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The Global Film Village: HiDef Revolution 2 by Marla Lewin

Academy Television of Arts and Sciences presented a symposium for its members entitled the HiDef Revolution 2 at CBS Studio Center in Studio City, CA on May 5th, 2009.

The expert panel consisted of FÉLIX ENRÍQUEZ ALCALÁ Director, Cinematographer ROBERT PRIMES Cinematographer, Director; DP BARRY BRAVERMAN, DP TOM CURRAN , PHILIP HODGETTS Intelligent Assistance Inc. provided the technical or geek-speak overview and the panel was moderated by CONRAD DENKE, Publisher HighDef Magazine. Their purpose was to discuss how the new under $10,000 digital video cameras will be a game changer for broadcast TV! Cameras featured were;
(Panasonic) HPX300
(JVC) GY-HM-700
(Canon) 5D Mark II DSLR

All agreed that more important than the box, the person using it and their capabilities as a storyteller and visualist.

Alcala missed the old days, when as a cameraman and he got to work with Alan Davio and Joe Pittcon. He said they spent their days competing to be the best, and their nights and weekends sharing ideas, telling stories, and learning the language and techniques that would allow them to create new looks, styles, and photograph beauty. Alcala said there was often magic in the mistakes.

Bob Primes, an Emmy award winning Cinematographer teaches at AFI, and in Rockford, Maine. He encourages his students to be artists, and also develop people skills. "Big cameras are incredible, but little cameras can get quality with skill and talent, one has to work hard to learn the technology.He loves Panasonic cameras, and the Sony 300, which has wonderful qualities. Bob recently bought a Canon D5, which produces top quality stills. He called the image quality, crazy good this camera has the biggest image sensor yet equivalent to a 35mm 2 perf frame. High praise indeed from the guy who has shot features like Mel Gibson's BIRD ON A WIRE and won Emmys for FELICITY and MDS. Bob most recently shoot Mario Van Pebbles BADASS with a digital camera and THE NIGHT STALKER for television. He showed a short film called Santori, with music by Vivaldi, shot on the Sony 300. The film had exceptional light and clarity and showcased the natural beauty of a remote island landscape in the Pacific Northwest.

Barry Braverman also agreed, "It is all in the craft and storytelling. Audiences don't care about the gear. 'Gee I loved that movie, it was shot in 1080.'" To understand the strengthof the image try turning the sound off, drop the characters into shadow. Orson Wells cared about craft, not camera or megabits, tools shouldn't get in the way of story. Barry has worked for National Geographic for many years, and found hauling big cameras, even in the snow and jungles, romantic. His biggest concern with the present little cameras, is the quality of their lenses. Barry showed footage taken with low or only available light in a nightclub to demonstrate the high quality of skin tones that the Panasonic is capable of reproducing.

Tom Curran shared images of a doc he has produced and self financed using the JVC, and was quite pleased. He is used to using JVC cameras on tv shows. Tom and Bob agreed that use of interchangeable lenses makes a big difference. The panel then got into a discussion of which cameras work with which lenses. They were all delighted with the aftermarket that is springing up to provide solutions so that cinematographers can match the lenses they need for a particular shot with the camera they are most comfortable using.

Ultimately, refined little cameras, can potentially save time and money, Felix confirmed the established attachment to film stock for tv is way ready for change. Moving a production around with multiple 40 foot trailers and large crews is an antiquated way of doing things. It is ridiculous to spend an hour and a half moving a caravan from location to location when one or 2 small trucks with todays equipment can get the job done. When he is shooting and has 7-9 pages, in three separate locations to shoot per day, and has to do this for in seven or eight days, he needs short cuts, to finish on time and on budget.

Felix shot his latest project a webisode for THE GHOST WHISPER using the Canon D5 which was designed as a still camera with video capture for quick field recording of short interviews. In action the camera has been earning a strong recommend from its users. Felix was astounded with the depth of field and the creative opportunities it provided him. The camera isn't perfect, but it is a first generation product. Most complaints stem from an emerging workflow that is developing to utilize these capabilities. Canon is working feverishly to gather professional user feedback and everyone feels that this will be a game changing camera within a year.

The panel agreed that the new digital video cameras are developing exceptionally quickly and are amazing tools for their needs. They all are ready for broadcast now and they look forward to what these manufacturers will do for an encore.
The masters have spoken.

Marla Lewin : Global Film Village's blog


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