Custom Mods for BlackMagic Design Micro Cinema Camera w DIY Remote Handle

blackmagic micro cinema camera rigged
Micro Cinema Camera Rigged for Hand Held Shooting

If you're not a fan of the new BlackMagic Design Micro Cinema Camera, this video is most likely going to bore you. So you may want to skip this post. But if you're currently shooting with the BMMCC (and as obsessed as I am), i'm pretty sure you'll find this post super helpful - especially the part where I share a little of my DIY Remote Handle setup.

First let's talk a little about 'Why this BlackMagic Design Micro Cinema Camera?'. Simply put, it's under $1K and offers RAW video up to 60p. And it's incredibly tiny! No other camera offers this, and I love the color science. But it's not an easy camera to operate handheld as there is no screen and the menu is deep for changing small settings.

Originally frustrated with the handling and controls of this camera - my combination of parts and custom button mapping has allowed me to just grab this camera and shoot. It's now a camera I can enjoy shooting with. There's obviously no right way to rig a camera, and this is just how i've assembled it for my personal taste. For those asking, the 15mm rod above my BMMCC is held in place with a Pico Plate (below).

kamerar pncgear pico plate 15mm
15mm Pico Plate - 10% OFF Use Coupon Code: Cheesycam

If you're looking to really run small, you can opt for using native Micro Four-Thirds lenses (instead of my Full Frame Rokinon Cinema lenses) or even the Veydra MFT Cinema Primes. You can also shrink your monitor down with something lighter, thinner, and smaller like the SmallHD 501. That would really make this BlackMagic Design Micro Cinema Camera a super portable system.

micro cinema camera size compared to panasonic dvx100a
Rigged BMMCC size compared to Panasonic DVX100a

There are some benefits to using the BlackMagic Design Video Assist as a monitor though. I can set the internal recording to RAW, but if I decide to shoot in a lower format like ProRes, I can do that from the BMVA (without having to change in camera). Or I can record simultaneously RAW (in camera) and ProRes LT (in BMVA) for some quick proxy files to share or have a backup.

By the way, the Video Assist monitor doesn't add any controls with it's touch screen. It simply works as a Monitor and an HDMI Recorder. You can't communicate with the BMMCC.

Obviously they wanted to use small batteries on this camera to minimize the weight for Drone use, but I'm very happy with my Sony to Canon LP-E6 mod. It's a great way to add extra run time without adding an external battery system like a V-Mount. And I would hate to have to use their breakout cable which is a mess, and then have to input a 12V source. With my mod, it feels like i'm just using a bigger Canon battery, and i'm still using 7V.

The battery mod also allows me to power both camera and one extra accessory at 7.4V using my SWIT battery. Instead of using the 12V input on the Video Assist monitor, i'm using a Canon LP-E6 dummy battery to use basic 7V. (I really did put a lot of thought into this setup).

Hopefully the video explained how i'm creating changes in the camera in a way you can understand. When you join the two wires together from the analog PWM input, it sends a signal to change a setting. This works on many of the options, but not everything. For some items (like iris, focus) you'll need true PWM. The other 'con' if you will is that you can't go backwards. Not really a big deal as it's still much easier than diving into the menu for every small change.

I really wish BlackMagic Design would expand these PWM options to include changing FrameRates and changing from RAW to ProRes. That would really complete this camera, and many companies can create simple remote handles to control almost every aspect. They allow the use of S.Bus which means you can expand even further from the 4 basic analog inputs and control up to 18 more settings through a single channel input.

In any case, i'll stop rambling and hopefully this post has been helpful to other BMMCC shooters. If you're thinking about picking one up, it would be great if you consider DVEStore.com as they were the ones who put this camera into my hands to study, spend countless hours on, and share this information with you guys.

blackmagic_design_cinecammichdmft_micro_cinema_camera_1428959948000_1137292
VIEW-ITEM BlackMagic Design Micro Cinema Camera RAW ProRes 60p

Oh and BTW, i'm far from done. I'm already designing an entire rig around this camera based on my setup, including a remote handle to operate some of the settings i've show in this video. A complete rig that will allow other BMMCC shooters to just add a camera + monitor and start shooting with similar ergonomics as a camcorder. So if this is something you're interested in seeing, simply like or share this post. It will let me know if it's something I should spend some time on.

