How I Developed a Custom-Made Rig for BMMCC

Hello, my name is shijan (aka RADIOPROEKTOR). Here is a story about my custom made rig for Blackmagic Micro Cinema Camera.

(Please note that i'm not a native english-speaking person, so don't judge strictly for grammar and style)

ShittyCam

It was started somewhere between 2011-2012. The idea was to build small and inexpensive DIY digital cinema camera that can shoot RAW with wide dynamic range. Something similar to Si-2K mini, or Ikonoskop A-Cam dll, or long-awaited but never released RED Scarlet. The concept in my head was very simple: grab proper components from different developers (industrial camera body with integrated PC + small USB numerical keyboard + SSD drive with USB 3.0 enclosure + Battery + HDMI Monitor), connect all together, install specially developed software and use that assembly as cinema camera. This project was named ShittyCam.

I start to search for hardware components and draw sketches for future software. Such industrial camera cores were in development by Elphel https://www.elphel.com (later from their forums discussion Apertus https://www.apertus.org project was born) and by Ximea (Currera-G camera) https://www.ximea.com/media/content/en-gb/smart-camera-currera-g-ximea.pdf

Avrora

I have no any real experience and tech skills in this area but was very exited to discover and learn something new. I have a lot of conversations with Elphel, Ximea, Cineform and Cmosis. I invite my friend, coder from CosmoBrothers team, who same as me has no real experience with camera software coding but was very interested to try. We decide to replace name to something more user friendly, so new project name became Avrora (in honor to local vintage 8mm film camera).

The more i understood technology, the less I believed in the possibility to build this camera. Cmosis industrial sensors where far from film quality, HDR mode was not too usable and manufacturers don't suggest it for cinema applications. Elphel cameras development was very slow and quality was also far from cinema demands. Ximea delayed their Currera-G camera and even few years later they release that camera in absolutely different form factor, so it don't fit to my concept anymore. Apertus project felt like never ended geek soap opera around low dynamic range Cmosis sensor. Coder from CosmoBrothers was offline in deep travels somewhere between India and Malaysia. During that time i was only able to design software structure, brand ID, website, and community forum theme for PunBB board with help of web coder KANekT.

But I did not give up. Next attempt was to build a real cinema camera in small batch. At the same time BMCC and DigitalBolex cameras where announced but i still didn't like price and form factor of those cameras. Accidentally i found a company Viimagc who promote their 2/3" sized 2K sensor wth HDR mode for broadcast cameras. They agree to send a sensor sample with test camera hardware for limited time if needed. I also found electronics design company Promwad and some people who where interested to invest into development and small batch camera manufacture. Later looking at the different problems expected by Blackmagic and DigitalBolex with manufacture delays and components quality control, i decide that it became too complicated and risky for DIY hobby project. Also it appears that Promwad have very small experience with cameras and investors start to worry about this project. I understand that don't wanted to be involved into huge business things and responsibility, so i just canceled all those things. Same time somewhere In 2013 Pocket Cinema Camera camera was released but i still didn't like that form factor. Over that time i collect a lot of development sketches and software structure concepts. So i decide to share this project with world. I just put all to Dropbox and send link to different forums and manufacturers. Some records still visible at Apertus forums archives  https://web.archive.org/web/20140824110734if_/http... To be honest that cancellation was just in time because in 2014 Russian military and political aggression against Ukraine began, and all around my place became in state of strange hybrid war with very uncertain future. Fortunately, my place appears outside of occupation and active military battles area but many business relations appears in unknown state for unknown time.


Co-Design: SmallRig BMMCC cage

Later in 2015 Blackmagic Design announced Micro Cinema Camera. I don't know if they read my email with sketches but design concept feels very close. Finally i was happy (almost happy) with specs/form factor/price combination. It was a perfect camera core module. With new inspiration and all previous experience, without having a real camera i start to draw new concept sketches of future cage and camera extensions. Few companies quickly released first BMMCC cages but those cages where far from perfect ergonomics and usability. That time i noticed that SmallRig offers co-design program on their web site. So i send them request and sketches for BMMCC cage and they start development process. In collaboration with other community filmmakers and designers in the middle of 2016  SmallRig BMMCC cage (1773) was born. Before final design there where 4 versions of the cage. My last suggestion was to move two rear cage stands closer to battery to free some space for angle HDMI adapters and angle D-Sub adapters. Finally SmallRig send me final sample of BMMCC cage. After real life testing i noticed few minor bugs in design (some too sharp corners and lack of top camera fixing hole). After my report SmallRig team fixed those problems very quickly.


HDMI Clamp Module by RADIOPROEKTOR

Only few months later i was able to purchase BMMCC camera, test all things in real life and start to manufacture custom made camera accessories.

HDMI port in BMMCC felt shaky, so i create hand made DIY HDMI clamp for Ugreen angle HDMI adapter. During testing it appears not too perfect and i decide move to more complicated manufacture. I measure dimensions, create some hand drawings and with help of my dad's friend first small batch of HDMI clamps was hand machined on local factory.


Expansion Box Module by RADIOPROEKTOR

Next accessory was Expansion Box. It was in my sketches long time ago but real work was started only in the end of 2016. The idea of angle expansion box adapter for BMMCC was essential. First time i used angle D-SUB adapter, also some people created their own DIY 3D printed boxes, but it all was far from mass production. People on the forums asked for something similar for their cameras. My Expansion Box was designed to fit size and style of SmallRig BMMCC cage and to Angle HDMI clamp with Ugreen angle HDMI adapter. From beginning i design all accessories not as a single separated object, but as a consolidated camera ecosystem that smoothly and flexible integrates with other accessories and fits to any possible rig setup.

