It’s hard to believe, but Valentines Day marked my one year anniversary of shooting HD. I had borrowed a friend’s Sony FX1 and shot a proof of concept for Leap 2 by filming the opening scene. Coming into this, I knew nothing about HD other than that 1080 is better than 720. After that first shoot, I was hooked, even though I was shooting 1080 at 60i. The sharpness and detail was incredible. I even tagged this scene to the end of Leap when we screened it at the theater last March. Leap was shot on a Canon ZR800-a palmcorder. It looked good projected, but the HD looked amazing!
I started researching HD cameras and basically became an expert overnight. I ended up jumping onto the RED bandwagon after downloading some of their footage and playing with it, however the $20k price tag was a bit out of my range without funding. I then set my sights on the mysterious RED Scarlet, but when it became apparent that this camera wouldn’t be out in time for production, I had to leave RED behind. I’m the kind of filmmaker that gets movies made. I don’t wait around until I have “the perfect gear”.
In April, on a whim, I went with a buddy to a local camera store because he wanted to play with the Canon 7D, a DSLR that shoots video at 1080p with various framerates. I was skeptical, having heard all these nasty rumors that these cameras can’t be used for production due to moire, rolling shutter and aliasing. However, I was intrigued by the camera and shot some footage myself. I brought my laptop and dumped the footage to it right there in the store. Upon playing with the footage back home, I was sold. It was BEAUTIFUL! The DoF was amazing, and I loved the sharpness and clarity. After doing some more research into this DSLR thing, I came across the Canon Rebel T2i, a little camera that cost less than $1000 but gives me interchangeable lenses, DoF, 1080 24p and great lowlight performance. I knew this would be the camera for me.
I proceeded to school myself in photography basics since these cameras don’t operate like typical video cams. I had to learn about f stop, ISO, shutterspeed and more. By the end of June, I placed the order for our Rebel. By choosing this camera, we went from using outdated technology to becoming a pioneer in the DLSR revolution by being one of the first feature films to be shot on the T2i (there were six of us filming at the same time), and THE first feature to use just the kit lens that comes with the camera. I also developed my own workflow for using the footage with my now almost 8 year old computer.
One of the biggest things I’ve learned through all this is that you can’t listen to what other people when they say it can be done. I’ve been told that you can’t shooting a cinematic movie with the kit lens. I’ve done it. I’ve been told you can’t shoot a Bourne style action film with a DLSR because of it’s shortcomings. We’ve done it. If you really want to know what something can do, you need to test it for yourself. I am in love with this new technology and really love that now anyone can get their hands on a camera that can be used to shoot cinematic images. I’ve heard a rumor that some film schools are even purchasing Rebels to give to their students to use, rather than having them use 16mm like they used to. This is a very exciting time to be a filmmaker. Yes, these cameras mean more competition, but at the same time “the creme rises to the top”.
What’s more, these cameras can be “pimped” to make them more suitable for filmwork as seen here. By the time you finish pimpin’ the camera body is only a small part of the entire rig, but don’t be fooled. You can shoot a movie with a minimal setup. We’ve done it.
Here’s the rig we used for the later part of the film. I used my tripod as a shoulder mount and built a viewfinder for $5. I’ve since bought one, but this did the job fine. I was editing some BTS stuff the other night and it was really neat to see how our camera rig changed from just the basic camera with lens hood to using a black shirt draped over my head to block sunlight to the rig you see in this pic
So yeah, it’s been an amazing and educational year. I can’t wait to see what this year has in store.