Here is another update on the camera shipments.
Some good news. If you have read my other posts about the causes of the camera delays then you know we have been dealing with a problem with our sensor supplier related to contamination of the glass that’s bonded on the front of the sensor. It’s not been clean and so we had to stop production of cameras.
There have been two issues here we have been dealing with, the first that the sensor supplier has not been able to see the contamination because their tests were not good enough, and secondly that they need to find a way of bonding the glass on the sensor without contamination.
The good news is that we got a small shipment of sensors that the sensor supplier had tested with their new test setup and they were all ok when we built cameras with them. This is good because they will now be able to see sensors that are contaminated and not ship us anything that’s unable to be used to build a camera.
Also, the sensor supplier has done a small run of sensors at the new company that’s bonding the glass and they got almost a 100% pass rate, which is also great. This means they finally have a solution to bonding on the glass that looks like it will work.
The plan at the moment is to do a small production run this week and we hope to get those sensors next week where we can build cameras using them and see how it all goes.
But things are looking quite good. This run of cameras next week will test the sensor supplier’s ability to build sensors without contamination and to also be able to test them correctly so we only get good sensors. If that’s all ok then we look like we will be able to move back into production.
I will update everyone next week when we know. I also hope to have more info on how fast they can ramp up with this new supplier and the new test.
I hope this update helps.
Blackmagic CEO Grant Petty gave this update:
I have another update on the camera shipments.
First a bit of a background in the issue.
As I have explained in earlier posts, we have been dealing with an issue from our sensor supplier where the glass that covers the front of the sensor has been contaminated and they have been working on that issue. They realized they had a contamination issue that turned out to be caused by the packaging of the glass was shipped to their factory and so that contaminated glass was used on the sensors and sent to us.
Now there were a few fundamental problems with this. Firstly we should never have received parts that had contaminated glass. It turned out their quality control software at the sensor company was poorly designed. Secondly it had taken them months to work out what was going on and to get new packaging to ship the glass to the factory mounting it on the sensors. It’s been months.
However a few weeks ago things were looking good and the supplier got glass that was clean, they updated their test software to correctly test the sensors and could start shipping sensors to us again.
Now as I mentioned last week, the problem is while we did start getting sensors that passed our quality control when used in building our cameras, a lot of sensors did not pass. This was confusing because the sensor’s supplier was supposed to have fixed their test software and had new clean glass.
Working out what was going wrong is what we have been busy doing over the last week. It’s going to get a little technical here, however I think everyone wants to know what’s going on, instead of platitudes.
In our frustration over still getting sensors that would not pass our quality check, we decided to move in and completely audit the sensor supplier’s process in detail using our engineers. We wanted to fully understand what was going on.
We wanted to know how the supplier could the fix to get clean glass not be working 100% and how could the sensor supplier still let bad parts through their quality control process and ship them to us, in the belief that they were “good” parts? This was very confusing. I mean, fixing the contaminated glass should have been a quick simple job so how could they still not get it right after months of work?
What we found when investigating their processes was quite surprising. Of course we had known the original problem with their quality control checks was their test software had not been modified for color sensors. In the past their sensors were used for scientific use and used in black and white. Also their glass was never used as other customers bonded the lens optics onto the sensor itself. In our case we use the sensor in a conventional way and the customers change lenses. We need the glass on the sensor like all other cameras do.
Also, they had never built a camera using the sensor they make for us. We are the only camera that’s used this sensor and glass combination. It’s like designing and building cars but no one at the company has every driven one.
So it turns out their quality process is really only good at testing the semiconductor die. It’s no good at testing the quality of the overall sensor product with the glass in front. This meant they could not even see the problems we were seeing, so that’s why we were getting bad parts. We sent them the information on how to build our test setup and yesterday they started testing using it. Now they are seeing the same quality problems we are seeing. This is good as it means we should not get any more bad sensors.
The problem left is that out of a test batch of 30 sensors, only 4 worked well enough so we can build cameras using them. This is bad. So while the good news is they can now see the same problems we see, the question is why is there still contamination on the glass.
The reason is the contaminated glass issue in many ways distracted them from the problems their manufacturer is having bonding the glass to the sensor itself. The sensor supplier now has two sources of glass, and both of them are showing the same problems. The parts without glass are ok, and the problems appear when the glass is bonded to the sensor. If the glass is clean then it’s really the company bonding on the glass that are introducing contamination.
