Filmmaking, Technology and a Lot of Toys

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I love toys. Sorry, I meant, I love technology and film equipment. I used to spend hours searching for the newest technological breakthrough in the fields of digital movie making, video and broadcast. Until recently, I was the coordinator of the film making department for a creative media education provider. One of my duties was to research, discuss and acquire technology to support a hands on approach to learning and developing film making related skills. It was an exciting aspect of my old job, to try to figure out the direction of the technological development, and then try to accommodate the hardware and software needed to reflect industry practices within the budget of an education provider (the last part was the least exciting). Some students can develop an unhealthy obsession with technical specs and price tags, and sometimes it can be contagious.

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I have just come back from BVE 2014 at ExCeL London. I had planned to write a post where I would discuss the exciting pieces of technology I would have tested or encountered at the expo. I feel, however, that this post is turning into something of a rant. The excitement new ‘toys’ used to generate was strangely missing. I have witnessed some great cameras, monitors, rigs, workflow and storage solution; Monitors that make me want to keep my TV off, for as long as I cannot experience the same quality at home. Cameras and lenses that make me wish I was born 10-15 years later, when I consider the quality/price ratios on offer. Rigs enabling the user to create smooth cinematic movements at more affordable costs like never before. Workflows where annoying tasks have been automated to satisfy my lazy side, and cloud and physical storage solutions to fit my wandering habits. With all these amazing technology on show, how comes I did not feel like a kid in a candy shop?

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For every piece of original technological development on display, there were five to ten copies at a lower price tag, with a flashier look or including added unessential features. In the end, the feeling is that there is too much fuss around more pixels, more frames per second, stretched dynamic ranges, lower power consumption, faster, better/smarter cloud based workflows and so on. They are all important aspects that enable us to improve the way we work and the quality of what we output. This year, I have to admit, I am looking at all this equipment with only my own ‘wallet’ as a sad ‘perspective’. But, also exhibitors were mainly presenting continuations of previous technologic developments, and I did not feel the satisfaction of experiencing or operating a technology breakthrough first hand.

I used to tell my students that instead of investing in a camera, they should be better off investing in lenses. Was I wrong! Invest in your network, in your ideas, in your instinct. And if you really want to invest into equipment buy the low depreciation items (lights, rigs,…) and continue to hire the rest of your production and post-production needs. If the depreciation of your equipment is higher than the rental costs endured over the same amount of time, do you think buying is a good decision? In the future, I will be happy to share information about new technology in this section of the blog. Technology I have tested first hand that I believe changes some paradigm relating to filmmaking. Let’s hope I will not have to wait too long. All this remind me of the advice of one of my lecturers: “ You shouldn’t be good with all this technology and computer stuff. People will continuously contact you for your help and assistance and you will not find the time and space to be creative” I do not like to agree with her too often, but in this case she was right.

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