Camera headache

Toy camera

When we decided to shoot ‘The Ballad of Des & Mo’ on the RED camera, we were partly motivated by the filmmakers that had said that it couldn’t be done. We were criticised that ‘Watching & Waiting’ was shot on television technology, which is like saying ‘your baby is ugly and probably isn’t your baby’ to snotty filmmakers. We aren’t particularly snotty about film, so we decided to shoot on RED to sort of deflate the argument.

Camera options have proliferated loads since 2010. The Alexa, Black Magic, even the DSLR boom (7D came out in late 2009). There are loads of options. They offer us all sorts of interlinked decision making to do with look and style, weight and ergonomics, data transfer and storage. It is a minefield and the decision will impact massively on the 72 itself.

Let’s use Des & Mo as an example. Shooting on RED limited the number of takes we could have with actors to a ratio of 3:1. We could have 3 goes at getting it right before we had to move on. We therefore tried to limit camera movement as this would increase the likelihood of something going wrong (camera or actor at fault). Therefore we weren’t particularly ‘cinematic’ with the film, it was shot quite safely. Nothing wrong with that – the audience still enjoy it – but we don’t want to offer snotty filmmakers the opportunity to say that it looks like television (ironically television has changed in these four years too, perhaps it would be a compliment).

So, we have to prioritise our needs for this film. Personally, I don’t care what other filmmakers think of our camera choice because I can point at ‘Des & Mo’ and say ‘been there, done that’. This time around I think we’d benefit from more takes for getting it right, so therefore smaller data. Lighter kit because we’ll move around the city on foot. We need two or three identical kits, so cost is a factor.

We’ve been looking at cameras for the last six months with these questions in mind. The logistics of sitting with the camera and using it in conditions that are replicable is difficult. I remember going to Pinewood to test the RED with John Bradburn and Mike Fisher and everyone was pleased that we shot a 3 minute music video in 6 hours until John Bradburn pointed out that we needed to invert the workload, shoot 6 minutes in 3 hours. When we test it, we need to test it in the true sense of the word.

Some of the team were hoping to shoot this weekend and test some of the workflow within a 48 hour film challenge. Unfortunately events conspired against them. This in itself should hold valuable lessons.

James

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