Blackmagic Design moves to address Pocket Cinema Camera ‘white orb’ image issues

By site editor Dan Chung:

The 'White orb' effect seen on passing cars in late afternoon
The ‘White orb’ effect seen on passing cars in late afternoon
The BMPCC and Olympus 14-35mm f2 lens
The BMPCC and Olympus 14-35mm f2 lens

Several users of early Blackmagic Pocket Cinema cameras (BMPCC) have encountered an issue where bright specular highlights and point light sources can be rendered as ‘white orbs’ or ‘blooming’ in the image. I encountered this with my production unit and posted about it here. Speculation was rife online as to the cause of the issue and whether it is a hardware or firmware issue. Then on Thursday this week Blackmagic’s Kristian Lam updated users with this message on the Blackmagic user forum:

“All sensors, be it CCD or CMOS, will have a ‘blooming’ effect when during severe overexposure, the pixel is over saturated and excessive charges overflow to neighbouring pixels. It just looks different depending on the sensor type.

We are not seeing this on some of our test cameras so it might be something that is calibration related. Please contact your nearest support office and we’ll run another calibration on the camera.”

Now Blackmagic Design have moved further to reassure users that are unhappy with the image issues. They have posted images on their forum demonstrating that the appearance of these ‘orbs’ can be reduced or eliminated by a re-calibration of the camera. According to Lam “not every camera requires this but we’re setting this as the new baseline callibration. We are also implementing this new calibration in cameras that ship going on forwards but this change has already been effected since the start of the week.”

Split screen image showing results from BMPCC before and after calibration (image from Blackmagic User Forum)
Split screen image showing results from BMPCC before and after calibration (image from Blackmagic User Forum)

The re-calibration is voluntary and requires that the camera is returned to a Blackmagic Design regional service facility, either directly or via the reseller. It seems that for US users the cost of return carriage is being borne by Blackmagic – elsewhere in the world it is unclear.

The calibration service is not yet fully up and running everywhere but Blackmagic say it will be shortly.

In truth the issue should not have made it past Blackmagic’s quality control in the first place, but it is good that they are tackling it head-on. I’m impressed that the technical guys from Blackmagic are engaging directly with users and their concerns over on the company’s blog – this is quite refreshing for a camera firm.

There does not however seem to be any news on a solution for the black spots in bright objects like the sun – hopefully this will come in time too. This has been evident on the both original BMCC and now the BMPCC cameras. It can be fixed in post by skillful use of Adobe After Effects, but remains a problem for real world shooters on tight deadlines who have limited time for post.

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