Last week I spent a great, if not slightly wet, day in London’s Docklands. Like most exhibition centres, Excel is a large sprawling location, serviced by no less than two DLR (Docklands Light Railway) stations.
For those of you who don’t know, BVE describes itself as: “The UK’s leading Entertainment and Media Tech event, with a 20-year history dedicated to the broadcast, production and post-production sectors.”
The Usual Suspects
With broadcast TV hurtling towards an imminent convergence with live-streamed media, it was interesting to see a growing sector of the show dedicated to that change. After all, producing media to be broadcast across the airwaves uses most of the same production tools as producing media to pump into a Teradek or similar encoder. Exciting but confusing times I’m sure you’ll agree.
The show featured all the usual suspects, Arri, Canon, Panasonic, but having recently become best friends with a Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera, I was keen to look at what the innovative company had to offer.
Sadly no ‘Pocket’ add-ons for me, but a trip to the Blackmagic ‘truck trailer’ did confirm something for me. Without exception all of the increasingly small cameras on display used some kind of rig and a Video Assist recorder/monitor. Why is this important? Well, personally I think you are seeing the future of cameras and camera tech.
Your Camera is Broken Down – Brilliant!
I recently bought a vintage Panasonic ENG camera as a prop, for a short film. What surprised me was how ‘together’ it was, compared to todays cameras. The camera had a single manufacturer, the only obvious collaborartion being the Canon TV lens. That’s the way it was, when you bought a camera or ‘camcorder’ the add-on choices were limited and the makers said “You get what you get, and you don’t get upset!” The modular design of RED cameras was even criticised as being like a ‘Meccano Junkyard’ – Bits sticking off them everywhere! This was still the case three years ago when, the Blackmagic URSA shocked the camera market announcing the ability to upgrade the 4K sensor when new models become available.
Then suddenly and without warning, the camera, that one-size-fits-all item, broke into many (interchangable) pieces. So now in 2017, it seems that breaking up a camera, is the thing to do, AND it gets you the best of all worlds.
Take the burgeoning field recorder revolution: DSLR’s with great optics, (but limited sound options and recording times) get an immediate upgrade by lashing on an Atomos or Blackmagic field recorder. Even high-end cameras get more flexibility in recording codecs, additional shooting features – all while reducing the cost of the recording media they use.
The aforementioned ‘Meccano Junkyard’ has now become a filming sub-culture, with bespoke camera rigs costing hundreds and sometime thousands of pounds. These days, “Pass me a cheese plate” is something you’re more likely to hear on a film set, than at a posh dinner party.
Stripping away screens, handles and reducing connector sizes (and miniturising internal tech) has also reduced the overall size of the camera. Smaller sizes have lead to greater camera freedom, and cinematic shots formerly reserved for high budget productions (with big rigs) are now available to almost any film makers. The BM Micro is essentially a sensor in a box but offers RAW images from a camera small enough to sling under a drone…or use on a mini slider…or on a Glide cam….You see where I’m going.
If You Break Down – Things Are Looking Up.
If you’re on the side of the motorway with a flat tyre, broken down is bad. If you’re a film maker then breaking down your camera into variable, customisable parts is definately good.
Time was that, the people with the big cameras were seen as the experts. Small cameras were the toys of independent film makers. If BVE has shown me anything this year, it’s that the future is going to be smaller and more ‘mecanno’ like. Like the dinosaurs before them, it is the big, heavy, inflexible cameras that will die out, leaving the media empire to the little but mighty cameras.
I’m more than happy to answer questions or chat if you disagree with my points or views. You can always email me at: email@example.com