Which Camera for the Job?

Good’ay. This months thoughts from The Vision House.

Producers often ask what format will I use on a TVC and what format will I use on a viral. The best answer I can give is to equate photography to building a house. You have a client that hires an architect (The Agency) who hires a builder (the production company) who hires a carpenter (the DOP). As a carpenter I read the plans and select the right saw to cut a piece of wood…an electric hand held circular saw to rip large sheets of ply that don’t need an exact edge and trimmed later. (Shoot 5K RAW and re-frame later) Use a compound saw to cut the door architraves. Shoot Alexa REC 709, transfer this as captured without a grade, trusting the cameraperson to “get it right on the day”.

The final “building” considerations are the building regulations (the editor/post house). Always ask what format the editor can handle. No point going to the time and trouble shooting ARRI RAW if the editor can only handle Pro Res and has to spend the first two hours of the edit session transcoding.

“Is Film Dead”
I have worried over these words for some time now and feel that it’s not completely terminal, but a lot of expense and hassle. First the processing lab is a problem. Since April we have no processing in Australia. There is talk of a small lab opening in Sydney soon. Guess you could hand carry to KL and have a few days shopping.
The biggest problem will be the cost of the film stock and the post-production process. Telecine rushes and laser scans of the negative have been removed from budgets by the more cost effective digital formats.

“What camera, what format”?
Cameras and formats besiege us: – GoPro, Blackmagic, Sony, RED, Alexa and Phantom just to mention a few.

I have included a PDF (see the reference PDFs on the main News & Articles page) of twelve cameras I have looked at. I forgot to include the Blackmagic and the GoPro so have covered them here. The GoPro Hero 3 is a ripper for the right application and look. 1080p at 50/25fps, 720p at 100/50fps, 1440p at 48/25/24fps, 4k at12.5fps, 2.7k at 25fps and 960p at 100/48fps.

The Blackmagic Camera has had delivery problems. I have tested it at NAB and IBC and it is a good look. The little Black Magic Pocket Camera with super 16mm Zeiss glass will be a good rig camera or a competitive priced camera for the web, documentaries, music videos and short films.

Vintage Glass and Anamorphics are the next phase.
With 4K, 5K and soon 8K sensors the camera department are looking at ways to combat the sharpness of the frame when you use Zeiss Master Primes and Cookes.
One way optically to set a “look” is the use of Vintage lens sets or anamorphics.

A warning to all.
Most kits will have to be re-housed to make the front diameter the same for the matte box to work. Focus will need attention and a PL mount conversion. This will be a cost that has to be passed onto the rental and the rental price will be premium to repay the out-lay quickly incase their use is short lived.

This may be an option. You can fast forward as it is a bit slow.

Is 3D making way for 4K Televisions?
I looked at 4k tellies at IBC and Broadcast Asia and did not like the extreme clarity and the painting. It is a long way off for free to air in Australia who have not embraced proper 1920×1080 HD. It would be great to see the full file we shoot in our lounge room.


I looked at a lot of 3D rigs and tellies and feel it will not take off till we have affordable tellies that don’t rely on the viewer wearing glasses. Glasses work in a cinema or home cinema where you’re seated and spend 90 to 120 minutes looking at a programe. General TV viewing where you have to put on and take off glasses every time you go to the fridge to grab a beer will never work. The capture of 3D is expensive and slow. The best camera I saw was the GoPro, simple to use and cheap.

Till next time. It’s all about the pixels.