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The Camera Is A Creative Choice

Today, there is a huge amount of discussion about which cameras are THE one to get. To get to the point quickly, THERE IS NO ONE GREATEST CAMERA. I’ll say it again – THERE IS NO ONE GREATEST CAMERA.

Spec-wise, maybe you could pick one that is great for you, but each camera nowadays truly has it’s own look. You want a slick promo? Maybe a clean, crisp, 4k+ camera with high contrast is good. Want a gritty look for a drama? Maybe a softer camera. Maybe not. Maybe you want sharp and grainy for a gritty feel. See, this is the whole point.



Is this gritty?



What about this?


Geese_1.15.1 (1)




Maybe this?


The above photos are all shot in HD. The last photo of my good friend David Wharton is from a promo. It’s a little more slick than the others and it was processed accordingly. Less grain was added and it was sharpened to enhance skin texture. All the other photos have MUCH more grain. Additionally, I shot this with the Blackmagic Cinema Camera in raw instead of the Pocket in order to have a snappier picture.

We each have a different definition of what “slick” means. What’s “gritty?” I’ve seen soft and grainy images that look gritty – maybe a worn out look. But I’ve also seen sharp, crisp images with grain that look gritty as well. Texture seems to be the analogous element that defines “gritty.” So what texture are you looking for?

Maybe this is the point. Where one camera falls short technically, creatively it can be MILES AHEAD. Can a lowly 7D (lowly by today’s standards anyway) hold up against an Arri Alexa? No way, but for certain projects, it might be a better choice.

Recently, I was going over old footage from a short that I originally shot with a Canon 7D. I reshot it with a Blackmagic Cinema Camera and realized that the look of the 7D actually fit the project better. How weird, considering the resolution and dynamic range is nowhere even close when comparing the two. The harsh quicker clip actually makes the image grittier and more flawed, which fits the project better. The softer image and less resolving power of the 7D actually makes it “grittier.” In fact, the only thing I dislike about the 7D image FOR THIS PROJECT is the insane amount of moire seen everywhere.

This leads me to my next question – would you shoot a found footage movie with an Alexa? A Red Dragon? Why or why not?

Me personally, I’d get a shitty HD handicam or use an iPhone because that would give you a more authentic look.

What look are you going for? Use the tool that GIVES YOU THAT LOOK without having to add tons of fake looking post processing on top of the image. In the end, it still won’t look as authentic as the real thing.

Stop worrying about tech specs when deciding what camera to use. Use those tech specs and technical knowledge to pick a tool that’s the best creative fit for the project. What they shot the latest Victoria’s Secret ad campaign on may not be the best fit for your gritty little drama.

Don’t play this keeping up with the Jones’s game. YOU define what’s best for your film, not the internet and not other filmmakers. YOU DO. Once you understand that, you understand that YOU HAVE THE POWER AS A FILMMAKER.

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