 42 Comments





42 thoughts on “Custom Mods for BlackMagic Design Micro Cinema Camera w DIY Remote Handle

  1. VillageBoi

    Thanks a lot for your reply Emm. Picking up the Atomos dummy LP-E6 battery tomorrow. So you get around 4hrs running both the camera and monitor or just camera?
    Oh you totally should make those remote handles... I'd def buy one! Dang, are those buttons fiddly!

  2. Post author

    @VillageBoi - The DC input on the side requires 12V. The monitor can actually run on one Canon battery which is 7V, so I use the dummy battery to power the monitor. You can't use the 7V to the 12V input.

  3. VillageBoi

    Hi Emm, is your cable going fron the Swit battery to a dummy-battery on the back of the Video Assist monitor or directly into the dc port on the side? I have a couple of those and my Video Assit will not turn on using the dc port. Just wondering if I should get a dummy battery.
    Thanks.

  4. Post author

    @jean - Are you plugging in to the side, or using a dummy battery to the back? It won't work if you plug DC in on the side. The side port is for 12V.

  5. jean

    Hi @cheesycam

    I just made the same set up on my BMMCC the battery works but not the screen 😮 i tested and there is 7v out of the adapter to the screen, but it doesn't work, is there something to know ?

    Thanks for your experiments and explanations .

    Jean

  6. Clayton

    Thanks for the ideas. Do you have a parts list or instructions for building the sony to canon battery adapter?

  7. Mechanicsburg

    Your controller looks very nice. Congratulations. Really would it be possible to have a precise tutorial.

    Did you use the expansion cable from BM ? An other (if yes which one) ?
    What kind of PMW ? I would really like a similar rig but i'm not a DIY expert !

    Thanks very much !

  8. Hi, after your custom mods video I decided to take a micro too, sold my pocket. I would like to ask you, did you notice a heavy vertical FPN even at iso 400 in the mids and blacks? Cause I've just got my micro and is really heavy the noise here, can you please check your camera?

  9. Post author

    @Nickolas Dewet Yes you can control focus, but the controller has to be true PWM. There are some simple joyticks that can output PWM like ones found for some gimbals.

  10. Nickolas Dewet

    Hi Em,

    I adore this idea of building your own camera hardware and navigational buttons... I can't wait to start mine.

    Would it be possible to run one of the PWM cables to a joystick in order to assign focus for finite adjustment of focus on native MFT lenses?

    Or do you have to resort to LANC for these types of operations?

    Thank you Em... appreciate your efforts and shared knowledge.

  11. Chris

    Anyone sell a controller for the Micro? I can't get the DIY right and adjusting exposure parameters is really slow. I would have bought the video assist if it could control the cam, but alas....

  12. Cool. May have a really great solution in a few days.

    But before I leave one question. If you could have a handgrip with built-in buttons that controlled the camera, say about 3-4 controls + start/stop + 12 volt power for D-tap what controls would you want.

  13. Post author

    @Between2tides - The wrap around the buttons is a putty called Sugru. It's moldable and dries into a rubbery like mold. Fun stuff to DIY with.

    I'm back from NAB but lots of catch up I need to do and still actively on productions. I'll get back to this when I can or hopefully others are already working on their own and can share too.

  14. First thanks for all your digging into this.

    You kind of mentioned that you're thinking about making a hand-grip that you'd sell. Any further thoughts on that? Otherwise now that you're back from NAB can you shed any further light on this whole thing?

    A couple of more specific questions. What did you use to house the momentary push buttons? I can see you've wrapped it to fit around the 15mm rod?

    Looking at the link Srg sent about the BM Arduino controller has me confused at least in the case of the BMMCC. How will it work over SDI when there is no SDI? I can see the possibilities but the details are sketchy.

    What might be ideal is a small box to mount on a cage or and handgrip with all the controls that are accessible on the camera replicated on the handgrip

  15. This is all great! Thank you! Any chance you post the specific instructions on how to put this together with links? I'm dying to get this camera and would love to rig it up this way.

  16. Brian Williams

    Thanks for the time you put in to show us how to do something like this, Emm! While I understand the concept, I don't know that I could build something that ergonomically friendly on my own.

    I can't imagine a more valuable tool than to be able to configure camera settings on the BMMCC without using the buttons on the front of the camera - especially iso, aperture, color temp. I would absolutely be first in line for a product put out there such as the one you've put together.

  17. _gl

    I agree about getting framerate and codec exposed for remote control. I will send BMD a request, please do the same.

