What are you guys fighting over? Go out and make a film!
Okay, I can admit to getting carried away with arguments (especially film related ones) on the internet. I just think this DSLR revolution is like Christmas for filmmakers, whether you’re a professional, amateur or hobbyist. An episode of House shot on them, parts of Black Swan, not to mention numerous commercials and music videos. And they’re available to literally anyone at an extremely affordable price. What’s not to love about this? I’ve been making movies since I was a kid and this is the most exciting time I can remember as a filmmaker. To quote Louis CK, “Everything’s amazing and nobody is happy.”
So if I was getting a little worked up, that’s why.
First off – this is a great conversation to be having. And no matter what kind of camera you have access to, my advice would be to get out there and use it. Don’t wait until you can afford the “ultimate camera”, because by the time it’s in your hands, something “better” will already be in production. Go out and shoot!
That said, I have to disagree with almost all criticisms leveled at DSLRs (more specifically the Canon 7D) when it comes to shooting films with them. In my experience, shooting movies with the 7D is not a “gimmick”. It’s simply one of the things that the camera does, and it does it very well. Previously, still cameras included a “video feature” as an afterthought, but that’s simply not the case anymore. Don’t judge a book by its cover, so to speak. And if the form factor bothers you, there are plenty of ways to dress up the camera to give it a more traditional look.
I’m currently shooting a feature on the 7D. I shot 3 shorts with it last year as well. After 2000+ shots thus far on the current film, the camera has performed even better than I expected, and the footage looks terrific. Not to mention that our “B” camera is the Canon T2i which shoots comparable stuff – at an even lower price point (for the camera body) of $700. My DVX, which I really loved in its time, is collecting dust. If you’ve never used a DSLR camera before, there are things to learn in terms of lens choices, focusing, sound recording, etc. But there are things to learn with any new camera, so these aren’t real reasons to look elsewhere.
Good quality lenses are everywhere – at good prices – you just have to do a little shopping around. For instance, I’m using a Canon EF 50mm 1.8 for some of the shots in this film, and they look amazing (a good lighting setup and beautiful actresses account for some of that, I’m sure) But that lens cost under $100.
And the stabilizer I’m using only cost $80. So, when we want to go handheld, it’s no problem. A monitor helps things, but the LCD on the 7D does a fine job in helping me set up my shots without it. Of course, some of the finer points, like pulling focus and following a moving subject can only come with more experience, but that’s the case with most things on the technical side of filmmaking. If you’re just starting out, you’re going to have to work at it regardless. Frankly, the learning process never ends when it comes to making movies – or at least it shouldn’t.
What it all comes down to is, I wouldn’t hesitate for a second to recommend the Canon 7D to anyone who is looking to make movies. If you’re on a tighter budget, then think about the Canon T2i. I don’t think you’ll be kicking yourself at all for heading down the DSLR path.
Unless of course you’re the CEO of RED and you think that anyone who isn’t shooting 4K in January 2011 is wasting their time. :)
@ Michael – “Christmas for filmmakers” is a great way to put it. I’m amazed at the things I can afford to do today that even just a few years ago would have been completely out of my price range. I’m doing more with less.
And if the form factor bothers you, there are plenty of ways to dress up the camera to give it a more traditional look.
Hello, Bert- in my very first remark I stated that I’m not at all interested in purchasing expensive crap in order to bring these devices into an alignment that is supposed to compensate for their problems of form. They are what they are. If that’s not a factor, then use them. What can I say? I don’t care. I was contemplating buying a Nikon D700, strictly for still work, but it’s a brick (smaller than the truly ridiculous 5D, its still a brick) and I don’t wan’t to lug such a thing around. It’s how I engage with the world. When I’m working, I’d rather not announce to the world that I’m stalking it. I may buy one yet but use it as a vacation instrument only. My issues with compact digital cameras are extensive. These fucking manufacturers simply will not market a camera with the features that photographers across the globe are clamoring for and which is well within the ability of these companies to provide. But we’re not discussing stills cameras. As for the rest, I prefer small, smart, and stealth, with a capable compact mic of excellent quality, which all fits easily in a carry bag. As I’ve become more interested in fiction/documentary hybrids, I’m certainly not willing to be burdened by a 5D, lenses, and a preposterous shoulder rig. It doesn’t suit my aesthetic. Period. I really have nothing else to add.
I bought my first HD camera six years ago for $2,500 bucks. I started shooting with the 7D last year and was instantly hooked. I have a camera body, two batteries, a Canon 50mm 1.4 lens and two memory cards. All that clocked in at UNDER two grand. You simply can’t beat it. Prior to falling in love with the DSLRs, I gave serious thought to the HVX, which I thought (and still think) looks great but these simply look better. And they’re cheaper. I’ve done a few things now with the 7D, one of those was a Doritos spec commercial. The almost universal feedback I got was that it “looked like something you’d see on TV.”
