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Open letter to Japanese manufacturers on the enthusiast video market - improve or lose it


Andrew Reid

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I really think it is time to stop crying about tech.... Anyone with the ambition and skill could create a masterpiece on a GH3 or a 5dIII (hack or not).

 

If resolution, bitrate or DR is putting you off making your masterpiece, then there is a very good chance that once you get your 12bit, raw, 14 stop DSLR for $699, you will still be chasing specs rather than making your masterpiece.

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The Blackmagic Pocket Cinema camera is a wake-up call to the bigger manufacturers and their afterthought video modes. [url=http://www.eoshd.com/content/11256/open-letter-japa

I do not understand your obsession with video on stills cameras. Video is an added feature on a stills camera so how can you compare them to a BMCC that is made purely for video? Stills cameras will a

Fwiw, shooting raw video on my 4 year old 50d blows the doors off anything "current" with h264. That includes my hacked gh2. Andrew is correct: the big Japanese camera manufacturers need to innovat

Don't know about you but I'd be pretty pissed off if my masterpiece looked like crap.

 

@ScreensPro, I'd put it this way, I'd be pretty pissed off if my nuanced story of love, betrayal and redemption looked like it was shot in an over-lit MacDonalds.  There are is a certain look and feel that the GH3 just can't shoot, period. (In any case, no one can accuse Andrew of taking sides in camera tech).  Now, with a good script, great acting, directing, would it stop that masterpiece from succeeding--I don't think so.  But wouldn't it be worth the effort to get a few extra tears in the audience if you could show the dynamic range and color nuance (the mood) you actually lit? :)

 

These are tools and techniques.  Who wouldn't agree that one should focus on the fundamentals?   Some think the fundamentals start with contrast and color.  

 

What you're voicing is a frustration many people here have--that we can't spend more time shooting a real film, then experimenting with this equipment.  This is how I enjoy a little taste of film-making, pathetic as it might be.  

 

I console myself with the thought that the stuff I figure out may help such a genius that you have in mind!

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@ScreensPro does have a very valid point. 

 

I stand by something I always say. The really creative guy with his iPhone 5 will make a better film than the guy who is a whizz on the RED Epic but has very little in creative ideas. 

 

@EOSHD has a very valid point. 

 

If you have access to a camera with better specs, its worth your time making your masterpiece with that. Image quality is a massive asset. 

 

@BurnetRhoades -  I'm not too sure.

 

In the right hands, the GH3 is a very capable camera that can deliver fantastic images close to cameras priced 6 x its value. To just sideline the camera for its supposed inferiority is perplexing seen as its predecessor shot the cinematically released Upstream Colour with great results. Just shows its the hands and the brains rather than the sensor and specs. 

 

I understand this is mostly a technical forum, but its a shame that we see a huge lack in discussing the craft of filmmaking rather than how many mbps camera 1 shoots compared to camera 2 on forums.  

 

The camera is one piece of a jigsaw. The craft and creativity is everything else.  ;)

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I got a good offer on a 5D MKiii recently, but despite the raw and overall superior image to 600D I've just stuck with the latter for a few things that are coming up because I know it, and the cost won't improve the product enough.

 

I could also borrow a BMD M4/3 for these shoots, but still, it's an unknown factor and delivery is PAL SD (yes, SD!), so I think the 600 will be fine.

 

I that situation 4K and raw are overkill, I just want to make the piece and deliver it as quickly and efficiently as possible, quality is not the priority, and would go un-noticed. Five friends who barely shoot ever own 550Ds that I can borrow as other angles! FIVE! That's market share...

 

When it's my own work however, music videos and films and so on, I'd like the best I quality can get, but still within reason. I love raw manipulation, so much freedom, but right now the idea of having multiple terrabytes of rushes and a long, long workflow feels like it'd slow me down a lot, plus it's expensive to deal with and presents archiving problems...

 

Shoot ratios on music promo and narrative are both high. Documentary can be insane, 100:1... there I'd probably use an RX100 (and a million batteries) but raw would be project suicide with current technology.

 

If ML could code RAW compression (down to 10-bit from 14-bit colour, some lossless compression) into the 5D MKiii it may become more practical, but now it's pretty mental to handle, and I keep reading about lost clips and so on.

 

I think that's why out of all the BMD owners I know, none have actually embarked on a truly ambitious full project with raw.

 

***

 

The last short film I did was for Virgin Media Shorts, I used the 600D with hacked high bitrates and antialiasing filter and I'm happy with it. Sure it's a limited look, but so is certain film stock. I had to work so quickly, I just couldn't have done it with a glitchy camera, too much weight and rigging, or a demonic workflow. I just ran with the look and gave it a grungy psuedo 16mm feel.

