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Does Technology Make Us Better Filmmakers?

 

 

The recent explosion of DSLR cameras has given filmmakers who can’t afford the higher priced cameras (e.g. Sony EX1/EX3) a number of comparable and in some cases superior options. While DSLRs have their drawbacks (mediocre sound, 3” monitor, no peaking, no zebras, moiré issues), the benefits (excellent image quality, interchangeable lenses, full frame 35mm sensor, and 1080p, to name a few) far outweigh these shortcomings.  This makes these lower priced cameras a very attractive option.

Holding a DSLR camera in your hands is reminiscent of holding a 16mm Bolex, or a tiny 35mm camera (which doesn’t exist, but I think you get my point) and yet the function and capabilities are light-years apart. Do advances in film technology make us better filmmakers?

A few weeks ago I went down to Delaware to do some shooting with a buddy of mine. I busted out my Canon T2i and set up my shoulder rig, tripod, and pocket dolly.  I hooked up my monitor and began to set up my first shot. However, before I hit record I wanted to make sure what I was filming was exposed to my liking, that it was in focus and that I wasn’t crushing my whites or my blacks. I didn’t want an even tone. I wanted something a little gritty. I adjusted my iris, looked at my false color and adjusted my iris again. This was how the day went; meticulous and slow. At the end of the day I was disappointed because I didn’t get as much footage as I expected.

While packing up, my friend told me a story about a colleague of his who had to postpone a shooting gig because his monitor broke. To which I smugly responded “Do his eyes not work?” That’s when it occurred to me, mine do. So why did I spend so much time today fixated on utilizing every aspect of my monitor’s functionality?

On September 5, 1941 Orson Welles released what is known as the greatest achievement in motion picture history: Citizen Kane. Orson Welles used a Mitchell BNC camera and black & white 35mm film stock. Wouldn’t it be interesting to see what Orson Welles would have done with all the tools we have today? The Magnificent Ambersons probably would have survived because Mr. Welles would have owned a 17” MacBook Pro and released his director’s cut version via Netfilx instant stream. But would Citizen Kane be CITIZEN KANE?

Does technology make us better artists?

Would James Cameron be hailed as an iconic figure if he didn’t have all of this technology at his fingertips? Titanic would have looked like rowboat in a swimming pool, the T-1000 in Terminator 2 wouldn’t exist and Avatar would have never been made.

Film or no film, I’m no Orson Welles and I’m obviously not James Cameron. Am I against technology?  No.  Do I want a Zacuto EVF and a 7” field monitor that has 1200 x 800 resolution with false color, peaking and a button that can call my car around?  You better believe it!  I’m just posing a question.


Brian Troy is a filmmaker currently located in Philadelphia, PA. Originally from Binghamton, NY, Brian came to Philadelphia to attend Drexel University.  In 2006, he graduated with a BS in Film and Television. Since then, Brian has worked in broadcast television for companies such as QVC and Nancy Glass Productions. He also works and travels as a freelance cinematographer.

To learn more about Brian, read his reviews, view his work or hear about his upcoming projects, please visit the links below!

Brian Troy’s Blog
Brian Troy’s Website
Vimeo Page
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8 Responses to “Does Technology Make Us Better Filmmakers?”

  1. Gary Nadeau on July 2nd, 2011 4:00 pm

    Great article, Brian! Couldn’t agree with you more. 

  2. Anonymous on July 3rd, 2011 11:00 am

    Thanks Gary. I’m just throwing it out there.

  3. Salil Sundresh on July 15th, 2011 9:45 am

    “Holding a DSLR camera in your hands is reminiscent of holding a 16mm Bolex, or a tiny 35mm camera (which doesn’t exist,”

    Don’t forget the Eyemo!
    http://img.artknowledgenews.com/files2007a/GerdaTaroRobertCapa.jpg

  4. Anonymous on July 15th, 2011 7:23 pm

    film making today is garbage in a artistic sense,,look at the movies today,,there modtly green screen video,,compare to the great movies of ages ago,,this looke rediculouse,,orsen welles would have said so,,acting is out the window,,what an actor does in green screen is not acting but pantomime,,its video art not acting,,acting is an actor interacting with another person or environment,,not hanging from a wire,,running in place>>haha,,yes orsen would have laughed so hard when they give the academy to james cameron,,,hahahahah

  5. Steve Weiss on July 15th, 2011 10:23 pm

    Interesting concept Brian.  I’m not a technology man myself.  I prefer drama.  But I understand that technology is necessary to tell some stories and so long as it doesn’t get in the way of the story or acting then I say it’s cool.  Doesn’t matter what you film really looks like you are always going to be judged on story.  People don’t usually say shitty story but great looking film.  They just say shitty film.  We have way too much emphasis in the indie film community on image and that disturbs me.  The focus needs to be on Story, acting and sound.  Picture is almost a given these days.  People will tolerate a bad picture but they will not tolerate a bad story or bad sound.

  6. Brian Troy on July 18th, 2011 2:21 pm

    I couldn’t agree more Steve. Story will always be the number one thing. It’s the foundation for your entire world. In regards to the indie community, perhaps it could be said, that a good quality image stands apart from the rest giving you a more professional look, thus filmmakers becoming more visually involved and forgetting the basics: story. I’m probably just emphasizing your point here, yes, I do agree. And thank you for allowing me to be apart of the Zacuto community. 

  7. DC Reels on July 28th, 2011 11:27 am

    Orson would have taken one look at the 5DMKII, then hand it over to Gregg Toland and say in a booming voice ‘Gregory my boy, make it look epic!’ and then go bang Rita Hayworth in his trailer for the rest of the afternoon. Seriously though, you make a good point. The last 10 years of studio commercial films have been embarrassingly poor. Perhaps the new technologies will help end the slump.

  8. Brian Troy on July 28th, 2011 11:04 pm

    Lol I think you might be correct on how he’d react. Well with films such as, For Lovers Only, maybe we’re heading in the right direction. I think for that film the Polish Brothers used technology to their advantage and carved a solid story first. 

About the Author


Rachel has been with Zacuto since 2009. She began working in the sales department and moved to marketing in 2013. In her role as Digital Marketing Director she oversees the gear loan and review program, social media, blog content, zacuto.com, and works with the team on overall marketing strategy. Rachel has a BA in Theatre with a focus on Directing from Arizona State University. Those who have spoken with her on the phone know she occasionally reveals her homeland by slipping into a British accent. Rachel likes tear-jerker sports movies, reading cookbooks for pleasure, and crossword puzzles. Contact her at rachel@zacuto.com

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