Archive for May 24th, 2010


Welcome to the Brave New World

I’m not a fan of the Hugh Laurie show “House,” but the last show of this season was worth watching on a TV-sized screen. The reason? The last episode — yes, the whole episode — was shot using a 35mm digital SLR camera (DSLR), the Canon 5D MKII, which you can buy at your local camera store for around $2500.00. Pretty amazing, eh?

This is nothing short of a landmark event in communications history: A multi-million dollar TV network show done on a 35mm camera. Imagine how this opens up opportunities to produce video on an elite level for people who do not have a major motion picture budget? Those of us in the business have known about the capabilities of the Canon 5D for several years now, mainly through the work of former New York Times photographer Vincent LaForet. He really showed the potential of the camera through his two-minute short film “Reverie” produced in 2008:

To date, my conclusion is that the Canon 5D MKII and HDDSLRS in general offer an incredible entry into filmmaking for a wide variety of individuals that would otherwise never have access to similar tools that would allow them to obtain the ‘professional film’ look. The economic barrier that has been around for so long (in terms of the incredibly high cost of cinema equipment) is being chipped away in part to the low cost of these camera bodies.

Canon 5D MKII all "rigged" up

Adding video capabilities to 35mm cameras is something relatively new. Unfortunately, one cannot get major production quality out of a camera like the 5D just by whipping it out of the box. The camera is just the start. Once you get it you need to build a “rig” to stabilize the camera and provide a way to get sharp focus. Plus, good lighting is essential no matter what sort of photography you are doing. Having the knowledge to recognize dramatic lighting and, if necessary, make it on your own with lights is no small skill. And you have to be able to edit, putting good images together that communicate a story. In reality, none of it is particularly easy.

Nevertheless, this breakthrough will forever change the way TV and film  is produced.