According to editor Paul Jones, the answer is a resounding: “not really….”
AS EITHER of our loyal fans will tell you, that tog blog isn’t down with discord. And so, fed up with the ongoing 5D/7D bitchfest – now into its fourth year – we put our best man on it. Nouveau vague or nouveau not so vague, we wanted answers and we knew exactly who to ask. By Ian O’Brien
BASED in Manchester and with almost two decades experience under his belt, editor Paul Jones knows his DNXHD from his AVCHD, With more awards than his nanna can fit on her mantle, Jonzey – as he is known to his mates – has worked with some of the worlds best known brands and baddest bands, from Ladbrokes to Kid British, and with deadlines that would strike terror into the hearts of lesser men! He also knows a thing or two about Canons leading pro and ‘prosumer’ DSLR’s.
I MET Jonzey while shooting stills for one of that tog blogs favourite charity’s, The Stroke Association. During a series of workshops in which acclaimed poet, Mike Garry, introduced stroke survivors to the wonderful wordsmithery of Seamus Heaney, Ted Hughes and John Cooper Clarke, Paul and his team were on hand to film the proceedings. A few weeks later I asked him which of these two would win in a fight. He very kindly told me…………Sort of.
“Let’s start with
the codec…..it’s horrible”
AS AN editor I often find myself working with footage from a 5D MKII or 7D. It looks really good (at a glance) and personally I’m not adverse to working with either; so long as the audio hasn’t been recorded on-board.
So, why the “not really”?
TO BE honest, and putting aside the fact that every bloody student with zero experience is running around and calling themselves a “filmmaker”, it comes down to the simple fact that as a professional tool it’s just not good enough.
But the video prowess of the 7D is one of its key selling points…..isn’t it?
WELL, let’s start with the codec – it’s H264 and it is…..for want of a better word…….horrible. Ask any professional cameraman to really critique the 7D, and most of them will hate it with a passion. Sure they use it and it has its place but the codec is lossy, it has real saturation issues, minimal image control and little scope for proper on-board audio.
But, apart from all that…..
IT HAS a limited record time and a tendency to overheat. As an editor I’ve got other gripes too – for example the bitrate is pants; it’s massively over saturated (on the red) and when you get to the grading, unless you have the right firmware and a skilled cameraman, there’s zero wiggle room without blowing your legal levels out the water. AS FOR the 5D MKII; no post house is going to be ecstatic if you bring them 5D footage. Organisations like the BBC are likely to throw it back in your face because doesn’t run at their required 100mbps (though to be fair, there are ways around this). DSLR is horrible to edit raw. It has rolling shutter issues, it’s clunky, noisy and temperamental.
THE SECOND it’s in my AVID system, it’s transcoding. The DNXHD (Digital Nonlinear Extensible High Definition) codec is much more manageable. That said, as a format it’s still preferable to AVCHD (Advanced Video Coding High Definition) but that’s another rant for another time.
IN OVER seventeen years as a professional editor I have worked with footage from pretty much every camera there is. As a tool the DSLR has its place, but given the budget (ish) camera options available today I would take the Canon C300 every day of the week.
THE CAMERA control and Log C format allow you to film with flat levels (akin to old cine film technique.) This alone puts it head and shoulders over the competition when it comes to grading the project. In essence it’s the poor man’s RED or ARRI ALEXA. Gotcha. BY NOW you’re thinking I’m a camera snob. Am I right? Well, In the interest of being transparent, let me say that I’m one of the very many people who owns a DSLR with filming capabilities; I’ve used and do plan on using it in the future on various projects.
“It used to be that people ran
around with film scripts….”
RIGHT NOW, for example, I’m in the planning stage of a documentary. Due to budgetary constraints it will no doubt be shot using both the 5D MKII and my 7D. With the range of lenses and the film like approach that DSLR offers nothing else comes close. If there is no budget then it’s a no brainer. And you have stills too, remember; In fact the very reason DSLR filming exists at all was so that journalists could film on the hoof without needing extra gear.
IT ALSO opens the world up to the hither-to untapped market of the unknown penniless creative who, prior to the dogma movement of the 90s, simply had to dream about getting their films made. It used to be that people ran around with film scripts and hung out in coffee houses talking about the film they would make if only “The Man” would give them a chance. Now they sit around discussing cheap jibs, lenses, rigs and how their next crowd funded film will be better than the last.
SO TO all intents and purposes it’s a good thing, right? I mean, everyone has to start form somewhere, don’t they. Well, yes and no. ASIDE from the technological limitations, the flooding of the market with “easy to use” cheap hardware can lead to a dilution of skill, followed by lowered of expectations on the part of clients. The idea that the neighbor’s kid can do the same work with the entry level DSLR he got for Christmas has never more relevant than in the current professional market.
“You just can’t get a
professional look from a DSLR”
WHICH brings us back to that “Not Really”. If you take the whole argument and look at it objectively, then maybe the DSLR has a some kind of place in the professional world. I know I’d choose it over a lot of cameras currently out there; the tapeless system, DOF and range of possible lenses make for good resources however you turn it. Also, if the story is strong enough then the argument of “format” is moot. However, I can’t help feel that its potential ceiling has been hit by the small corporate and low-budget market. In my honest opinion you just can’t get a professional look from a DSLR (unless you grade the shit out of it in something like Davinci) and nobody in their right mind with budget to spend would actively chose it over more accomplished equipment. As a format though, It looks like it’s here to stay. For now at least.And that’s my two cents.
To discuss any upcoming projects with Paul, please visit his website in the first instance at http://jonzey.com/