The Camera Debacle

I want to first address why this post is being made. It is partly due to frustration, but more so due to concern. Frustration because once I show something I’ve done or watched something with people, another filmmaker will immediately ask “what camera did you use”? Nothing about the story decisions, only about the camera. It is frustrating to me because it seems to me that the focus is on cameras and not the techniques applied by the filmmaker. With that being said my intention is to explain why other factors are more important rather than ranting.

Bob Richardson ASC
Bob Richardson ASC

A cinematographer is a skilled artist who makes decisions based on the story and director’s vision. The key point here is the cinematographer is “skilled” and makes decisions. Now to make something add to the story and look cinematic, the images must have an overall concept. Composition and movement complements or contrasts the characters mood. Simply put, cinematographers are psychologist with cameras. However, all that is often diminished to being attributed to a camera choice.

Film Set
Film Set

Let this sink in, the camera is simply a tool. There is no camera that is perfect and there is no camera that can magically make someone who lacks cinematography chops to suddenly be Conrad Hall. However, this is the attitude some filmmakers display these days. They see something beautiful and want to know what camera was used so they can get one and hope that their images will transform into what they seen someone else did. This isn’t possible and we need to teach that the artist is the one making this happen, the camera is simply a tool he or she is using.

Shot on Canon C100
Shot on Canon C100
Panasonic AF100
Panasonic AF100

I’ve always said there is no perfect camera. Each one has it’s own look and this makes the camera debates ridiculous. Granted you can construct the image to look like anything you want but the camera have looks that are inherent to them. Like everything it all comes down to the story and what works beat. I’ve found that Canon cameras favors warm colors more and Panasonic can bring out green colors. Arri has a very natural look to it. We need to start looking at cameras as the tools that they are and not some war to find out which camera is “better”.

Torn Color Grade Test.Still001

I believe in inspiring others to appreciate learning and asking why. You can’t buy experience, so spending money on cameras based off of someone else’s work is ludicrous. Learn the techniques and take the journey into cinematography. The journey after all is the most exciting part of filmmaking. A “bad” artist with an amazing camera will still make “bad” art…just in 4k. The focus should always be on the story and the storytelling concepts. What made the artist put the camera there? Why is he or she dollying in? These are more important.

As always, follow me on twitter and check out Flopitworks Productions on youtube, facebook, and vimeo.

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