Filmmaking with Compact Cameras

In the past, large cameras were behind some of the greatest movie making experiences ever. Whether it was a documentary, feature film, commercial, or even a industrial video, bulky cameras required a great deal of logistics and support for the production.

Film gave way to tape, and the cameras and productions began to get smaller.  VHS was trimmed down to VHS-C and then 8mm. HiDef 8mm led to Mini-DV which became Mini-HDV. As the cameras got smaller they required less equipment and support for producing videos.

The introduction of recording video to media cards has allowed cameras to trim their size even further. These smaller more compact sizes allows for innovation in camera use, with considerable effect on movie making as a whole.

DSLR or Digital Single Lens Reflex cameras were one of the first to actually make a dramatic cut in size for recording video to memory cards. Canon was the first major DSLR manufacturer to incorporate HD Digital Video into their pro and prosumer DSLRs. The use of these cameras allowed for the camera to use photography lenses that produced cinema quality images for video production at a fraction of the cost as major cinema production cameras. Light and portable, these DSLRs allowed for the cameras to capture cinema quality video in a variety of scenarios that would be too difficult or expensive for pro video and film cameras.

avengersDSLRs became so useful; that major motion pictures like The Avengers and 127 Hours used various Canon Pro line cameras to shoot some of the movies scenes and the list of films using these digital cameras and other digital compact cameras continues to grow.

Although GoPro started out with film cameras in 2004, they evolved to digital and have made a major impact on consumers who can now more easily share their experiences by filming them with GoPro. The idea of affordable filmmaking with a compact digital camera not only appealed to film makers but also became a social phenomenon that quickly made GoPro a household name. Average consumers can produce quality high resolution videos to share with their friends on social media and websites.

As the demand for compact digital video cameras increased so did the demand for quality within the realm of compact digital recording. Grainy webcam images became a thing of the past as high-end camera companies saw how consumers could make rigs to use GoPros for shooting more than stunts. Sony and Nikon joined the ranks of companies producing compact digital video cameras.

BlackmagicBlack Magic was the first pro production digital camera company to enter the compact arena with their Blackmagic Design Pocket Cinema Camera. Their design allowed cinematographers to mount professional lenses, some bigger than the camera, to the compact body for cinema quality on a high resolution image sensor to produce high resolution cinema quality digital video. Professional filmmakers now had compact agility combined with high-resolution for their films. Just as consumers had a social networking revolution that was spurred by consumer’s use of GoPro, filmmakers are seeing their own revolution. High-end, compact cameras like those from Black Magic, make producing high quality films possible for a fraction of the production costs.

While at the NAB Show, I’ll be looking for answers to the following two questions: Which filmmaker will take a chance and shoot their entire feature length film on a compact camera like the Black Magic Pocket Cinema Camera? And, even more importantly, what will it look like on the big screen?

Eric Benson

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