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in Filmmaking
on Jan 8, 2010

At Filmmaker, we’ve covered the new generation of DSLR cameras, like the Canon 5D and 7D and Nikon D90, quite a bit, and while there’s a huge amount of interest from the indie community about these cameras, there’s also criticism of them as substitutes for professional HD cameras. I came across this morning two blog posts that articulate both sides of the issue. On Philip Johnston’s HD Warrior blog, he’s penned a post titled, “Filming with an HD DSLR: The Things They Don’t Tell You.”

Here is his intro:

RED Digital Cinema are in the process of producing the worlds first Digital Stills Motion Camera dedicated to firstly filming and secondly stills. So how does this differ from the HD DSLRs like the Canon 7D…simple…as yet no one at Canon or any other stills camera manufacturer has grasped some simple but important design concepts when producing a hybrid camera that records video.

Everything that has come out of the HD DSLR stable has two major faults…

1. Not one manufacturer has payed any attention to sound. (No sound metering or manual volume control).

2. The ergonomics of the DSLR don’t lend themselves to filming especially the static LCD.

Some people argue it’s “early days”…..SORRY…….What a load of tosh, those who think it’s early days must be stuck in the last century, we have had professional video camcorders for over 20 years with all but none having important design features like hi-rez re-positionable viewfinders, sound inputs, audio metering and control…..need I say more.
That’s why I don’t take this technology seriously because neither have the people who design them ! It’s budget video making at it’s worst…why because every Tom, Dick and Harry can afford this craze but sadly less than 5% are making serious video productions and most of them are ZERO budget pretty pictures anyone could produce.

He goes on to outline six specific complaints he has with these cameras.

There’s a good conversation in the comments section of his blog about the post, including a link to Jon Connor’s blog, Canon Filmmakers, and a post he wrote entitled “Everything I Know about the Canon 7D I Learned from Louis C.K.” It’s the “pro” to Johnston’s “con.”

Here’s an excerpt from his intro:

We need to master our craft and get back to the basics. Shot composition and storytelling. I plan on working on those two myself.

Be thankful for the amazing technology we have at our disposal and stop whining like a bunch of spoiled children. Aliasing,WAHHHH. Moire,WAHHHH.

12 minute limit WAHHH, No Audio Control WAHHHHHHH. What do you want Canon to give you for $1700 ? Should it come with your own personal DOP to set all the shots up for you too? Do you remember what it took a few short years ago to get this type of look for a film? It would have been impossible to do what you can now for this type of money.

So, instead of this RED vs. the Canon DSLR civil war that is erupting in the filmmaking community, How about this ?

Take whatever equipment it is that you have the good fortune of owning and go shoot something amazing. Let your limitations be your inspiration.

Force yourselves to think in a way you never have before. Can’t afford a 7D? Go get a Flip HD, shoot it on your iPhone. Just do it.

Connor goes on to offer some very practical advice on flattening the color so as to maximize the potential of color grading, the necessity of mounting the camera, and he offers a simple math equation to help you figure out what lenses to use.

In the comments section of Johnston’s post, there’s also this observation by Matt Moses, which I think is really accurate:

I have used my hv20 for backdrops and visual effects for the video game industry… getting paid real money for the picture I could create. We are truly entering a new realm of visual media.. the “good enough” generation… when it comes to content tied to products. Interestingly, we also have the “never good enough” high end pushing technology down to the masses. To me, there is no question there are way more people interested now in creating content to watch than there was 5 years ago.. and its growing each day. And the people creating the ineteresting stuff to watch are definitely not doing it for an engineering critique… or to show off their camera tech.

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