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Things to Know about the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera Raw Update (with Some Sample Footage)

Gear Talk

The Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera is one of the newest additions to our inventory, and is already in demand — every single unit we currently have in our inventory is checked out for the next two weeks at least, so get your orders in as soon as possible. This tiny little package packs a wallop when it comes to delivering outstanding image quality, and as of a couple of weeks ago, it is also the smallest camera in the world that shoots RAW video.

We decided to put the BMPCC’s RAW chops to an entirely unscientific test (in low-light, no less) as soon as we had a few spare minutes with a unit in-between your rentals, so check out that video after the jump. Suffice to say that RAW video offers all the advantages that still photographers have enjoyed with RAW images for a while now; the ability to shift white balance, increased exposure latitude, and a fat, robust file that stands up to vigorous post-production.

Yet it’s not without its challenges either. Shooting RAW video requires some hefty resources on the shooting and post-production end, and so we thought we’d put together a list of a few things you need to be aware of if you’re going to venture into the land of RAW video.

  • First things first – know WHY you want to shoot RAW. The BMPCC’s ProRes codec is plenty powerful – it has more than twice the bit rate of the Canon 5D Mark III’s All-I codec. Know why you think you need RAW before you shoot it.
  • RAW video takes up a LOT of space. Think about 20 minutes to a 64GB SD card. We include an SD card with the camera, but it might behoove you to rent an additional card. Or two. Or, heck, three.
  • This applies to shooting in non-RAW (ProRes) mode too, but the BMPCC seems to be particularly hungry for battery life when shooting RAW. Something like the Switronix Pocketbase, which allows you to use two Canon LP-E6 batteries in a separate housing for additional power is pretty-much a must. Failing that, travel with lots of EN-EL20 batteries.
  • On the back-end, editing RAW files isn’t exactly easy. A single minute of footage can result in between one and two thousand individual CinemaDNG files. This isn’t something iMovie is going to be able to edit just yet, folks. Even Adobe Premiere won’t accept these files just yet. We’ll be posting a few workflow options for editing RAW video files at a later point, but the tl:dr version is that you can download Davinci Resolve Lite from Blackmagic’s website to gather, edit, and color-correct your footage. For the video below, I pulled the footage I wanted to use into Resolve Lite, applied a basic white balance correction (one of the key reasons for shooting RAW video), and output it to ProRess 422 (watch for our video glossary, coming soon).

    Shooting RAW gives you thousands of single frames, not one large file.

    Shooting RAW gives you thousands of single frames, not one large file.

  • Have a powerful computer available to edit RAW video — or be prepared for lots of coffee breaks while your footage renders. Seriously. Not kidding. Lots of coffee breaks.
  • Shooting RAW does not mean you’ll get better low-light performance. The BMPCC shoots at ISO 800 as its native ISO, and only goes up to 1600, at which point noise is noticeable. You will, however, get some latitude in adjusting your files, and you should be able to recover an underexposed images somewhat.

Those are the basic observations we had when shooting RAW. Apart from card space and battery capacity, most of what we found was related more to processing the RAW files than shooting them, so of course, there will be a followup article on how to edit RAW files from both, the BMPCC and the 5D Mark III with the Magic Lantern mod. Watch for those on a future date.

And, as promised, here’s the video…

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Sohail Mamdani is a writer and photographer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook or Google+. You can find his portfolio on his website at sohail.me as well as on 500px and Flickr.

Comments

  • Great footage…short and to the point and great comparison on the graded scenes. If I may what lens did you use? and what lens would you use for more close up narrative shot off the top of your head?
    Thank you in advance.

    Todd

  • […] majority of my test footage for my previous piece on the Blackmagic Pocket Camera was shot on this […]

  • Thank you for this write up Sohail! I have just rented a lot of what you say in this post (before reading it so at least I know I kinda know what I am doing!) but my first problem has cropped up that I can not seem to solve.

    How can I measure (or at least get close) the color temp for white balance setting purposes? I do not own a light meter (not sure that would help me!) and I am so used to my grey card and/or expo disc on my Canon DSLRs.

    If you could offer any help or tips–that would be awesome. Oh–and I know I can shoot RAW and have it not matter but I would rather get the longer shoot time per card of ProRes HQ

    THANKS!!

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