Now the amazing part is that the first batch of sensors we got that we used for developing the camera and that were fine when we started production were manufactured by a completely different company to the second and subsequent batches of sensors. I could not believe this news when I heard it today as it explains a lot.
Our current understanding is that the company that has been bonding on the glass is crap and they have been contaminating the glass when bonding it. Because the sensor suppliers test process was also bad, it meant that no one really knew what was going on and it’s been weeks and weeks of confusion.
The sensor supplier is getting some new sensors made at the original supplier, which we should get test data back on late this week. Once we see this we will know if the original supplier can make the parts without contamination and so we can start building cameras again. I don’t know why they changed glass bonding companies.
I am sorry this is a really long way of explaining what’s going on. It’s a complex issue and the only way to explain what’s going on is to actually explain what’s going on in detail. It’s been hard to update at times because there has been so much confusion at times about these issues and if they have been fixed or not. We don’t know until we build a bunch of cameras.
What has really shocked me is how long it has taken our sensor supplier to fix this. They have been very bad at moving quickly and really thinking about what’s going wrong. If we had not moved in with our engineers, they still would have no idea what was going on. It’s taken months and driven us crazy with frustration.
So the current plan is to get some sensors from the original glass bonding company and based on their upgraded testing we should know more at the end of the week if we are going to get a good supply of sensors starting to ship using that new company.
I will let you all know later this week or early next when we get some of these sensors to build cameras with and will know if we can start production full speed again.
Lastly, please take it easy on our PR folks. They want more regular updates and it’s me personally that are stopping that, because I don’t want to do fluff updates that don’t say anything and I don’t want to lie to people.
Of course PR people want to do regular updates, but each stage in solving this problem has taken our supplier more than a week or so of work before we hear anything new, and then often we get more questions, not answers. It’s been frustrating, but our PR guys are only trying to help. There is some really crazy stuff being said, but at this point can only provide the info to you as we get it.
Sorry for the long update but I am just brain dumping the situation as it is today so you know what’s going on. I hope it helps.
It was great to hear from professionals (James Tonkin, Anton Nelson & Den Lennie) who had been out and shot with the much anticipated Blackmagic Cinema Camera.
They also had some of the hang-ups that I did before using the camera, mostly form factor and in the inbuilt battery, so it was good to see that after a shoot their minds were changed. The solidness and rubber grips on the body mean that it can be cradled quite comfortably and with an abundance of grip available (like the Shape Rigs) its shape shouldn’t be a problem. For power James used a Hawkwood’s NPF adapter, which can effectively charge the in-built battery while in use.
The day was mostly based around making the short film ‘A Night In Nine Elms’ . They were given rules they had to stick by, it had to be night time and lightweight and the end result is spectacular. I’m sure the short will appear on Vimeo soon, so watch this space.
The second half of the day was based around the post side of things, which when using the raw recording is essential knowledge. First Final Cut X, which simple design and new features make it a breeze to use. He cut together a short piece in real time and made it look like child’s play. You can download a 30 day trial, so give it a go and let us know what you think.
Then we were shown DaVinci Resolve, the grading software that is supplied free with the camera. This software complimented Final Cut X nicely, was easy to use, the speed of rendering was mind blowing and the tracking feature spectacular. All the features shown are available in the free ‘lite’ version, so download it now! Blackmagic even have some raw footage from the camera for you to play around with, downloads below.
Shot 1: http://video.blackmagicdesign.com/Shot_1.zip (141 frames)
Shot 2: http://video.blackmagicdesign.com/Shot_2.zip (109 frames)
Shot 3: http://video.blackmagicdesign.com/Shot_3.zip (69 frames)
Shot 4: http://video.blackmagicdesign.com/Shot_4.zip (131 frames)
Shot 5: http://video.blackmagicdesign.com/Shot_5.zip (101 frames)
If you have been wondering why Blackmagic Designs almost mythical Cinema Camera is yet to the hit shelves, then this letter from BMD’s own Grant Petty will shed some light on the matter:
I wanted to give everyone an update on where we are with Blackmagic CinemaCamera shipments.
As you know, we have been dealing with a supplier delay which has stalled our ability to build cameras. I thought it might be a good idea to explain in more detail what is going on, and do a technical “brain dump” on the problem so everyone understands the nature of the delay and what we have been doing about it.
