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The art of downgrading


Andrew Reid
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Long time lurker - great blog, inspiring forum!!!

​Welcome.

Why not just spend an hour each day just thinking about what one wants to do?

​Or five minutes, but in earnest ...

Why not? God forbade it. One might find that 23'55" of the day were devoted to distractions.

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EOSHD Pro Color 5 for Sony cameras EOSHD Z LOG for Nikon CamerasEOSHD C-LOG and Film Profiles for All Canon DSLRs

“Simplicity is divine” says Kim Olson. “People often make things more complicated than they need to be.                        

And that’s especially true with photography”.

 

The photo below is from Philip Johnston’s  blog “HD warrior”. It was taken at “Production Gear BVE 2015”.

I think the camera man is smiling because he is happy because after 2 hours of rigging and adjusting

he finally got his stabilizer up and running. The question is: Why does a small camera as the BM Cinema

need a huge stabilizer as such? I think this rig doesn't inspire creativity, it absorbs all creativity for the technique only.   

 

 Rhonin.jpg.fa3eff6402645f0e34d29fa34fd35

 

 

The photo below was taken from 4Kshooters.net . You can’t see the camera, it’s a Sony A7s.

It's rigged to a bizarre degree of complexity. Downgrading is not an option here as serious filmmaking is required.

 

Cinoflex-C500-4K-Shooters-1-1024x731.thu

  

 

Why not UPGRADE for more advanced technology ? e.g. take the Arri Amira.

Well-designed ergonomics simplifies complexity. It leaves more freedom for creating artistic results.

 

 amira-product-header.thumb.jpg.005c0b838

 

       

Downgrading gear technology for the sake of creativity is not per se divine.

The right technology UPGRADE may also inspire creativity.

 

   

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I like the slogan for the german Smart car ad: reduce to the maximum.

As for the BM camera set up: Well, if you need steadily moving shots, sth. like this is required. You could do with a conventional steadicam, but that wouldn't reduce much. They could have used a Nebula with a BMPCC and the new smartphone-sized SmallHD, but this was probably the BMPC. 

By downgrading you have to accept compromises as well or it's the wrong thinking.

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I like the slogan for the german Smart car ad: reduce to the maximum.

Reduce to the max" is a well thought slogan for the people who are supposed to buy this life style car.

This slogan sounds wise, almost philosophical, but it is somehow quirky. It pushes the perception: going small makes you big.

For the smart car buyer this kind of "basic" minimalism has to be state of his mind, otherwise he would not swallow

the numerous limitations this “car” has. And, it is certainly not an expression of creativity driving a vehicle as this.

 

The art of downgrading” does not only refer to the size of the gear. If I understand Andrew’s headline right,

he describes how the complexity of different technologies may block his creativity. Yes, when I switched from analog

to digital photography (perceived 50 years ago) I was fully absorbed from the new technology behind it.

All creativity (if there was any) was only used to master the new camera functions (EOS 300D). 

Today I feel save to handle the increasing number of new functions which each generation of cameras invents.

The glory of technology” as Andrew said  elsewhere in his blog.

Some of the new functions are gimmicky, some inspired me to create images which I wasn't able to frame before, 

e.g. in camera time lapse. This is now as simple as possible, though it’s not a simple technique.  

 

Albert Einstein: "Make things as simple as possible, but not simpler".

 

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Wernst, you are wrong. That photo from 4Kshooters.net is not of an A7s, it is instead of a C300 (or C500).

http://www.4kshooters.net/2014/09/09/supercharge-your-4k-sony-a7s-with-the-cinoflex-type-a7s-camera-system/

Yes, IronFilm, you are right, it’s not an A7s, it’s a C300 or C500.

But regardless of the type of camera rigged, the main question is, does complexity block creativity?

I think the image tells.

 

Another aspect which has not been covered here is complexity as the cause of a failure.

Common sense suggests, that the degree of system complexity is closely related to the rate of failure of a system component.

Considering e.g. the numerous cable connections of this rig shown above it is likely that one or more may fail.

In this case not only creativity is blocked but total productivity . . .

 

                                 . . . The art of downgrading: A GH4 with YAGH may save the 4k shooting then.   

