So we just finished up a mini doc about my perspective on film. The catalyst for the project was to create a 2 minute doc about something you are passionate about to win a Sony FS7. It turned out really well. Please check it out.
So it has been a long time coming. As a camera operator I have always longed for a Steadicam. In recent years there have been many imitators of the famous brand of camera stabilizer. Until now I have resisted such temptations. So as the industry prepares for another revolution in camera stabilizers with the introduction of Movi and BeSteady I have finally picked up a stabilizer.
So a job coming up requires stabilization and I had my eye on the steadicam Solo since it was announced but it isn’t available yet so I went with another inexpensive model from Adorama branded as Flashpoint Zerograv. This one is sold with or without a vest/arm. I went with the vest (not pictured) because I don’t want to put any more strain on my wrist at this point in my life. A DSLR may be light, but not for extended periods of time.
I’ve never had a stabilizer before, but I have played around with Merlin, Glidecam and even a Pilot. I’ve always thought they were too difficult to set-up, etc. All true. Now I’m pretty sure the more expensive the stabilizer the better it may maintain its balance throughout the day, but nothing is easy. The Flashpoint was pretty easy to balance despite having no manual or instruction. Most of the forums will also tell you the same thing. It requires lots of practice, adjustment and more practice. After a couple days of practice I can get footage that looks better than hand-held but by no means does it look like Goodfellas.
So I got my 120mm Zeiss Jena in a neat package wrapped in twine from the Czech republic. It looks to be in good shape and mounted easily to the 5D with an inexpensive adapter.
Last weekend I took it out on a shoot and used it for the interview with a photographer.
Really happy with how it looks. The next step would be to put it up against a comparable modern lens to see how different it really is. It still has the limitations of a still lens for filming motion like clicked stops and and the focus rotation. I’m already looking at others that would be a good match. maybe a 65mm? An 80mm for sure.
Ever since I was in film school most professionals would say how important the glass you shoot with is more important than the camera or format. I’ve always held on to that idea even when shooting with a crappy kit zoom. Sometimes you just need a 300mm and the only one available is, well, embarrassing. Anyway I remember shooting with Pentax 6X7 SLR cameras back in school and they had these beefy lenses to cover the medium format. I was thinking about those lenses and sure enough Zeiss Jena, the East German lens maker made lenses for the commie version of that camera and others with the same mount. So after a little looking I took the plunge and sprung for a zebra 120mm Biometar 2.8. Of course the Chinese will make an adaptor for every mount, so we’ll see what this lens has to offer photography and cinema on a 5DmkIII. The later Jena lenses offered an MC or multi-coated lens and these look more like the leica R lenses, at least from the outside.
Alright, I’m the film guy. I just had a thought about how new film stocks would come out every couple of years. The manufacturer would tout how amazing and improved the stock is and how it was simply better in every way than the previous 200T or whatever. Then every article in American Cinematographer would talk about shooting the older stock, because the cinematographer knew how it would look through post, because they need time to acquaint themselves with the new stock. Even years after a stock had been discontinued you might hear someone say, wow I really miss ’93, the color palette was amazing. So my point in this post is that digital cameras are flying at us with unprecedented speed and we see even more tests on vimeo or forums but I don’t see that we are comfortable with what is right now like we were with film. This post will be out of date in a month. Whatever camera I mention will have a new update, new model or be completely antiquated in a month.
Right now I’m using a Canon 5DmkIII. I also use a RED ONE MX and RED Scarlet from school. And I have a Panasonic HVX in the closet that comes out to play on long format productions. These are good for now, but there is something better. Dragon, Alexa, Black Magic, Sony. They all have cameras that are better, smaller, faster out right now. The point I’m trying to make is will my 5D or Scarlet be the films stock that is no longer manufactured? Or is the new Dragon sensor really a better film stock than that old 93 ever was and I just need to move on? Will it be good enough to not compare to film at all?
Here’s another clip from Epic Dragon tests.