Black Magic have produced their first camera. It records onto solid state drives in Apple Pro Res, Avid DNxHD or a bigger-than-HD format called DNG. The big advantage is that it can record in a “flat” format that means you get an extra couple of stops of dynamic range - so highlights do not become burnt out and shadows still have detail. To get the most out of the camera you need to grade the footage using Black Magic DaVinci - which is supplied with the camera.
The camera is supplied as just a body without a lens and with no hard drive. Two versions of the camera are available - one which takes Canon XF lenses and the other which takes MFT lenses.
Cinema camera ONLY films progressive
The camera will film in various progressive formats up to 30P. It will not film in any interlace formats.
Why use the Cinema camera?
Picture quality - filming in practically uncompressed, using decent lenses and with a wide dynamic range the cinema camera does beautiful, pin sharp images. For a similar price it will do better images than a stills camera with interchangeable lenses. To get the picture quality you will need to put in some effort - both when filming and when editing. If you just want the advantage of hard drive based recording, less compression then add a Black Magic Hyperdeck Shuttle to an existing AVCHD or HDV camera. If you want the best picture for the money get the Cinema camera.
The camera was released in Oct/Nov 2012 and supplies of the Cinema camera are now starting to flow normally. The new 4K and pocket versions are due out sometime in July 2013
Editing Black Magic cinema camera footage
The Black Magic cinema camera will record in 3 different format, Apple ProRes, Avid DNxHD and 2.5K Cinema DNG format. The latter is a new format developed by Adobe which saves video as a series of still images - in a RAW format where the picture is very flat but which you can adjust using the right software to bring out the details (grading the image). The camera can be set to film in a similar flat "RAW" style if you film in Apple Pro Res or Avid DNxHD but it does not give you the full range of grading possibility you get by filming in the Cinema DNG RAW format.
Apple ProRes and Avid DNxHD movies will load into just about any editing program - Apple ProRes can be played on a PC with the latest QuickTime player installed, and Avid files can be played back if you download and install the latest Avid codec pack (which is free). These formats are both saved as QuickTime files at 1920x1080 resolution. You can either save them in the "RAW-like" format or with normal colour settings.
The Cinema DNG files are saved as a series of still images, and are nto directly readable by most editing programs. You can load individual stills into programs like Photoshop and After Effects, but not entire video clips. There is a free codec from Adobe which you can install and will let you load the footage into some editing programs - we could load footage into Grass Valley EDIUS this way, but not into Adobe Premiere Pro CS6, for example - however this codec does not give you the full range of which the files are capable.
The best way to deal with Cinema DNG files is to load them into the grading program Black Magic DaVinci - which is supplied with the camera. You can then grade the files and export them as Avid DNxHD files which you can edit in your chosen program. Before exporting you would normally apply a standard grade. Once edited you will export your edit back from your editing program into DaVinci, re-conform the edit using the original clips, and then do a final grade on the video. You do not have to do this but it is the way to get the best out of the footage being filmed by the camera. We will be producing some tutorial videos on how to achieve this with various different editing programs.
Transferring footage from the camera SSD to your PC
The Black Magic Cinema camera films on a Solid State Drive. This is needed for the high data rates of DNG files. To get the files from this drive to your PC you need to take the drive out of the camera and plug it into your PC. The drive has regular SATA connections - since it is a normal PC hard drive. The simplest way to plug this into your computer is to use an external which lets you plug in a bare drive - these kinds of bays are easily available and normally about £20-£30. The most common connection is USB3 which allows very fast transfer of files from teh hard drive to the PC.
If filming in Avid DNxHD or Apple Pro Res a normal hard drive can cope with the amount of data. If filming in Cinema DNG you will need a fast drive array or an SSD inside your main tower case to be able to play the footage as it is saved in practically uncompressed HD.
MAC FORMATTED SSD
The hard drive is formatted in MAC format so not readable by the PC so you need to add a program to the PC to do this. The program we use is called MAC drive (http://www.mediafour.com/products/macdrive) and is about £50. Macdrive lets you read and write to MAC formatted drives on a PC. Obviously if using a MAC for editing you do not need this - it will read the drive quite happily.
THUNDERBOLT TO COMPUTER
The Black Magic Cinema camera has a Thunderbolt connection. This is not for transferring filmed movies to your computer. Instead it will take the live video from the camera and put it on to the computer, so you can use your computer RAID for storage rather than the on-board SSD. The advantage is that a RAID composed of "regular" hard drives will be a lot larger for the price so can record more footage, than the on-board SSD. At the time of writing we have not been able to test this Thunderbolt interface for direct capture.