A couple of weeks ago I had a chance to use a BMPCC for the day. This was courtesy of actor Stewart McDonald, who had purchased one and wanted to shoot a comedy sketch he wrote; the sketch involving a couple of World War Two soldiers having an argument about who is 'Ready' to run into battle.
Stewart had a range of kit to go with the camera, as it requires other items for it to be useable, such as a bagful of batteries and an external monitor, and then the usual, tripod, shoulder rig filters etc. For power he bought an Anker 15,000MaH external battery to run the camera all day, as the internal batteries son't last long (about 40 minutes), but the cable didn't fit as it was a 5V battery and the BMPCC needs 12V. This left us with about two hours of camera time using the internal batteries. We think having this limitation actually helped us, as we needed to think quickly, and with the sketch being over eight minutes long the actors didn't have the time for multiple takes or to fluff their lines too often.
I setup the camera for each shot by getting to where I thought would be a good angle for the camera (we only had a 16mm f2.6 lens - equivalent of a around 35-45mm on a full frame camera), then turn it all on to check the angle, focus and exposure (using a vari-ND filter to keep the same DoF). Fortunately the weather was overcast all day so the footage is very even throughout, without much need to adjust or use bounceboards.
Once we had shot all the dialogue for the sketch we next shot an explosion to be used as the opening sequence which our characters (Charles and Geoffrey) hide from. We shot this a couple of ways to have choice in edit, but Stewart (also editing the piece) would need to composite the actors in to the background. After this we still had some battery power so we decided to shoot an opening sequence with the two characters, running through the surrounding areas to be cut into a fast paced sequence utilising a wartime sound bed; this was entirely a case of 'we still have battery! Run over there, now over there, and then towards me...battery's dead, that's a wrap'.
For grip kit we only used the shoulder rig, reasons being to allow movement in every shot, and it also helped to speed up setups; as I just had to wriggle around to be in the right place as apposed to adjusting tripod legs. For the running sequence I moved the handles so I could hold the rig from above while running; I wasn't able to adjust focus during those so closed the iris down and opened the ND to have a deeper DoF.
The BMPCC has some options in the camera menus but is slightly limited in places. For example there is the option for focus peaking but there is no way to adjust it's parameters. Also there appeared to be no way to change your Colour Profile (or LUT) for the camera, so everything is recorded very flat; which is exactly what you want when recording but isn't the best when trying to light a scene or subject. I did however have adjustments for the in-camera Zebras which was a lovely thing to have, the general consensus is that 95% is the best option but I like mine a little lower at 90%. We recorded in ProRes HQ, as we didn't want to handle RAW files in post, and with ProRes HQ being 10-bit and a not far under 100Mb/s with the SD cards we had, we should easily have enough latitude to grade later on with minimal hassle - other in-camera options are ProRes LT, ProRes Proxy, and ProRes 422.
When shooting i didn't come across the 'Black Holes' or 'White Orbs' that others have experienced with Black Magic cameras, but this could have been that we had the latest firmware, or the fact we didn't aim at any direct sunlight. I did however find that some of our highlights were blown out in the sky even with the exposure below 90% at all times, this could be down to various reasons but isn't a big problem as the sky is so flat and grey anyway it's not too noticeable and likely fixable in grade.
Stewart (who wrote the script, owned the camera and played Geoffrey) is cutting the short himself, we may be sharing the colouring of it. I did have a play with the colour on my way home in Da Vinci Resolve, having not used it before or the Camera I thought it'd be interesting. I initially found the footage fell apart very quickly which was disappointing, it went grey and mushy very fast. But at the same time I knew that not being a regular with Resolve I could just be going too far and expecting too much; turns out I was.
When I got home and opened the footage in my usual editor and colour software (Premiere CS5.5 and Red Giant Colorista II) the footage held far better with the controls I was used to. I could push the blacks, mids and whites pretty far until items lost detail and I was adjusting in Primary, Secondary and Master for the colour choices, also adding colour tints, manual white balancing and 'Pop'; and the footage held much better, I also played with one section I never use with DSLR footage (as it crumbles instantly) the HSL (Hue, Saturation and Luminance) wheels; these are a staple for me in photography but not for video so far. The BMPCC footage did take some pushing with these options but upon playback I noticed some speckling of the red areas - lips and skin - and so pulled them back a bit to get rid of that.
I think this camera has some great potential and I hope to use one again in the future. It does have some quirks: such as it's hunger for power, it's almost invisible screen in daylight and the MFT crop. But for the price of it (around $1000/£650) it is exceptional and does surpass a DSLR in terms of quality right out of the camera. The camera is by no means pocket sized if you want to use it as anything more than a paperweight, once you add a lens and/or cage to attach a monitor etc it needs more than a pocket to reside in.
Whether I or anyone else should buy it over a DSLR, I'm unsure. I'd say yes if you never plan on taking stills, and already have access to MFT lenses (such as Lumix lenses) and/or a Metabones adaptor for other brands; and still have money to buy a monitor, cage and lots of BATTERIES. Also the crop could become an issue if you want a super wide angle, I don't see how you could achieve this on the BMPCC. It's entirely up to what you need and what you have to spend, an equivalent DSLR spend would be in the realms of a Canon 70D (good for video and photo) or a Nikon D7100 (good for photo but not so good for video).