The Dizzying World of Digital Cinematography: How New Cameras & Software Both Perfect and Complicate the Indie Filmmaking Process

IndieWire by Max Cherney

To select a camera for Scott Waugh's street racing film "Need For Speed," cinematographer Shane Hurlbut pitted nine cameras against one another in dozens of tests simulating every possible shooting condition. Then, Hurlbut had each camera’s footage color graded and presented with a 4K projector on a 42 foot screen.

Hurlbut didn’t tell anyone working on the project, including the director, which camera was which. It would be a blind test. Eventually, Hurlbut revealed the details, but the unanimous, final decision was based on the picture alone.

Needless to say, Hurlbut’s "Need For Speed" test is a cinematographers’ dream– to have both the budget and time to test nine high-end cameras. This test underscores an unprecedented change in the cinematographer’s job – understanding how a multitude of cameras and post-production workflows function together.

The swarm of new technologies – like camera sensors, codecs, and color grading software – make the job now, more than ever, one that requires immense technical expertise.

It can be rewarding to dig into a camera’s published specs and post production workflows. But, as cinematographer Stéphanie Weber Biron explained to Indiewire, there are often differences between a camera’s published specifications and how it performs in the field. Camera companies aren’t necessarily lying, she said, but camera production is a business. Published specifications don’t tell the whole story about a camera. read more...

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