Equipment: Your Camera part 2
If you read my last blog, you know at least a few basic differences between a standard camcorder and a DSLR camera. Depending on what type of need you have dictates what sort of camera that you will use, in some cases it would make sense to use a DSLR, in others, a camcorder. Obviously you are not limited to just those options, thus why I made a part 2, because there is more stuff to cover and this is where it gets super cool!
So...here you are, a cinematographer, and you are making a film, or maybe just a commercial, what are you going to reach for? Unless you are traveling to impossible locations needing shots from stupidly cramped and user-unfriendly vantage points, you may want to consider a DSLR for sheer versatility in lens type and overall shot composition. They are relatively cheap and offer great images for their small size. Even greater is the vast amount of attachments and accessories that are offered for DSLR cameras; once you start adding on the accessories and collection of lenses though, it can get real pricey real quick. So if you already are spending all this money, there may be a better option.
The Cine Cam
That's right! We are going all-out people! Sometimes the pretentious photographer cameras just aren't enough to cut it! Sometimes you just need to have all the cards in your hand. I am not saying that a Canon 5D or even a 7D won't produce magnificent video, because compared to any consumer camcorder, it will blow it out of the water when it comes to overall video quality. There is just one thing that should strike you funny about using a DSLR camera for all your video needs...think about it...
Okay, yeah, it's primary function isn't even video! Its main purpose is to take wicked awesome photographs, and then, coming in second do we see the video features. And hey, if you are a photographer who loves makin' a few flicks on the side, a DSLR is going to be a great tool that you will probably use until it dies, but if you are a true-blue filmmaker, aside from the "film" part, you may be interested in a digital cine cam. There are however, as with anything, a few challenges with cine cams. The thing that come to my head right off the bat is how freakishly expensive they are. You might pay $3,000 for a nice DSLR, maybe a little more, and that is a pretty hefty chunk of change not even including the glass you will need for it. A nice cine camera, like the RED EPIC, will run you about $20,000 for the "brain" only. Oh wait, what? You say you're going to need a lens mount and a place to put your footage? Well that will be another $2,200. It totally doesn't stop there though, RED sells packages for its EPIC that are almost $50,000. So...yeah, that's a lot of money, but you are shooting in such high resolution you will need a completely new editing system to handle it, so mehh throw another $5-6,000 for that!
So you get my point. These things can get really, really pricey. The good news is that there are more manufacturers that make a variety of different levels of camera. Take for example Canon, they have their "C" line. The cheapest one is about $6,500 for just the body, still pricey, but we are making some progress. Enough about the evils of cine cams, they are this expensive for a reason.
If you choose to buy a DSLR or a camcorder, you will notice a stark difference between your raw footage and the footage of a cine cam. Most DSLR's only shoot in 1080p and in a format that is very limited in comparison to a cine cam that will shoot in 2.5k or 4k. What this is going to do is limit your dynamic range in your footage (the range of lights vs. dark your camera can see) and give you less options in post-production. If you have a very limited dynamic range baked into your footage you will have files that are easier to work with, but you will have much less control over the end product. It's the same difference that you see if you shoot in RAW or JPEG while taking photos, though the JPEG is still a high quality format, it pales in comparison of the RAW file because it contains so much less information. Even if you have a cine cam like the Black Magic Cinema Camera, that has a cropped sensor opposed to a full frame, you will get better highlights and shadows along with much more lines of resolution than a Canon 5D.
The other thing about cine cams is that they are completely customizable. When you get a cine cam, you basically get a box with ports on it and maybe a screen. Everything else you need to add on to it. There is no way you can do a handheld shoot with one of these without some sort of shooting apparatus, so you will need to choose a way to film with it that fits your needs best. For the actual professional shoots there is no question that a cine cam is going to be the best option, you just need to be making some serious bank off of whatever you are shooting to afford one.
Next week I'll go over the benefits of a camera that is much closer to home, the action cam! Happy shooting!