Smoke and Mirrors – Blackmagic Pocket Cinema on the Run – pt 1

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This past Sunday I had found myself at the mercy of one of the last standing American anti capitalist traditions, “CLOSED SUNDAYS”. Shooting a documentary out of town, without transportation to pickup my laptop to dump and wipe my used memory cards, I found myself really struggling with the technological limitations of my Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera. 

7 fully charged batteries in my backpack, to battle the short battery life? Check. Five Four 32 GB Sandisk Extreme Pro SDHC cards to deal with this memory hog of a camera. That’s 24 min per card x 4. That’s only 96 minutes of shoot time with no ability to delete shots in camera, nor dump data and reformat. Miraculously, this setup got me by the previous afternoon, shooting for this project at the R16 North America B-Boy competition finals at the Hard Rock Cafe on the Las Vegas strip. But not today.

It was 4:30pm and not only was I without my laptop, but I was without transportation. I was furiously yelping local camera stores that were nearby our venue, the Florentine Gardens, in Hollywood.

Why do I put up with it? The 10bit 4:2:2 ProRes output with 13 stops of light (supposedly) coming in from the sensor treated my pretty well. The best image for its price class. Hands down. Especially if you keep the accessories at a minimum. Plus, the limited shooting time would really help me with a more discerning eye and value my shots.

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It worked for the first piece I did on Richie “Boogeyman” Martinez, and I thought it would be the best for this follow up focusing more on his brother, Geovanny “Freakahhzoid” Martinez, a black belt in the 10th Planet school of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

Last time, some careful conservation and planning, and of sacrifice not getting those “extra” shots just in case (that I was less likely to use anyways) enabled me to complete my last shoot. Of course I would probably benefit from creating a more detailed shotlist as guidelines (mine is all in my head). But again, I really enjoyed treating my shooting like a valuable, limited resource. Each minute was precious, and it forced me to really think about the shots I was getting, and not do as my trial by error in my shooting. As my own editor I also appreciated having to go through way less source footage to create my piece.

This time however, I potentially did not have enough shoot time to cover the entire event I needed to cover, and I did not want to risk missing some of the critical moments. I also didn’t want the option of sacrificing one moment over the other.

So I went on a quest to find some memory cards. The closest places I could find (that were open) Best Buy, and a Guitar Center (long shot for the correct memory cards) that were 45mins away on foot, each. With barely an hour and a half before the start of the event I was covering, the Eddie Bravo Invitational Jiu Jitsu tournament, I just couldn’t risk coming back not only empty handed, but also missing the beginning of the event. I hoped that I would get lucky and find somewhere along the way as I walked.

I found a Staples, but no dice. They only had Sandisk Ultra… I needed Extreme or Extreme Pro. They suggested Best Buy as well, but that was still another 25 minutes or so, by foot. Trying to be quick on my feet, I was trying to think of a technological solution, and I remembered the phenomenon of Uber and Lift cars as a fast, inexpensive taxi solution. Having downloaded the Uber app to my iphone but never used it, I scrambled to set up my account and found my self a ride, a white Toyota Prius, that pulled up within a few minutes. My 25 minute walk was now 6 minutes and I was on my way to pulling out a last minute BMPCC field save!

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I was on way to successfully pulling a field solution/triumph out of my ass, but not before a few more hiccups that had me think long and hard about my Black Magic Pocket Cinema Camera setup, eventually leading to some changes in part 2.