There is a certain show, nestled in the deserts of Nevada, that may spark your interest if you’re film lover such as myself. The annual National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) show in Las Vegas. (Not to be confused with the North American Baptist Conference, which from what I gather is far less fun, and much more God fearing). Nevertheless, NAB is yearly trade show that historically speaking, centered mainly on radio and television broadcasting. However, with the advent of this thing called the Interwebs, it seems the focus of the show has slowly been shifting towards the “prosumer” market: Guys like myself, who salivate over the tease of Canon releasing a new DSLR.
However, it’s not just the Internet that is responsible for NAB’s recent changes. Cinema-style cameras are becoming cheaper and cheaper, and much more accessible to indie-filmmakers and video enthusiasts. NAB has become a trade show to content developers. And anyone with a web browser and a Vimeo account can attest to the constant bombardment of DSLR videos and shallow depth-of-field examples that populate the popular video-sharing site. It has become home to thousands of DIY video tips on how to achieve that “film-look” without spending the film cash. (it has also become the home to thousands of pretentious, over-cranked “art films” that carry very little substance, but we’ll save that rant for another time).
Cameras like the Arri Alexa, The Red One, & The Panavision Genesis have proved to be fine digital tools in modern day film-making. In fact, it’s becoming harder and harder to distinguish between film and digital. (Unless the film you’re watching was directed by George Lucas). However, not everyone has $60K-$100K bucks to spend on a video camera. But because of the DSLR movement, new technology, and increasingly-robust editing tools, the whole concept of “guerrilla film-making” has completely changed. Over the years I’ve discovered some amazing short-films that LOOK extremely professional. I imagine most of these shorts were filmed on DSLRs or various equivalents, but coming out NAB, there have been several new “toys” announced over the last few days that many content creators may want to keep an eye on.
Here are some of my favorites:
1.) The Canon EOS 1D-C:
- Shoots 4K ( 4096 x 2160 / 8-bit 4:2:2 video / @ 24 fps)
- Media – CF Card
- Features two full-RAW output options @ 4096 x 2960 (requires external recording device)
- Half RAW Feature for 3840 x 1080 resolutions @ 10-bit 4:4:4 (120 fps) (which is fucking awesome)
- Offers CLEAN-HDMI OUT (1080p)
The DSLR is not for stills anymore. Say what you want about the 5DMk2-Mk3, the Canon 7D, and everyother DSLR camera on the market….it’s primary function has always been to shoot amazing still images. Now enter the EOS 1D-C, the “successor” to the 1D-X; except this camera has been ultimately fine tuned for video. Canon even showed off what appears to be a new compact-prime lens set for the device that will probably cost an additional mortgage payment, but when you can cram high-end video optics into a device this small, you open up a world full of new video opportunities. Even at a staggering $15,000, we’re still talking a ¼ of the price of an Arri Alexa. Granted, you could spend an additional $15,000 on glass & digital media-recorders, but what you get is still a cheaper, and much more mobile camera setup for that shooter on the run.
2.) The Canon C500:
- Shoots 4K /4096 x 2160/ RAW (only through external recorder via 3G-SDI out)
- Also shoots full 1080p via 2 CF Card Slots
- 3G-SDI (HDSDI) out
- Available in Canon and PL mount
- Features a new 8.85-megapixel Super 35 sensor
- Records @ 50mbps video(1-60fps)
In the wise words of Andy Dufrane: “ If you’ve come this far, maybe you’re willing to come a little further.” So, how does Canon release a newly-updated version of it’s popular C300 video camera they just released 6 months ago without cannibalizing its sales figures? They charge you twice as much if you want to upgrade. At first, I’d be super-pissed off if I had just dropped $15,000 bucks on the C300, only to learn soon after, Canon is offering a 4K RAW solution to its high-end cinema style cameras. But then I’d just sell it, take the hit, and realize if I can afford the C300, what’s another $15k. I mean, let’s face it: Cinematography is an expensive hobby, and think of how the Canon 1D-X owners feel. Regardless, the new C500 is a beast. I expect quite a few feature-length films to spawn throughout the wake if its release. Whereas the C300 is great for documentary film-making, the C500 now lets Canon compete with Red & Arri in grabbing a share of the indie-film market. Granted it may still cost most of us a few months pay to produce something polished enough to submit to Sundance, but the savings & appeal in renting a C500 over an Arri Alexa may soon be something film purists no longer scoff at. (then again, most film purists still prefer FILM over digital anyway, so screw ‘em).
3.) The Sony NEX-FS700
- Under $10,000
- Shoots Full 1080p HD @ 60i, 24p, 25p or 30p in AVCHD 2.0 @ 28mb/s (Can record 3G HD-SDI output native 23.98, 25, 29.97)
- Various High Speed Modes – Full 1080p HD @ 120 and 240 frames per second in an 8 or 16 second bursts respectively. (Can record up to 960fps)
- Uses uses a new 4K “Exmor” Super 35 CMOS sensor
- An aftermarket Firmware update will allow the camera to output 4K bit-stream data over 3G HD-SDI when used with an optional Sony 4K recorder
Esqueeze-me? This may very well be your DSLR killer right here. All this for under 10 grand. The NEX-FS700 may be ugliest camera in this list, but it could be the biggest bang for your buck. You can output Full-HD 50p and 60p via 3GHD-SDI and HDMI connectors, record super-clean slow-motion footage, record decent audio, use timecode, use a built in electronic-viewfinder, and have enough money to spare on some decent glass. Using various adapters, you can attach Canon EOS, Nikkor, & other lenses, in addition to Sony’s Alpha line (with certain Alpha lenses using some type of digital magic/voodoo that makes auto-focusing with shallow-DOF EASY AND USABLE).
The NEX-FS700 also features a 60/50Hz switch to give people the freedom of working in any geographic region without being restricted to only PAL or NTSC recording. This is defintiely the camera I am most excited for in terms of what it can do, and how much it costs. Granted, there may be some hidden fees in there somewhere (still not sure if the Firmware upgrade will be free, etc) and it’s too early to tell if their are any skeletons in the closet, but if a quirky camera-body is all you have to deal with, the NEX-FS700 may be your best option if you’re on a tight budget.
So, just three for now. I hear Blackmagic just announced a new 4K capable-camera for just under $4K, however I have nor the time, nor the desire to go looking for details. No matter what is unveiled, you can easily expect to drop around $5k-$10k on any camera package, especially if you start adding in accessories such as rails, tripods, audio gear, viewfinders, etc. But it’s nice to know that stylized film-making is no longer reserved for the upper echelon of Hollywood, nor the uber rich. Now you just need to be in the upper middle class. And hey….no complaints here.