You read that right. The $340 Million Dollar Budget, Marvel Blockbuster Avengers: Age of Ultron used 8 Blackmagic Pocket Cameras to film various sequences of the film. Keep in mind this is a camera that can be purchased for under $1,000 on Amazon.
Now, to be clear, the majority of the film was shot on an $80,000 Arri Alexa Camera. However Director of Photography Ben Davis (Guardian’s of the Galaxy) needed to get some high action and high risk shots during the intense battle scenes of Age of Ultron.
Sure the film had a 340 Million Dollar budget, but sticking an $80,000 Arri Alexa in a car and throwing another car on top of it would even make Donald Trump sweat like a pig!
So Davis decided to use the more economical Blackmagic Pocket Camera for these shots.
Here is Davis explaining how he did this from a quote in a Blackmagic Press Release:
There are two large battle sequences in particular during the film, the first is at the beginning and the second features in the third act, and we very much wanted these to be shot as a war correspondent would cover news in a conflict zone. What we needed was a lightweight camera that we could then distribute around the set during the filming of battle sequences that would give us more than twelve frames of good quality HD material that we could match with our main camera package. For this we used eight Pocket Cinema Cameras paired with either a 14mm pancake lens or a 12-35mm zoom, which we then mounted to impact points around the set. Say for example a truck was being blown up and thrown through the air and we wanted to capture it landing on top of a car, we would put one of the Pocket Cinema Cameras in a small metal housing and put it in the car. Another instance involved mounting the Blackmagic camera to a tank, because we could literally strap it one on the end of a magic arm and bolt it to almost anywhere we wanted it to be on the tank.
So just to explain a little more, sometimes cinematographers use lighter, smaller, and less expensive cameras for high risk or tight shots. They use the footage to “cut in” with the other high dollar cameras.
This means that even though the camera they use may be cheap, and even though the shot may only be a few seconds long, it has to produce a certain level of quality to match or looks like it belongs with the expensive footage.
Shut up already! Which shots were filmed with the blackmagic pocket camera?!?!?
Ok ok! So after spending some time reading through quotes and press releases, and watching Age of Ultron damn near frame-by-frame, we came up with several shots we believe to be shot with the blackmagic pocket camera.
Car being hit by bus
From what we can tell by Ben’s quote, this shot was comprised of a blackmagic pocket camera housed in a protective metal cage, sat on the ground in front of the impact zone. The shot is only a few seconds long, but looks fantastic!
We know for a fact that this shot is the blackmagic pocket camera, as Davis describes this shot in a direct quote:
In the film’s final act, the Avenger Quinjet does a kind of low-flying strafing run across Thor and Captain America. “I basically took one of the stripped-down Pocket Cameras, put on a wide-angle lens and put it on the ground, set the camera angle with it and let it go.
This shot is yet another that seems to be a camera set on the ground in the line of fire, most likely the blackmagic pocket camera. Quote below:
If an explosion was going off, the Pocket Cameras were placed in and around the explosion. They were basically in the line of fire.
Black Widow’s Bike Mount
In another creative use of the blackmagic pocket camera, Davis mounted several to Black Widow’s bike to get some close up/in motion shots of her on the bike while she was riding. See quote below:
We also rigged them to the sides of tanks in some of the scenes, and also on the motorbike driven by Scarlett during a chase sequence. That’s what I really loved about them: you could literally plonk them down anywhere.
. . . and another shot in the same sequence.
So what does tell us about the Blackmagic Pocket Camera?
Well it tells us a few things.
A camera does not spit out blockbuster footage all by itself, it must be in the hands of someone that know’s what they are doing. However, to be able to be cut side by side with shots filmed on big Hollywood Cameras, it does have to be of a certain quality.
The Blackmagic Pocket Camera obviously can produce this level of quality, and much more. In fact, several Award Winning Sundance Films even used it as their main camera. Additionally, Max Max: Fury Road used the Blackmagic Pocket Camera for the entire tunnel escape sequence.
If you want to shoot a fantastic film on a budget, the Blackmagic Pocket Camera can certainly get you there. You can currently buy it for $995 on Amazon .
What do you think about Age of Ultron using a $995 camera? Leave a comment below!
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