Over a month ago now, we completed the testing of the Blackmagic Cinema Camera and started production. Very quickly we started to see cameras failing our production testing as they suffered from blemishes on the sensor. These are high end cameras so need to be built to a very high specification.
We started testing to discover the cause of the problem and discovered that the problems were from our second shipment of sensors. The first shipment of sensors were fine. All the cameras you currently see people using had been built from this first batch of sensors and that is why we did not see any issues until we started to build cameras in volume.
While investigating the problem our engineers found the blemishes were in the glass that covers the sensor, and not the sensor itself. This is good because the glass might just be dirty so we saw this as a quick fix, but wondered how a supplier could deliver us sensors that had blemishes, as they are supposed to pre test them.
It is worth noting here what this glass does. Each sensor has a glass cover to keep contamination off the surface of the sensor itself, which is essentially a large semiconductor. If the surface ever got dirty, it would be impossible to clean, however the glass is easy to clean. All sensors have this glass cover. It is a high quality glass with optical coatings, similar to lens glass.
Anyway getting back to the issue, when talking with the supplier, it turned out they had a bug in their test software that tested sensors after the glass had been applied. That’s why they shipped us bad sensors and did not notice. They fixed that problem and could then see the problems we saw and stopped production as about 95% of sensors were suffering this problem with the glass.
The next step for the supplier was for them to work out the cause of the blemishes on the glass. They developed tests for the glass before being bonded to the sensor, and discovered it contained the blemishes on the glass before being used in the suppliers factory. After more testing over the last few weeks, the supplier has discovered the blemishes are caused by a contamination from the packing materials used by the glass supplier to ship the glass to the sensor supplier.
So that’s where we are at now. The supplier is due to get more glass later this week and then hopes to start up production again using new clean glass that will result in good quality sensors that we can use to start building cameras again.
We build our cameras in our own factory on a production line built for the camera so we can start shipping cameras again the day we receive good sensors.
I deeply apologize for the delay in shipping and it has been very frustrating for us as well to be sitting on a completed and tested product for a month that we cannot sell. Especially when people need them urgently.
As you can also see from the breakdown of the problem above, there has been multiple stages of testing to discover the cause of the problem so it has been hard to lock down dates or what was going on until now, so its been hard to update everyone on the exact details.
I hope this update helps people understand the delay. We should know more details about shipping times once the new glass arrives at our supplier.
We also have a new software update v1.1 for the camera due in a few days. The original v1 software did not have DNxHD support so thats now been added, as well as support for lens stabilizers and a bunch of other small features.
So there you have it, please bear with both BMD and us as we try to get these highly demanded cameras to yourselves.
Now the Blackmagic Cinema Camera comes in two models, depending on the lens mount you want. The original EF compatible mount model lets you use Canon and Zeiss lenses with full electronic control of your lens iris and more.
The new Passive Micro Four Thirds (MFT) gives you compatibility with a wide range of manually operated lenses, while also being easily adapted to other mounts such as PL mount via third party adapters.
For more info click HERE
Camcorders these days are often box shaped and awkward to hold. I often refer to them as “ergonomically challenged”, and there is none more box-like than the upcoming Blackmagic Cinema Camera.
If you’ve been looking for a handheld solution for the Blackmagic then look no further than these three excellent rigs from Shape.
We’ve been importing and selling Shape rigs for two years now and the combination of innovative design, top-end build-quality and competitive pricing make their rigs our favourite. They’re just great value for money and built to last.
They have three rigs for the upcoming Blackmagic Cinema Camera:
£435 + vat
“Specially designed for BlackMagic Cinema Camera this rig is light and solid with CNC machined pieces. Perfect configuration for EVF, monitor and other accessories with threaded screw mounts of 1/4″ and 3/8″.”
£725 + vat
“Specially designed for BlackMagic Cinema Camera this shoulder rig is light, with solid CNC machined pieces and an easily removable comfortable shoulder pad. Perfect configuration for EVF, monitor and other accessories with threaded screw mounts of 1/4″ and 3/8″.”
£870 + vat
“Specially designed for BlackMagic Cinema Camera this shoulder rig is light, with solid CNC machined pieces and an easily removable comfortable shoulder pad. Perfect configuration to use the BlackMagic Cinema Camera touch screen and other accessories with threaded screw mounts of 1/4″ and 3/8″.”