I have an awesome DP for one thing and I know my way around post production but it’s that camera. And add to that, as a lot of commercials use the DSLRs, it is something you’d see on TV. So I’m with 100%, man. Do you have a VImeo or YouTube page?
@ Michael – No Vimeo page right now, but looking toward getting one. Haven’t put anything online in a while. I hope to change that soon. So incredibly busy right now with shooting my friend’s feature, but I’ll find the time.
Have you guys seen the prices of super16 cameras on ebay?
You can get an ARRi SR2 or SR3 for a steal, and you get the “film” look we’re all chasing!
Umm, yeah, at least $2000. What a steal, then you can buy film for it, get the film developed, and then get the film converted to digital. Much easier and cheaper than $1000 for a DSLR and a memory card…
Who said anything about chasing the “film” look? It’s agreed upon that digital has its own look and aesthetic. The DSLRs just look extremely professional (under the right circumstances of course). Austin’s right, there’s nothing practical about using Super 16 cameras.
While it may be agreed upon that digital has its own look, no one’s going for that look except for Michael Mann. His promotion of the digital aesthetic has been understandably scorned, though I hope he’s just ahead of the bell curve. Miami Vice and Public Enemies look absolutely epic.
Everyone seems to be quite happy trying to capture the elusive ‘soft’ look of film with their digital cameras. I don’t think I’ve ever come across a director or photographer who’s taken their digital camera and talked about sharp details and bright colours — something which digital generally excels at — rather, they talk about latitude and DOF traditionally practiced with film equipment; latitude is something digital is still catching up to film with, and depth of field can be an issue for digital cameras with small sensors.
So digital still needs to “catch up” to film? You better let Roger Deakins know:
Spin this. I dare any of you.
Deakins is talking about the ALEXA camera, not a DSLR like mentioned here. Not to mention the lenses he uses cost 10x the price most people spend on their entire DSLR rig in the indie world. It’s not really a fair comparison.
The statement was digital is still catching up to film. Not DSLR cameras are catching up to film. Nobody was debating that 5Ds and 7Ds were in the same league as film. I’m guessing he was referring to digital in general. And so the spin begins.
I just spent an hour writing a reply, and it all got lost on the internet. >:(
I’ll be back. Your anti-spinning facilities better be at full strength. You’re dealing with an avid photographer =P
OK, here’s the deal. Film is still great, assuming you have a decent budget. Digital is really catching up to film, if you have a decent budget. If you have about $1,000 to spend on your camera/“stock,” a DSLR is where it’s at. It can be very sharp and detailed or you can use some older lenses with a little more “character” to get a softer look. DOF is insane on a 5D, and very good on a GH1/GH2 or 7D. Latitude doesn’t match film yet.
So that’s pretty much it. Use film if you want, it will look great, but it will cost a lot more. At the level the OP is at, a DSLR clearly makes the most sense.
Latitude on DSLRs isn’t at film yet? Agreed. But you’ve got DPs like Roger Deakins saying they think digital cameras have surpassed film. That’s the Alexa and the new Red EPIC has eighteen stops of latitude while the best 35mm cameras only have about 13.
So if we’re talking DSLRs, yeah, nobody said those match film. But the Alexa? Roger Deakins, man. He knows more than all of you.
not to mention that if the Canon 5D Mark ii captured Raw video (which we’re imagining the mark iii will be doing) it is said to have a higher resolution than 35mm film.
but latitude and all that.. yea not yet .. but if in 5 years we will have prosumer level cameras ($3000-$6000) – (based off the brain system) that will surpass the technical qualities of film (but lack the organic/soft nature most people like)
Michael, Roger Deakins may be one of the greatest living DPs out there, but he’s not the most technically minded, and if you’ve followed him throughout the years, he admits just as much. His comments about shooting on the Alexa Vega, the idea that the image ‘saturates’ and ‘sparkles’, is the EXACT look that most people are trying not to achieve with digital. Digital saturates and sparkles because of the way the electronic signal reproduces light information coming into the lens.
It’s not all about raw specs though, it’s simply about how information is recorded, something digital cannot replicate by its very nature. Canon’s latest and greatest DSLR’s have a much more film-esque look than many digital cameras two or three times their price (and factually two or three times better), and that’s simply because of the way the CMOS sensor takes the image, as well as the lenses available for the 5D.
Film doesn’t look magnificent because of it’s unbridled power, rather, it looks cinematic because of it’s incapability to record light very well. There’s a specific resolution, dynamic range, and color space that film only ever records. Most DPs know this, and in fact, because of that, those digital-loving DPs are actually trying to say that the monochromatic color space, 24 frames per second, and 12 stop range average is weak, and only cinematic as it has been accepted over the last 100 years. It will be interesting to see if the latest digital movies (I’m thinking Avatar 2) can make people accept a framerate over 60 or 100.
