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Flying The Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera

Raw Aerials


Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera… Raw Video… and an Octocopter.  With the help of the crazy talented Blackhawk Cinema I took the BMPCC up for a flight and came back with a few different take aways.  First, I’ll get into how shooting Raw video for aerials is what you should be shooting and why.  Then I’ll lay out the good and bad.  Lastly, I'll tell you what you need to be aware of before flying your Pocket Cinema Camera so you can come back with great footage.

What you’re seeing is a single shot of the Nashville Skyline shot right after sunset.  We had been shooting aerials for a gig and nearly burned through our batteries and cards so this was a bit extra at the end of the day.  We marched off… with what little card space we had left our last battery that only had 3/4 of a charge. 

It’s out of focus.  I know… It's a down and dirty test and this is what tests are designed to show us: problems. and successes.  I’ll address the focus issue in a bit… but first why shooting raw works so well.

HERE IS A COLOR CORRECTED IMAGE

HERE IS AN UNCORRECTED IMAGE

I love seeing how much one can pull the highlights back.

WHY RAW

The ability to color correct… pull out highlight details… push up shadow details and match your edit is what has me very excited about this footage.  This ability to take full advantage of the 13 stop dynamic range of this sensor will only enhance your footage.  Flying over valley’s and into the sun… with a camera as capable as this one and suddenly no shot becomes to much…

nobody looks good when they focus on getting a shot.

THE BAD

This footage is out of focus… and with a SD transmitter to a SmallHD monitor we had trouble seeing if something was in focus or not.  Even when we used the camera’s peaking, or focus assist function… It was hard to tell if something was in-focus.  So keep the aperture small and the lens wide.The battery… shooting ProRes… not so much a problem.. Shooting raw… get a ton of batteries.  The 3/4 charged battery we had barely lasted the length of our short flight.  Plus, we filled a card quick.. and I mean really quick.  Get the biggest you can find when flying.

THE GOOD

The footage is very grade-able.  The ability to use various lenses.  Did I say, the footage is very grade-able.  And, that is what I love about using this for aerial work.  Unless you have the $ to shell out for a drone that can lift a Red Epic or a BMCC then you’ll have to use smaller video cameras that may not match the rest of your footage.  Unless of course you use the BMPCC. Then you have the great flexibility of raw which allows for more choices in post.  For me, I want to use the BMPCC in the air.  I want to color correct the footage in my spot so I can have an affinity of color, or a color theme for each spot. I don't want to be stuck with something I am not pleased with in the end.

WHAT YOU MAY NEED FOR A SUCCESSFUL FLIGHT

A whole lot of batteries.  A whole lot of cards.  If you’re able: a wireless LANC controller…  Another option is powering the camera through your copter.  Another thing, I wish you could do on a smaller rig is a wireless follow focus, or the ability to control aperture/focus from the ground. 

by this time the camera battery was empty and the 32GB card full

Lastly, I had to process my footage via Lightroom because my version of DaVinci Resolve did not read the files.  Which left me perplexed… Did I do something wrong?  User error? 

So there you go… a quick good/bad/and what to think about wrap up on flying the BMPCC on an Octocopter.  For me, I’ll ask for it with confidence knowing we will work around the current problems and make it work for us.  And, hopefully we’ll have enough battery power, card space, and fore sight to focus the camera before lift off next time.

Until then..
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Twitter: @hallettbrian

Vimeo: www.vimeo.com/hallettbrian


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Brian Hallett, is an award winning cameraman, editor, and producer. He has shot everything from Network broadcast news, promotional image campaigns, music videos, short films, and documentaries. Check out his reel at hallett-brian.com
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