Flying with the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K
When the team at Blackmagic reached out to Benjamin Rowland about shooting a small project with the new Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K, Benjamin immediately knew he wanted to really put the camera to the test. As a filmmaker and founder of Yonder Blue Films, a Georgia-based production company that, among other impressive qualities, specializes in aerial work, an ambitious project was exactly what Benjamin wanted to tackle. It’s no surprise that the slogan of Yonder Blue Films is “We produce projects large and small, but we always go big.”
During preparation for his shoot, Wooden Camera partnered with Benjamin and invited him to test our new Unified BMPCC4K Camera Cage. After watching the final product, and seeing behind-the-scenes photos of Benjamin and his team’s application of the camera and Unified Cage, we were incredibly intrigued to learn more about the shoot and how Benjamin’s experience in the film and digital realm brought him to this unique project.
Wooden Camera (WC): Tell us about yourself. What is your passion? What do you consider to be your main profession?
Benjamin Rowland: The majority of my career I’ve been based in Georgia. I got my start in TV as an intern on a children’s show. Early on, though, they found out that I could run camera, so I was one of the operators for a little bit. Then I quickly moved up to the control room. I was with this team for about two and a half years.
In college, I went to LA for a semester and interned at Panavision. I learned a lot about using film and even shared with them what I knew about working on a digital platform from my experience at the children’s show. After Panavision, I moved into corporate video. Back in Georgia, I joined the post-production team of a show on NBC Sports, and eventually became a post supervisor and producer for a total of eight seasons.
I was finally able to pursue my own projects with the creation of Yonder Blue Films. In a short amount of time, we became the go-to aerial company in Georgia because we built drones for many different applications. But I always wanted to get back to directing, so I had to start saying no to a few aerial jobs. Within the past few years I’ve worked on more high-end marketing projects and commercials. Now I’m getting involved in documentaries, but the ultimate plan is to return to feature work.
WC: How did your relationship with the Blackmagic team form?
Benjamin: I’ve worked with all sorts of cameras over my 20 year career, from SD to 35mm film. I always used what was available or rented. But when it came time to purchase some cameras, I leaned towards Blackmagic Design. I started with a pair of the original Pocket cameras. The day the Ursa Mini Pro was announced, I ordered it that night, and was one of the first customers to receive it. I used it a ton and really put it through the ringer. I’ve totally fallen for the look of Blackmagic cameras. You get a lot of bang for the buck.
One project I shot with the Ursa Mini caught the attention of Blackmagic’s Head of PR on social media. He reached out and invited me to film Blackmagic content at NAB that year. With the experience of working with the Blackmagic team, I was later asked to test out the new Pocket Cinema Camera 4K. I believe I was the first non-Blackmagic employee to even touch this camera.
WC: Tell us about your approach to using the BMPCC4K.
Benjamin: We thought Blackmagic just wanted some b-roll, but we gave them more than they expected. Overall, I wanted to see what the BMPCC4K could do as the main and only camera on the project, serving as A-Cam, not B-Cam, for instance. Can you make a full video just using it on its own?
With this brand new camera in our hands, we wanted to do something ambitious, out of the box, to really show off the camera’s impressive capabilities. So we contacted Lookout Mountain Hang Gliding, and they were on board to collaborate with us.
We received the camera on a Friday afternoon, and a couple of days later our crew met atop a mountain to get started. I gave Jaime Randel, the Director of Photography, a quick 10 minute mountaintop tutorial on the camera, and then we fired off the first shot. This might have been the most compact schedule I’ve ever experienced. We shot almost everything in one take. The whole project pretty much felt like a documentary. Even with the limited amount of time we had to familiarize ourselves with the camera, it was very comfortable to use, and I’m very happy with what Jaime captured.
WC: How did the Wooden Camera gear for the BMPCC4K, specifically the Unified Cage, contribute to your setup? What were your initial thoughts?
Benjamin: The Unified Cage was better than expected. It saved us a lot of weight and made the camera easier to carry from the top, which came in handy when we rigged it to the hang glider for action shots. Along with the locating pins on the base, the camera didn’t move at all. A lot of other cages built for smaller cameras tend to get loose over time. I knew we were going to put the BMPCC4K through a lot - heat, vibrations, flight - and if it did become loose we’d run the risk of sacrificing a shot. This was not the case with the Unified Cage.
The cage also made the features and functions of the camera highly accessible. Competitors’ cages cover up too much, but the way the Wooden Camera cage is designed makes the BMPCC4K even more usable in variety of situations. It felt like an accessory that was part of the camera. I never wanted to take it off because it made working with the camera fast and easy.
In addition to all of this, the included post of the Unified Cage that supports the Metabones speedbooster was so useful. It was huge. When we just had the speedbooster and zoom lens installed, we noticed a bit of movement, and we needed the whole system to be solid. Once we screwed in the post from the base of the cage, everything was solid as a rock. It was exciting to see how much thought was put into all these accessories. All these features allowed us to get really creative with how we used the camera (from cinema mode to lightweight setup).
WC: How did other Wooden Camera gear assist with your setup?
Benjamin: The Unified Baseplate was a great addition to our setup as well. It allowed us to adjust the height of the camera, so all our accessories lined up perfectly.
When you’re trying to fiddle around with gear instead of getting your shot, it slows things down. We weren’t too familiar with Wooden Camera gear for the BMPCC4K, and we really didn’t have much time to completely familiarize ourselves with it before we put it to the test. But we didn’t need the extra time in the end. Its usage was intuitive. All the accessories are robust and precise, and made to work together well. That made a big difference. Our Wooden Camera setup took fiddling out of the equation. It helped us pull off a very ambitious shoot.
Shop Gear In This Article:
Unified BMPCC4K Camera Cage
The minimalist design of this cage provides mounting points on the top and side while leaving all of the camera's vital controls on the right grip and left side easily viewable and accessible.
Unified DSLR 15mm Baseplate
A height adjustable baseplate attachment that provides 15mm lightweight rods at the correct lens height for DSLR cameras when combined with the Unified BMPCC4K Camera Cage. The baseplate also has a native ARRI dovetail interface for direct mounting to ARRI-standard dovetails.
UMB-1 Universal Mattebox (Swing Away)
The UMB-1 is designed to be user upgradable and quick to transition from swing away, to clamp on, to ultralight when using a stabilizer.
WC Gold Mount BMPCC4K (Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K)
Wooden Camera brand Gold Mount plate utilizing an Anton Bauer mount and Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K connector.