Tech Talk: $600 Vs. $30,000 Camera Image?

Which camera do I buy?!?

Time and again I hear these questions and time and again I tell students the same thing: the camera doesn’t matter. I would rather watch a dog food commercial shot by Quentin Tarantino on an iphone than the average student film shot on a 35mm Panavision rig.

And here is a great example. Recently I helped out on the behind the scenes footage for Adam William Ward. Adam shot a pilot using the RED Scarlet. (We have had repeated discussions about the necessity of using a RED camera). Granted the RED looks great, but here is something interesting. The behind the scenes footage was shot with a little Canon t2i, the 18 Megapixel wonder camera I recommend for my students.

The RED Scarlet package costs upwards of $30,000 with lenses and accessories. The Canon t2i was about $600 and $100 for the lens I was using. I found a location that I new would be visually engaging and set it up with a couple of cheap lights.

So watch the video below. The first shot is from the $600 t2i with no lighting except daylight. At :13 you will see a montage of RED Scarlett footage. Then at: 25 pay close attention to the interview shots with people in front of the fireplace. Was this shot with the RED Scarlet or the t2i?

t2i gives Red Scarlett a Run for the Money?

Those interview shots in front of the fireplace were shot with the t2i. Pretty sweet right? The editor was confused and said “The shots in front of the fireplace look better than the stuff shot with the RED.”

Now let me say this: Adam’s project is awesome and looks great. You can see footage from the show itself in the opening sequence, with his two great actors Charlie and Ron acting like crazy people. But isn’t it strange to see footage from a $30,000 camera and a $600 camera intercut like that and not really see a huge difference?

This is a stark contrast to the 1990s, when I went to film school. Back then, if you took a market grade VHS camera and intercut it with a prograde camera, the difference was night and day. The consumer level camera looked like crap.

But today, you can get stunning images with inexpensive cameras – the key is to learn how to frame, shoot, and light, cinematically, which is what I teach in Film School Solution. But the truth is even the best images can’t save a bad story, which is why the focus of Film School Solution for the entire first month is on engaging storytelling to make movies people want to see.

Adam did that incredibly well with his new Pilot Parole officers, which I will be writing about more shortly. It’s got a hysterical storyline and GREAT acting. He opted to shoot with the RED and it does look bomb. Of course he lives in LA where RED cameras are plentiful. But if you find yourself outside of LA and are freaking out because you think you need $1,000 a day to rent a pro camera, snap out of it. Get your own DSLR camera and learn to light it cinematically, and you will be amazed at the images you can get.

To learn more about our training check out the Film School Solution webinar here. 

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