Digital innovations and Filmmaking -

Thursday, August 25, 2011

A new dream - Putting a DSLR in my pocket like a GoPro HD

This blog is dedicated to DSLR cinema and low budget filmmaking. Technology is important but it isn't the camera that makes the film, it is the filmmaker! Whatever the tool you use, the most important thing is by far the story. It becomes more and more true, because video technology available today makes shooting everywhere easier and cheaper than ever. 

The DSLR cameras are probably the less expensive professional digital cameras that allow you to put the film on the theatre screen. The 5D and also the 7D are well known to be incredibly good on the big screen. Today, I would like to go further and show that it's possible to make a film that looks professional even if you use a video camera smaller than a soda can and 10 times less expensive than the Canon 5D Mark II.

Let's focus on the GoPro HD cameras. These cameras are often used by people who have high-danger sports activities like ice climbing, motor cross, snowboarding and surfing… The GoPro Digital camera is perfect to capture exhilarating moments, but it also opens a different way for creativity and original ideas. In other words, it brings a new way to tell stories. GoPro cameras are great toys!

I can tell you that this GoPro camera was not designed for professional filmmakers, but you can really get a professional result. You don't have any flexibility! You can't define your own shooting settings! It is fully-automatic. The focal length is fixed. The lens aperture is fixed (f/2.8 is a good choice most of the time). The camera needs a lot of light to give a nice result. That said, I think these 4 videos are awesome enough to show that you can get a professional result with a GoPro HD Camera. If you know the limitations of the camera and do not expect it to do something it wasn't designed to do then you will have a wonderful time with this toy. You can also use a GoPro to complement the footage you take with more sophisticated cameras.

GoPro is an incredible tool that allows filmmakers to tell stories in a different way, with amazing point of views. It really puts viewers in a unique perspective : in a green bucket, on a hoop… On top of that, the GoPro camera is so small that nobody knows that you are making a full HD video… It's easy to make a video with kids who are having a great time and you can always keep it in your pocket.

The most interesting thing about this camera is the risks you are able to take that you would never consider with more expensive gear. You can put a GoPro on the ground and let a several hundred kilos object fall directly on top of it (just next to it). The GoPro won't get a scratch!

I'm personally excited. Professional adoption of GoPro cameras has not been as fast as for example the Canon 5D Mark II, but there is a lot of professional value in these cameras. Well, it's like the early days of HDV. Now I dream about a mix of both the 5D Mark II and the GoPro HD! In my opinion, DSLR and GoPro cameras bring their own cinema style. I would love to be able to put my 5D in my pocket. This is just a dream, one more for this summer...

The motivation to write this article came from a couple of videos I saw recently that just screamed at me to share them. Thank you Betty Wants In, FKY, Paul Kroeker, and Reel Story Films.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

TAGs Button - An idea for the DSLR cameras manufacturers?

I tried to go to bed tonight and I failed... It's hot! I just lay there and I couldn't sleep. I tried to count the cows in my head. I tried to count the stars through the window. I tried to remember my 2 weeks trip in Peru 3 years ago. But, it didn't work. Sometimes, it's just impossible to sleep...

So, I was watching for the second time the Machu Picchu centenary celebrations, and was asking myself why I took so many pictures of the Machu Picchu during my trip... All I need is one or two and I have thousands pictures. The answer is probably that I wanted THE perfect picture of THE perfect moment, and I always keep everything to be sure to have the choice. I prefer to waste my time watching every footage in front of my computer, even if sometimes I know immediately which one will probably be the best. I have the same behavior when I shoot a film. Then I found an idea that seemed good enough to make me write this message (for PROs and no-PROs).

Eureka! A TAGs button! Canon... I need a TAGs button... I would like a TAGs button on my 5D for videos but also for images. I think that it would be quite simple to put such a button on the bodies of the next generation cameras and it would help people win time everyday...

How could this TAGs button work? I don't know exactly but here is the idea...

When you press the button and keep it pressed, the camera records your voice and creates an audio file next to the last file you created. For instance, the audio file will be named "001.MP3" if my last recorded video is named "001.MOV". If you want to tag a video which is already tagged, the additional content is appended to the beginning of the audio file. When you play and see your footage on the camera, you can also press TAGs to add tags afterward. If you want to create a tag before recording, it should also be possible to do that by pushing the button 2 times very quickly.
In my opinion, TAGs are useful if you want to do a quick overview on the camera and if you want to focus on what you think is the best, and I'm sure that I don't need to convince you about the interest of TAGs and keywords in the NLE softwares like FCP...
Cameras may provide drivers to make it work on computers, a TAGs decoder which would be a simple speech-to-text analysis. We only need a simple speech-to-text mechanism because manufacturers could recommend to use intelligible words. We don't need complicated things. Let's take a simple example. I have 3 shots of my next feature film's first scene. The first one is NOT GOOD, the second one is MAYBE GOOD, the third one is PERFECT. I have 3 tags here and I think that there is nothing more easier than to say NOT GOOD, MAYBE GOOD, or PERFECT just after recording. I could take many more examples but you get the idea.

I hope you like this idea, don't hesitate to say me what you think about that... It might exists... Maybe the Magic Lantern open source firmware has already a cheatsheet like this somewhere… And finally, help me to share this idea if you like it because I'm really interested to know if it could help many people.

Now I'm tired, it's time to go to bed...