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Pulling focus on DSLR/ DSMCs - mickey mouse's revenge?


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#1 Jean Dodge

Jean Dodge
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Posted 16 April 2009 - 12:44 PM

SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE won oscars.... CHE and KNOWING were shot on RED ONE. TV pilot season is going nearly all digital. Nikon just announced a 700 dollar camera that shoots 24p 720HD... The Canon d5 Mk2 is poised, (one firmware hack away) to replace the DVX cameras as the platform of choice for the no budget film... oh yeah and the economy is collapsing. Everywhere you look the pressure is on to do more with less, or smaller, or less proven gear and less help to wrangle it all with.

Yes it is liberating on one hand but it is also frustrating that some people think that just because it weighs less it somehow assembles itself. Lighting gear is certainly less heavy these days but it still has to come off a truck, be powered up and focused, flagged and tweaked by a sentient being in order to look good. That makes it easier in theory yes, but it doesnt make the gear magic, or tougher or un-needed. It just saves the strain on a grip's back, and leads to more broken stuff, too a lot of the time. Now that trend moves to the camera dept...

It's already happening, so get used to it. Professional focus pullers are going to be in demand and also under assault as more and more serious production tries to take advantage of so called 2K and 4K cameras, and platforms that use Nikon lenses, prosumer DSLR/DSMC type bodies to shoot HD video, etc etc. Let's not quibble over the specifics. I'm talking about the trends in general, and how this affects a working pro on a daily basis.

Any predictions, tips or caveats? I can think of the speech I'm preparing in advance to tell the producer... and it has a lot of "you get what you pay for" advice in it.

Yes, the equipment is being adapted, with third party equip co's like Red Rock and Zacuto stepping in to try and adapt pro film production tools to pro-sumer equipment but what are the results, opinion and war stories from the trenches? I've read excellent critiques of the RED ONE's struggles - but what about the trend to use even LESS combat tested gear? Do producers understand what pressure the lowly assistant is under these days?

I may have a feature coming up where the director want to do quite a bit of work with the Canon D5 shooting nikon primes with 3rd party follow focus, to say nothing of the scary workflow on the back end that I'll be expected to consult on, for free.

I have not fully tested the gear yet and wondered what those who are used to "the good stuff" are saying. I've worked plenty with odd gear and "obsolete" camera systems and home-made gizmos and I'm not complaining - I'm excited about what's possible I just dread the LMandD out of the box factor that comes with this territory.

I liked what I heard someone at Arri say once - when he said the goal of an equipment developer was to make gear that still works perfectly after you leave it in the monkey cage at the zoo for a week. I doubt that is going to be the case for a lot of us in 2009.
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