THE INCITING INCIDENT
At some point in the evolution of today's DSLR, digital replaced film, and low light level photography became astonishingly clear. We saw our world in a whole new way. And then a seemingly innocent event occurred that for some would be the beginning of a whole new style, and for others, would be another nail in the coffin of quality cinematography.
Rather than schlep a real movie camera or camcorder around with your still outfit, wouldn't it be convenient if you could just lock the mirror up and shoot motion synced to audio? Canon added the feature to their marvelous 5D Mark II still camera, almost as an afterthought.
Their normally astute marketers calculated that no more than 3 or 4 percent of users would ever use the feature -- perhaps a few wedding photographers and single-person reporting teams.
They were off by a mile. The $2,800 camera started selling 5,000 per week. And 35 to 40% of buyers were shooting movies! Had Canon known they would sell 100,000 or so of these high-end cameras they could have built the camera a whole lot better for us cinema types. As originally delivered, the aperture, gain, exposure, frame rate and shutter speed of the 5D Mk II could not be adjusted by the user! There was no 24 frames per second mode, only 30, and if god forbid you panned past a window, the camera would dutifully underexpose your subject, confident that you'd rather try to see what's out that window than see the facial details of that boring person in the foreground.
These deficiencies have been more or less successfully remedied with software updates for the 5D and with 3 newer Canons, the 7D, 1D Mark IV and the Rebel T1i, all of which have HD movie capability.
NIKON AND PANASONIC
Naturally, other major players weren't sleeping through all this. As of a few months ago, Nikon's only manually-controllable HD DSLR was their amazing D3s, which though not as high resolution as the Canons (720x1280 instead of 1080x1920 pixels), was the undisputed sensitivity king, with ISOs all the way up to an astonishing 100,000! Panasonic's Lumix GH-1 delivered less speed and exposure latitude than the competition, but offered a reasonable 1080P image at a bargain price.
Focusing -- easily one of the most challenging of the cinematography skills -- is made dimensionally more difficult by using cameras and often lenses not designed for following focus in movie scenes with subject and/or camera movement. The large imagers are a mixed blessing. Yes, you get more selective focus but that also requires a gifted technician to avoid distracting focus buzzes.
The critically sharp optical finder is disabled for movie work. All that remains during shooting is a reduced resolution video output. Aftermarket focusing devices are necessary and some cinematographers find themselves required to design less challenging shots or shooting with more light at smaller apertures.
Because the movie mode originated as merely an extra feature, very little effort was put into maximizing quality. The cameras were tiny compared to purposebuilt motion picture cameras with similar size sensors. Hence the amount of processing power, rate of data flow, heat build-up, storage etc. was severely limited and the makers certainly had no interest in compromising their world class still photography capabilities. The result was a greatly compressed image using the h.264 codec. Compared to the pristine raw modes most of these cameras offered, the motion picture images suffered from noticeably less exposure latitude, greater noise, fixed pattern noise, less usable sensitivity (ISO) and of course, much less resolution.
|Related Articles / Tutorials:|
DJI Mavic Pro In Depth Review - The Best 4K Drone?
VFX guru Tobias Gleissenberger was so delighted with the DJI Mavic Pro 4K drone that he bought (yes, bought) that he was inspired to take a break from making tutorials to create an in-depth review of this compact, lightweight, consumer drone offering terrific value. No, it's not a platform for your digital cinema camera, but if you're looking for a fast, fun, integrated 4K camera drone packed with features, the Mavic Pro might be for you. This review is delivered Surfaced Studio-style, with wit, high energy, and details you won't find anywhere else.
Beautiful 8K Timelapse of Norway's Four Seasons
One year of planning, one year of shooting, and four months of post-production is a lot of time to spend on a single timelapse, but photographer Morten Rustad‘s creation SEASONS of NORWAY captured this 8K masterpiece by travelling a total of 20,000
Join Go Creative Show host, Ben Consoli and his special guest, David Klein, ASC, cinematographer of Homeland and True Blood. David is here to talk all about it all. His love of realism has defined a generation of filmmaking and he continues to execute it flawlessly with his work on Homeland. David talks with us about all his gear and lighting choices, shooting hand-held effectively and how the best film education is to simply shoot something.
Feature, People / Interview
All Eyes on IBC 2016 for Cameras and Lenses Galore
What’s that you say? An IBC that’s not only relevant, but downright exhilarating?
This used to not be news, of course. However, in recent years, IBC has too often become simply an opportunity for European audiences to see products already announced at NAB. In 2016, however, the focus swings sharply to Amsterdam, especially when it comes to cameras and lenses. IBC 2016 is shaping up to be one of the most dramatic trade shows for cinematographers, broadcasters, and videographers in years. Join Creative COW Editor-in-Chief Tim Wilson for a speedy overview of some of the highlights.
Depth of Field: Gregg Toland, Citizen Kane and Beyond
Whenever somebody equates "shallow depth of field" and "cinematic look," it's important to remember that the opposite is also sometimes true. Creative COW Editor-in-Chief Tim Wilson celebrates the work of Gregg Toland, ASC, born this week in 1904 -- the first master of extreme depth of field in movies like Citizen Kane and The Grapes of Wrath that forever changed what is possible for humans to do with cameras. This reprise of a classic article from the Creative COW Archives also offers a look at what Toland's approach to cinematic composition can mean for YOUR shooting.
New Trends and Technology at Cine Gear Expo 2016
Cine Gear Expo 2016 exhibits open Friday June 3 and 4, at Paramount Studios in Hollywood, California with major screenings, filmmaker panel discussions, groundbreaking techniques and new equipment premiers that are sure to influence the filmmaking industry. Catering to the world’s top motion picture, video and new media visual artists, Paramount’s prestigious back lot is the ideal setting for professionals to meet with colleagues and nearly 300 top equipment vendors to see live demos and get their hands on the latest gear. Take a look at how this year's hottest trends are shaping up.
School, Teachers, Italian Neorealism & a Few Soviet Films
In this exclusive interview, generously granted to Creative COW by the Gamma and Density Journal, during his lifetime, Vilmos Zsigmond, ASC, sat down with Yuri Neyman, ASC to talk about his life as a cinematographer. We remember the genius.
Editorial, Feature, People / Interview
Vilmos Zsigmond, ASC, 1930 - 2016 - Remembering the Genius
Winner of an Academy Award for Best Cinematography for his work on Close Encounters of the Third Kind, the long list of official accolades for Vilmos Zsigmond, ASC doesn't begin to illustrate the impact his work has had on generations of artists around the world. Friend, colleague, and Global Cinematography Institute co-founder Yuri Neyman, ASC shares some of his memories with us.
Editorial, Feature, People / Interview
Yuri Neyman, ASC