 

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Back on topic: If you make films because it's your passion, not your money job, then expensive equipment can actually make you less productive. It's the typical fallacy that, in the beginning, you think that your creativity is limited by your non-professional gear - while every artist will tell you that creativity comes from constraints. (Dogme95 was a prominent example - another one was the French writer's group Oulipo in the 1960s whose members wrote whole novels without a single occurrence of the letter "e".) But it seems that you first have to go through the pains of learning professional gear before you can throw it away again. Like a Zen student who learns everything from the masters but only achieves enlightenment when s/he ultimately abandons that knowledge.

Nothing is more satisfying to shoot with a crappy, limited camera - knowing every of its quirks and every trick in the bag to get a good-looking film out of it. Today, quality of equipment really no longer is a question of price, since you can buy a Blackmagic cinema camera for $1000 and edit and grade on a $1500 gamer PC running the free copy of Resolve. Very soon - even if you're getting good with ETTR raw/log shooting, color balancing and grading - you realize that you will never fully master this system because it takes a team of professional camera operators, light technicians, sound recordists, film editors and colorists to get the maximum out of it. It's like having a Steinway concert piano almost for free - but still realizing that this won't make you Glenn Gould. But becoming a wizard with some cheapo Casio keyboard creating truly interesting tunes (think of this here: http://www.discogs.com/Various-Sweet-Sweet-Casio/release/3502194) is much more fruitful, useful for culture (which has no need for another wannabe-Glenn Gould) and much more subjectively rewarding.

I'm currently getting a kick out of making videos with a GoPro Hero (granted, it's not such a bad camera if you use its Protune options - and if you know how to use Davinci Resolve...), using it not as an action cam, but like a regular video camera. It's incredibly fun and indeed liberating - carrying just that plastic cube thingie with you, never worrying about equipment that you might have forgot or that might get damaged, making camera moves just by putting it on escalators etc.. And a quite a kick if you manage to make it look good in the edit. It won't ever be a replacement for my Blackmagics in any more serious scenario. And if this had been my beginner's camera, I would be constantly frustrating with it and longing for more professional gear.

You get the idea.

Btw., there was a similar downgrading movement among indie filmmakers in the 1980s when Fisher-Price brought out its audio cassette-based PXL2000 camcorder: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PXL-2000 

 

 

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It's the typical fallacy that, in the beginning, you think that your creativity is limited by your non-professional gear - while every artist will tell you that creativity comes from constraints.

I’m fully behind your statement, that the learning curve in using gear first goes more to professional and later back to more basic, simpler gear.

I can tell it from my own experiences. You ask yourself: What do I really need for framing my inspired ideas into an image?  

Over time you are gaining experience which is gear is useless and which is suitable for mastering your ideas.

But you are not becoming per se creative in an artistic sense during this process. Your level of artistic creativity stays unchanged.

You only become smart in assessing

 

how far may I downgrade my gear to the point where simplicity does not limit the realization of my artistic ideas?  

 

You may e.g. realize that putting a RX100 into your pocket and leave your clunky 5DIII / 70-200 combo at home will open new possibilities for catching moments which would have never been caught before. This is smart and clever, but not yet creative.      

Without creativity in your DNA you may upgrade or downgrade your gear, it doesn’t matter, the artistic value of your images stays the same.  

 

provocative thesis:  

If creativity comes from constraints, then pick from each of the numerous gear reviews those pieces with the most negative ratings,

having the most "cons", constraints, and you are done - you then will become creative.

Won't you? 

 

 

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provocative thesis:  

If creativity comes from constraints, then pick from each of the numerous gear reviews those pieces with the most negative ratings,

having the most "cons", constraints, and you are done - you then will become creative.

Won't you? 

Instead of putting into action my most ambitious plans, I keep planning, postponing their actual realization. I 'm making plans, I'm performing tests. That means I actually distrust my ideas, I don't really believe in them. At the end of the day, they are hot air.

Because creativity is all about solving problems, finding ways to overcome constraints - with wit and spirit and with what you have, not with 'specs'. Improvisation is better than unobtainable (mostly hollow) perfection. If I think, I can only do it with this or that piece of equipment, I will fail, always. Once I have that precious gadget, I reckon the bar rose again. It's me.

Any camera is insufficient to capture my fancies, if I am. Any camera will do, if I do.

The first sentence:

 

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