We’ll be seeing these rigs at the IBC Exhibition this weekend. They look pretty awesome to us so I for one am very excited: I quite like “cage” style rigs because they allow you to add accessories like viewfinders and monitors.
You can pre-order your Shape rig with us now, and we’ll have some soon on demonstration in our showroom.
Blog by Stuart Dennis
Welcome to the first of our post-NAB reports! We saw so much it’s hard to know where to start, but we may as well start with the product type that got the most attention: The small matter of new cameras…
The Large Sensor Camcorders
In the large-sensor arena, this year’s NAB saw the genesis of low-cost 4K acquisition in the shape of new models from Sony and Canon, and the curious 2.5K resolution debut of Blackmagic’s Cinema Camera. Let’s deal with these one by one…
Sony’s latest large sensor camcorder has been designed around the body chassis, layout and lens mount of their FS100 model, but the similarity really ends there: The internal specifications of FS700 make this a different beast altogether.
First of all we have totally new sensor capable of delivering 4K resolution via the 3G-SDI output when using an external recorder. The 4K output will not be active straight away, and will become usable with a future firmware upgrade. Although there is potentially a 4K recorder coming from Sony in the future, this NAB saw the launch of some third-party 4K capable external recorders which I shall cover in more detail next week.
So if 4K for the FS700 is a “future” capability, then what of the specifications on release? Well, as you may have read in previous blogs, the FS700 is set apart from closely priced rivals by its unique framerate capabilities. To quote the marketing blurb from Sony: “The camcorder delivers Full-HD quality images at 120 and 240 frames per second in an 8 or 16 seconds burst mode respectively. The NEX-FS700’s high sensitivity and low noise shooting capability makes super slow motion shooting more convenient without additional equipment. 480 fps and 960 fps rates at reduced resolution are available for faster frame rate recording.”
We saw some slow motion footage of the Bellagio fountains in Las Vegas shot by Alister Chapman, which you can see for yourself by clicking here. The YouTube footage doesn’t really do it justice: We saw it on Full HD OLED monitors on the Sony stand and it looked brilliant. There really isn’t another camera even remotely in this price range that has this kind of capability when it comes to frame rates and scalable resolution. Another nice touch is the inclusion of ND filters built into the front of the camera. Yes, that does mean increased girth at the lens mount end but it’s worth it if it means being able to knock down light at the flick of a switch.
All sounding good? Well, it gets better because the handgrip incorporates a zoom rocker. We all know what that means: Sony are planning a motorised servo zoom lens, meaning that the FS700 isn’t just for prime lenses and other fast optics. With the addition of a zoom controlled by the rocker, you’ll be able to use the camcorder in much the same way as a standard small sensor camcorder but with all the added benefits of the FS700’s impressive specification and capabilities (great low light performance, high framerates etc).
All in all the FS700 excites us. It’s scalable in terms of resolution, offers unique features at an excellent price and the eventual introduction of a powered zoom lens make it a great all round camcorder that will be ideal for accomplishing both cinematic and televisual aesthetics. And we’re taking pre-orders now…
Canon’s follow up to the wildly popular C300 gets their 4K ball rolling in a similar way to the Sony FS700 by equipping the camcorder with a sensor capable of 4K and a 3G-SDI output that will send out the 4K stream. So – like the Sony – no 4K on board but instead you’ll able to get that huge resolution onto the imminent range of 4K capable external recorders.
The C500 differs to the C300 in other ways as well. The 3G-SDI output will be capable of 10bit output, allowing you to go to recorder capable of that bit depth and technically extending the limits of what is possible in the post production grading process. Moreover, on-board you’ll be able to record up to 120FPS, making it a powerful slow-motion camcorder that will likely be broadcast legal due to the 50MBPS bitrate. In a necessary chassis design change from the C300, the C500 foregoes the side grip found on the C300 in order to make space for what looks like a heat sync/vent. One imagines that when in 4K mode, it gets a little hotter inside than its 8 bit/1080P relation.
Just like the C300, the camera will be available in the choice of EOS or PL mount. We’d love to know what you guys would put on the front: Would you be inclined to use feature and commercial level PL glass on a camera capable of such a resolution? Or would you stick it out using EOS glass from your DSLR days? It’s an interesting question, and we’d like to know your answers.
