Friday, September 3, 2010

DSLRs and The BBC...or not...or whatever!!

So, there's been a couple of stories this week about 2 BBC dramas being shot on the Canon 5D Mk2. Shock horror. The BBC approved their use!! People have been spitting the dummy over the dreadful standards the BBC must be slipping to. Then the BBC changed their minds and asked the website that published the story to retract it. They now say that they view each project on an individual basis and the 5D Mk2 still isn't officially approved....but the 2 dramas are being broadcast... so...err.. well. It's simple isn't it? If it's's good!

This is what i posted on the HDWarrior site in response to the slightly negative view of DSLRs... i thought you might be interested in my take on it all:

I don’t think anyone would argue that these are not interesting times! I don’t know when a debate has got people so agitated! People are definitely taking sides at the moment… for and against DSLRs.
This isn’t the first time something like this has split an industry.. but the TV/Film/Video industry would do well to remember what happened to the audio market a few years ago.. I’ll explain.
Just as the internet was taking hold in the late 90s, some bright spark invented the first mp3 compression codec and realised that you could squash a 40MB audio file into a 4mb audio file with very little in the way of audible artifacts. About the same time…Sony,EMI and the other major record labels had decided that it was about time to sell their back catalogues again, so they pounced on the “amazing” quality that DVD Audio could provide… basically 96kHz at 24bit. This, they said would in combination with a surround sound system, give listeners the ultimate home audio experience. They started paying engineers and producers lots of money to remix all the classics into this new format. They thought the uptake of home DVD players would ease the way for the audio side of things…
But, as in ALL of these cases…the public decided. They decided that portability and ease of “swapping” was far more important than “quality”. Most average consumers couldn’t hear the difference between a full bandwidth CD recording and a compressed mp3. My industry wept.. Sound engineers like myself couldn’t believe punters were prepared to listen to such crappy audio…but they were…and they still do. Kids now listen to most of their music on ipods or even mobile phone speakers. No amount of moaning about the dumbing down of our trade will stop them.

Because the music industry was so slow to realise what was going on…it got totally screwed by piracy. No one was prepared to supply the demand for mp3s until it was too late and we’d all got all our music for free. It affected the production of music too…studios were no longer needed to produce master quality recordings..especially if they end up as mp3s anyway. Studios closed in their hundreds. There are less than 10% of the studios going now that there were in the UK in 1995. Harsh news for sound engineers.

Now, look at the DSLR debate. It’s the old school pros who are up in arms. Proper camera men and women who have strived for quality for years. Then some newbies with cheap DSLRs turn up and steal their thunder with their lesser specs and reliance on a shallow DoF. I get it…it’s probably driving you all nuts. BUT…dig your heels in and you’ll miss the point. The floor just got opened up to thousands of film-makers… you will need to use your experience to prove your worth with better shots, better edits and better material…don’t rely on “better gear on paper”… or you’ll end up on the scrap heap. Harsh…but true.

Can we all get back to shooting some great films now?


  1. That's not really a good analogy. That is explaining why Hollywood should accept that people want films via VoD instead of Blu-Ray, but a camera man who's livelihood is reliant on not everyone having access to high-end equipment and has forked out £1000s upon £1000s on high-end equipment doesn't want to lose his job to some yob who just walks into his local Dixons, buys a camera for £1000 and then thinks he can make films just as good and gets more work because he charges 1/100th of the price.

    DV started this, HDV took it further with 35mm DoF adapters, but wasn't really a threat as they still didn't have the quality. This has now come to a head with the shallow DoF of D-SLRs.

    I'm not saying there is anything wrong with D-SLRs when in the hands of professional DoPs such as Phil Bloom and Lucasfilm looking in to them.

    If you can get the quality at a lower cost, great, but they have to be in the right hands to get the most out of them and you have to know the limitations. The BBC not using them because of the data rate being 2Mbit/sec lower than their spec is plain stupid, but the data rate isn't the only problem. Some programme material just isn't suited to being shot on a D-SLR. No one kicked up a fuss about the EX1/EX3 not being good enough for the BBC and in some respects these cameras are better than D-SLRs, especially in the right hands.

    I don't think the camera is so much the problem, more the person behind them.

  2. The analogy works because it's a major case of technology changing the playing field and clients don't know or care too much about Mbits, they care about the quality of the it looks, feels and carries whatever message they want to convey. My first feature was only shot on miniDV. I didn't get any complaints at the screenings... and i haven't had any customers ask for their money back on the DVD. I'll admit, some of it looks pretty bad quality-wise... but it's not about that.

    I bought a DSLR for under a grand.. does that make me a yob? I've never owned a full size professional camera... does that me less qualified to make a film? No... it doesn't. There will always be people have have a natural eye and gift for film...just as there are people who have made a living as camera men who don't have the eye... i've hired people to shoot stuff that has been dreadful... people who have years and years of experience.

    I totally agree this stuff needs to be in the right hands to get the best out of it.. but you're going to have to realise, that some of these 'yobs' with DSLRs are going to be good...and if you want to keep working, you'll have to be better.