Amateur Cinema 2012

We are living during an unprecedented time of options in the world of amateur and professional filmmaking. Prices, availability, options, and capabilities have been increasing at an unprecedented rate. There are many reasons for this but I think two main contributors are RED Digital Cinema and the emergence of DSLR's. There are many detractors of both but in terms of making amazing technological abilities available to the masses they have been instrumental. To literally be able to spend $1000 on a Canon, Nikon or Panasonic DSLR video production camera and have a viable movie making machine is something that was impossible even 3 years ago.

RED started in 2005 with a simple idea, to bring inexpensive, high quality cinema video cameras to the masses. With their second generation camera, the EPIC, they have by many critic's conclusions finally arrived at a camera that can actually rival 35mm film. With resolution exceeding that of S35, extended Dynamic Range provided by HDR-X and sensitivity that brings about shooting possibilities never reached by film, the EPIC has ushered in a whole new generation of filmmaking.

On the lower end, Canon with its 5DMkII camera and its full frame 35mm sensor has changed all the rules of what it takes to make a movie. In fact it has even been used on the Oscar nominated film 127 Hours. Despite their issues, these cameras have put the big guys in the industry on the hot-seat and made it very clear what they need to do to keep up in this democratized production environment.

SO… ON November 3rd 2011 there will be a huge announcement from both Canon and RED about their respective products. They may not be game-changers for major Hollywood studios but they will certainly have an impact on nearly every indie filmmaker on Earth. I know that sounds like hyperbole but the point is that if Scarlet or the new Canon camera is not the one you own it will still create waves in the rest of the industry and further push the price vs. performance envelope. It's a great time to be a filmmaker and it's a great time to be in video production.


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New basic standards

New basic standards

I think it's important to point out that there are some specific kinds of progress that are being made and that need to be made:

-The sensors. Most prosumer and consumer cameras use smallish sensors. And some camcorders and DSLRs use large but very high megapixel sensors. The new standard is for larger sensors, either half-frame 35mm (APS-C sized) or full-frame. Also megapixels that are <b><i>not too numerous</i></b>, because high megapixels mean very small photo-sites, which give more visual "noise". The Canon EOS C300 has a really good, new sensor for study.

-The format. A new minimum standard that seems to be ensuing is:
50 Mbps, 1920 x 1080 and 4:2:2 color sampling. Greater than 8 bit color depth is on the horizon as a professional standard, but it's mainly needed for color correction, not basic image-quality.

In my opinion, AVCHD (24 Mbps, 4:2:0) is below professional level, and should also be considered below serious-amateur level.

Another new standard is <b>MXF</b> as a "container" file-format.