 

If I could've had an Alexa look from a small DSLR box (as BMD promises), complete with compressed ProRes or DNxHD, then it would be the best option, but right now I hear a lot of grumbling from those using those cameras in the heat of battle so I'm keeping clear.

 

I loved Upstream Colour.... you could tell it was an 8-bit cam and quickly shot in places because the colours were different on every shot, sometimes in the same scene, but it worked with the piece, the confusion and surreal settings, it all added to it.

 

I think the key is working with what you have. If you have a camera that makes footage look like video, work with that look, if you try and make it look like Red Epic, you end up looking cheap, and so on...

 

I see a few films shot on Epic where they've tried to emulate film stock and the result is actually too sharp to be believable, so it works both ways.

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I really think it is time to stop crying about tech.... Anyone with the ambition and skill could create a masterpiece on a GH3 or a 5dIII (hack or not).

 

If resolution, bitrate or DR is putting you off making your masterpiece, then there is a very good chance that once you get your 12bit, raw, 14 stop DSLR for $699, you will still be chasing specs rather than making your masterpiece.

 

I think that is really unfair.  You are dividing the video environment into two camps... people that can take a VHS camera and make an Oscar winning epic and everyone else who just sits around complaining about technology.  A lot of us came over from the pure photo world.  We went through all of this already.  I remember shooting a 3 megapixel point and shoot and there were people telling us that's all we really needed and the tech was good enough and stop complaining.  Well obviously that was absurd.  Now with 18 megapixel solid APS-C DSLRs available for $350 most of us have stopped complaining about the tech.  Sure on the forums some neophyte pops up every once in awhile saying how they simply can't create wonderful images because they don't have a full frame camera.  They get swatted down pretty quick now.

 

The video world simply is not anywhere near the level of quality and democratization that the DSLR world reached long ago.  Frankly I think that is why many of us are gravely disappointed.  But it will evolve.  It will get there.

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Well, that is my point, if you are skilful and ambitious enough, it will not look like crap.

 

I'd prefer a GH3, some good lighting and, say, a cheap Movi alternative... Than a RED Epic Dragon with just a tripod.

 

Skill or no skill it doesn't make sense to use something that doesn't perform. Indeed, the more skilful and ambitious you are the more you don't want your effort sullied by a sub-par image.

 

To ignore the the fact your tool gives you a certain feel, isn't right - so pick your paintbrush wisely, no matter how subtle the effect. It's a not all about the spec sheet true, it's a mixture of both - i.e. what JG describes with his trusty 600D and working the image, and the cinema prowess a better camera can offer, and the choice of lens mount is important too.

 

 

It's essential to choose the right camera ergonomically as well... depending on the kind of shoot.

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Don't know about you but I'd be pretty pissed off if my masterpiece looked like crap.

 

Skill or no skill it doesn't make sense to use something that doesn't perform. Indeed, the more skilful and ambitious you are the more you don't want your effort sullied by a sub-par image.

 

This is mostly a camera and tech blog, and it's normal for people to obsess over the tech side of things.

Of course story is the most important thing, but this is not the appropriate blog to discuss it, so for those who critique the ones obsessing over technical details, what did you expect? Would you complain because they only sell fruit at the fruit stand?

 

However... stating there's no point shooting your "masterpiece" using the tools you have at your disposal is not great advice either. For example, should Shane Carruth have kept his day job and just bitch online instead of shooting his masterpiece Upstream Color using a GH2?

Should Garreth Edwards still be working as a precarious VFX artist instead of shooting "Monsters" on a Sony PMW-EX3? Not sure he'd still be directing Godzilla now...

 

Those are just a couple examples, and before digital many people shot amazing films on 16mm because they couldn't afford 35mm, it wasn't the best format, but that didn't stop many of those from becoming masterpieces too. Should those still be waiting on the RED Dragon or whatever comes next?

 

The three most important things on any narrative film are story, story and story. And if you get those three aspects right, people will be far too involved to even think of pixel peeping. Pixel peeping happens when movies are so dull and boring that you got nothing better to do (like most you get in the cinemas these days), so you should only let camera tech details keep you from shooting your movie if you intend to shoot a very dull and boring one. Geek out all you want over camera gear, but obsessing about such details will get you nowhere near a finished quality narrative film.

 

And remember, discussing the importance of story in film on a blog like this, like I just did, is silly.

