SEE IMPOSSIBLE: GAMBLE ON NEW MOVIE CAMERAS IN VEGAS
Are you ready for a game changer? In the middle of April in Las Vegas, the big companies bring out the latest and greatest motion picture cameras for demo and display at the NAB SHOW. NAB stands for National Association of Broadcasters but it has morphed into a yearly celebration of gear for many attendees. People pour into Las Vegas for this event. There are amazing displays and even more amazing claims on the signs: "THE GAME HAS CHANGED!" "THE ULTIMATE SOLUTION!" "WE MAKE OBSOLECENCE OBSOLETE!" “SEE IMPOSSIBLE!”
This convention covers all production, with an entire hall dedicated to software post-production, a section on sound, a big area with lighting and camera support and a huge section on drones.
When it comes to motion picture cameras, there are so many choices and so many price points. ARRI, SONY, RED. BLACKMAGIC, PANASONIC, JVC and CANON are the major players in the camera biz, with over the top displays and demos that are built to win the hearts and minds of production professionals. The way these companies spin the propaganda is just as important as the technology itself.
When looking at cameras, convention goers buzz about resolution, dynamic range and format. It is so fun to get your hands on a RED WEAPON and be able to play with a fully loaded SONY CINEMA CAMERA. While is it is inspiring to look at the latest technical offerings, you have to take all the noise and pageantry with a grain of salt. There are no perfect solutions, especially with an indie film budget.
Much of the newest gear has not been used on the field and may have issues and drawbacks. The first RED ONE CAMERA was truly a special camera. It was an excellent camera that brought the concept of 4K into the forefront. However, when the RED ONE was released, it really wasn’t ready. The first owners of the camera were truly beta testers ironing out the bugs and issues of that camera system. More recently, Filmmakers are buzzing about the BLACKMAGIC CAMERAS. While those cameras are used in indie films to good results, they have issues that are being ironed out every year Blackmagic comes out with a new model.
The camera companies might be aware of the cameras limitations, but the info usually comes out months later in message boards and blogs. The convention runs four days, the first and second day are the most packed. I seem to get the best info from the demo guys on the third day when the crowds have died down and the demo guys on the floor seem a little generous with their time and information.
When I look at all of these movie cameras, it really is an embarrassment of riches. Most of the cameras shoot great images and offer great features. You can get incredible results from any of these cameras if you use them properly. All of the cameras have one thing in common: they help you tell your story.
A special note on technology, it is a cruel mistress… These “State of the Art” cameras will lose their value in an extreme fashion when the next model with higher resolution, more features, come out in 6 months. Five years ago, the Sony F3 Camera sold for $18,000, today you can get one on ebay well under $2000. Perhaps renting a camera would be a better solution than owning, especially if you don’t use your cameras every day.
It is great to know about technology and the freedom it gives artists. Depends on the project and your objectives. Sometimes the newest camera will be exactly what you need. Sometimes a reliable camera that is a couple of years old will be the perfect solution to tell your story.