It’s Time to Think Small
Blackmagic Design’s New Offering Expands Creative Rigging Possibilities
April 13, 2016
Camera enthusiasts have been teased about Blackmagic Design’s newest camera since early last year, and now the wait is over as the Blackmagic Micro Cinema Camera (BMMCC) ships out to anxious users this month. Reviews and test footage have demonstrated the Micro as a contender among Blackmagic’s already stellar lineup of professional-grade equipment—and yet, the BMMCC’s position in the roster seems to be under dispute. Some believe that it doesn’t belong on a standard rig, that it should stay relegated to shots where human hands can’t reach, suspended from an aerial drone or fixed atop a vehicle. You may find that it deserves its own everyday setup, however; it brings a few unique features to standard rigs that can’t be overlooked.
Space on a rig is limited, and finding extra available room is serious business. The Micro’s narrow profile gives you an extra 1.75 inches on the side compared to the pocket—with this additional real estate, there is plenty of area for a 7-inch monitor to sit beside it, with room for adjustment. A 15.7-inch bar for the front handles leaves room for a 5-inch or 7-inch monitor placement right beside the camera, or with a set of top rails, the monitor can go above for a slim profile.
Blackmagic Design continues to give cinematographers enhanced mobility with their increasingly small offerings. Those cinematographers have since reconsidered the bulky setups of filmmaking past; there is an enduring trend toward ditching the extraneous hardware in favor of more minimal setups that keep only a few necessities, namely power and viewing. With regard to standard rigs, the Micro represents another step in this direction, allowing for the most compact yet customizable outfit to date.
The Cinema Camera and the Pocket by Blackmagic weigh 3.3 pounds and 12.5 ounces, respectively. The Micro weighs in at 10.65 ounces, making it about 15 percent lighter than the Pocket. This means more potential for adding external hardware without making your rig too heavy, or for those often using a shoulder rig or filming by hand, less exertion and more comfortable filming sessions. Those who think the difference is negligible might change their tune after several hours of filming, where every ounce of gear starts to take its toll. The lighter specs of the Micro also allow for more placement options along a shoulder rig, since counterbalancing is made that much easier. One can sneak an onboard monitor right behind the camera without having to worry about too much forward weight, or position the Micro right above the shoulder for an “attached” feel.
Positioning the camera and lens directly over the shoulder makes counterbalancing easier; a Magic Power battery on the back will suffice in many cases. An electronic viewfinder attached to the side of the rig, combined with 11.8-inch-wide handles in front makes for one of the lightest, most compact shoulder rigs imaginable. So light and compact, in fact, that some of our fellow cinematographers using this method are opting to ditch the cage and top handle altogether for a truly minimal ensemble. Placing the handles lower with an offset rail block bar clamp and hanging the Magic Power lower on the back will drop the center of gravity for stable shots without the unnecessary weight.
The Micro is inexpensive yet powerful; it gets people started making professional-quality film without the huge up-front investment. That’s really what we are all about—placing the creative power of filmmaking into more and more creative hands—so it stands to reason why we’re such fans of the Micro.
Its bare-bones design requires a bit of extra hardware (such as an external monitor, which the BMMCC lacks,) though we have noticed that many users throw on their own extra hardware anyhow. The standard Cinema Camera and the Pocket, for example, each come with a screen that is often neglected in favor of larger monitor options or a viewfinder. If external options are your thing, this gives you the extra money for a truly customizable rig. And with the money saved from buying a BMMCC, you can grab other much needed gear, like a few extra Magic Power batteries for those long shoots.
Making Our Case
All of these qualities encapsulated in the Micro are huge plusses no matter how you look at it, and we make the case that they add up to one thing: customization. With these features, the Micro’s usefulness on a standard rig seems like a no brainer. Don’t let the design fool you; the Micro achieves professional footage that competes with its larger siblings, and while many external components are compatible across cameras, it is possible to get a dedicated rig for the BMMCC without shelling out too much. This camera can be bogged down with all the hardware in your arsenal and permanently rested on a tripod, or stripped down to the essentials for run-and-gun film work.
Outfitting the BMMCC is as straightforward as it was for previous cameras. A popular piece of equipment, the cage is often the pricy part of a basic rig. The cage hits the right balance between ergonomics, lightweight design, and attachment options makes the rest of the construction simple. We’ve found some choices that fit the bill starting at around $290 or one-size-fits-all solutions at $149. Many of these cages provide a ton of attachment options, offering versatility for years to come and the ability to fine-tune the placement of your hardware. Throw on a couple of 15-inch rails and a base plate, and you’re on your way. Major manufacturers offer a rail kit with its own mounting plate; the extra plate comes in handy for mounting batteries under the rails and out of the way. Attach a Magic Power directly to the cage, or use a bar clamp (you can get one from around 8 bucks) and hang it from the side or back as a counterweight. As mentioned above, the BMMCC needs external monitoring, but this doesn’t need to be a large setback; with 7-inch monitors starting at around $100, the camera is still an effective choice. Shoulder pads are especially inexpensive, and can be acquired for around $15. Handles vary in cost, but we found durable pairs starting at $50.
How does this compare against a rig with a larger camera? We put together a shoulder rig with the above hardware and necessary wiring, and calculated a weight of around 8.17 pounds after adding the Micro; this translates to more comfortable shooting, or more of that essential external hardware added to your kit, if you wish. When your basic rig is properly built, transitioning between different setups should be relatively hassle free. There are a number of mounting plate designs that make switching from shoulder to stand a breeze, even without having to move accessories back and forth. With the help of Blackmagic Design and Juicebox, professional-grade film gear has never been so accessible, not to mention so versatile.