I suppose this shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise to anyone, and frankly, I welcome the change. I’ve always had a love of film, and more specifically cinema; there’s something special about the look of film, with the shallow depth of field resulting in beautiful bokeh, saturated colors, the fine grain and everything else that makes up the cinematic experience. The catch is, that for the most part, the industry has been moving away from film for years, proving over and over that digital is here to stay.
We’ve all heard about the cameras that RED has been putting out, but a slightly quieter revolution has been brewing with the usage of DSLR still cameras, which in recent years have started being equipped with Full 1080p HD video capabilities.
As I said, I love the look of film, and I don’t have to lose that just because film cameras are no longer being produced. Thankfully, with technology rapidly changing, DSLR cameras with CMOS sensors have enabled everyone to have the ability to record film-quality video with a wide range of options available. My current rig, a Canon EOS 60D with a set of prime lenses, including a Tokina 11-16/2.8 AT-X 116 PRO DX Ultrawide, a Sigma 30mm f/1.4 EX DC HSM Wide and a Sigma 50mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM Standard give me that beautiful bokeh, while post-production software like Red Giant Magic Bullet Suite allows me to dial in the look of any number of film stocks. The cost of all of this gear is minuscule when compared to a full film camera setup, even before you consider the cost of buying and processing reels and reels of film stock.
It’s also important to note that the CMOS sensor in a 1.6 crop sensor camera is roughly equivalent to a frame of Super 35mm film, as show in the chart to the left. This is why you’re starting to see many independent and small to mid-size production houses utilize these DSLR cameras for their shoots, as they are highly cost effective and allow significant savings to be passed along to the client which is a huge bonus in today’s competitive marketplace.
Truth be told, there are some drawbacks to using a DSLR as a video platform, because there are limitations due to the fact that it isn’t a fully featured camera. In the future you will see a whole new generation of video cameras with large CMOS sensors, as well as all of the features we already associate with professional video cameras, including XLR inputs, zebra striping, longer record times, etc. One of the early cameras of this nature to hit the market is the Canon XA10. Of course, this isn’t without it’s drawbacks, as it uses the AVCHD codec, which is not ideal for processional videography wor, and the lack of interchangeable lenses is a negative for many. That said, it’s still a wonderful camera and is just a preview of things to come.
It’s good to see the big boys like Panavision and ARRI joining the digital bandwagon. Now, the only question, at least for me, is when the dust settles, will we still call it filmmaking?