As a filmmaker, I feel so Blessed to a part of the DSLR Revolution. While reading the book, “DSLR Cinema” this evening, I realized that not only am I a part of something special, but I got in before it was popular. Almost two years ago, I was finishing the script for “Leap: Rise of the Beast” and trying to decide what camera to use. I was considering renting a RED or buying a workhorse like the JVC HD100u or the Panasonic HVX 200. A buddy of mine mentioned that DSLR still cameras had started to shoot video and that the images were looking really good. Having sold cameras at Best Buy a few years before, I “knew better”. Stills cameras can’t shoot good video. Why on earth would I shoot a movie with one?
A few months later, my buddy dragged me to a camera shop because he wanted to play with the newly released Canon 7D. Realizing that he may know something I didn’t, I brought along my laptop, hoping to dump some test footage to it that I could play with later. I had set a very high standard in my mind how my film needed to look and I was curious if this new camera would fill those shoes. I have to admit, it was a little awkward shooting video on a DSLR, but I was in total awe of the images that we were pulling out of it in the store. It look and felt CINEMATIC! While our test footage was transferring, the salesperson told us that Canon had just released another HDSLR with the same sensor as the 7D, but at half the price: the T2i.
After just one day of playing with the footage at home, I was sold. The color, the sharpness and the clarity blew me away. I immediately started researching everything I could find on these new cameras. There wasn’t a lot of info at the time, but there were a lot of opinions and test charts. I hate test charts. All I care about is how well the camera performs in the real world. As for opinions, there was a LOT of talk saying that these cameras needed to be locked down, that you couldn’t use the kit lens and blah blah blah. I was most interested in the T2i, mainly due to it’s low cost. I went to Best Buy and played with it, trying some more dynamic shots without a tripod. It looked great to me, so I was sold. In June 2010, just three months after the camera’s release, I ordered the T2i. It arrived on July 4, 2010. I took it out to the Fourth of July bash in Spokane and shot some test footage that I actually ended up using in the film.
Production for Rise of the Beast was scheduled to begin at the end of the month. I very quickly realized that I needed to come up with a workflow. My computer was seven years old at that point and simply could not handle the HD very well for editing. Poking around online, I found that nobody knew how to handle the footage on older machines (they all said you needed a fast computer) so I made the choice to bring back an older Hollywood technique, “offline” editing. This is where you create a very low rez version of your footage and cut that. Then you replace the footage with the HD version before grading and such. My computer only had a single Celeron processor and 2 gigs of RAM so this offline concept seemed like a good idea to me. It worked like a charm and by the time we started shooting, I was ready to go.
The shooting of the film also saw me challenging the “rules” with these new cameras. We shot 99% of the flick handheld using the collapsed tripod as a shoulder rig and I saw very little of the jello effects that people seemed so afraid of. Our film was also one of the first films shot on the T2i, the first one completed, and also the first T2i feature to use only the kit lens. Gotta break those rules. Near the end of shooting, a firmware hack called Magic Lantern was released for the camera. Many said it wasn’t production ready and that I might brick the camera. We used it anyway. Having used ML since the first release, I now won’t shoot any of my projects without it. The features it gives makes this camera better than even some of the high end cinema cameras that are out there!
Now almost two years later, the market is flooded with these cameras and the T2i is an old man-an old man that can run circles around you. Anyone who has a story to tell now has the means to do so. Everyone knows about these cameras now and what they are capable of. It’s almost to the point of being hip to say, “yeah, I shoot on a DLSR”. As I finish the script for my next film, I feel a sense of freedom. I’m not having to prove anything to anyone this time. I can shoot this film and concentrate on the story and the beauty of the images. That’s what this revolution has been all about. The freedom to create.