Are you thinking about adding an additional screen to your Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera? Here we’ll take a look at why you might want to consider an external monitor, how you can choose one, and some of the other questions and pitfalls surrounding them.
How to Use an Additional Monitor with the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera
Why Use an Additional Monitor
There are a few different reasons you might want to consider adding an extra screen to your BMPCC.
Quality and Size
The small screens built into the BMPCCs might be too small for your needs, in which case adding a bigger screen can be a benefit. A monitor that’s set to mirrorthe on-board might also show different options. For example, on one screen you might have the clean feed, but on the other you might want additional assist tools like crop guides, peaking, histogram and so on.
With all the bolt-ons that inevitably come with BMPCC use – cages, handles, gimbals etc – quite often the screen is difficult to see or get to. The newest BMPCC (6K Pro) has a tilting screen, which helps, but you still might need an extra monitor just to see what you’re filming properly.
If you need remote monitoring then you might want to plug a transmitter into the camera and have it received at the other end by a director or a focus puller (someone doing remote focusing).
These types of monitors actually record as well as monitor. They have slots for extra storage, including SD cards and space to plug in an external hard drive. So in essence you’re bypassing your camera’s storage, or making a backup.
Choosing a Monitor
Which monitor you choose will depend on two things: its primary use and compatibility with your camera model.
Simple Viewing Monitors
The simplest monitor is one simply for viewing. If you’re operating a small "run-and-gun" outfit then you’ll want to focus on portability and durability. Size wise, these are usually a standard 5” or 7” and have a tough shell/frame. They’re easy to pack with your kit because they’re still relatively small, and they cope with the same temperature changes and light damp conditions as your camera – though it’s worth noting that they’re generally not weather-proof and neither are the BMPCCs so if conditions are bad, cover both to protect them.
You can get a variety of monitor recorders, but Blackmagic’s version – Video Assist – is a good example that’s compatible with all of the BMPCCs so far. They (video assist is a range of monitor options) have multiple video and audio connections, so they work in a variety of setups, whether that’s to monitor and record, or to use the monitor as part of a chain, connecting a third screen via that. That sounds more complicated than it is.
Imagine you have the BMPCC screen with a clean feed, an additional Video Assist screen mounted on that showing the feed plus extra assist tools, and then from that, the option of another extra screen for remote monitoring. You can even live stream this way; instead of a third screen for remote monitoring, you have your laptop streaming video with OBS Studio, for example. So, the camera is wherever you need it to be for filming, the second (external) monitor is near you and your laptop so you can keep an eye on the feed, and the third screen is your live stream from the supporting software.
There are plenty of compatible third-party monitors for Blackmagic PCCs but you do need to check carefully that they’ll do what you want and also work properly with the specs of your camera. We’ll take a look at the main incompatibility issue, shortly.
How to Power an Additional Monitor
You’d be looking to power your monitor in one of three ways:
- Attached battery (like a Canon LP-E6 for example, but it depends what the monitor takes)
- External battery pack (like a V-Lock plus relevant adapter/cable)
- Mains wired
Where to Mount the Monitor
On the BMPCC
The BMPCC really has two options for mounting things, top and bottom. Bottom is usually where you’d put your tripod, and would be a pretty unusual place to have a monitor, so that leaves you with the top. The cameras don’t come with a cold shoe mount, so you have to screw one in but then you can pop your monitor into it quite happily. If you intend to use a cage, gimbal, or handle with your camera though, it can’t stay there. Oh.
On a Handle or Cage
Wherever you can mount a cold shoe, you can mount your monitor. There’s an issue of functionality though, because where you position it might then affect its ability to tilt or move. In which case, you might need to buy an additional mount that tilts and/or swivels.
Buying a short arm is an option too, which you can fix onto the cage or handle and will give you some additional height and flexibility, though it might start to make the whole setup a little unstable/wobbly depending on your positioning.
On a Gimbal
If you’re using a gimbal you might still be using a cage, but rather than having your monitor attached to the cage, as above, it might be better to move it to attach directly to the gimbal, otherwise it can throw the balance off.
Issues With an External Monitor
Nothing is ever 100% plain sailing so let’s take a quick look at some issues that might crop up when it comes to using an additional screen.
They Are Less Reliable
Don’t discount your in-camera screen in favour of the external one. Keep checking back just to make sure things are as they should be. There might not be a record light on the monitor, for example, in which case you might be unaware if the camera suddenly stopped recording. You may also not have assist tools like a histogram on your additional monitor and the screen could be, for example, artificially bright (due to monitor-specific settings and controls), but your actual footage is underexposed.
Bigger Isn’t Always Better
It can be tempting to go for a large screen, but too big and it can get in the way when filming, no longer attach to useful things like your handle, cage or gimbal, and becomes an issue to store, power, and transport.
This is a point I touched on earlier. You must make sure that the monitor you choose can handle the data output of your camera. The HDMI output of the BMPCC is different from say, a TV HDMI. Cheap monitors often won’t handle that output; for example, if you plug it into a regular computer monitor you likely won’t be able to view your camera feed through that because it won't necessarily handle the data.
You don’t control the camera with the monitor, you’re either controlling specific in-monitor settings (for viewing only) or if you’re using a monitor recorder, you’re choosing the settings just for that recorder as it’s essentially bypassing the BMPCC record settings in-camera, you won’t be changing your BMPCC menu settings when you make changes on the monitor.
If you need an external monitor because you can’t see the in-camera one from the angle you’re filming (mentioned under Functionality, earlier) then part of your issue might also be that you can’t reach the monitor easily to adjust camera settings. You can get around this by using the Blackmagic Camera Control app which will work with any BM camera that supports Bluetooth control capability. The official app is available for Apple only, currently, but there are third-party Android apps that claim to do the same thing.
Hopefully that’s give you a good overview of why you might want to consider adding an additional monitor to your Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera. Just remember they key points:
- Know its primary function – just to monitor, or more?
- Choose a good balance between functionality, durability and price.
- Power it separately from your camera.
- Think about your mounting options and what you might need in future.
- Be wary of compatibility, do your research before you commit.
More Pocket Cinema Camera Tutorials
About This Page
About the Authors
Marie Gardiner is a writer and photographer from the North East of England. After gaining her degree in Film and Media, Marie worked in the media industry, before leaving to set up the business she runs with her partner: Lonely Tower Film & Media. As well as writing about visual practices like photography and video, Marie is also the author of Sunderland Industrial Giant (The History Press, 2017) and Secret Sunderland (Amberley Publishing 2019). Her photographic work focuses on landscapes and industrial ruins, particularly those of the North Pennines as she continues to work on her long-form documentary project Changing Landscapes.
This page was edited and published by Jackson Couse on October 14th, 2021.
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