The main problem was enclosure manufacture. During few months i was testing several technologies and came to conclusion that first batch will be locally FDM 3D printed from solid industrial PET plastic, then manually finished and painted. Unfortunately during this time my father was passed away in accident and this sad event suspend project for a while. 3D printed boxes enclosures required a lot of manual finishing work, so manufacture was very slow. First small batch of Expansion Boxes was ready only by the end of Spring 2017.

Also during this time Stelvis from BMCuser created and shared beautiful 3D model of BMMCC camera and SmallRig cage. It helps a lot in future development.


Expansion Box v2 Module by RADIOPROEKTOR

FDM 3D printing was cheap but very slow and require huge amount of hand work to make it look nice, so for a second batch of Expansion Boxes i decide to change manufacture technology. It was second attempt to move to silicone mold rubber and liquid urethane plastic casting. After few months of experiments with local factory Marabu Plast i finally understand that it was bad idea. Silicone molds are not too precise and not too accurate for this kind of work. There are too many problems with quality control.

So i move to more expensive but more reliable CNC manufacture. Due 2017 Summer-Autumn typhoons disasters in Asia many CNC factories moved to other places. Manufacture and communication was delayed for a months. After sending few requests to other places i decide to deal with LanParte CNC factory. In very short amount of time they manufacture and send me second small batch of Expansion Box enclosures. It was in the beginning of 2018.

Rosette Mount Module by RADIOPROEKTOR

Back to the past. I was thinking how to attach side handle to the camera. Arri Type Rosette Mount feels like industry standard option, but it appears that BMMCC camera and SmallRig cage are so specific that almost none of existing rosette mounts fits well to it. So i decide to develop my own Rosette Mount. The main idea was to allow easy access to the camera buttons. It was also designed with maximum durability and quality in mind. First i try to setup manufacture In local garage factory with Riza3D and Swineherd, but one month later we where failed because it appears too complicated for their skills and CNC machines. Swineherd still helps me a lot with final CAD redrawing.

Earlier for this project i purchase durable stainless Arri Type Rosettes from A MiniMart factory located in China. I like their price and quality, so i email them with request for small batch manufacture of my project. After few weeks shiny Rosette Mounts and new batch of HDMI clamps where delivered to my place.


Co-Design: Top handle with Monitor Mount

During Summer i came to the idea of top handle monitor mount. Such monitor placement is essential for most run and gun TV cameras. First it was simple screw with rubber pad, but later i purchase and combine LanParte 15mm Single Rod Clamp with CAMVATE 15mm micro Rod Mount. They perfectly fits to SmallRig Universal Handle (1984). During testing i found few little bugs in SmallRig top handle design and SmallRig fixed it later. Cold Shoe connection appears slightly shaky and not to reliable so i was happy to see that later SmallRig released their own heavy duty Top Handle  15mm Rod Clamp (1995). CAMVATE 15mm micro Rod Mount appears too short for this rod clamp, so i send to SmallRig co-design idea of compatible rod mount.

Also i use this Manfrotto 200PL QR clamp https://www.ebay.com/itm/Quick-Release-QR-Adapter... Seems like FotoPanda brand. It is different from average Manfrotto 200PL clamps. It is flat at the bottom, precise CNC machined, perfectly holds the camera and allow single hand operation.

Co-Design: Monitor Holder Mount and other Rig Ideas

In addition to top handle monitor mount, the idea of simple compact Monitor Holder Mount (1842) was floating around, so i send some sketches to SmallRig team again. It takes many months of development and co-design, but i think it is the most beautiful and useful accessory that SmallRig ever made.

Later i purchase few Super lightweight and low cost  15mm RailBlocks v3 (942), few low cost SmallRig Mounting Cheese Plates (1598), pair of 150mm Aluminum Alloy Rods, and combine all together to very compact and lightweight support system. After some testing i only replace ratchet screws with normal hex screws to save some space at the bottom.


The Future

The work is not finished yet. PWM Side Handle Grip Module and 14.8V 18650 Battery Module by RADIOPROEKTOR are still in development...

I'm really grateful to all people from http://www.bmcuser.com/ and http://www.bmcuser.com/ forums who participated with suggestions, ideas, feedback and also to those who support research and development by purchasing those unique accessories. This is really global worldwide community project.

You can see full development history in these forum threads:

HDMI Clamp Module by RADIOPROEKTOR http://www.bmcuser.com/showthread.php?18858

Expansion Box Module by RADIOPROEKTOR http://www.bmcuser.com/showthread.php?19574

Rosette Mount Module by RADIOPROEKTOR http://www.bmcuser.com/showthread.php?20764

Strap Mount Module by RADIOPROEKTOR (co-design sugegst was send to SmallRig) http://www.bmcuser.com/showthread.php?21049

Side Handle Grip Module by RADIOPROEKTOR (under development) http://www.bmcuser.com/showthread.php?21220

14.8V Battery Module by RADIOPROEKTOR (under development) http://www.bmcuser.com/showthread.php?21668

Currently all my custom made accessories for BMMCC/BMMSC available in this marketplace https://lavky.com/radioproektor/