8.25.2010

Quick update

Things are moving slowly. Freelancing is at a discouraging plateau currently but it will hopefully pick up. Still helping out on various Freddiew productions for youtube and working with colleagues on various web related stuff, as well as helping out/gaffing for a trailer for a friend's awesome in-progress feature.


Pictured above: I helped out Brandon and Freddie a little bit on their Time Crisis video with Andy Whitfield. It was a blast. Andy is a pretty rad dude, laid back, making the crew laugh.

Other than those things, I'm mostly just getting various random gigs that aren't really anything to write home about. I've been back on the HVX200 a lot recently. It's a great camera. But trying to find a p2 card reader to rent? It's like p2 cards are obsolete already. Sheesh.

In other news, I took the plunge and got myself a Canon EOS 7D. Now, by all means I am not saying this is the absolute best camera to get if you are a cinematographer looking to buy a camera. But it makes the most sense for me at this time. And because I'm sure you're dying to know, here is some of my reasoning, explained:

First, my day job is shooting stills and headshot photography. I rely on photography gigs to make sure I can remain working for myself and control my schedule so I can freelance as a DP. My current still camera is getting worn out, so a decent, new still camera is a necessity, as much as the video camera is. The 7D offered me two-in-one. (The obvious follow-up question: But the 5DmkII is higher quality! Full sensor! Etc etc! Yeah, I've done the comparisons, and frankly what really did it for me was that the 7D was designed with video in mind, whereas in the 5D, it was more of an afterthought. Also, quality-wise? Really not much different. Also: price taaaag.)

Second, 7D's are pretty popular right now among low-budget films, and there seem to be a lot of productions hoping to shoot on DSLR's. This can be both a good thing (more chance of getting hired on) but it can also be a really annoying thing, as a lot of DPs are discovering that the 5D's and 7D's are becoming favorites of producers and directors just because they are new, shiny, accessible and inexpensive... and the dialogue of whether this camera is the best for a shoot or not is often overlooked. Also, because it is a DSLR, once someone gets their hands on one, it is a common occurrence for them to suddenly consider themselves a cinematography expert, exasperating cinematographers across the earth.

And third: I have to say it, because my currently lame financial situation was a big factor. The 7D IS less expensive than other prosumer HD video cameras (say, compared to a Sony EX3 or even an HVX 200) and still has comparable quality, with a few unique drawbacks that I looked at and considered before purchasing (see my quick write-up of when I shot an action scene with the 7D.) I do love the interchangeable lenses without having to deal with an adapter. Love love love lenses.

Fourth, a lot of the personal projects I'm working on don't require something like the Red or Arri Alexa. The 7D seems like the logical choice for a lot of the things I'm working on. Maybe further down the road, I will be working consistently enough to think about investing in a more versatile camera. But right now, the 7D has what I need.

And yes, I know. Everyone and their mother has the 7D now. I'm sure people will tire of it and the next big trendy thing will come along quickly enough. But I want to remind people of something of which I often have to remind myself— it's not the equipment you have. It's how you use it. You can have the shittiest camera ever, but it will get your story told. As a camera person, you are a storyteller, not a glorified fancy-equipment-operating-machine. The real question is if you can tell a good story or not.

The 7D is the best choice for me at this current time. I'm excited to get out there and see what I can do with it. And I named it. ...Don Draper.

Also, Bill Pope (ASC) is the man, I hope you all saw Scott Pilgrim vs The World.

Also also, someone suggested to me talking about lighting. Cinematography is light, so I suppose it's due time to write about it! I'll try and think of some stuff to write up on some past experiences. I'm all about interesting lighting. I'm also a big supporter of using available sources. (And no, it's not because I can't afford big expensive lights.) More on that later...


Summary: I like viral videos, Bill Pope and weird lights. Bought a 7D.

2 comments :

FoodCritic said...

Is a letus adapter worth it for HVX200 owners?

LH said...

@FoodCritic

It really depends on the type of things you're shooting. It can look very beautiful but can slow you down, add bulk, and cost you some light. My favorite aspect of the HVX is that it's compact and easy to run around with, while still giving you a great image, and the adapter kind of ruins that fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants freedom for me. I'm not sure what your experience with the letus has been like, but here's what I noticed:

When I used the letus I was on the Sony EX3. I think the letus is great for that camera, and I loved how our footage came out. But with the letus, lens and support bars, the camera was long, heavy and a bit cumbersome. This was ok for us, as the type of stuff we were shooting was always kept on the tripod, either still or on a dolly, with controlled lighting. The film was very much a lot of talking and ambience. I had to do handheld for only one shot and hated it (heavy, unwieldy without renting proper rigs) and wanted to get back on the dolly. I also relied heavily on having an AC/focus puller on that shoot in order to move quickly.

Also, since the light has to travel through a lot more stuff to get to the camera sensor, a lot of light is lost. Low-light situations got tricky for us.

So what is the kind of stuff you are shooting with your HVX? If you're more hand-held and fast-moving with a small crew, it most likely won't be worth it, as I believe it detracts from the original charm of the HVX. If you are shooting in more controlled conditions, it might be worth looking into if you think the stories you're shooting would truly benefit from that "look". You get to play with nice lenses and get DOF comparable to 35mm.

There is also the added benefit of having that equipment available for potential jobs, if you're a freelancing DP. But if you're shooting your own stuff, I would take a look at the kind of stories you're telling… and if you feel that "look" is necessary for your films, go for it. Again, it all comes back to your film. What serves your story the best? What is necessary (and not necessary?)

Short version:
If you haven't shot using a letus yet, rent or borrow one and feel it out first! The letus served me well on the EX3, but personally, it's not something I enjoyed working with all that much. I probably wouldn't recommend it for the HVX, but that is based on my personal experiences and preferences. Go with what your story calls for.

Hope that helps somewhat!