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HDSLR Cinema: State of the Art

A lot of people ask me about video, and which of the latest crop of HDSLR camera’s they should buy.

There’s a ton of hype out there, so I’ll give you the low down from my perspective:

First the good news:
HDSLR is capable of creating cinema quality work previously only achievable with gear costing orders of magnitude more.

For an example of what’s possible, this was made on the exact same camera body I use to shoot weddings. There are a million technical elements in this short, ravishing film that were only within reach of the commercial movie houses before HDSLRs (and some of it is actually only possible on a HDSLR)

Now the bad news:
The cost of shooting HD cinema goes wayyy beyond a camera body, (something I’m not sure is widely understood.)

So, let’s break it down:
In order to shoot something like ‘reverie’, we’re going to need:

Some decent lenses – figure on spending about $2,000 here, but $10,000 is more realistic

Hand holding (the camera) is out of the question for most shots, so we’ll need a tripod and fluid head – $1,000 minimum, but $3,000 on up is more realistic.

We’ll need to create shots where the camera moves as well as the subject. For that we’ll need rails, dollies, focusing systems, a crane boom, and maybe even a Steadycam – $2,000 bare minimum, but between the cost of a decent used car and a brand new Mercedes is more realistic.

There’s a bunch of other gear we’ll need: editing software, audio recording gear, monitors, lighting, lighting modifiers and a few cases. Minimum here would be $3,000 but between $10,000 and infinity is more realistic.

A helicopter doesn’t hurt for those sexy night time aerial shots – $2,500 an hour, last time I checked.

So, add that little lot up and your looking at something like $10,000 minimum. Now we’re all set to shoot something approaching a short film, but don’t forget to allow money for models, editors, assistants, location permits etc.

A little tongue in cheek, of course, but you get my drift. While nobody I know has ever seriously made the claim that a movie like reverie can by shot for the price of a camera body of course, it’s implied, sometimes more than implied:

Now there is nothing except 3000$ dollars seperation you from your dream of becoming the next Steven Spielberg, so what are you waiting for, pick up and join the revelution, we here at THE FREE FILM SCHOOL are already here. source:
“free film school”

HDSLR technology definitely allows us to create movies that are limited only by our imaginations, but the cost of entry into this world is prohibitive to all but the very wealthy, or high-end professionals.

I make a point of taking a long hard look at the state of video every 12 months or so, attend a workshop or two here and there, to really look under the hood. At some point it will become a value proposition (my first love and the primary focus of my work will always be still photography however).

My advice is to take the breathless claims with a huge grain of salt. Buy yourself one of the consumer models and have fun with it, because truly they are fun, but be realistic. Making the next ‘reverie’ will set you back a lot more than the cost of a camera body, and if all you want to do is take a few short family video clips a camcorder is still the best bang for your buck.

I’ll report back on where we’re at this time next year….

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