Jan 15
BLACK MAGIC CAMERA by Alex J. Socorro  |  Posted in Articles  |  on Wed, Jan 15, 2014

From the huge cameras using the traditional film, the digital age had radically changed the landscape of movie-making. The video, used in television and events coverage, had overstepped its territory to grab the limelight from the film.

From the small 640 by 480 pixels – standard broadcast quality for television – the video inched its way with the 720 pixels by 480. Not much of a difference in the frame size but it was the turning point of a new era in cinema cameras.

Without further ado, the so-called HD was born. The high-definition camera has a frame size of 1920 by 1080. The variations are 2048 by 858 and 1998 by 1080. There’s also the native 2048 by 1556 for the full aperture.

Translated into the screen, the (motion) picture will have a horizontal length of 1920 pixels and a vertical height of 1080 pixels. The 2K video is blown up on the theater screen that has a frame size of 4096 by 2160.

But with the digital technology, the blowup doesn’t lose much of the resolution even if the frame size of the 2K is just half of the 4K screen in the theaters. The digital projector also helps in this issue of blowing up the digital images.

The 4K frame size (4096 by 2160) was dictated by the traditional film simply because the best frame size for projecting the film was 4096 by 2160. Remember that the theater screens were designed for the film.

Not content with the 2K, camera makers stretched their imagination and came up with the 4K camera. “Gayang-gaya ang film at akmang-akma sa theater screen ang output ng 4K camera,” a newbie cinematographer said.

The Red Camera, the manufacturer of the first 4K camera, came up with larger frame size like the 5K. Some other camera makers advocate the 48 frames per second as opposed to the 24 frames per second of the film.

Another advantage of the digital video is the flexibility. The raw data from the camera can be converted to 24 FPS (frames per second) some on 29.97 and even to 48 FPS like the frequency used by The Hobbit which was shot in New Zealand.

For the loyalists of the film, however, it is good to know that the digital video, no matter the resolution and the frame size, is just mimicking the film. “Ang film pa rin ang guiding rate ng mga camera makers,” a known film editor said.

Back to the 2K (frame size of 1920 by 1080), that’s the optimum frame size of the first generation Panasonic, Sony and other HD cameras that attempted to step into the territory of the traditional film. And their invasion was successful for economic reasons.

The film was very expensive compared to the storage medium of the HD camera. The footage of the film had to be processed in the laboratory to produce the negative then the positive while the footage of the HD camera is uploaded into the computer.

“Ang mga camera noong araw kasi malalaki,” opined a veteran cinema-tographer, “kaya ang digital camera nilakihan din nila.” The footprint, i.e size and weight of the camera, is large because it was designed as such to mimic the camera that uses film.

Another thing, the big camera has a psychological effect on the actors. “Nasanay ang artista sa harap ng malaking camera kaya siguradong asiwa sila pag maliit na camera ang nasa harapan nila,” a veteran director reasoned.


The Canon DSLR at left and the first generation Panasonic HD camera at right. Both are taking a video shot of Boy Alano in an interview.

But with the emergence of the so-called DSLR cameras with small footprints, the standard may be changing. “Mainam ang DSLR pag gipitan,” said the same veteran director who had used a DSLR in tandem with a first generation Panasonic.

Both cameras – Panasonic and Canon DSLR – has the same resolution and the same texture. However, it’s not advisable to use a DSLR in panning. “May jerk nang konti at halata ang trail,” said one who tested the DSLR capabilities.

Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) camera uses one lens in taking the photograph (or video), the same lens used in the viewfinder. In other words, what you see is what you get in the DSLR. The viewfinder of non-DSLR gives the reflection of the image (not actual).

With the HD output of the DSLR, it’s giving the big cameras a run for their money. “Mas mura kasi lalo na yung SD card,” the storage card of the DSLR is just a fraction of the cost of the memory card of the common HD cameras.

Presenting now the Blackmagic Cinema camera by the Blackmagic Design Pty Ltd of Australia. At a small size of 166.2mm by 113.51mm x 126.49mm and weighing less than 2 kilos, it would be tiny compared to the common HD cameras.


The petite Blackmagic Cinema camera from Australia

Blackmagic Cinema camera – the name implies that it is for making movies. With a 2K output, it can have a frequency of 23.98 or 24p or 25p or 29.97p and 30p frames per second. Not bad for a small camera.

As of 2013, the Blackmagic had been used in shooting short films only. It has no track record in feature films yet. But local cinematographers are very curious in the capability of the Blackmagic. “Maliit pero powerful,”
a director said.

Someday soon we will see the local movie industry employing the Blackmagic cinema camera. And for what reason? It has a tag price of $1,000 or around P43,000. That’s a pretty good bargain.

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