Gear Watch: Blackmagic Design Cinema Camera

In Web Articlesby tfwm


July 30, 2012   

You may have recently heard about Blackmagic Design surprising the industry with the launch of their DLSR camera at NAB 2012.  People have been buzzing about the Blackmagic Cinema Camera since it was announced in April, and it is set to start shipping at the end of July.

We recently had a chance to catch up with Dan May, President of Blackmagic Design, to ask him a few questions about why they brought this product to fruition, and they effect he thinks it will have on the worship market.

Your Cinema Camera seems to have made some waves at NAB.
Dan May: The camera was kind of an out-of-left-field product for people, and it got a lot of people talking. As you know, that’s a good thing.  The release of the product has shifted the alignment of the Earth a little bit in our own small way.


Which market would you say has the most interest in the camera so far?
May: It’s hard to say. The thing about the camera is, it’s perfect for the independent film guy or the freelance guy. What’s happened is that any place that D5 or DSLR-type cameras are used, in a film and video setting, this is where this camera really fits in. It has the cinema-like quality. That doesn’t mean that people who are doing live in-house production-shooting can’t use it either.  It’s pretty much anywhere DSLRs are being used.

These DSLRs have completely changed the way people go and acquire video. What we’re really doing is creating more ‘enablement’ and production purposes for independent film operators at a cost that is a tremendous amount of value to people.

It looks like with some of the functionality that you incorporated into this unit, it saves having to build on extra pieces.
May: Yeah, that’s right. I mean, we sell a lot of product to improve peoples’ workflows around DSLR. How many times have we heard those people say: “You know, this DSLR makes a great image, but I can’t edit AVCHD,” or “I’d rather capture my content directly to a different codec”. So, kind of jokingly, we said that we’ve been helping people with post-production for so long, that we know a few things about what they want to do with the video once they’ve acquired it. Creating that acquisition device, while it did catch a lot of people off guard, was really not that much of a stretch.  It’s a product that slides in between DSLR and cinema cameras.

So, now between the camera and your ATEM switchers, is the overall goal to place yourself at every point in an Electronic Field Production (EFP) work-flow?
May: I think the bigger picture for us is always going to be about finding solutions that are not available to people today. A perfect example is the DaVinci Resolve and the colour-grading aspect of things. We’ve never really created a thousand-dollar kind of panel, because there’s really no need to. There’s already four or five guys out there who create those devices, and they work really well and they’re very open. There’s no need to redo something just because we don’t have that piece. I think that’s where some companies fall down. They think: “We need to have a solution at every point.” But somewhere along the line, you’re creating a product that may be over-competitive—saturated with other manufacturers. Or, someone may just do it better than you.

It’s not so much that we have to have every piece of the puzzle, but there are bits of the puzzle that become inaccessible to creative individuals over time.  So much has changed, and continues to change so rapidly. Just because a product is being done well today, doesn’t mean that in five years time there won’t be a need for something new.

Yeah I can dig that.  So where would you hope to see applications in the house of worship market with this camera? Where, ideally, would you want this to fit in?
May: People can use it in live production, but there are some challenges behind it. It is probably going to be used mostly for creating—independent film, or commercial purposes or segments that are going to be used for other production purposes.
People likely won’t be saying:  “I’m going to buy six of these and set them up for live production”. It can be done, but probably that won’t be people’s first choice. It’s more going to be a couple of creative people going out and shooting an event, then taking it to post-production, chopping it together and having a great 20-minute video. It’s going to have this great cinematic look, and people are going to think it was shot and produced in Hollywood. That, I think, is the real appeal here: the look of the cinema-camera.

As you know, there is a huge part of the market that uses cameras for I-Mag in the main sanctuary. Is this something that you guys are thinking towards in the future?
May: I think Blackmagic’s biggest challenge is figuring out how to get as much as we want to get out the door. We could be building a million different products if we were a hundred times bigger, but we’re not. This camera has so much going for it, but it isn’t necessarily the end-all, be-all of what cameras are about.

The question really becomes now, which is exciting for us, how much have we changed the way cameras are going to be built?
Making a camera is obviously a much wider market than say creating a colour grading. So, obviously you’re going to have a greater amount of interest because of the device itself.

I look at it from a post-production side of things—from editing. Specs are important to an editor, but a lot of it is gut-check. How do I feel about one NLE over another? There’s a lot of emotional attachment to those things. But a camera is quite technically specific. What is it shooting to, what’s the glass, what’s the sensor size?

It’s a lot of camera for the price. And I think that’s what it comes down to. Of the hundreds of emails people have sent me about the camera, people are often saying: “The camera is really great, I wish it had this thing, but I’m going to buy it anyway.” And what that ‘thing’ is, varies from person to person. But for three thousand dollars, what you actually end up getting out of the box is a tremendous amount of camera and software.