02.11.2018 | Ausgabe 11/2018

Image Composition Starts With The Camera

MICHAEL GROTTICELLI is an experienced editor and regular contributor to FKT’s Tech Across  merica column. / Quelle: M. Grotticelli

MICHAEL GROTTICELLI is an experienced editor and regular contributor to FKT’s Tech Across merica column. / Quelle: M. Grotticelli

Perhaps one of the biggest worries any cinematographer has as they look into the future is, “Will my work eventually look dated?” 

It’s a legitimate fear considering how much emphasis the film and TV industries put on resolution, but in the end, it’s more about the artistic value of the work, rather than whether or not it was shot in 4K, 8K, or whatever is coming down the pike.

Many cinematographers agree that no matter how many pixels there are, the artistic intent should always be respected. Content will always be king and make up for a lot of anomalies in your footage. It’s the subject matter keeps footage from becoming dated.

Proper image composition also has a lot to do with a project’s longevity and that can only be captured  with the right camera and image sensor. Therefore, choosing the optimum camera is critical to the type of image you want to create for your project.

So, what is the optimal camera?
A camera that allows you to shoot in 4K is great, but you might get better results with an HD camera.  Of course resolution is a big creative factor to consider before choosing a camera, but it’s not the only one. There are other, potentially more important features you should consider: like latitude, dynamic range, form factor, and sensor size. Even if you’ve got a camera that shoots beautiful 4K images, it won’t do you much good if, say, there isn’t enough light to capture it in.

Thankfully, many of the newer 4K cameras that have come out in the last couple of years take these important specifications into consideration and help ensure a successful outcome. However, it’s still imperative to measure the value of a camera based on the needs of your project, rather than its own list of features.

Indeed, there are so many video camera options available, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the choices. Instead of picking a specific camera or brand, it’s best to first decide what type of camera you need. A small form factor camera might be more appropriate to a scene where handheld work is preferred. A large sensor might capture what you are after. Careful pre-production planning will help identify the right one for you.

Many manufacturers now offer 4K video in the palm of your hand. With built-in image stabilization, users can easily capture decent footage. You can also edit video on your phone and immediately upload your videos online.

You might snicker, but today’s cell phone cameras are no joke. There is already an entire Swiss news channel called Léman Bleu with content shot on iPhones and viewers are watching without complaint. Video journalists there report that while the footage quality is often sufficient, it can be difficult to capture quality  audio, especially if your subject is too far away from the built-in microphone. That’s why reporters have been equipped with a separate audio recorder.

Moving up the ladder, most “professional“ video cameras have high-end sensors and use interchangeable lenses, with the ability to shoot both HD and 4K footage. Using these camera assumes a basic knowledge of color grading, setting audio levels, and an understanding of video codecs (for file delivery and storage reasons).

These cameras are not simple to set up either. You will need the proper lenses for the camera’s mount, a monitor or viewfinder, battery packs, as well as any other necessary support gear. Yet, if set up properly, professional video cameras will capture stunning images. You may also have high-quality audio built in depending on the model, and all of these cameras feature professional  inputs and outputs for external gear.

If you are looking at shooting high-end commercial work or feature films, a true cinema camera is going to be your best option. It’s also best o have an entire camera crew dedicated to working with these cameras, as their  operation and the workflow involved with andling the large amounts of data is  more complex. 

 naging the increased data consumption of 4K footage is another critical factor for any 4K workflow. File are stored differently when using different cameras. If you’re used to shooting in HD, 720 or 1080, media managementmight be something you do sporadically throughout the  day a  needed. However, 4K is a whole other animal and requires a dedicated plan for dealing with the deluge of data you’ll be capturing. This is an important factor to keep in mind if you’re an indie filmmaker who typically works on small crews. This is especially important if  you’ve never considered hiring a DIT to manage all the data coming in.

Storage is also a limitation to using an iPhone. If you are shooting long videos or a ton a footage, you need plenty of space on your phone to store the video files. If you don’t plan on shooting much and are only interested in making quick short videos, this may be your best camera for filming. If you’d like more production value, then you’ll need to look into one of the following options.

Managing the increased data consumption of 4K footage is indeed critical factor for any 4K workflow. If you’re used to shooting in HD, 720 or 1080, media management might be something you do sporadically throughout the day as needed. However, 4K is a whole other animal and requires a dedicated plan for dealing with the deluge of data you’ll be capturing. This is an important factor to keep in mind if you’re an indie filmmaker who typically works on small crews. This is especially important if you’ve never considered hiring a DIT to manage all the data coming in.

The technology is advancing fast, that while today we’re all talking about the challenges of 4K data management, shooting in low light, and choosing between a camera with high resolution or a small form factor, a while range of new challenges will be identified and resolved next year and  going forward. The ley is to stay on top of the latest new on the camera or cameras you might prefer and do your homework. Image composition starts with the camera in your hand.

Image composition is a very subjective and highly personal thing. How you frame shots, with the right camera for the job, is only limited by your imagination.


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