The Descending Price of Film Making

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It took much patience, determination, and eventually even borrowing money but this week I finally was able to get a Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera. I have officially had it now for 5 days and I must say that it is simultaneously the best and worst purchasing decision I’ve ever made. All of my practice and skills I’ve learned before this have been thrown out the window and I have discovered that I am not the master of camera operation I thought I was. If anything I have only be enlightened to how much I have to learn!

On the surface it has everything you would need! Focus peaking? Check. Exposure zebras? Also check. A high quality uncompressed ProRes 422 HQ codec for clean video output? Check again. RAW video recording in a tiny package? DOUBLE CHECK! In fact short of a very tiny kitchen sink in the packaging you’d think everything you need to get started is all right here. NOPE.

If you are a beginner, please don’t make this your first camera unless you are determined and dedicated to educating yourself. If you don’t wake up everyday thinking about videos, stories, movies, cameras and lenses, then you will do yourself a huge disservice buying this camera on a whim. Its value and untapped power under the proverbial hood will be completely lost on you. I’m not saying you can’t make it your first camera, just that if you do, get ready for a VERY harshly steep learning curve. Be brave and get prepared for a trial by fire.

I’ve had the fortune of working making videos since 2010, first as just a editor and then gradually moving to camera work with DSLR’s. My first camera was a Nikon D5100, which was a great place to start. If you want a great starter camera you could do a lot worse than a modern equivalent such as a D5300. Cinema5D has gone on to say it has the best image in almost ANY DSLR.

Then I moved on to a Canon 7D. What an amazing improvement in ease of use that was for me. Don’t get me wrong I loved the Nikon, but this was a new ballgame. With the Magic Lantern hack it became so much more than what I had purchase that I became giddy like a kid when I was learning how it worked. But I eventually outgrew that for a Canon 6D. By no means was that an incremental upgrade. Going to full frame was such a huge deal for me.

I wasn’t satisfied with the image, and so I eventually scrapped together $3,500 and went way better in the video department by getting a Sony NEX-FS100. My wife thought I had gone crazy at the time, but it was just passion. I was outgrowing my gear and needing to advance to challenge myself. With that FS100 I have gotten paid work, and been having SOOO much fun that it’s only fueled me to be better. I just love that camera and still have it today!

But then I went to film school starting this semester. I had no intention of taking a $3,500 camera with me to school in the trunk of my car everyday. Not a snowballs chance in Phoenix that would happen. I would be a target for theft on day 1. So with my financial aid, I invested in my future by getting a good inexpensive b-cam. My new Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera was given an excuse to come into my life.

What made this possible? The price of technology continues to plummet like a bird flying over a solar panel farm. Fast, furious, and on fire. (PS, have you read that birds are catching on fire by flying over solar farms lately? Ok tangent over) The image that comes out of the larger Blackmagic cameras has been compared with absolute best in Hollywood, and it’s such a trip that regular Joe’s can be the proud owner of such a camera for $1,000-$2,000 when Hollywood has to pay $60,000. I’m not about to take out a mortgage for a stupid camera.

But think of the stories that can now be told and the films that can be born unto the world! Vimeo is alive with hundreds and thousands of young (and not so young) independent film lovers who are able to put their all into their craft without having to make mortgage payments to get the gear to achieve their dreams. There are stories to tell that would otherwise never have been told.

I feel blessed that because of this trend of the decrease in price I may be counted among those who have such a device. I only question if they may be doing a disservice by making it so cheap? Because it is so inexpensive newbies buy this thinking it will turn them into Steven Spielberg, when all it does is show them they have a long way to go. The declining price is a double-edged sword. It is a powerful tool, and this tool will also bury the career of many film makers pre-maturely because it was too much too soon.

In my next article I will discuss my findings and why I feel this camera can be amazing and also devastating at the same time. No clue when that will be. Tomorrow? Monday? Not sure. But when I do it will be when I’m equipped with enough info to say what I have learned clearly.

God bless and goodnight. 🙂

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