BMPC-4K: Rigged thinking [Updated]
UPDATE 7/17/16: My review of the Cineroid EVF I bought for use with my BMPC-4K.
UPDATE: BMPC-4K shooting tips from early users. I finally received my own BMPC-4K on 2/28/14. Sample video below.
Update 8/8/13: I’ve added some photos and additional information to this post.
UPDATE: Back in early April 2013 I switched my pre-order from a BMCC-MFT to the new BMPC-4K model. I explain why in another blog post.
While waiting for my Blackmagic Production Camera 4K to arrive, I had lots of time to think about the accessories and rig parts I’ll use with it.
Especially in a relatively front-heavy handheld or shoulder-mount configuration, every ounce makes a surprisingly big difference.
I plan to buy few BMPC-4K accessories that can’t also be used with the other cameras I work with. For certain shots I’ll use my BMPC-4K without any accessories. Other times it’ll be loaded-up with a baseplate, rods, matte box, filters, external battery, audio mixer, wireless mic receivers, connected to an external monitor, and so forth.
I plan to use my BMPC-4K’s built-in 5″ LCD for monitoring fairly often, in addition to accessing the BMPC-4K’s touchscreen user interface. So, my BMPC-4K and its LCD will need to be in front of me. (See my related posts about two lightweight, inexpensive items: 3M anti-glare touchscreen film, and also Hoodman HRT5 touchscreen sunshade.) A camera-mounted, battery-powered, external monitor or EVF (such as Alphatron or Cineroid) have very real advantages, but add not-inconsiderable weight and cost, require power, and often aren’t necessary.
Given the above criteria, I researched ways to securely attach accessories to my BMPC-4K without the expense and weight of a camera cage. The BMPC-4K camera body will be identical to the original BMCC camera, so it’ll include three 1/4″-20 threaded holes on its top surface, so that’s a good start.
Pictured below is a small (approx. 13mm x 13mm x 125mm) metal “top plate” I had custom-made for me by a machinist. It only weighs about 2 ounces and was inexpensive. I hand-drew a rough sketch on paper and the machinist made the part. To mount on the BMPC-4K’s top surface, the plate has 2 counter-bored holes spaced about 67mm apart to mate with 2 of the 1/4″-20 threaded holes on the top of the camera. The plate has a nine 1/4″-20 threaded holes bored through its top surface. By itself the plate can be used to securely mount a variety of accessories on top of my BMPC-4K.
Next I had the machinist modify a standard rod clamp for 15mm rods by adding 2 counter-bored holes, so it can be securely bolted to my custom top plate, as shown in the photos below.
Bolted together the two parts weigh only 4.5 ounces, and are extremely strong.
For example, for tripod-based shooting I plan to use the custom plate & rod clamp with an IKAN battery plate to securely mount my Anton-Bauer Dionic-90 & Hytron-50 batteries. I’ll use a CPM carbon fiber medium rail plate and Velcro to mount my old SoundDevices MixPre audio mixer (and add Velcro to the top of the MixPre for attaching Sennheiser wireless mic receivers. Note: The current version of the MixPre is the “MixPre-D“.) In this relatively compact configuration, the mixer will be located above the BMPC-4K’s LCD, and the battery above the lens. I’ll add a rod-mount top handle, but haven’t decided which one yet. The photo below shows metal rods, but to reduce the rig’s weight I’ve since bought a pair of short carbon fiber rods from Berkey System.
To enable the option of using the custom top plate & rod clamp to mount a matte box or follow-focus above the lens (instead of below the lens, as is more common), there’s one very important detail: The height of the custom plate must take into account the sidewall dimensions (2 red lines) of the particular rod clamp (I used a Berkey Standard Rail Block), as shown in the following photo:
The rod center axis (red “+”) must be 85mm from the lens center axis. The top surface of the BMPC-4K’s is approx. 62.5mm above the lens center axis. Take these two numbers, and the rod clamp’s sidewall dimension, into account to determine the height for the top plate. In my case, it was about 13mm.
I use a Vocas 4×4 matte box I’ve had for years with most cameras I work with. (Matte boxes are now available from a wide variety of manufacturers, and at every price point). I probably won’t use my matte box in a top-mounted configuration very often, but it’s nice to have the option. Most of the time the top-mounted rails will be used to mount accessories such as an external battery, mixer, etc.
(The BMCC in the photo above is a loaner from DVeStore which they generously allowed me to use for a few days.)
When shooting with the BMPC-4K on a tripod or jib I’ll often use an external 1080p monitor, especially for critical focus, and for viewing by my clients. To connect the BMPC-4K’s “6G-SDI” output to an external HDMI monitor, I’ll use a Hyperdeck Shuttle (version 1) I bought for $175 on sale. The BMPC-4K’s 6G-SDI output is compatible with both 4K and 1080p display devices, and the HdS converts the BMPC-4K’s 1080p HD-SDI signal to HDMI with a minimal lag. I’ll use Velcro to attach the HdS to the back of my floor-stand mounted, AC-powered, 21″ HDTV monitor. I’ll use a standard BNC cable to connect between the BMPC-4K and the HdS. Unlike HDMI cables, BNC cables can exceed hundreds of feet without video quality loss, and are far more durable, less-expensive, and more secure (don’t unplug accidentally) compared to HDMI cables. Note: Blackmagic also sells small “Battery Converters” to convert 6G-SDI to HDMI.
