Blackmagic Design made history at NAB in April, transforming itself overnight from a niche supplier of high-end I/O and software solutions for the filmmaking industry to a mass market camera manufacturer. Eight months on, its name is uttered with hushed and quivering reverence in the filmmaking community. How did it achieve such a feat? With nothing short of an industry-defying, paradigm shifting announcement: the Blackmagic Cinema Camera.
With 2.5K,12-bit, RAW and 10-bit ProRes 1080p recording, a promised 13 stops of dynamic range, radical diminutive form factor, electronic EF mount, and innovative touch screen interface/monitor, the camera had filmmakers salivating straightaway. But then the truly jaw dropping feature landed: the price tag. All this could be had for $2,995. It seemed like a typo. Shouldn’t there be an extra digit in there somewhere? We were incredulous when we interviewed Blackmagic U.S. President Dan May last at the show.
The question remained: could the BMCC live up to its vaunted specs at this aggressive price point? Videos have recently begun trickling in from pre-production models answering enthusiastically in the affirmative. The images coming out of the camera were amazing, holding detail deep into the shadows, possessing pleasant, film-like highlight rolloff, and resolving incredible detail. This
video, pitting it against the 5D Mark III, presumably its stiffest competition based on price and indie filmmaker adoption, demonstrates just how lopsided the comparison is:
Blackmagic had made good on its promise. It seemed the BMCC was one of those once-in-a-generation (which in the tech world is measured in years, not decades) events, where a small company takes a look at a sophisticated, mature industry, crowded with well-established, deep-pocketed Fortune 500s, and still have the bravado to ask “why not us?” In this respect it was reminiscent of another plucky upstart, RED. The brainchild of a sunglass magnate with a unrelenting dream of dragging digital cinema quality beyond film. It’s easy to forget that just a few years back, RED was far from the industry megaplayer with Oscar-winning films to its name and a enviable, die-hard user base who’d seemingly lay down their life to defend the company’s good name. It was an ambitious but untested newbie with plenty of detractors (the argument for 4K is only now gaining widespread acceptance, so imagine where it stood in 2007), whose future glory was by no means assured. Blackmagic was making a similarly audacious move with its Cinema Camera.
The BMCC was reminiscent of its spiritual predecessor in another way: its predilection to a “promise first and apologize later” approach to release dates. Originally slated to ship in the Summer, that was apparently a best-case-scenario timetable. Production delays have meant a slow trickle of models into the market. Last night, in a detailed forum post, Blackmagic Founder and CEO Grant Petty explained the problem, traced to a flummoxing sensor contamination issue by a new sensor manufacturer used by the supplier, which was allowing only a few of BMCC models to make it through the quality control process. Long story short, according to Blackmagic, the sensor supplier screwed up in fixing the flawed production process, and only now is the issue being resolved. Meaning, with demand white hot, supplies will continue to trickle while they ramp up production.
All this to say: we have a BMCC that made it through the production process! This has been the longest eight months in a lot of independent DP and filmmakers’ lives, but starting next week (exact date still TBD), you will be able to rent the camera from ARC!