I have to lay some ground rules on this post: I am a visual media creator and tech geek. Talking about this stuff gets me cranked up, but it can make other people’s eyes glaze over. So, if you have a passion for image creation and technology, read on; otherwise, you may find that your Facebook status needs updating or there is a book you need to catch up on.
As a photographer and filmmaker I have always been after the “look” in my imagery. I know a visual image will not stand up without a good story behind it, but I have always tried to create beautiful imagery to go along with the story. When I talk of the “look” in digital motion images, what I mean is that the image looks like traditional motion film. There are many things that give images a film-like quality, but one of the major ones is a shallow depth of field. Shooting with video cameras has a drawback that there is a large depth of field. Almost everything is in focus. Without going into too much of a technical explanation, it has to do with the small sensor size of most digital video cameras. To get this shallow depth of field on one of these video cameras, we would go to great lengths and attach what is called a depth of field or “DOF” adapter. It is basically a device that allows us to use traditional 35mm lenses by attaching these lenses to a box with a spinning ground glass in it onto which the lens focuses its image. The video camera would then focus onto the ground glass. Sounds confusing, doesn’t it? Well, try lugging one of these set- ups half way around the world, all just to get the “look”. Trust me, it is not an easy thing to carry around.
Well, now to the exciting stuff…
The new series of HD DSLRs that have hit the market in the last year or so and have rocked the industry in ways I do not think that anyone could have predicted. These are the digital 35mm cameras you can get at the local Best Buy. Our studio happens to be Canon-based, and we use the 5DII and 7D. Canon originally added HD video to their 5DII so that photo journalists in the field could grab video footage also. These cameras are able to produce full HD footage. The big deal with these cameras is that they have a large sensor. I do not want to get too technical, but having the large sensor used with traditional 35mm lenses enables us to get that shallow depth of field that us image makers crave. When these cameras came out, people realized they could take a $2,500 camera and have the capabilities to shoot television commercials or dramatic movies. This was a huge deal.
Now, this is just first generation stuff, and there are still some technical issues to deal with, but we are making these cameras work in ways people never thought possible. Several of this past years’ Super Bowl commercials were shot with one of these cameras, and commercials that are being aired on network TV everyday have been shot with them. They’re being used to shoot large motion pictures, and big names in Hollywood are working with them. One of the great things about this is that the playing field has been leveled. If you have a great story and the eye to shoot great imagery, you can produce incredible quality productions at a fraction of the cost.
There is so much more I could ramble on about these game-changing cameras. It is easy to get caught up in focusing too much on technology and forgetting they are simply tools to get and end result. The exciting thing is that it is now so much easier to get that “look”.
Any new ways of shooting or photo apps you are in love with? What sorts of technology is getting you excited? Let us know.