So enough of the tech talk on the Canon C500, onto what the footage looked like…
We saw a demonstration film played on Canon’s insanely impressive 30” 4K monitor (yes, I did say 30” and 4K in the same sentence) and put simply: It was quite beautiful. It probably helped that it had clearly been shot by a very talented crew, but what was striking was how sharp and “filmic” it was. I’m not normally one for the occasionally vague language employed by some of the online production community, and I would never say “filmic” unless I was attempting to convey the textural quality of celluloid itself, but in this case I can’t really find another adjective that really nails the feel of the C500 footage. Even then, it wasn’t so much texture on its own in a tactile sense, but more the way it interacted with the movement, colour and latitude around it. It was a type of aesthetic I hadn’t seen since I first looked at a Red R3D file with the RedSpace setting switched on: Full of detail, colour and punch, but without ever feeling like the OLPF-compensated sharpness of other camcorder footage. Of course, a demo real made to look brilliant through talented crew, high level grading and then displayed on a 4K monitor was always going to look great, but even if you’ve taken all that into account and the hairs on your neck still stand up…then surely you’ve just seen something that is just a little bit special.
The camera will be arriving sometime in the last quarter of this year. I can’t wait.
Blackmagic Cinema Camera
At a broadcast exhibition, always expect the unexpected. The unexpected can come in various forms: At last year’s IBC exhibition in Amsterdam, a man in a gorilla costume demonstrating a very strange piece of camera suspension kit casually sped past me with the aid of rollerblades. This year at I saw a middle-aged businessman singing “My Way” at a dedicated Karaoke tent (yes, really) outside the North hall. His audience? Nobody in particular, just exhibition attendee’s walking past.
Of course, the unexpected can also come in the form of a new product…
This year’s unexpected product was the Blackmagic Cinema Camera, which judging by its pricing, ergonomics and capabilities is directly aimed at the DSLR filmmaking community.
It’s intriguing, curious, it looks seriously weird…but boy could it be a neat little B-camera if it does what the specification says. We’ve blogged this already but I’ll run the important specs past you one more time: a 16mm (or ½”) sized sensor/EOS lens mount/touch screen interface/big range of recording options including uncompressed, Avid DNX and Pro Res/records to removable SSD drives. And the cost? About £2,000.
I have seen no footage to wax lyrical about like the aforementioned Sony and Canon cameras, and my experience so far has been limited to peering at this strange, silver, miniature monolith through the glass cabinet you can see in the picture above (which, in a way is kind of apt: the camera looks a little like a science project or an experiment). It essentially feels like a recorder with a sensor and lens mount installed, and of course the 16mm sized sensor will mean a 2x crop over 35mm. Still, the planned capabilities are impressive, and it will be interesting to see a company more famed for converters and recorders make their debut in the world of large sensor camcorders.
The camera is due for release in June.
The Small Sensor Camcorders
Sony expanded their range of small sensor camcorders with the introduction of two new models. They are actually covered in detail in a previous blog which you can read here. Suffice to say we saw them in action on the (enormous) Sony stand and they both look good.
The first model is the NXR-NX30, which is a like a cross between the MC50 and NX70. That means small and neat, recording onto internal memory or onto SD card in the NXCAM format.
The second model is the 50MBPS recording PMW-100 camcorder, which uses SxS cards. Think of this as a 1/3” sensor sidekick to the larger, shoulder mounted PDW-500 camcorder.
Pumping bass. A racing car. Lots and lots of people. It could only be the Go Pro stand.
Last year GoPro acquired a company called Cineform, who create RAW codecs for high end recorders. It may have seemed an odd choice for an up and coming point-of-view camera company primarily concerned with extreme sports, but our visit to the Go Pro at NAB 2012 pushed a little logic our way and now we get it.
The result of the partnership is threefold: An upcoming flat/LOG picture profile to get the most dynamic range possible out the GoPro 2, the ability to shoot at a datarate of 35mbps (just under double the existing data rate) and their new “Protune Software” (basic version is free, fully spec version you need to pay for) which allows manipulation of footage, application of simple LUTs and some 3D manipulation when having shot stereoscopically.
The introduction of a higher data rate and flat picture profiles will make the GoPro 2 a more flexible and powerful tool than it already is, and make it easier to match the footage from the diminutive shooter to other high end camcorders.
So folks, that all for today. This week we’ll have blogs on camera grip, lighting and the latest on external recorders.
Today’s blog by Stuart Dennis