I guess I’m a few weeks late, but looking through my blog the other day, I realized that Valentines weekend marked my six year anniversary of shooting HD. My first encounter with Hi-Definition was borrowing a Sony FX1 to shoot a teaser for Rise of the Beast. Because it was HDV, my then eight year old computer actually handled the footage okay.
A few months later, I purchased the Canon 550D or Rebel T2i to shoot my third feature film, Leap: Rise of the Beast (the first completed T2i feature, as well as the first shot with just the kit lens). This was about a year into the DSLR craze and I was so excited to finally have my own HD camera that shot 24 fps, had shallow depth of field, and shot 1080p (At the time, 1080i was pretty much the norm)!
I shot with the T2i for five years and I grew tenfold during that time as a cinematographer and filmmaker. I had to understand white balance, f-stop, framerate, and shutter speed, as well as how they all worked together. I experimented with picture styles and lighting, and I discovered new ways to move the camera with sliders and a Glidecam, as well as get interesting shots by controlling the depth of field. Because my computer was so old, I created my own offline/online workflow just to edit my movies. For me, the 550D helped me become a better and more knowledgeable filmmaker. I had gone from outdated SD cameras to cutting edge HD.
If you follow me on YouTube or Facebook, you’re aware that in May of 2015, my house caught fire. It destroyed most of my filmmaking gear. Even things that didn’t melt no longer worked the same, including my camera. I began researching what the current cameras were and I almost settled on the latest iteration of the Rebel series, but then I got to thinking. As much as I loved the images I was getting, there were some issues: Rolling Shutter, Moire, and Aliasing. The more I began to look at the current options, the more glaring those issues became to me. So I made up my mind to purchase a camera that solved those issues, as well as be a camera that I would be able to grow with, as I had with the 550D. Ultimately, I found that the URSA Mini 4k was my dream camera and could give me everything I wanted. So in January, I pulled the trigger and bought the camera and accessories.
The images that the URSA Mini can produce are incredible, but the camera comes with it’s own learning curve that I can explore over time as I’m ready. I can shoot in what I call “DSLR Mode”, which is a nice, colorful and contrasty image, or I can shoot in LOG, which is nice and flat, perfect for grading. I spent almost six years with the DLSR, so I’m teaching myself LOG. As computer storage becomes more affordable, I’ll be able to grow into 4K and even RAW video, so this is definetly a camera that will last me another five years.
During my time with HD, I’ve come to notice some trends. During the heyday of the DSLR, almost every video you’d see included some sort of timelapse. They were easy to do, much easier than ever before. Now, as higher framerates are becoming standard on cameras, slow motion is all the rage. It’s almost impossible to find a camera test today that doesn’t include a slow motion shot of a beautiful woman in the breeze or some body of water gracefully making it’s way across the image. As 4K becomes more common as an acquisition format, there is another trend that I’m actually disappointed in: Repos. A repo is where you reposition/re-frame a shot, or add a camera motion to it where non existed before. Why don’t I like this? Because it encourages lazy cinematography. Most films are still mastered at 1080/2K, so the extra resolution allows you to re-frame a shot without losing an quality. While I do believe this can be useful on the rare occasion, many filmmakers today are getting lazy about their composition and camera movement, instead choosing to make those decisions in the edit.
As cynical as I am about the current trend, I truly love how technology has challenged me to grow as a filmmaker these past six years and I’m excited to see what the next six have in store for me.