Adam Westbrook // ideas on digital storytelling and publishing

Three remarkable films shot on a Digital SLR

Posted in Journalism by Adam Westbrook on February 3, 2010

If you occasionally peer out of your journalism cocoon and hang out with camera operators, directors and film makers, you might have overheard some buzz about the potential of digital SLR’s for shooting video.

In particular I’m talking about the Canon 5D Mk II and the Canon 7D: both capable of shooting High Definition video as well as taking photographs.

So what?

Well these cameras beat even some of the best video-only cameras in several places:

  • they’ve got bigger and better lenses, allowing for beautiful images
  • they’ve got detachable and therefore interchangable lenses, meaning you can shoot wide angle and telephoto with the same camera
  • they’ve got bigger apertures allowing for extraordinary depth of field
  • they’re smaller, lighter and allow a photojournalist to shoot video without changing cameras

…essentially what I’m talking about is in 1 second of video you have 25 individually beautiful images which could be photographs in their own right. It’s seeing the the dawn of an exciting new aesthetic – wouldn’t it be great if documentaries and TV news looked more like these?

Three remarkable films shot on DLSR

Sri Lanka Tamils by Mark Allard

At the Races in Singapore by Dan Chung

Battle for Hearts and Minds by Danfung Dennis

For more great examples of the potential of the DLSR check out DSLR News Shooter. And I got to see some of these great cameras in action at the Canon Expo in London last autumn – the details are right here.

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16 Responses

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  1. duckrabbit said, on February 3, 2010 at 10:44 am

    Most of these cameras are not fit for purpose. The sound quality is very poor, the auto focusing is terrible and they are VERY difficult for a non pro to use. Still you can get some great footage with them, but its very challenging.

    • Matthew E. Bray said, on February 3, 2010 at 4:38 pm

      Adam you are spot on with highlighting this technology as the future of modern day motion picture storytelling. There are things to improve but that is true of every aspect of motion picture production up and down the line — nothing has been perfected. As far as fit for purpose in response to duckrabbit – these cameras are already somewhat built for warzones to capture still photos, and as far as sound – this is a problem easilly solved by an extremely inexpensive external recorder – as was used in the WWII days or a small mixer with great preamps also at a very reasonable price. As far as autofocus – I dont know a professional who would ever use it via motion picture on other cameras that do have it. And as far as difficulty for a non pro to use – this is also true of other very expensive and much heavier cameras currently used to do documentary or other motion picture applications, it pretty basic – if you want great images point and click will never be an option. Lastly and I think this is the biggest point is to think of the deliverables and their scale, by this I mean where are people viewing modern reporting? The web (nytimes has a strong investment in motion picture and multimedia for the web that has already embraced lots of this technology) and as far as scale ( great web video can be viewed at full res as another magazine piece folded into any news television program in the world extremely easilly.)

  2. Adam Westbrook said, on February 3, 2010 at 2:35 pm

    I agree the cameras are not *great* for video; I understand they overheat very quickly..but you can buy some pretty good rigs which give them good enough sound quality..and worth it for the awesome picture?

  3. Kristofor Lawson said, on February 5, 2010 at 8:40 am

    I disagree with some of the above comments. I think these cameras are fantastic for video. They have awesome low light sensitivity. The video footage is absolutely stunning and in hi def. Audio quality will get better but I like recording with my Zoom H4n and then syncing up the audio using pluraleyes. The other huge advantage is that people are more open to having a DSLR camera pointed their way then they are a video camera. Still cameras are generally easier to fade into the background which is what allows many photojournalists to come away with amazing images showing the intimate details of peoples lives.

    The cameras are not any high end professional device with all the bells and whistles but they do a fantastic job.

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  7. Ashley said, on March 1, 2010 at 11:28 pm

    All three videos are amazing. But the cameras acaptures still images better And I totally agree that these cameras are outstanding because I possess one the Canon7D:http://www.abt.com/product/42289/Canon-EOS7D28135.html

    I haven’t uploaded my pictures & videos yet but I surely will.

  8. r movies said, on March 9, 2010 at 10:37 am

    fine movie i just seen

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  10. @Jonathan_Hlibka said, on December 10, 2010 at 3:55 am

    One of the first ever shot on DSLR, and as far as I have found, is Blaine Thurier’s “A Gun to the Head” http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1491594/ It was shot during the spring of 2008 on the Canon 5D – the director and producer defined the work flow. Its been critically acclaimed and well loved at the festivals.

    My company, Studio Film Group, is giving it a wide release in Canada in 2011, which will be another first for a DSLR film. Check it out if you like really cool films and if you happen to live in Canada :)

    JH

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