The Blackmagic Delays Everyone Saw Coming

…except Blackmagic Design themselves.

Blackmagic Design perplexes me.

The made a flawed-but-great camera. An important camera. A very nice, oddly-shaped camera.

And then, before they could ship it in real quantities, they announced two really cool-sounding cameras. And they swore up and down that they’d be on schedule this time. And they promised a very specific delivery of July 2013.

And everyone said, “Those cameras look great! July is really soon though, are you sure you can do it?”

And they assured us that they could.

And we said, “No, really, take your time. These cameras look to be worth the wait.”

And they said “No, seriously, dudes, we got this.”

(I’m obviously paraphrasing the gestalt here.)

Blackmagic even perplexes me with the little things.

  • An important firmware update addressing many of the original BMC’s bizarre shortcomings was casually announced on someone else’s Facebook page.
  • After an hour of talking my way through several representatives at Blackmagic’s NAB2013 booth about the lack of metadata in the BMC’s DNG files, I finally got someone to reveal to me that they keep the metadata in the sidecar .WAV file. Of course.

And now, at the tail end of the month we were promised the new cameras would ship, Blackmagic held an event to confess what everyone but them knew was going to happen: Delays.

And then John Brawley, the kind and generous cinematographer mostly known for being the first to post shots made with the original BMC, had this to say about the delayed 4K BMC Production Camera:

I prefer the greater DR of the BMCC over the increased resolution of the 4K.

It’s often great to let your customers do your marketing for you. But not always. Personally, I’m grateful for Brawley’s candor—but unfortunately for Blackmagic Design, it’s being expended to fill a communications vacuum.

The Elephant Almost In The Room, We Promise

Why is the messaging around the announcements, delays, and updates so inconsistent? Sometimes it’s honest, candid, and authentic. Other times it’s confusing and disconnected. Look how many people on Blackmagic’s own forum’s are saying things like “I’ll believe whatever is said about delivery dates only when it comes from BMD home office directly, not before.”, despite several sites posting “official” statements on the delays. From Televisual (a site I’d not heard of before today):

“The Pocket Cinema Camera is now in full production. We have the final units in test now and expect it to be a matter of days or, at worst, a week or two before we’re ready to shift the camera out to customers. We’re in full product manufacture with the camera and there are no issues with it whatsoever. We have a considerable number of orders for the camera so it will take a period of time to fulfil all these orders.”

That’s “Blackmagic Design’s Director of Sales EMEA Simon Westland,” (what’s EMEA?), with a statement that seems weirdly self-contradictory to me. How can you “have the final units in test” and be “in full product manufacture with the camera” with “no issues with it whatsoever”?

I’ll remove some racism from Westland’s next quote:

“…There are a lot of rumours out there about when these cameras will be available with loads of different dates being given on different websites. Our products get a lot of attention and the rumour mill is churning away at the moment. I’ve even heard people talking about the 4K Production Camera not being available until next year.”

Gosh, if only there was some way of controlling that. Maybe put something about the delays on your own press page?

One last quote:

“We’re a couple of weeks behind. The 4K Production Camera needs another two to three weeks worth of work on it before it can go into the full production process. We hope to have the first units out before the end of August, which is not a vast shift on our original date.”

A couple is two. Three is more than two. Three weeks of work before it can go into the full production process does not sound like shipping in August to me. I don’t know much about making hardware, but I assume it’s harder than making software, and I’d never make a promise like that about software. We’ll see if this is yet another case of the entire world seeing the obvious truth while Blackmagic remains blissfully optimistic.

I’d love to be wrong.

I know this sounds awfully negative. This isn’t meant to be a takedown of Blackmagic Design. It’s the kind of tough love I reserve for companies I like, making products I care about.

Here’s my unsolicited advice for Blackmagic Design:

  • Control your communication. Beat the rumors to the punch with the kind of candid honesty we know you’re capable of.
  • Collaborate with well-known cinematographers to shoot world-class demonstration of your products.
  • Stop being so eager to please us. Under-promise so that you have a chance to over-deliver.

I love what you’re trying to make Blackmagic. It bums me out that there’s so much unnecessary noise around your efforts.

The Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera and Blackmagic Production Camera 4K are, of course, still available for pre-order at B&H.