Being a Filmmaker

This entire semester has been a clusterfuck of pure awesome. Seriously, I’m balls deep in joyous uproar over the fact I’ve made so much progress as a filmmaker. As an individual, I can honestly say I know so much more about the passion I’m pursuing. 

In my heart, no one can say I’m just a guy with a camera. It means so much more to me. Instead of being a slave to the specifics of a camera I now realize the importance of the individual behind it. A camera does not take quality images. The person behind it does. 

My goals are the same. My passion is still pure. I’m hungry. I want to learn. I need to do better. I remember when I first walked into my teacher’s office showing off my old work. I was so proud back then, and I’m so happy she didn’t rip me a new one. She showed me (through making me better) how much guidance I needed. I realized through my own progression the road towards mastery of this craft was still far ahead of me. 

This made me realize how much I had left. It made me realize how much more work I needed to put in to become better. 

In our class, the university, and in general too few people have hunger to shoot. To just shoot and shoot and shoot. If there is nothing my classes taught me this semester, it’s the fact the true brunt of learning has outside of the classroom. 

Give me guidance and I will walk for miles beyond your expectation. 

Now, I feel that my goal as a filmmaker needs to shift. For over a year I have focused on the technicality of shooting and I want to more so pinpoint on the more human element. 

Screenwriting, Treatments, Storyboards, Scripts…

I want to become more sound as a pure storyteller. Why? Because I know an abundance of people who can make a pretty picture with a camera. Far few know how to integrate storytelling and aesthetic together. 

So that is my next mission. 

The Strength of a Camera

I’d like to go through a list of the cameras I’ve used so far and just talk about why I like and dislike them. 

JVC - The workflow is really easy. Takes SD cards. Pretty light in the hand. On the other side the image quality is pretty terrible. I would never want to shoot on it unless forced to by Himalayan assassins preparing to take over the world. 

Sony HDV- The fact that it is tape can seem like a hassle, but I see it on the other side. It gives you something physical to hold all of your files. In case that hard drive crashes you always have your work on a separate piece of equipment you can store. The workflow is pretty annoying. If you don’t have a place to capture it you’re pretty much done. If you have a lot of shots expect to sit in the lab for a long time waiting for it to log and capture. Looks almost as good as DSLRs (specifically in the daytime outside). It isn’t very strong at night without extra light. 

Canon 550D (T2i)- It’s just an awesome camera. The workflow is not too bad. It uses SD cards and you will have to convert to Apple Pro Res, but you’ll have to do this with any Canon DSLR. This camera is a workhorse and very manageable. It gives spectacular images for its low price (from $600-$800). Works great in low light and as a DSLR you can interchange the lens. Also, it can do slow motion (Yay!). The biggest downside is that it’s just not as powerful as it’s big brothers. There isn’t too much difference between the T2i, T3i, & 7D, but it pales in comparison to the 5D Mark 2. 

Canon 60D- Everything said above it’s a little more powerful than the T2i, but not much. The camera is good, but the price jump is silly when you could get the t2i (which is essentially the same camera) for less and still get the same quality and power. 

Canon 7D- Everything said above about the T2i and 60D except more powerful. 

Canon 5D Mark 2- This camera is a beast. It is (at the moment) one of the most powerful DSLR cameras that is still in a solid price range ($2500). The MK II (like the 7D) shoots on Compact Flash cards so you’ll have to know this and not assume it shoots on the same cards as the 60D and T2i. The MK II is absolutely amazing in low light situation. It is the best DSLR I’ve worked with when it comes to shooting scene in low to no lights. Using natural lights it is a quite stunning. This is also the camera I mainly do photography with. If you equip this camera with a good lens (L Series, Ziess, Leica, etc…) it can be a powerful tool. 

*Note: All of these cameras have similar setbacks. You need to have off camera audio because what you get on camera will not be good. Also, the screen on the camera are small so if you aren’t good with focusing you’ll need to get a HD Monitor Screen. 

Sony EX3- Powerful camera. Probably the most versatile when it comes to having powerful image plus the capabilities of a camcorder. The camera does great in low lighting situation as well. Still, I would choose a DSLR if it was purely for image quality. A drawback to the camera is the fact it is really big. You need a good tripod for this kind of camera (don’t try to use anything cheap). Trying to keep it steady on your shoulder or using a shoulder rig will not be easy. Now, when you combine this camera together with the Red-Rock adapter and put DSLR lens on it, the image quality is phenomenal. The only drawback is that entire rig is heavy and would prove a problem on an indie set work flow (in my opinion). I would still suggest using a DSLR. 

I still need to try out the Go Pro Camera and I’ll be checking out the Sony FS100 this weekend. 

Watch on

Director of Photography Reel for Xavier Burgin of Que The Lights

DSLR Cinematography

I honestly could go on and on about the capabilities of DSLR cinematography, but my fetish with the amazing dynamics of HDSLR comes with a few problems. 

DSLRs are incredible creatures wrought from unholy combination of still camera and video capability. DSLRs allow individuals to shoot amazing images with cameras that outdo all generic camcorders and many high end $7,000 plus video cameras. There are some major downsides to this though. 

DSLR are crippled by one thing; they are still cameras at the end of the day. This means you get very bad audio on camera (at least for anything that needs audio). This is especially true when dealing with images where you need a person to talk. Thankfully, there are add-ons that can significantly fix this problem. 

DSLRs give you the unprecedented ability to shoot in low light situations if you have the right lens. The trade-off though, is that by making the depth of field shallow the talent may go in and out of focus very easily. This basically means the DP must have a very steady hand and can pull focus efficiently and swiftly. 

DSLRs are like legos. They are able to pile upon themselves with new pieces. You can have HD monitors, attached shape mounts, shoulder rigs, pull focus equipment, glidetrack add one, glidecam, shotgun microphone add on, etc….

You can make a DSLR into a beast, but it will take a lot of money. Overall, the power of DSLRs is this. It gives entry levels individuals the ability to make pictures that are on par with anything you would see in a movie. 

Now, this DOES NOT mean you can just pick up a camera and get a great image. It’s never that easy, but with practice anyone can shine.