now 600mm long and I hope that’s going to be the full extent of it. But when I look at it, there’s not much that can be done to avoid this. And when I look at some of the ‘minimal’ setups some use, if I took away the matte box, the dead cats off the mics, used just the F570 monitor, and maybe removed the shoulder pad and handle, the rig wouldn’t look that large overall. The V-lock battery is always going to stand out, but it’s a necessary evil. However, I have no intention of running and gunning with this camera, as I have an Olympus E-M1 MkII for that if needed and it has IBIS. But for the real running and gunning, the Olympus TG5 seems to work quite well, has a pretty good AF and, on my gimbal, is way lighter than any larger camera setup. Now if Blackmagic produced a Micro Cinema Camera with a m4/3 sensor, then that could be the ideal gimbal camera, or maybe even a revision of the original Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera (BMPCC) with a fixed lens.

Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K Rig – Monitor, Microphones and Audio Recorder

Another thing that I had pondered long and hard was replacing the Fotga follow focus wheel. It’s a pretty good unit, but a right pain to relocate when I change lenses, and with some lenses impossible to use because I can’t get it close enough to the camera. So I’ve been eyeing off the Tilta Nucleus Nano wireless follow focus controller, which hasn’t been available since it was announced, but recently started appearing. When I spotted one on eBay for pretty much the same price in Australian dollars as it was selling in US dollars, I decided to get it. The Nucleus Nano uses a very small motor and has a hand controller that can be located anywhere on or off the rig. I’ve been able to set things up so that with lens changes, the motor can be relocated fairly easily. And I have to say that the Nucleus Nano works brilliantly, very precise and absolutely silent.

Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K Rig – Tilta Nucleus N (Nano) Follow Focus Controller

And I’m still waiting for someone to produce a simple Bluetooth start/stop recording controller for the BMPCC4K, so that I can get rid of the cable release I’m using. It’s not that the cable release is bad, it works quite well, but for cable management it’s a bit of a pain. You can get cable releases that are shorter so that you don’t need to wrap the cable and try to get it out of the way, but I’m not about to get another one to fix the problem. I contacted Tilta with the idea of creating a Bluetooth interface for the Nano hand controller, which already incorporates a start/stop recording button for their gimbal (I believe), so that you could start and stop recording on the BMPCC4K directly from the hand controller. This would be an absolutely outstanding solution to a problem that frustrates many users, no matter how they use the BMPCC4k. With the battery setup I have, there’s no shortage of power available.

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Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K Rig – Battery Setup

I also now have an Andoer FT40 slider that’s very similar to the Edelkrone SliderPlus that was introduced maybe five years ago. I don’t think the Edelkrone slider design could have been copyrighted or trademarked, as a plethora of different brands came out around the same time with much the same design. The Edelkrone slider costs around AU$1000; whereas, the Andoer cost AU$100 (I later saw a similar one that cost AU$60). It’s actually a pretty good unit, well designed and easily holds 8+kg. The movement is fairly smooth, but as with all sliders, it’s practice that makes perfect when it comes to consistent movement by hand. Motorising this slider would be a doddle and it’s something I’ve thought about doing, but in a completely different way to how I motorised my other slider.

Andoer FT40 Slider - (source: Andoer)

Andoer FT40 Slider – (source: Andoer)

One more thing that needed to be changed/fixed was the large clip that holds the waist-belt of the Easyrig in place, which broke while doing some filming. I wasn’t in the least bit surprised that this happened, as breakages are very common and I really don’t trust these things at all, no matter who supplies them. So to make sure that this didn’t happen again, I sourced a fully metal clip that only cost $15 and which is much better. Not only that, it’s much easy to clip in compared to the plastic one.

Strong metal clasp vs weak plastic one

Strong metal clasp vs weak plastic one

As with any tool, the more you use it the better you become using it and learning its strengths and weaknesses. The good thing about a tool like a cinema rig is that it’s modular which means that you can change and adapt it to meet your needs. Of course there are limitations, but in this case nothing significant. The biggest hurdle in years gone by was the fact that accessories cost a prohibitive amount of money for most people. Today you can get good quality equipment and accessories at prices that would have been considered impossible say even 10 years ago. And that in itself is a problem.