Cameras In Post:

Canon; Black Magic Cinema Camera (BMCC); 5D; GoPro; Panasonic, etc. are all cameras that we come across in the Editorial. This is not a new phenomenon, but I feel every time I turn around there is a DOP playing with a new camera.

Occasionally we’re consulted as to how these cameras fit within the Post Production workflow. More often than not, we have to switch from the creative brain to the problem solving brain and work out how best to deal with what is presented to us. This includes the ability to miraculously match the quality of a camera above to the primary cameras such as RED EPIC or ALEXA and sync sound.

With multi-cam shoots becoming the norm these days, the camera department is highly likely, at some stage, to mix a RED EPIC or ALEXA camera with a camera like those listed above. Often there is a slate, which helps, but most of these cameras do not support time-code, which creates a very labour intensive process for the Assistant(s), something no one in Production generally tends to pay attention to.

Recently I had a job where there was a mix of cameras, RED EPIC and Black Magic Cinema Camera (BMCC). Despite Black Magic’s website stating ‘everything you need’, there is one thing that you do require – TIME-CODE!!!! The only way you may not require time-code is if you are just using the BMCC camera to go in and out on the one system, without requiring any online grading or re-conforming elsewhere.

It’s a given these days that multi-cam shoots produce a large amount of rushes each day and cameras such as the BMCC without time-code causes Assistant(s) to spend unnecessary hours syncing and prepping these camera rushes to the point it is not worth processing them. This is not an acceptable solution for the Production or the Editors, so we needed a solution.

How could we deliver all our rushes to the Editors on time, perfectly grouped and synched, not just for them, but also for the entire post process?

With collaboration between Editorial and the Camera Department we came up with an idea that took some time experimenting with the Black Magic Resolve development team, but we got there in the end.

If you have been around longer than 10 years in Post Production, you will remember the days of creating dubs with time-code on audio track two for sound. Well we implemented the same principle for getting the BMCC to work for us in Editorial.

The Black Magic development team who look after DaVinci Resolve, considered our problem and wrote a specific tool within Resolve that enabled us to read the time-code from the Audio Track(s) and therefore, synch the sound and pictures together with minimal fuss, this function I am proud to say is now a standard feature in DaVinci Resolve.

How it works…when you’re in DaVinci Resolve’s Media Pool, or in Conform, you can right click on a clip and select the option to use time-code from Audio track and your time-code will change from the camera recorded time-code to record to the time-code on the Audio Track(s).

This all works fine as long as the time-code generated on set is frame accurate, otherwise, you still have to manually synch.

I am extremely impressed with the BMCC and how well it graded in the well-lit camera tests, but in the general shooting and lighting situations changed, then it did not perform as well.

The BMCC camera has a completely different colour space to the RED EPIC or Alexa. Despite being able to be stylized if it is being used for a specific purpose or a ‘look’, matching them when intercutting between the BMCC and the RED EPIC for example, adds a lot more work for a Colourist, no matter how well it is shot.

If the BMCC is shot in CinemaDNG RAW rather than Apple Pro Res 422 codec the Colourist has a greater ability to match the RED EPIC and the BMCC. The Metadata of the DOP’s “look” quite often has to be removed by the Colourist and start the grade of the BMCC shot from the RAW footage, this gives them greater flexibility to match the shots around it.

Despite the fact, I am praising the BMCC camera here, I would never recommend to use it as a primary or exclusive camera on a long form or drama, it is a great camera but has its limitations, so maybe a short film, TVC or low budget documentary might be more suited. However, even in these circumstances, it is still critical that you consider what to shoot and how to service it Post Production from beginning to end, as it may end up costing you more time and money than you have budgeted for.

Overall, the end results are brilliant for the BMCC in the right conditions and I would consider using it again now that it can be properly managed in Post.


Belinda Fithie

Editor & Post Production Supervisor

(December 2013)