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Equal parts itchy and antsyposted Nov 03 2020

We’re getting pretty close to nervously pulling the trigger on a new camera setup… hopefully the first of three matching ones. But there’s only enough dough for one right now.

We’ve had our eye on the Black Magic Pocket Cinema 4K for a while. There were good prices on used bodies for a short time after the new 6K model was introduced, but that’s over. Used ones lately have held almost 100% of the sticker… so it makes sense to pony up just a little more for new and avoid the risk of adopting somebody else’s hidden neglect or abuse.

One reason for not waiting is that these cameras come with a license for DaVinci Resolve, which many of the biggest movies and TV shows also lean on. We’ve been using a crippled evaluation version for color grading, and it makes an astonishing difference. But without a full license, we can’t effectively use it for the actual editing. Resolve will also make more intelligent use of VRAM to speed up the workflow. Since there’s still plenty of old-footage catch-up on deck, this is perhaps the most compelling reason to go forward now.

Furthermore, Resolve can work directly with the uncompressed, unmolested stuff directly from the sensor. None of the cameras we’re using now even offer RAW output as an option. RAW makes for some bigass files though. It turns out that a 2TB SSD drive has way more storage and is actually cheaper than the Cfast cards we’d been considering… and the camera can write to the drive in real time through USB3. Much better for us than a card.

Besides data storage, another mission-critical thing the cameras don’t come with is a lens. We’ve pretty much settled on the Rokinon Cine CV85M-MFT 85mm T1.5, on the low end of lens food chain but still respectable. And it’s a prime lens, which will do better in lower light. We don’t need zoom, bokeh’s not a biggie, and flatter is more prized than wider.

Since we’re not going to be shooting handheld with these, there’s no reason to look at gimbals… but we will want to get them cages — like a protective exoskeleton that, in addition to cheap insurance against accidental bonking, is also a base to attach extra bits (like a clip to hold the SSD drive).

We’re still working out the best way to improve the security of how we mount the cameras. While tripods (or, better, pedestals) at first glance seem like the obvious choice, they’re just begging for somebody to trip on ’em — not only putting the gear in jeopardy, but messing up the framing. We’ve been flying the cameras off of structural elements which so far has been working brilliantly, but the thought of somebody accidentally hitting one of these new ones with an umbrella or something and having it crash to the floor makes our knees weak. The four-dollar bar clamps from Job Lot have never been particularly confidence-inspiring.

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