Master Guide to Rigging a Blackmagic Design Cinema Camera – Part 1


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Master Guide to Rigging the BMCC
This is the main menu of the Master Guide to Rigging the Blackmagic Cinema Camera. If you’d like to read the updated (January 2013) version of this guide as a 100 page ebook, subscribe below. To read the older version of the guide online, scroll down for the main menu.

There’s no doubt about it – the Blackmagic Design Cinema Camera (henceforth BMCC) has been a marketing success. Yes, there are other companies claiming to provide RAW 2K for cheap, but none with the stature of a proven company like Blackmagic Design.

First, let’s understand whom this camera was designed for. Here it is, in the manufacturer’s own words:

…it’s perfect for independent film, television commercials and episodic television production…
…it’s perfect for displacing video-only cameras for work such as sporting events, weddings, music videos and more!…
…Building one of the finest cameras in the world requires attention to every detail…
…Every aspect of the image path has been totally optimized for quality, so this means you always get the quality you need for the most demanding work…


This Guide is divided into 10 parts. Since the BMCC isn’t out yet at the time of this writing most of this guide is conjecture – based on my personal experience and analysis. It is only a starting point, from which you will hopefully continue to research and find what best suits your workflow. You are solely responsible for your decisions and actions.

I have one bit of important advice: Buy only what you need. If you can’t judge rationally, get somebody with experience to assist you. A rig is a constantly evolving thing, and you’re better off starting with the bare minimum and adding stuff later, than spending all your money on a setup that will evolve anyway.


Part 1: Ergonomics and Connections
Part 2: Lenses and Filters
Part 3: Matteboxes and Follow Focus
Part 4: Audio Gear
Part 5: External Monitors, Viewfinders and Power Supplies
Part 6: Baseplates, Rods and Cages
Part 7: Tripods, Heads and Other Support
Part 8: Handheld, Shoulder and Steadycam Rigs
Part 9: Other Specialized Rigs, LANC Controllers and Miscellaneous Tools
Part 10: Bags, Cases and Straps


The BMCC technical specifications page, which can be found here, is severely lacking in details about the dimensions of the camera. So, I used what’s available, and reverse engineered my own specs.

Keep in mind: These are very rough estimates, and for exact measurements either ask Blackmagic Design (BMD from here on) or measure yourself. Click to enlarge.

Layout of BMCC

The BMCC is by design a front-heavy camera. If you flicked it forwards it will topple over. If you flicked it backwards, it most likely won’t, unless the force is great.

I imagine the center of gravity to be slightly below the mid-point of the lens mount, which is okay for light lenses but not good enough for heavy lenses. With heavy lenses the height will make it easier to topple over. There is nothing new here, as a similar design is found in most other cameras and DSLRs.

In order to hold the camera on a plate, it has a 1/4″-20 UNC screw thread tripod mount with a locator pin at the bottom. This mount will also accept BSW screws of a similar gauge without causing much pain.

On the top there are three 1/4″-20 UNC screw thread mounting points to attach or secure whatever suits your fancy.

Weight of the camera body is 1.7 kg. Weight of a typical SSD drive is less than 100g, so the total weight of the camera with one SSD drive is about 1.8 kg.

The camera chassis is machined aluminium. It has rubber front and back finishes for an easier grip – if you were inclined to hold it like a 7″ tablet.

Recording Media – SSD

On one side is a slot for one 2.5” Mac OS Extended format SSD drive. Windows users will need third party apps to create or read mac-formatted drives that can be used on this camera. Yes, the BMCC is an Apple friendly camera.

Recording formats supported

2.5K (2432 x 1366) 12-bit Cinema DNG RAW at 23.98p, 24p, 25p, 29.97p, 30p.
Data Rate is 5 MB/frame
@24fps, data rate is 120 MB/s (about 1 Gbps)
@30fps, data rate is 150 MB/s (about 1.2 Gbps)

1920×1080 10-bit 4:2:2 Prores HQ (or 422) or DNxHD 220 at 23.98p, 24p, 25p, 29.97p, 30p.
Data rate is less than 1 MB/frame
@24fps, data rate is less than 24 MB/s (192 Mbps)
@30fps, data rate is less than 30 MB/s (240 Mbps)

The following SSDs are recommended for CinemaDNG video capture:
OCZ Technology 240 GB Vertex 3
OCZ 480GB Vertex 3
Crucial Technology 256 GB C300 Series
Crucial 512 GB M4
Kingston 64GB SSDNow V+100 (SVP100S2/64G)
Kingston 128 GB SSDNow V+100
Kingston SSDNow V+200 240GB
Kingston HyperX 240GB
Samsung 830 – Series 512 GB
SanDisk Extreme SSD 480 GB

The following SSDs are recommended for compressed video capture:
Crucial 256 GB M4
OCZ Technology 240GB Agility
SanDisk Extreme SSD 120 GB

BMD only recommends SATA III 6 Gbps drives. The list is not comprehensive, so you might be able to find drives that pass muster. Don’t forget to check actual real-world benchmarks to see if your preferred drive can sustain 150 MB/s minimum.

Connectors and Buttons

I actually like the fact that all of the BMCC’s connectors are on one side – except I feel it’s on the wrong side for shoulder-mounted rigs.

The BMCC has the following connectors:

  • Remote – 2.5mm LANC for control
  • Headphones – 3.5mm stereo
  • Audio In – two 1/4″ jacks
  • SDI out – HD-SDI SMPTE 292M 10-bit 4:2:2 (maximum 30fps, 4 channel 24-bit 48 Khz audio)
  • Thunderbolt – RAW video and audio capture
  • USB 2.0 – mini B (only for firmware updates and configuration)
  • Power connector (12V to 30V)

For some crazy reason the front-side record button is depressed/flushed so that you can have a great time feeling around for it on a shoulder rig. Luckily, there’s one on the back in the opposite corner so you can twist your other hand like a pretzel while trying not to drop your camera.

The buttons on the BMCC are:

  • Record – both front and back
  • Iris – for lens iris control
  • Focus – with peaking
  • Rewind
  • Stop
  • Play
  • Forward
  • Menu
  • Power

One must desperately hope their touch screen doesn’t give out. I can’t imagine the problems I’d face not being able to read the menu in bright sunlight – so I’m hoping someone comes up with a remote control interface. Fingers crossed.

The BMCC ships with a detachable sun shield, a camera strap, a turret dust cap and a 12V AC adapter (BMD haven’t said whether its 120V, 220V or both). I can’t imagine many people lugging the camera rig around their neck.

If you’re thinking: Why not? Doesn’t it replicate the behavior of a DSLR? This is when I must ask you to reread BMD’s words above on what projects their camera is intended for. Their competition is the Arri Alexa, no less.

Inside the camera, in true Apple style, is an integrated lithium-ion polymer rechargeable battery that will give 90 minutes of life (BMD has not specified whether this is standby time or recording time). It takes 2 hours to charge, so unless you are only shooting for an hour everyday, you’ll need additional batteries. Imagine what will happen if your battery dies out a few years from now – how will that affect the resale value of your camera?

Blackmagic design also sells a separate Handle which I think should be shipped free with the camera.

In real world use, if you are using both hands to hold the camera via the Handle, what will you use to operate it – your nose? While you figure out how to support your camera to free a finger I’ll move on to part 2, where I’ll discuss lens, filters and other accessories.

Next: Part 2: Lenses and Filters

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