To reduce weight but still allow for flexibility, I’ve purchased a Wooden Camera BMCC Mini Baseplate. It’s the smallest, lightest baseplate I’ve found for the BMPC-4K which also enables front-mount rods (for matte box, etc.) and an optional rod clamp can be added on the back, too. The latter enables me to easily attach/detach a pair of 18″ long rods to form the basis for a shoulder mount.
To reduce weight, I’ve purchased new carbon fiber rods from Berkey, and a CF shoulder-pad kit from CPM. In a shoulder mount configuration I’ll Velcro the MixPre to the top of the shoulder pad plate, with the mixer’s controls & meters facing me. When using the shoulder mount, I’ll clamp the IKAN battery plate to the far back end of the long rods, behind and below my shoulder, to act as a counter-balance.
My shoulder rig configuration shown in the photo at the top of this post weighs 7 pounds including my SoundDevices MixPre and AB Dionic-90 battery. I’ve configured the Wooden Camera BMCC baseplate with a 2nd rod clamp on the back to attach/detach a CPM shoulder mount. The carbon fiber rods extending from the front of the baseplate are separate from the 18″ CF rods attached to the back of the baseplate. The CPM shoulder pad plate has been slightly modified to use flat-head screws instead of thumbscrews, making a flat surface for mounting the MixPre on top via Velcro. I modified the IKAN battery plate so it can be mounted perpendicular to & below the rods. This lowers the rig’s center of gravity and shortens the overall length of the rig.
The 18″ rods are plenty long enough for a shoulder rig configuration, and yet will fit inside my Pelican 1520 carrying case with an optional padded liner, along with the camera, lenses, and misc. accessories.
To distribute power between the AB battery and multiple accessories, I use p-tap/d-tap cables and a tiny AB PowerTap Multi distribution box. I already have a pair of XLR-to-TRS audio cables to connect between the mixer & BMPC-4K, but these right-angle XLR-to-TRS audio cables from Laird look sweet.
On the subject of DSRL-type zoom lenses: One candidate is the Sigma 17-50mm f2.8 zoom with IS (image stabilization) as a general-purpose lens for shooting handheld, interviews, and B-roll footage. I bought the very sharp and fast Sigma 18-35mm f1.8 zoom (non-IS) and it’s a great match for the BMPC-4K’s unusually high-quality video capabilities (although I miss not having IS for handheld work).
I bought a tiny and inexpensive Canon EF-S 24mm f2.8 STM “pancake” lens and it works great on my BMPC-4K. Not quite as sharp or fast as the Sigma 18-35mm f1.8 zoom, but still quite good and much more portable. Because the Canon 24mm pancake lens is so small & lightweight it’s become my favorite walk-around lens especially when hiking with the camera.
I already own Tiffen “water white” ND 77mm screw-on filters (.3, .6 & .9) and will probably also get a ND 1.2. As a more convenient alternative to separate ND filters, I may consider the well-reviewed Genus Eclipse vari-ND filter. I bought a 52mm Hoya ProND #8 (ND .9) filter for use with the Canon 24mm f2.8 pancake lens. Hoya ProND filters provide IR-cut filtering in addition to ND.
“Infrared pollution” affects most modern video cams to a varying degree, and can cause black objects and video in general to look tinged with brown/red/magenta. The choice of which IR cut filter is best to use tends to be sensor-specific. There’s information on cost-effective IR cut and ND filters specifically recommended for use with the BMPC-4K in a detailed thread on the BMCuser forum. Based on the info in the thread on BMCuser, and because I already own ND filters, I bought a “Hoya UV IR cut filter 77mm” for use with various lenses (via filter step-up rings) on my BMPC-4K.
An inexpensive item is this “ALZO cold shoe“, handy for mounting items such as microphones and other gear to the 1/4”-20 threaded holes on top of BMD cameras.
I might get a basic follow-focus, such as the D|Focus 4. The Pro-LANC wired remote is reported to be compatible with the BMPC-4K (as it is for the BMCC) for controlling record start/stop. My 10+ year old Studio 1 LANC controller works fine with my BMPC-4K (for record start/stop and focus), but unfortunately users report the current Studio 1 LANC controller is not compatible. LANC remotes are helpful when the camera is mounted on a shoulder-mount or jib.
Update: I’ve posted a detailed list of my current/planned rig components here.
I’ll post more photos as I acquire more of the items mentioned above, or alternatives as I discover them.
My list of related links, short films, and resources for Blackmagic Design cameras.
UPDATE: BMPC-4K shooting tips from early users. I finally received my own BMPC-4K on 2/28/14. I’ve revised my previous post on how to mount a Hoodman HRT5 5″ LCD shade on my BMPC-4K, and used it to shoot this video (details on the Vimeo page):
… and this one:
I also used my BMPC-4K to shoot this video.
New blog post: Resolve 12: My Windows PC build
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