The Thing About Gear
Ask anyone who knows me and they will tell you - I'm a gear junkie. Throughout my career I have been known as an early adapter - testing, shooting or owning the newest, latest gear. I read about gear, write about gear, teach about gear, and spend most of my day thinking a lot about gear. I know a lot about camera gear.
I also use that gear. I shoot nearly every day for a wide variety of visual formats, (i.e., mobile, web, television and wide screen). With the revolution of the Red camera, followed by the DSLR stop-gap, and now the explosion of mid range and high end digital cinema cameras, the variety of camera gear we now use has increased exponentially. Camera packages today are much more complex and each camera has a variety of gear (rigs, viewfinders, batteries, lens) that is specific to that camera or manufacturer.
Todays high-end, large sensor, digital cinema cameras produce such incredible images, that you now have a mind numbing choice of dozens of different cameras to choose from. The output quality of these cameras is so great, (2K to 6K ouput) that they often far surpass the quality needs of the platform you will be delivering to. And while many well-versed producers will tell you that the selection of DP or camera operator is far more important than the camera package, choosing the wrong package can often mean compromising your production. Talk to any experienced DP or camera operator and you will hear plenty of stories about struggling through shoots with the wrong gear for that particular production. The problem is exasperated by the fact that many of these cameras are nothing more than camera bodies that can take a ever increasing variety of accessories - some just as crucial as the selection of the camera itself. Add to this the fact that some of this gear is critical (such as batteries and lens) while others are non-critical (such as camera rigs, OLED Viewfinders and remote zooms).
In addition to the gear conundrum, the same thing is happening with recording formats and medium. You can now choose between a variety of RAW formats that can handle feature film level latitudes and 4-5 times the resolution of 1080 HD that require LUTs and color correction in post, to a larger variety of post friendly native and Prores formats. These can be recorded both in camera or to external portable recorders on a variety of fast storage mediums such as Fast XD, SDD, CF, and SXS media.
I recently had a conversation with a small group of well known DP's about the new realities of gear on productions. Besides the astounding number of camera choices and accessories we need to know, most of today's shoots also require the use of specialized gear such as POV cameras and mounts, motion control rigs, time lapse cameras, sliders, wireless video transmitters, Steadicams, Movi or Ronin style stabilizers and drones.
Your Gear, My Gear, Their Gear
While I own a lot of my own gear, I don't determine what I use on a shoot by what I own. Each job has a unique set of needs based on the story you are telling, and those needs determine the gear we use. In fact every shoot is different, because every shoot has a different set of delivery requirements, budgets, schedules and a myriad of other factors that all should be considered when choosing the right camera package.
Sound complex? It is, but the good news is there are gear junkies out there like me who love doing it. So if you have a gear question just give me a buzz. If I don't know the answer, there's a good chance I can point you in the right direction.
Copyright 2014 Randy Baker Productions Digital Storytellers