Shooting green screen with the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera.
Yep, I finally did it – relied entirely on my BMPCC (that’s what the cool kids are calling this camera) for a paying shoot!
As is always the case when shooting greenscreen, you want the most colour data you can catch – and as the BMPCC shoots Apple’s ProRes HQ codec internally, it’s a no-brainer codec-wise. But as far as ergonomics and monitoring (both video and audio), things aren’t quite so simple.
My options for shooting greenscreens to Prores HQ are a few: I could use my Blackmagic shuttle pro to record ProRes HQ out of my PMW-EX1, or my PMW-F3 cameras – but bother require more interconnect, power supplies. It’s more equpiment to lug, and if shooting on the F3, a case of lenses too. Of course, with these bigger cameras, one is very easily able to check focus and audio – a task that (for me) requires extra gear with the BMPCC.
Of course, I did some tests with this setup that resulted in me using it on the ‘real gig’.
BMPCC (of course)
Alphatron viewfinder (so I could check consistency of background lighting and low and highs)
My home-made ‘mgic mirror box’ autocue
Sennhieser G2 wireless radio kit into a wooden camera ‘A Box’.
(Chris Bird, my lighting/camera assistant on the day, getting a lesson in reading the waveform monitor in the Alphatron viewfinder.)
Now for the IMPORTANT radio to camera setup – I know a lot of people who don’t actually listen to the quality of thier audio, only to know ‘that it’s there’. Get it right!! I found the best signal vs distortion came out of the radio reciever at -20db. Yep, unbalanced.
Also, VERY importantly, this camera does not have audio levels! Really!!! I’m not kidding: Blackmagic… listen, you’ve made a great little camera that completely disrupted the status quo of small pro cameras, but to go that far without audio levels is crazy. My solution is to pair it with the great Alphatron viewfinder.
“A viewfinder?? How does that help with knowing your audio levels, Kearon? Wha???”
Here’s the thing… the HDMI out of the BMPCC happens to also carry the AUDIO signal. And as the Alphatron viewfinder shows audio levels on it (above the picture), presto! You have reliable monitoring that doesn’t even need lining up!
(Me in the drivers seat, wondering if I look silly with such a small camera. Hey, the client can’t see it behind the teleprompter anyway!!)
As it all goes down to an SD card, I was able to chuck the media into FCPX on my laptop while Chris was breaking down the set and packing, and within a couple of minutes was able to show a 30 second chunk of media keyed on a white vignetted background, with an ever so slight warmup in the colours. Clients love that sort of thing: they love knowing before you’ve left that everything looks and sound great 😉
So I’m having my post-shoot coffee, writing this, and feeling like I may keep my little Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera after all. Good little toy. Did the job, and small enough to sneak into anywhere!