Shooting RAW in the Bahamas with the Blackmagic Cinema Camera

Making adjustments to the rig before taking the next shot. Photo courtesy of Michael Creagh.

Making adjustments to the rig before taking the next shot. Photo courtesy of Michael Creagh.

Shortly after buying the Blackmagic Cinema Camera (BMCC) I was offered a job to shoot a series of fitness videos down the in Bahamas. We would be traveling to Eleuthera Island which is a 20 minute boat ride from Nassau. It is not a very "touristy" island so there's no hotels and few places to shop. So we would all be staying in a private beach house. How could I say no? 

Taking the BMCC to a foreign country with no crew other than myself seemed like a daunting task but it actually ended up being surprisingly easy.

Photo courtesy of Michael Creagh.

Photo courtesy of Michael Creagh.

The Bahamas is a not a carnet accepting country. So their process for bringing in equipment is slightly different but not really all that bad. I had to create an inventory list of all my gear along with serial numbers and costs which I provided to the Bahamas Film Office. They then provided me with a permit allowing me entry into the country with all my equipment. 

Because I knew it was going to be just me, I didn't bring a lot but that's a relative term since the BMCC still requires quite a bit of external gear to function. I knew we would be shooting relatively close to the beach house so I'd always be within range of an electrical outlet. That being said, I still took two external batteries with me. I definitely recommend having an external battery for the BMCC no matter where you're shooting. The internal battery gives you about an hour to an hour and a half of battery life. Not a long time when you're on set. I took two Switronix Pro-X Powerbase 70  batteries with me along with their charger (sold separately, of course). The battery gives me about 4-6 hours of life so I almost never had to change the battery in the middle of a shoot. 

I made the decision early on to record in RAW 2.5K which in hindsight was probably unnecessary but I was concerned about my ability to see what I was shooting and wanted to have extra latitude when color correcting in post. The display on the BMCC is great but difficult to see in the sun because of the glare. If possible, I highly recommend getting an external monitor which I did not have the budget for on this shoot. 

Working with Josh Hunter, creator of the MYOKORE fitness band, on his next set up. Photo courtesy of Michael Creagh.

Because I was shooting in RAW, I knew I'd need lots of storage. We were shooting for 6 days so I needed something to transfer the footage to that was safe. So I used six 480 GB Sandisk Extreme II SSD's for recording and would transfer the media to a Drobo Mini at the end of the day. The Sandisk Extreme II's are the best performing SSD's I've seen so far. Even still, there were occasions when the drive would drop frames when recording RAW. I've found that this happens more often when I use a drive that hasn't been reformatted after shooting. So I suggest reformatting the drive after each shoot to limit this from happening. This did require me to bring a SATA hard drive docking station with me but it was well worth it. 

The BMCC performed surprisingly well in the heat. I'd heard numerous people tell me that it's performance in the heat was poor but I didn't experience that. I brought a Canon 7D with me as backup and that camera actually did have some heat issues but the BMCC never did. 

Annoying black spots would pop up when pointed toward the setting sun. Fixable in post. 

One thing you have to watch out for right now is when you aim the camera anywhere near a bright light source. For example, for one particular shot we were on the beach at sunset. We had one of the fitness models out in the water with the sun directly behind her. It was a gorgeous shot but produced a horrible black spot where the sun was. The only way to fix this in camera, as of right now, is to lower your exposure till the black spot goes away - not a great solution. Luckily, there's ways to fix it in post but still kind of annoying. A patch was recently released for the Pocket Cinema Camera to address this issue so I can only assume they're working on one for the BMCC as well. 

Photo courtesy of Michael Creagh.

The biggest limitation with the BMCC on location is the form factor. It's not easy to hold by itself especially if you've got a big lens on it so you really need a rig to carry it. I went with the ikan DSLR Shoulder Rig set which works very well for the cost (just a little over $500). The screw on the bottom is not well engineered for holding the camera in place but you can probably replace this with a quick run to your local hardware store.  

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by the performance of the BMCC on location. I'm going to continue using it as my A camera for a while - at least until we upgrade to its bigger brother and start shooting in 4K ;-)

Oh, and one more thing. This has nothing to do with the BMCC but if you're ever filming in the Bahamas, take lots of bug spray. The mosquitos and sand flies are ferocious. 

My arms covered in bites from mosquitos and sand flies. My legs looked twice as bad if you can believe that. 

By the way, the product were filming here has not yet been released but will be available soon. It is called MYOKORE and is an awesome fitness band for use at home or wherever you are.

Dale Goldberg

Yes, you may have noticed Dale's initials, D-R-G. It's actually not a coincidence. When Dale started his career in film, he was only in sixteen but his talents as a storyteller earned him a job as the head of marketing at a martial arts studio - before he'd even graduated high school. Later, when he was a Lead Creative at Apple, his talents for solving problems on set and in the editing room earned him the nickname "Dr. G". Now, he applies those same skills at his own company. Dale has over ten years of experience in video and film production. He holds a degree in Marketing and Advertising from Kennesaw State University and a professional certificate in screenwriting from UCLA. He has written two feature length screenplays, directed three short films, and produced countless commercial projects. He lives in the Greater Atlanta Area with his wife and daughter and is writing his third feature length screenplay.