Just can’t shake the DSLR bug

I have a particular client who wants me to shoot interviews that must NOT look ‘corporate’ and slick. He wants natural, evocative ‘folk 16mm’ or ‘one man and his Bolex’ sort of stuff and is very keen on my DSLR work.

Well, today I finished up with a shoot – CURSING the bloody DSLR. It had overheated and wouldn’t play ball. Right in the last 10% of a slightly tense interview. I had been fighting the focus, I had been nursing the cards (now rare precious things due to use of Magic Lantern), and in the small airless and windowless room we had to film in (on a hot sunny day), I was struggling to see through the steamed up Z-Finder on these long 10 minute handheld takes.

It had started badly with a long trek from car park to venue with heavy kit, the briefest of recces to work out how we were going to film this, and there was very limited time to set up two cameras, lighting, audio, and props. Within 10 minutes, interviewee had arrived, and we were off.

What’s worse is that I was sure that there was something definitely up with the white balance, but I’d ‘done the right thing’ by taking a still and setting it as a custom white balance. I was fighting the urge to ditch the location and go outside to film there. I was fighting with the mental map of how to shoot this ‘casually’, and just let the situation ride whilst I kept the camera moving, the composition still and the subject in focus.

At the end of the shoot, as I walked back to the car, I swore that AS SOON as the FS100 is available with the Birger Mount, my little Canon is going to be retired to Stills duty. I want a proper viewfinder, I want proper white set I can trust, I want NO OVERHEATING. EVER.

Horrible, horrible, horrible nasty DSLRs.

I pounded the steering wheel on the way back. FS100 – the way forward. Birger Mount. I like the lenses, I like the IS, just hate using a Z-Finder (or anything like it), remembering to button on and off before you hit the 12 minute limit, and absolutely hate that ‘sorry guys, need to switch the cameras as the DSLR is on its Lunch Break.’ excuse.

And now I’m home, and I’m looking at the rushes – now that they’re all synchronised with beautiful 24/48 audio and the colour corrector has removed the blue tint. And…

It’s like 16mm film.

The EX1 shot is very competent. It’s technically wonderful, exciting, responds well to light. No problems at all.

But the DSLR image has soul and charm and charisma. It’s like my days with a Moto Guzzi T3 motorcycle. It was infuriating, you could see rust forming whilst waiting at traffic lights. I’m sure it did more miles on an AA rescue truck than under its own steam. One day I hired a VT500 (Guzzi was ill again) – the VT50 was the motorcycle courier’s 500cc standard mount by which all others were judged. It was better, faster, safer, more frugal, smaller engine, and had no bloody soul. It was a simple (but well engineered and leakproof) machine.

The Guzzi was, well, an emotion – a zephyr of memory and sensation encapsulated in aluminium and steel. When it was in a good mood, it transcended metal and became something almost alive. Trouble is, it broke throttle cables, seemed incapable of holding its oil in, and if you did a particularly sharp right turn, the electrics cut out.

But my happiest motorcycling memories come from the Guzzi.

However, I’m not shooting for pleasure, I am shooting for profit. Time to think like a courier rather than a tourer.

I don’t need to make my Canon match my EX1R, I need to make an FS100 or AF101 look like a DSLR.

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