Behind the Scenes – Episode 4 – Why DSLRs were the greatest thing to ever happen to me?


Video filmmaking has gone a long way in the last few years. But one day in September of 2008, Reverie, the world’s first progressive 24p HD short film shot on a DSLR, came out. It was at this moment that my life went from great to awesome. My name is Mandel Lum and you’re watching Behind The Scenes, a weekly internet series that brings you backstage to show you how I make my films.

At the time that the Panasonic DVX100 and the Canon XL2’s were duking it out for supremacy of the indie filmmaker market in the early 2000’s, little did anyone realize, but they started a quiet revolution in how films were made. Suddenly it was possible to have film-quality footage from a digital package, drastically slicing the costs of production.

Fast-forward to today, technology can stream HD video to any computer on the planet fast enough to show it. The growth of the internet has opened up the world to new storytellers across the globe. The world has changed in drastic ways and I can officially say that giving into the Canon 5D mark II craze has been the best decision I’ve made in my life, and this is why:

It was future-tech when most websites were still streaming 480p:
One tool that I consistently use in all my work is digital scaling of the image. Back in the day when DV footage would end up on a television, any kind of scaling done in Final Cut Pro would lead to a decrease in picture sharpness when seen on a TV. At the time 480p DV footage could really only bear 107% increase in size before you noticed any blurriness. Now that even 1080p HD footage gets streamed online at typical 720p resolutions, it’s totally possible to zoom in as much as 30 percent on some images and keep the image quality when streamed. Basically, it’s cutting edge for 2013 and it will still hold relevance for years to come.

Exchangeable lenses = Freedom lenses
Because DSLRs require separate lenses, it’s possible to capture any image imaginable by buying a single camera body and switching out lenses that will achieve the desired effect. And as lenses are considerably cheaper than camcorders, this kind of modular setup will become more and more popular for professionals. And even as new technology comes out, like the 5D mark III, it will only become necessary to purchase a camera body only while reusing other compatible parts.

Never gonna go back to tape
Once in college, I had to transfer 12 hours of footage from 12 MiniDV tapes. I did it nonstop and it took me 14 hours to do. But I couldn’t leave the room in case the tapes got messed up, so I stayed by the computer and watched 6 movies in a row. I mean, it was fun…but never again. We have SD cards and CF cards and fast transfer speeds now. If I did it over again with CF cards instead of tapes, it would have taken me under 3 hours to transfer all of it. AND all the clips would have been automatically separated. Lesson learned.

And on top of that, you’ll find that if you’re not a professional feature-length filmmaker, DSLRs have incredible quality for the cost of the camera. Personally, I own the Canon T2i and it costs as little as 600 to start.

I’m sure that in the future, and in fact right now, camcorder equipment looks drastically different than the DSLRs of the early 2010’s. And there are already insane cinema-quality cameras coming out very soon, but right now, the trend is going towards giving cameras with a small footprint – superior HD (and soon 2K) video capabilities. And I love it.

Thanks for watching Behind the Scenes. You can subscribe right here. If you’ve got any questions you’d like me to answer, put them in the comments and I’ll answer it in a video. Check back in tomorrow as this is our series premiere week and we’re releasing one show per day from April 30th to May 4th.

I’ll see you tomorrow.
Stay inspired.

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