Many years ago, when I first started attending trade shows like NAB and Cine Gear, you always could count on seeing impressive booths from industry-standard companies like Panavision, Kodak and Apple, as well as pro rental houses displaying massive dollies and cranes. But, for me, like many indie filmmakers, the equipment was out of reach, as well as out of my budget.
In the past few years, however, the balance of power has shifted. Walking the floor at this year’s NAB and Cine Gear, I noticed something strange. Perhaps because of the loud thumping techno music from their presentation, GoPro and their new HERO2 camera had the biggest, most enthusiastic crowds gathered at NAB. At Cine Gear, the GoPro booth was shockingly bigger than both ARRI’s and Sony’s. This may be understandable at a show like CES, but Cine Gear?
So how can a $300 consumer camera with which most users shoot their POV ski and surf videos compare to a professional digital motion picture camera that was used on summer blockbusters like The Avengers and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter? Well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. There’s really no comparison.
But there’s still something interesting going on. At this year’s NAB, GoPro revealed a partnership with professional finishing services company Technicolor to develop a picture profile for the HERO2 that’s similar to the CineStyle profile Technicolor developed for the Canon EOS 5D Mark II. GoPro’s Protune firmware (free download) offers new professional features like a 24 fps, 35 Mbps data rate, a neutral color profile, Log curve encoding and reduced sharpening and noise reduction. Giving you more flexibility in post, Protune’s new features will enable you to integrate GoPro shots into a professional workflow. If a GoPro shot is short enough (a second or two), it actually can be cut in with ALEXA footage.
A significant step up from the GoPro HERO2, the big hit at NAB 2012 was the Blackmagic Design Cinema Camera. The compact camera contains a 2.5K sensor, a built-in SSD recorder, Thunderbolt I/O, an EF mount, the ability to capture 12-bit RAW files and a 5-inch touch-screen LCD monitor—all for a price tag under $3,000. Blackmagic Design is also throwing in professional finishing software DaVinci Resolve and UltraScope as part of the camera package. On paper, the BDCC could shake up the production industry much like the RED ONE and Canon EOS 5D Mark II did previously.
The indie community even has 4K covered. Canon is releasing two new Cinema EOS cameras that will compete with the likes of ARRI, RED and Sony. The C500 can capture 4K RAW, and the indie-friendly 1D C has the form factor of a DSLR, but can capture 4K motion in the Motion JPEG format.
We’ve also seen some significant changes in post for low-budget filmmakers. Apple has been quietly updating Final Cut Pro X into a professional NLE system by adding XML interchange and multicam support, with professional monitoring solutions on the way. Established production houses like @radical.media and Electric Entertainment (Leverage) have made the switch to FCP X (from FCP 7), which is something editors predicted would never happen.
Director Christopher Nolan recently said he would continue to shoot movies on film (he shot The Dark Knight Rises on IMAX film) until digital images look as good as celluloid. Good for him, but even the most successful director in Hollywood acknowledges he or she won’t have that option in the near future due to economics. In the meantime, the 99% will be using tools like the GoPro HERO2, Blackmagic Design Cinema Camera and Final Cut Pro X to make movies—hopefully, good ones.
Misinformation” is a joint effort between HDVideoPro and the Sachtler Academy. The Sachtler Academy is dedicated to promoting open knowledge exchange among production professionals worldwide. Initiated by renowned camera support manufacturer Sachtler, the Academy offers a nonpartisan venue by which cinematographers and videographers can hone their talents, discuss techniques and stay updated on technical advances from various manufacturers. To find out more, visit www.sachtler-academy.com/ and www.sachtler.us.