Did anyone ever think our eyes had a cinematic edge? =P
And just to put it out there because DSLRs are getting an unfair rap: the image of the better DSLRs can, if given the right lighting conditions, provide an image that film can. The only reason you would not shoot with a DSLR on a big budget project is the fact that it’s just a tacked on extra to a still camera. There’s hardly any control features, it’s too small, and for all intents and purposes, just generally unwieldy in a motion picture shoot. It can be good for second unit or pickups, but even then, you best pray that the elements are on your side.
With digital camcorders, even from the early days, you’ve had amazing control over how the images look, as it was built for motion picture shooting. The only issue would’ve been that it didn’t ape the film look, given it’s lack of visual fidelity.
“His comments about shooting on the Alexa Vega, the idea that the image ‘saturates’ and ‘sparkles’, is the EXACT look that most people are trying not to achieve with digital. "
Being a director of photography isn’t about finding a particular ethstetic as such, it’s about finding a particular ethstetic that best fits that particular scene or that particular film more generally. If the Vega best accomplishes that goal, so be it.
“Being a director of photography isn’t about finding a particular ethstetic as such, it’s about finding a particular ethstetic that best fits that particular scene or that particular film more generally. If the Vega best accomplishes that goal, so be it.”
Do you mean aesthetic?
In that case I wholeheartedly agree with you, but that wasn’t the point of discussion. The point I brought up was ‘digital can’t look like film’, to which the reply was ‘oh, yes it can, Roger Deakins said so’.
The fact of the matter is, digital does have it’s own aesthetic, and one which Deakins chose to use for his new film. I do take opposition to Deakin’s comment, however, that to simply get the look of film you can ‘fiddle around in post-production’. It’s definitely not as easy as it sounds.
“Ethstetic” is a word.
Kelly Reichardt on why she shot Meek’s Cutoff in Academy ratio:
“I had a rule of no vistas. (Laughs) It was for a bunch of reasons. It seemed to make a lot of sense. I mean, just on an aesthetic level, I really like the square. I like the desert and the square. I was kind of inspired by Robert Adams and his American West [photography]. His photos and the square. It gives you this foreground: you get the height over the mountains and the sky. But it also worked for the vision that the women have in their bonnets, this lack of peripheral vision and this straight-ahead, no-nonsense perspective. And then also if you’re traveling seven to twelve miles a day, and you have widescreen, it’s like, “There’s tomorrow! I can see it in the screen! And there’s yesterday!” So this was a way of keeping you locked in the moment and not getting ahead of where the emigrants were. I think that helped build tension, because you could not see what was around the next corner. It just worked in a bunch of different ways."
Someone needs to hit the reset button on this thread.
Just to set the record straight, and so no one misunderstands, none of these DSLR’s shoot true 1920×1080, they’re much closer to 720 to be specific (speaking of the 5D which uses about 1/13 of it’s 21 mega pixel sensor in video mode).
Most are very soft when projected on a 40 foot screen. If you saw the Oscar nominated shorts projected you know what I mean. Even the Sundance hit, “Tiny Furniture”, shot on the 7D, was soft. The film-out process hid some of the flaws that DSLR’s are susceptible to: moire, aliasing, macro-blocking, rolling shutter, pixel binning, line skipping, skew, 4:2:0 sub-sampled chroma space, h.264 codec, (need I go on?). If you’re not familiar with some of these artifacts I invite you to dig around a little and see what you come up with.
So yeah, there are a myriad number of reasons NOT to use a DSLR. Essentially you need a good reason TO shoot with one. Budget? That’s a very legitimate reason. I own a 5D, I love it, I have a film screening in Cannes next month that I shot with two of them, but I couldn’t convince clients like Discovery Channel to use one. And I recognize it can’t compare with film.
Don’t be fooled by tests you watch on your computer, they’ve all been compressed beyond any useful evaluation. Always download the files to mitigate Vimeo or YouTube compression.
Let’s step back and get the facts straight. Resolution is low, bitrates are low (17-45 MB/s), chroma sampling is low (4:2:0), etc. These ARE great cameras, the hype and misinformation is what interferes with rational decision making.
BTW, I wouldn’t hold out for a RAW enabled 5DMKIII anytime soon.
Congrats on Cannes, Bill. All the best.
hahaha!!! arguing about cameras and image capturing devices is about as silly as painters arguing about brushes and brush strokes… they are nothing but tools. nothing more.. nothing less.. come on guys go out and shoot something. and really express yourself.. with anything you can get your hands on…
Dean speaks the truth, let’s arm ourselves with PixelVision cameras and join the “revolution”.
Oh, I’ve always said I look at the digital vs film argument as silly as oil vs acrylic in painting … you choose the best tool based on the piece at hand, but I felt we were just discussing the merits of different cameras, nothing wrong with that. Just some tech talk (at least that’s all I was trying to take part in)
I have projects for digital and those for film… from P2 devices to DSLR to DV to 8mm and 35mm … all depends on the project at hand. Nothing is better than the other.