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A Good BlackMagic Setup for Documentaries.

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David Jim
A Good BlackMagic Setup for Documentaries.
on Aug 1, 2014 at 2:31:45 pm

Hi, I'm looking for help with a one man BlackMagic Camera setup. I'm a director who basically never shoots his own stuff. I work a lot with DOP's using EPIC and Alexa, but recently I've decided to look into buying a camera to shoot personal documentary projects myself.

This will be something where I go off on my own and film a subject - Interview & Action. For my price range £3-4k, I feel BlackMagic is the best option. Although I don't know much about tech side of things, so hoping some experts might be able to help me with a few questions.

Firstly, I'm debating the 2.5k CC or 4K PC. My projects will mainly be used for Vimeo, hopefully festivals. Chances of TV are quite slim. I hear that 2.5k is better in low light and obviously costs a £1k less. The 4k has a bigger sensor, but I hear the sensors not that great. Plus, if I'm only using for Web and having to compress it anyway, is there much of a plus for spending the extra money?

Audio - This is kind of a concern. Obviously Audio is so important, especially with docs. Novice questions here! Is the input for a BM not as good as, say a C300, that even with an External Mic, it's not going to sound amazing? Or am I wrong here. This can be got round with something like a Tascam, right? I'm going to be shooting this stuff myself, so is it possible to hook a Tascam up to the camera so it's one big block of a mess :-)

Setup - In your opinions what would you say would be the best setup for me in terms of self shooting documentary portraits. I'm looking for the body, shoulder rig, a decent lightweight tripod, a portable slider if poss, MatteBox, Batteries, Baseplate (dunno if that comes with it?) ND Filters, Lenses - a couple I think. A good zoom 24-60 and then a long lens for CU. Also what mount is best to go for? I see it says EF or 4/3. I dunno what the 4/3 is. Is that what people call the Canon mount? I imagine with a shoulder mount I may need a viewfinder too? Could I get away without a Follow Focus? Also best options for audio.

Sounds like it will all mount up! Any advice on a good setup on a modest budget would be amazing.

I hope I'm not being too cheeky asking so many questions!

Thanks a lot,

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David Jim
Re: A Good BlackMagic Setup for Documentaries.
on Aug 3, 2014 at 12:23:50 pm

Any thoughts on this?

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Bill Bruner
Re: A Good BlackMagic Setup for Documentaries.
on Aug 4, 2014 at 1:31:29 pm

Hi Dave - congratulations on setting out to shoot your own projects. Since you're starting from scratch, you may want to start out with a camera that is a little easier to deal with in the field than the Blackmagics.

If you want a large sensor interchangeable lens camera for interviews and action, I recommend the 4K Panasonic GH4. You can get one with the 12-35mm f2.8 lens and the 10-bit 4:2:2 Atomos Shogun external recorder (ships in September) for £3773.71 from DigiBroadcast.

If you don't want to wait until September and don't mind recording 8-bit 4:2:0 4K internally, your can get the GH4 with the lens and an external interface unit with 10-bit 4K HD-SDI output and timecode for £4018.20.

Either of these setups will give you XLR mic inputs which should prevent you from having to buy an external sound solution.

This camera shoots 1080/96p slow motion, has a long-lasting battery and a built-in electronic viewfinder - all features that the BMPC 4K lacks.

Here is what this camera can do, compared to the Blackmagic Production Camera 4K (please watch at your monitor's highest resolution):

Here is what the GH4 can do on its own:




I think Blackmagic cameras are terrific - I love my Blackmagic Pocket Camera - but I really do think the GH4 is a better camera for the lone camera operator.

Hope this is helpful and best of luck!

Hybrid Camera Revolution

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David Jim
Re: A Good BlackMagic Setup for Documentaries.
on Aug 5, 2014 at 8:31:50 am

Thanks for your thoughts Bill. I've not even considered that camera. The footage looks good.
My heart is set on the BM, but I'll have to do a bit more research as maybe it isn't the right camera...


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Marco Solorio
Re: A Good BlackMagic Setup for Documentaries.
on Aug 5, 2014 at 9:16:56 pm

There are some additional things to also consider between the GH4 and the BMD 4K. The GH4 does shoot nice images and the HFR options is also very nice. I wouldn't necessarily call any Micro Four Thirds sensor a large sensor format however. The Production Camera 4K uses a Super35 sensor with a global shutter, which for us, is key for the type of acquisition we need. Likewise, we can internally shoot various 10-bit ProRes formats or we can shoot 12-bit RAW for truly high latitude pushing in post. Even with the Atomos Shogun (a nice unit itself), it can "only" go up to 10-bit ProRes HQ in comparison. Like all cameras, different tools for different needs.

Marco Solorio | CreativeCow Host | OneRiver Media | ORM Blog | Facebook | Twitter | BMCC Newsletter

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David Jones
Re: A Good BlackMagic Setup for Documentaries.
on Aug 5, 2014 at 11:06:25 pm

We recently purchased the BMPC 4K for documentary work. One thing to keep in mind is that the camera comes with...well...the camera. So expect to spend several thousand more dollars for the rest of the stuff you really need to make it useful.

For the price though, you really won't find a better camera.

Dave J

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Bill Pryor
Re: A Good BlackMagic Setup for Documentaries.
on Oct 15, 2014 at 3:09:14 pm

Hi, David. I'm wondering how you're getting along with the BMPC for documentary work. I'm considering the same thing. I'd like to know what EVF you got, rig, likes and dislikes, etc. My major concern is audio. Thanks.

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Philippe Orlando
Re: A Good BlackMagic Setup for Documentaries.
on Apr 30, 2015 at 11:41:15 am

There is no reason to go with the headaches of using the Black Magic Cameras. The quality out of the GH4 and probably today out of the NX1 is more than enough to film anything, including fiction. Any difference can only be perceived in side by side comparisons by people who are doing just that, side by side comparisons. Frankly, a tiny bit more dynamic range would not make this more interesting, just the life of the shooter and the editor more complicated. If your subject is interesting, if your story is captivating, nobody is going to have time to wonder if the trees, that we can see outside the windows, from inside, are fuzzy or perfectly in focus and clear. Who cares?
Once you can buy what the GH4 and the NX1 can give you, don't entangle you in the world of Black Magic to gain something nobody will see. Focus on content, lighting and get it right while filming, that way you'll minimize working with colors in post. And no, the H265 is not a problem, just convert it to prores.

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