I really hate to target people, especially companies on my Blog, but in fear of watching people making a BIG mistake I have to say something about the new Black Magic Studio camera. As the Church market has quickly embraced IMAG and live video in their facilities so has BMD given them cheap small format gear to test the waters with. Every year when NAB comes around I watch so many people fall head over heals for BMD, and every year it is difficult to watch this happen. It seems like especially in the church community, BMD can do no wrong.
As far as Black magic goes I have always had mixed feelings about their products. Some of their products are great because they are cost effective and make fitting things into a budget a reality, but other items they sell just leave me scratching my head confused. **Please keep in mind as you read on that my perspective is from a Live event/ IMAG approach for churches.
What I have concluded about BMD is that what they do best is cinema and post production. Even their products pointing at the live market have “Post” written all over them in their design and use. But crafty people started to use their products in a live environment when they need to fit the budget, but I think it is starting to go too far. So much so that BMD have convinced themselves that they now produce Live video production gear and have then started to produce more gear directed towards that market.
The BMD studio camera is such a device. They made this for live production, but to me it just doesn’t seem like a good live production camera, at least not for IMAG. Now I believe that ALL products have a niche market and if I had to niche this product it would be for small studio based streaming applications or temporary Nano studio. So for the purposes of my Blog I do not think this is a good camera for IMAG/ Live video.
To be completely honest, I haven’t actually touched the camera yet. I have only read up on the product, but as I have been reading about it, I see nothing but Red Flags.
Here are just a few things I noticed:
I/O: The input/output on this camera is marketed to be cost effective rather than spend money on “costly camera cables” (in their words), instead you have to manually tie in the camera running a minimum of 3 cables to get your camera in a system causing a very bulky cable loom. Camera cables are used for a reason in order to add flexibility, functionality and mobility to a camera. As I have tied many cameras into a system and used them for live production, it is never ideal and typically adds a high level of wear on both the cameras and cables. This is the first “Studio Camera” I have ever seen without an actual Camera cable.
Lens mount: BMD is using a micro fourth lens mount, which for small studio applications could work fine, but when shooting any type of distance you will still need a proper Broadcast lens. They claim you can use adapters in order to use broadcast lenses but it will be interesting to see the limitation this could bring. Either way, by not using a standard B4 bayonet mount lens means to me that they aren’t taking the needs of a broadcaster seriously. It also seems that the only iris control is through LANC or monitor control, which has to be done on the camera by the operator, and is not standard practice for studio cameras.
Com: I think com is one of the most surprising things on this camera (although I’m not surprised after seeing their camera adapter). Aviation headsets are NOT an industry standard. In fact if you get a broadcast com system you will have to adapt the system in order to get their com to work in a traditional system. Be prepared for a BMD com solution in the next few years so people can actually use the com system they have in place, because that is the only logical explanation I can come up with to why they are using an aviation headset.
Tally: I am happy to see that BMD has a solution for tally, however, if you don’t have their production switcher then good luck. From what I can tell, their switcher is doing some type of VANC insertion to trigger the tally on and off. I have to admit I am impressed, but if you choose to not go with their switcher, then there isn’t any back-up plan that I can tell. Proprietary formats are great but not if it alienates other people from using such a standard feature.
Control: Out of all the features this one confuses me the most. Rather than have a traditional CCU or some type of remote control they are using software. But that software is actually part of their switcher, not the camera. The switcher is then sending information back to the camera (again I would assume through VANC as there is no other connection on the camera) in order to control all the settings. So there is no CCU, and no remote control. Part of me likes the idea of software, it is cost effective, but in no way is it fast. In theatrical environments (which is most churches) light levels are constantly changing, which for cameras requires a dedicated shader to react to lighting changes quickly. Software isn’t that quick and will make it a constant battle using their system. And again, if you don’t have an ATEM switcher then you won’t get this feature at all.
No hand held operation: with the integrated monitor, it doesn’t look like there will ever be a logical way to use this camera as a hand held device. All the photo’s and all the logic in my brain are showing this as a hard camera made to be placed on a tripod or other mounted solution.
Camera controls: Standard zoom and focus controls are key and it looks like BMD has a solution for that via the LANC control or through a lens manufacture. But studio cameras these days are made so that the operator never has to take their hands off the controls. They can zoom, focus, check return video, talk on their headset, and in some cases iris without removing their hands from the controls. It would be interesting to see if BMD has integration with lens controls for all these functions. But from what I can tell return video, talking, and iris has to be done on the camera.
The issues listed above are just a few things that I can tell without actually using the camera. But knowing BMD and using some of their other products, they have a habit of thinking things through half way and shipping products that are half done. I know the church community and they will see the price and instantly flock towards it. In a live/ IMAG scenario I just can’t see this camera being a good fit. It also worries me that BMD thinks this is a good solution for a studio camera. Where did they get their research from? Seriously! I’m all for going out of the box but I don’t think they are in the same room as the box.
When you start to invest in live production gear be sure to really do your homework and if you can’t get the gear to do it right, then usually the best thing to do is to save money and wait until you have the funds to pull it off well. I think one of the worse things you can do is to buy gear based on price without really evaluating needs. At this point the only way I could justify buying the BMD studio camera is as a fixed POV shot, or in a Nano studio, but even then I would still have a lot more research to do.
I’m just asking everyone in the church community to hold on for a second! Just because Black Magic put’s their name on the camera doesn’t mean it is the right fit. The church community has a way of flocking to products because of either price or because of a name. If you are considering the BMD camera for your facility I think it is time to re-Evaluate what your needs truly are.