Posts Tagged ‘cameras’

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Investing in Myself

April 2, 2017

Back last year, I went and bought a new camera. This camera, in fact:

For those who don’t spend all their time looking at filmmaking websites getting camera-boners, that’s a JVC GY LS300. It’s got a super35mm sensor, a very flexible lens mounting system, shoots HD, UHD and Cinema 4K and has a log profile. Still nonplussed? Never heard of it? Well, don’t feel bad if you haven’t, it’s probably the most underrated camera on the market in its price bracket at the moment- but that’s a post for another time.

The real reason I mention my purchase is why I chose to buy a new camera in the first place.

I’ve mentioned buying kit before, waaaay back at the beginning of this blog, and my view is still the same- buying kit is an investment. Sometimes it’s a case of money in, money out (you buy a camera because having it will get you more work) but this is a bit of a gamble because that new shiny is only bankable while it’s new on the market and desirable. The moment something new and more desirable comes out, you’ve lost your bargaining chip. Original Red One owners know the pain of that one…

But that wasn’t really why I bought the camera. No-one’s beating down rental houses’ doors for the latest JVC camera (they possibly should be, but again, that’s for another post…) and even though the camera shoots 4K, that’s not going to win me loads of jobs (although it may help!). I bought the camera to invest in myself.

I’ve never considered myself to be much of a cinematographer (I’ve also never considered myself to be much of a writer, but apparently I’m not terrible at that!) and have always felt I could learn to be better if I had a better tool to learn with. Now I know that sounds like an excuse- poor workmen and their tools etc- but there is some truth to it. If all you have is a hammer, all your work will look like nails. Aside from a short-lived dalliance with a Canon DSLR a few years ago (a short-term fling that wasn’t very productive- we both wanted different things from the relationship!), my previous camera was a Sony Z1. Still produces nice enough pictures, but the thing shoots to tape. Tape! Even the most out-of-date luddite clients know tape cameras are old tech, on a par with wire recorders and the invention of the wheel. I constantly had to load the camera in the car before I got to the shoot and hope I didn’t need to change the tape when the client was around! The Z1 was a workhorse, though, and I learnt to focus on composition and storytelling and getting the lighting right with it. But the big problem with the Z1 was what I couldn’t learn from it that other filmmakers were learning from their newer kit. Little things like shallow depth of field, lens theory, picture grading and using Log profiles. The filmmakers who were getting into it on the back of the DSLR boom were learning and putting all this stuff into practice.

And producing much nicer work than I was as a result. Work that got them more work.
I know I can learn to be better at this stuff. Not because I want to be a better cinematographer per se, but because I want to be a better visual director. I want to know why I might use an 85mm for this close up over a 50mm. I want to know if we need more lights to pull off the depth of field I want from this shot. I want to know what can be done with picture grading so I can put the right coloured mis in the to-coin-a-phrase scene.

I want to learn.

This is why it’s an investment in myself. I am going to get better at this if I keep practicing and have a better tool to practice with. If I can get a better grade of job or earn more money from gigs because of said tool, then happy days!

The face of a man with a new toy!

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Toys and Wishlists

September 1, 2012

Like a child going through the Argos catalogue in late September, I’ve been looking in longing at shiny new toys to hope for (in lieu of spending my nonexistent money on). And as with a lot of filmmakers, it’s a camera I’m in the metaphorical market for.

My current camera is the ageing if ever-reliable Sony Z1. I’ve had a few good years of use out of it but I really need to join 2012 and get a “proper” HD camera that records to something other than a strip of magnetically charged plastic ribbon. I also need a camera with a larger sensor so I have more leeway to create shallow depth of field- given that I shoot a lot of drama, this is something of a necessity.

But I’m poor. Or flat broke if I’m honest.

Which makes the prospect of buying a new camera daunting and stupid which is why I’m a) looking at the cheaper end of the market and b) just looking. Which is a tough scenario to be in when there’s this nagging (if largely unfounded) feeling that you’re hired for work based on the kit you bring to the table. I need something that gives me the creative control I need to produce the work that will get me hired again, it needs to look professional (clients are often as shallow as the ideal depth of field) and it needs to be low cost. I also need it to have pro audio inputs, monitoring aids and an image that doesn’t fall apart with a whip pan.

Which is why DSLRs have never figured in my game plan. Lovely though the image can be, they’re just a bit of a ball-ache to use and work with in post (on a related note, it’s always amazed me that the people fellating DSLRs for video always seem to bang on about great grading as well- you’ve really backed the wrong tool for the job there guys…). At the budgets I work at, I’m often finding workarounds for things on set- angles, production design, lighting, performances… I just don’t need the camera and it’s weird ways to be an extra arse-ache I have to work around:

Very very wobbly rolling shutter effect with moire and aliasing. Arse-ache.

No NDs, no zebras, no picture or audio monitoring. Arse-ache.

Extremely awkward video codec with compression in all the wrong areas and a nightmare to edit with. Arse-ache.

Dual system picture/audio and syncing in post. Ache of true arse-like proportions.

Add to that a form factor that’s understandably only useful for taking stills and needs a meccano kit of Zacuto gear to give such things as a usable EVF/viewfinder, shoulder rig and follow focus and they really weren’t on my radar at all. So I’ve been left to look at the low-pro large sensor cameras like the Panasonic AG AF101 and the Sony NEX FS100 and their £4K+ price tags. And by “look” I mean just that…

But recently, the choice of large sensored video cameras has broadened in both price directions- Canon’s C300, the RED Scarlet and Sony’s FS700 have filled the higher seven grand plus bracket, Black Magic have unveiled their Cinema Camera (with a stupidly low price, a beautiful image that DoPs will love and missing audio features that self-shooters will lament) and last week Sony announced the NEX EA50, a semi-shoulder ENG style camera for about £3000. Which to be honest, is more in my price range.

Okay, so it’s aimed at event shooters with its form factor, power zoom lens and not-unmanageably-shallow APS-C sized sensor and I shoot primarily drama where this doesn’t really matter.

Okay, so the sensor comes from the NEX5- a still camera- and possibly suffers from the same image issues if all the forum slandering is to be believed.

Okay, so just like Sony’s other “affordable” camera it hasn’t got any built-in NDs and I, like many shooters, find NDs really really fucking useful, Sony…

…but it’s three grand. A whole thousand pounds on average cheaper than the next best thing, Panasonic’s AF101. Which for a filmmaker with little to no money matters a lot. I for one will be interested to see what the camera is capable of when it’s released in October. As long as the image is less problematic than the DSLRs, I can learn to use a matte box and ND filters like the film boys do and feel happy about my investment.

Just need to scrape some pennies or finance together and I’m good…

“So about that loan, Mr Bank Manager…”