    I think they didn't do it because 60p only works in 3:1 RAW, so frame rate remote control is a touch more complicated. Not really though, they could just 'gray out' 60p unless 3:1 is selected, it's not hard to understand once you know how the camera works in general.

  18. Steve

    Hi, since posting comment I've tried my app with another couple of lenses a cheap olympus 17mm and canon 16-35 via speedbooster(active) and both work fine, though as the canon has more stop increments the values in the app are slightly different, I would have to map the lens to new values to get accurate stops in the app.

    Steve

    (and apologies if this is considered hijacking thread)

  19. Simone

    Great!

    Could you please add a link for each rig's part? I'd love to buy the same baseplate, rod, remote handle etc...

    Thank you!

  20. Post author

    @Steve - Very nice little app there. Great way of changing the settings remotely to this camera. Thanks for sharing. I was thinking of making something similar with true PWM except with physical hardware controls built in a single handle.

  21. Post author

    @feemster - Well there is only certain things you can change on the camera and none that would be a truly smooth transition. If I had to blend two exposures, I sometimes use a trick in Post (editing) where I cut between the two exposure and then do a very long fade transition. When you play it back you see the exposure changes slowly and gradually, but there is no cut in between. If you are shooting with a good codec, you should have the range to mess with exposure in post.

  22. Feemster

    Hi Emm,
    Thanks for the quick reply.
    Do you know of a way to let me change the exposure without changing the depth of field and do it without touching the camera because it is on a gimbal?

  23. Post author

    @Feemster - That's a feature of the camera. You can't slowly change ISO settings. If you want a smooth change in exposure you can use a declicked Iris on a manual lens like the Rokinon.

  24. Steve

    Hi. I've put together a simple app for controlling the camera from an iphone(or ipad) using an arduino and bluetooth. As I say in video description I messed up soldering so can only control 2 pwm channels at a time(when I get time I'll get a new dsub connector and try resoldering(damm my clunky sausage fingers and old eyes). Still testing though camera is off with it's owner to Berlin at the weekend for a week so it may be a while.

    Total cost of parts(excluding phone of course) is around £30.

    https://vimeo.com/162809862

    Steve

  25. Feemster

    I see that your current setup you essentially have hard steps/stops between ISO settings. Would it be possible to electronically control the speed of the transition between ISO settings (fast or slow)... more like how you can control the speed of focus with a follow focus?

  26. Spiro

    Like James, I'm curious about that rail mount on top of your camera that's holding the 15mm rod?

  27. @jonascrawley

    I'm loving your posts on the BMMCC! I'm a colourist/editor venturing into shooting my own stuff, and upgraded from a GH-1 to the BMMCC. Big leap and learning a lot from you and looking forward to seeing your battery mod and handle out in the market somewhere.

  28. Post author

    @Lolo - Yes there is a lot you can do with the expansion ports, but at the sane time I don't need to change much. My four buttons cover most of the settings. The other options I really want to be able to change aren't available through the remote.

  29. Lolo

    Hi Emm,
    have you thought on wiring the buttons to an Arduino and THEN using the onboard PWM to send orders to the camera. Im thinking that in that way you could save in buttons layout and still have as many functions as the camera allows. I would love to try if I get my hands on one camera. Thanks for your tips and reviews

  30. What type of rail mount are you using to get a 15mm rod to run perpendicular on top of your camera?

    Something like that would be perfect for remounting the stock view finder on the Sony FS7, since the standard handle takes up a lot of room.

  31. Adolfo

    Any word if or when will the BlackMagic Design Video Assist be able to control settings on the camera? I'm using the Micro on a gimbal, controls on the monitor would be so useful and it's a feature listed on the monitor...

  32. Post author

    @Smyrrel Snaps - Yes! When you have a native MFT lens, you can quickly adjust the iris by clicking on the two little arrows. So you really don't need to map PWM to iris. The DEC LensRegain adapter also sounds like a good idea, but that does limit you to only Canon EF lenses. Keep in mind that the BMMCC is a 2.8x crop factor so to get really good wide angle, i'm finding my favorite lens would be the Panasonic 7-14mm but that is only F/4. A better (more expensive) lens would be the Olympus 7-14mm F/2.8.

  33. Smyrrel Snaps

    this is great! thanks for explaining all of this! I wanted to get the micro camera with the VMA as a cheap pocket camera with a great screen.
    I have a couple of lenses which are not manual, can I still change the iris through the little buttons of the micro cinema camera? another idea was to get the DEC speedbooster adapter to change focus and aperture through that.

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