I thought I’d do a further chapter to this story following Part 3, now that I’ve managed to put the BMPCC4K to use in somewhat arduous conditions such as we experienced on our last Cruise. The Cruise subjected the BMPCC4K and the rig to heaps of dust, heat as well as significant and constant vibration and jolting over five days while on our journey. I was somewhat worried about how the whole system would stand up, but I needn’t have been concerned as everything held up very well. The camera performed perfectly and the only issues I had was me trying to make sure that I’d thought of everything before pressing the record button. That was the biggest issue apart from trying to get into a cinematographer’s mindset and not stay in a photographer’s mindset.
Following on from Part 2, which focused more on accessories for gimbal use, I want to turn to another accessory or system tool. Now I believe that there are three main support systems for video cameras, a tripod/monopod, a gimbal (whether motorise or static) and a camera rig. All three serve a purpose that is often unique and one support system can’t be replicated, or not as well, by the other two. So I realised that I needed a camera rig to make the BMPCC 4K fully functional and useful when not using a gimbal or tripod/monopod and, while the gimbal is a great tool, it’s not a panacea or even desirable for every situation. To be quite honest, I didn’t want every scene to start reflecting the fact that I was using a gimbal. It’s like that old adage, ‘When all that you have is a hammer, everything starts looking like a nail’. That’s the fear that I had that if I just tried to do all, or most, of my ‘movie making’ using a gimbal, I’d lose perspective on other techniques that are just as pertinent and equally important.
In Part 1 I discussed the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K (BMPCC 4K) and lenses that I intended to use with the camera and in this part I’ll cover some of the accessories that I’ve cobbled together to enhance the usability of the BMPCC 4K. I’ve spoken previously in Part 7 and Part 8 about some of the accessories that I’ve gathered to allow different techniques, but in this part I’ll talk about smaller accessories that complement the camera and indeed are essential to get the best out of the camera. I’m not in a position to buy top shelf accessories, so I’m always looking out for a good balance between price and performance, so I do a lot of research before I decide to buy anything. I also keep an eye out for specials, such as eBay has on a regular basis, to get the best deals possible. Now while many photographers have a number of accessories that can be adapted to video, especially tripods and/or monopods, there are a number of items that are not necessary or as necessary for photography, but are essential for video. As I progressed in my ‘Making Movies’ journey, I kept coming across the need for another accessory and then another one after that.
At the National Association of Broadcasters Show 2018, known generally as the NAB Show, Blackmagic Design from Australia dropped a minor bombshell on the attendees, revealing the newest iteration of the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera (BMPCC). The NAB Show is primarily dedicated to the display of all things related to video, those involved in broadcasting, as well as pretty much anything to do with video production including cinematography. If you’re interested in video production, the NAB Show is certainly the place to be which, unfortunately, was not a place that I could attend. However, I have been monitoring what happened there though various video dedicated websites and YouTube videos. In my case, I was very interested in learning more about the BMPCC 4k as it’s called. Continue reading
As if this has never been done before! Anyway, in Part 6 of Making Movies I wrote about the slider that I’d bought and noted that I was considering turning it into a motorised slider so that I could get more controlled and smoother motion. What I was achieving wasn’t too bad, but I could never quite get consistent motion across the full length of the slider and that started to become very frustrating. That convinced me even more that I needed to add a motor to the slider. But what really prompted me was when I decided to dismantle one of my old printers, salvaging any useful parts that I could remove, I came across a number of bits and pieces like motors, belts, brackets, as well as hundreds of small screws. That spurred me to start looking at converting my slider to a motorised one, given the parts that started to pile up.
In Part 6 I discussed a range of accessories that can make movie production easier and professional looking. Hand- held gimbals are becoming a major part of this, but the cost of motorised ones had me avoiding getting one. However, after numerous failed attempts at getting the static gimbal to work with my main cameras, I was facing a very frustrating brick wall that I couldn’t penetrate. While the static gimbal is supposed to be able to handle the weight of my cameras (much like a Glidecam), I was beginning to suspect that wasn’t the case. No matter what I did and no matter how many videos I watched on how to balance this gimbal, I could not get it to work. The shoulder rig on the other hand is great but is more a substitute for a tripod in awkward situations but, when moving about, the shoulder rig shows lots of jitter and movement. The more I pondered the subject matter that I would be recording, moving about was going to be a major part of anything that I did and what I had wasn’t going to cut it.
I mentioned in Part 4 that gear wasn’t the most important thing when producing video and it’s not, but there are things that can make your video production easier and more importantly interesting, as I’ve been slowly finding out. Video production is all about conveying a story through visual impact; movement, light and manipulation of scenes, movement being one important aspect, and not forgetting sound and editing, as I mentioned in Part 5. This is how video provides the story that words provide in a book; you can’t leave it to the reader’s imagination, you have to create the imagination and that’s what I’ve been discovering. To that end, there are tools or accessories available that help you to create that imagination, as opposed to simply pointing a bare camera at things. You could achieve reasonable results with nothing more than a hand held camera, and movies have been done that way, but the results may not be as good unless that’s the effect that you want.
While the story, as discussed in Part 4, is still the most important aspect of video, there are two technical aspects that are pretty much vital to video post-production (compiling the story), software and hardware (a decent computer). As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been using Cyberlink PowerDirector for a while now because it’s not too bad a video editing suite. It’s well priced and, more importantly, it will run on my nearly 10 year old PC. So with PowerDirector and my old PC I’ve been able to produce all of my YouTube videos, but that old PC (Dell Studio XPS) has really been starting to show its age. It’s frequently rather slow, even when running moderate tasks and often running out of memory when doing several things at once. I knew that it was on its last legs as far as any photographic or video editing was concerned and my fears became more immediate when one of my monitors started to play up, which I confirmed was the graphics card starting to flounder. Getting parts for this PC was becoming difficult, so I was now more or less forced into looking at something new and more capable earlier than I anticipated.
Following on from Part 3, one of the most important things when it comes to producing good video is not the gear, it’s the story you’re telling and the planning that you do beforehand, which may include screenplays, scripts and storyboards. When I once mentioned this on a photography forum, I was immediately ridiculed for suggesting that anyone needs to do these things to make a video. It was the usual knee jerk reaction, without any thought being given to the general concept behind these words. I wasn’t suggesting that you needed formal planning, screenplays/scripts and storyboards to make a video, but having even a rudimentary story and plan will help in producing something meaningful. It’s like taking a holiday where most people don’t simply jump in a car or plane and travel to some place without any though as to where they want to go and what they want to do. In this context, planning is vital. Even millennials sometimes plan their photography/video trips.
Continuing on from Part 1, even though many cameras can produce say 1080p video, they don’t always provide great results because they haven’t been supplied with the proper Codecs and other features. However, modern cameras are getting much better and most new digital cameras, as well as action cams and even dash cams, will produce excellent 1080p and good to excellent 4K. The more expensive the camera, usually the better the results. Even smart phones are now producing some amazing 4K video and getting better all the time. Cheap video cameras, like many action cams, can promise a lot but deliver little, so quality is always going to come at a price. That said, there are now very high quality video cameras available that are quite compact and at exceptionally good prices, Blackmagic is one brand worth considering.