I can’t have been the only one caught by surprise when I first heard of the Blackmagic Cinema Camera earlier this year. Let’s be honest: to those of us in this field, there are only a handful of companies from whom we expect to see new cameras. Sure, once in a while we get a newcomer to the field, but they rarely capture our attention for long. Fact is, they just can’t hold up in a market saturated with top quality equipment. We as consumers only have so much money to spend. Blackmagic Design turned that stigma on its head.
So what led to the development of this game changer of a camera? According to company president Dan May, it was just being observant. "First we noticed a space in the overall camera market. There was nothing available between the DSLR market and the higher end cinema cameras." May and his team noticed that for us consumers, it seemed like we had to make an unfair choice. Unless we were willing to spend a veritable fortune, we weren't getting a 2.5K camera with 13 stops of dynamic range that shoots in 12-bit RAW, ProRes and DNxHD formats. If we were, it sure as heck wasn't going to be compact. Blackmagic planned to appeal to those of us who had grown up with the SLR and slowly moved to video (that basically describes how Fstoppers came to be).
"So, starting there, we thought what would that camera look like? We started with the idea that video cameras should include features that allow them to perform similarly to film in a design that was optimized for professional video shoots, as well as being compact and affordable." Pricing was huge for Blackmagic. They managed to perfectly position themselves in that market for which they were aiming. When the camera was first announced, most people couldn't believe their eyes. We got a lot of comments that simply denied such a price was going to result in a camera with which they could be happy. Blackmagic crashed through the barriers to entry that we had all become accustomed to, and though amazing, it was jarring at first.
So how was Blackmagic able to give us a camera that performed at the level of a $10K camera for half the price?
"Because of our production and post production background, we understand the most efficient and affordable ways to create the exact camera we wanted. By including a lot of our own intellectual property in the camera, such as the HyperDeck Shuttle for SSD recording and DaVinci Resolve for color correction, we were able to build the camera at a competitive price point. Outside of implementing our own technology, we weren't looking to design brand new components. Instead we capitalized on what the industry already had to offer. We also have a lot of automation in our manufacturing process, which means that we can pass the savings to customers."
Ok so they nailed the target market and the target price, but they were still building a brand new camera outside of anything we had become used to seeing. The design was different yet familiar, and it really worked. Blackmagic was able to make all the pieces of this intricate puzzle come together because of the talent they had aquired.
"We have an amazing group of talented and award winning design and software engineers that are focused on creating unique technology. Blackmagic Design engineers look at designing something new and do not focus on incremental improvements on technology that is already available. We pride ourselves on innovation.
But they didn't just keep it in house. To innovate, they went beyond their four walls and engaged their potential users and pros (such as award winning cinematographer John Brawley) to make sure they were creating exactly what the users wanted.
The acceptance of the Blackmagic Cinema camera has been far greater than they could have ever dreamed. The demand has been high, and partnerships with companies like Arri has led to expansions that fit the special design of the Cinema Camera. When other companies start to design around your product, you know you've done something right.