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I'd put it that way: Until recently, there was no alternative to Panasonic GHx bodies if you wanted high resolution video, interchangeable lenses and a decent sensor size under $1000. The Pocket is a game changer to the extent that paying $1000 for the 8bit video of a GHx isn't worth it anymore unless the camera provides really essential practical advantages for your particular project or style of shooting. In most cases, the ergonomic quirks of the Pocket won't be a deal breaker.

 

The situation is now the same as in photography where, for most means and ends, nobody would pay hundreds of dollars or Euros for a camera that only shoots JPEG. 

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Those are just a couple examples, and before digital many people shot amazing films on 16mm because they couldn't afford 35mm, it wasn't the best format, but that didn't stop many of those of becoming masterpieces too. 

 

16mm film (especially Kodak Vision negative stock), combined with a professional-grade camera like an Arriflex, Aaton or Ikonoskop, is infinitely superior to the digital video cameras you mention in your post. It's arguably still superior to the digital Super 16 image produced by the Blackmagic Pocket. I doubt that, for example, "The Hurt Locker" would have looked better if it had been shot on a Pocket.

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16mm film (especially Kodak Vision negative stock), combined with a professional-grade camera like an Arriflex, Aaton or Ikonoskop, is infinitely superior to the digital video cameras you mention in your post. It's arguably still superior to the digital Super 16 image produced by the Blackmagic Pocket. I doubt that, for example, "The Hurt Locker" would have looked better if it had been shot on a Pocket.

 

That's not the point here... I didn't even compare those. I said "before digital", and compared 16mm to 35mm.

Many films, including The Hurtlocker, were shot on 16mm because the budget didn't allow for 35mm. Now tell me, would they be better off not shooting the film at all so they wouldn't compromise the image quality and their vision?

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"The Hurt Locker" had a budget of $15 million. Shooting it on Super 16 was not a budgetary but an artistic decision: "We shot it Super-16, which gave me an opportunity to be very dexterous because the camera is very small." (http://www.vanityfair.com/online/oscars/2009/07/qa-filming-a-war-of-bombs-in-the-hurt-locker). Same goes for "The Black Swan", shot on Super 16 with a similar budget - quote of the D.P.: "Darren likes 16mm because it’s small, he can do handheld, and he doesn’t have to wait around for camera setups." (http://www.alexandrosmaragos.com/2010/12/black-swan-canon-7d.html).

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However... stating there's no point shooting your "masterpiece" using the tools you have at your disposal is not great advice either. For example, should Shane Carruth have kept his day job and just bitch online instead of shooting his masterpiece Upstream Color using a GH2?

 

Does that mean every movie should be shot on a GH2?  I like my day job.  Time is on my side.  I can wait for the tech to improve.  Besides aren't there multiple other much better known authors and screen writers that said I'm not going to make my work into a film until the tech evolves a lot more?  I'm not trying to break into the movie industry.  It is a hobby for me which can potentially lead to a little (very little) side income.

 

 

 

Should Garreth Edwards still be working as a precarious VFX artist instead of shooting "Monsters" on a Sony PMW-EX3? Not sure he'd still be directing Godzilla now...

 

That's a $7,000+ camera.  Was someone pooh, poohing it?!  We were talking about 600Ds, BMPCC, and GH2s.  That's some serious strawman action going on there, friend.  There's more to a camera than image quality or depth of field.  If you have to do a project you have to consider ergonomics and workflow.  I have a 50D and I've shot some amazing raw video with it.  That doesn't mean I would shoot a short film with it.   I would end up slicing my wrists before it was done.  That is what we are discussing.  The total package at a reasonable price point.  Some dedicated people can use specific imperfect tools for specific projects but that is not what a mass market product is about.  No one is telling anyone not to make their movie with a GH2.  But people are free to discuss the shortcomings of the GH2 and what they would like to see in an affordable camera.  Consumer feedback is important to the product development process.  I just bought a 600D a couple of months ago for $350.  I'm sure they would rather I spent $750 for the 700D.  Well we are just telling Canon what would get us to part with that kind of money and the same warmed over sensor and boat loads of moire and aliasing ain't gonna do it.  Maybe we are too small of a niche for them to listen to but it's worth a shot mention it.

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That's all very nice to say, but if you really wanted to make a film you would have. Make a list of everything you want Canon to include on a $500 camera and tell me honestly, would that camera make the difference and prompt you to get out and shoot your masterpiece? I seriously doubt it, because filmmaking has very little to do with that in the first place.

 

So you have a 50D and a 600D, I don't think buying yet more Canon cameras is the best way to show them how much you disagree with them... the people who sold you those used cameras probably went and got new Canon ones, you're still buying their cameras and carrying their logo everywhere you take them you know? :)

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