The Cambrian exposion of videography

A long time ago, nature fetched a really strong cup of morning coffee and decided things needed a little shaking up on the evolution front, and life on earth went through a period of experimentation. It left behind an interesting and sometimes confusing fossil record that left many biologists overwhelmed and sighing ‘Oh no, not another freakin’ Phylum’. Were these legs or internal organs? Which way up was this creature? How did that thing actually move?

As I build up my Canon 550D into a usable camcorder, I wonder if we will look back at this period of camcorder technology in much the same way. Every day, people publish photos of their rigs, some small and dainty, others fashioned out of scaffolding poles, bristling with brackets and cable ducts and cages. There are spiders and snipers and stereoscopic shooters…

The world of videography went mad, a little while ago, for clever little boxes that enabled you to attach photographic lenses at one end and your video camera at the other, enabling you to enjoy the thin depth of field, wide choice of lens and general filmic look afforded to photographers. Sure, they were expensive, took quite a bit of setting up, lost quite a bit of light in the process and required some girders to lay it all out on. But at least you got a familiar way of recording what you shot, somewhere to plug your microphones in, a way of hearing and visually checking what you’ve got and a fighting chance of supplying it to the editor.

And now we have so many codecs, so many workflows, so many resolutions and so many frame rates to worry about. But that’s nothing to the sudden lack of things like holding a camera steady. Suddenly you need follow focus, matte box, remote start-stop button, I’m yet to see a motorised zoom controller, and if you want Image Stabilisation (which – at these focal lengths – is Sine Qua Non for most), buy the expensive glass.

Ah yes, the glass. My EX1 has one lens. Oh, and a little flat wide adaptor for those special wide times. My DSLR has three: a W-I-D-E to wide, a wide to portrait, and a portrait to long lens – and even then it doesn’t quite reach as far as the EX1. And at f2.8, they are as slow as my EX1’s zoom at full reach. I could add some exotica – 50 f1.4, 80 f2 and so on. I could REALLY roll things out with a Noktor

Now, that lot isn’t cheap, it isn’t compact, it’s not actually very easy to use, and we haven’t started accessorising it yet with LCD Viewfinders, extra power supplies, separate monitors (and their power requirements).

And because good glass is the crucial first point of the video process, people are starting to pull apart their Canon 7Ds, surgically removing the mirror box and retro-fitting PL mounts for Cine lenses.

This is a lovely little world for the Cine boys to play in, but for the rest of us? Time out, guys! Before you spend thousands, nay tens of thousands if you get really excited, just check out the CMOS jelly motion, the moire on stripey things, the aliasing on diagonal things. I am not being curmudgeonly – I’ve been bitten by the DSLR bug too. But I am trying to keep my infatuation under control.

Because, while the DV revolution got so much started, and the tapeless revolution is pretty much done and dusted, the HD revolution isn’t quite finished yet, the RED revolution is still happening, the Video DSLR revolution is now fully under way, then we’re waiting for the Scarlet Modular revolution to kick off, and stereoscopic video is beginning to wake up… and I’m thinking… oh no, not other video Phylum…

A bit of fun

OK Go – This Too Shall Pass – RGM version

In an odd reversal of fate, OK Go – the band who bought you treadmill ballet – reprise Honda’s ‘cog’ ad (and the rest) yet up the ante.

It made me laugh, it made me watch again. So it works for me. Please do enjoy for yourself. And don’t work too hard on thinking how many takes and how many days this took to set up. Just be thankful you’re not the Steadicam operator.