There is a real sense of excitement taking place in the video arena recently. The world of video and video production has reached a new point in its development; and it is changing the modes of capture themselves in an incredible and ground-breaking way; a point that sees still photography mediums morphing into the world of video in a visually stunning and a technologically exciting way.
It used to be that in order to shoot a movie, you had to work with professional cinema equipment worth as much as your average house in Toronto, with a minimal crew of four people (director, camera operator, camera assistant, sound engineer). Not to discount the value of a good production team, but today you can do everything yourself. All it takes is a high-end DSLR (Digital Single-Lens Reflex camera) high-definition (HD) camera and a creative mind.
Many videographers had a chance to experience this first hand at the recently held ProFusion 2010 Pro Video Expo. This two-day event was held at the Toronto Congress Centre on June 18 and 19, and produced by Toronto-based Vistek Ltd. Ron Silverstein president of Vistek, says the idea for a pro video show had been germinating at Vistek over the past couple of years after Vice-President Kevin Parker, and other members of the management team, attended NAB conventions in the U.S. “We thought it would be good for these manufacturers to talk to our customers,” Silverstein says, “but there is no venue for this.” Six months ago, Vistek began early preparatory work on the project, and intensive work began about four months ago. The fruit of the company’s labours were witnessed by approximately 2000 people attending the Provision 2000 event June 18-19.
“The video side of the industry is really where the excitement is,” Silverstein states. “It doesn’t take $400,000 worth of equipment to do a 30-second commercial anymore. Now you can do it for $12,000. The intent of the show was to showcase pro video equipment, including DSLRs with HD video capability, showcased by Canon, JVC, Nikon, Panasonic and Sony.
Excitement in the Industry
At the beginning of the year, at the WPPI show (Wedding and Portrait Photographers) this passion and excitement was very evident by many photographers who spoke at the Canon live stage. As well, recently in Britain, a two-day event (Converge) – organized by The Flash Centre, in association with Canon UK – helped to underline the growing significance and excitement surrounding capturing HD movies on Canon DSLRs, such as the EOS 5D Mark II, EOS-1D Mark IV and EOS 7D.
Drew Gardner, an established photographer, and a speaker at the first Converge, delivered presentations on both days of this event, giving audience members an insight into a project he is working on in the townships of South Africa. Originally a photojournalist, Gardner was super-charged about the way EOS Movie has enabled him to re-engage with his former occupation: “I’ve actually been rediscovering my career through using EOS video.”
Many film directors have embraced shooting with DSLRcameras for a very good reason. Unlike video camcorders, professional DSLR still cameras are full-frame (35mm) or cropped sensor — both a lot bigger than the largest 2/3-inch professional broadcast camera sensor. A huge sensor is one thing, but having the ability to put very fast (low F-Stop) 35mm stills lenses in front of the camera is quite another matter. The result is an unbelievably shallow depth of field, a very common practice in the world of professional cinema.
Beautiful Depth of Field
A shallow depth of field allows you to focus on the subject, leaving the rest out of focus. This isolates the subject from the background and allows the film maker to control where he wants to place the attention. If everything were sharp, the viewer could easily be distracted by details that do not matter to the storyline. The results of shooting with an HD video DSLR is simply amazing. However, working with a shallow depth of field is not easy: subjects tend to move around, so you have to keep turning the focus ring to keep them in focus. But this can be mastered.
There are still some challenges to this new DSLR video technology, but many third-party companies are stepping up with solutions to overcome the limitations.
DSLR cameras have definitely filled a void left behind by the market leaders in broadcast. True convergence in video production is now well underway. Should you go DSLR or stay with semi-professional video equipment? The answer all depends on what kind of video you are making, how much knowledge you have of DSLR technology and how much time you plan to invest in the project at hand.
Working with DSLRs, much like digital cinema, is probably better suited for those who have the time to set things up properly. Without any stabilization equipment and manual sound recording, DSLR may not the best camera to have for a quick press interview. You probably still want a shoulder-mounted ENG (Electronic News Gathering) camera for that. The typical price points of those, however, are not within most people’s budget. So if time is not of the essence, going with jazzed-up DSLR can be a very attractive alternative.