Why HDSLR Video is a Fad (& Five Tips To Avoid The Trap)

Note: This blog post is a re-post from an old post in March, 2010. I reposted it because I feel its just as relevant two years later. 

“What camera do you use?” – It’s the most common question I get. And it’s the WRONG question to ask. We love gadgets, but avoid hard work. Do you spend hours reading about DSLR Rig Reviews, DSLR VS. Film Shootouts, but find it difficult to peel yourself out the chair to create good work? Are we trying to be technology consultants or filmmakers?

But before we jump into HDSLR’s, let me tell you about a book. Every word page between it’s front and back is worth absorbing, implementing, and sharing. I had the urge to tear out pages to put on my wall, time and time again. Seth Godin put it the best “Ignore this book at your own peril." The book is called "ReWork”. You should purchase it on Amazon.

And this chapter hit me like a ton of bricks: Focus on what won’t change. “A lot of companies focus on the next big thing…they follow the latest trends and technology…that’s a fool’s path…the core of your business should be built around things that won’t change. Things that people are going to want today and ten years from now.” HDSLR video is a revolution, but in a way, it’s also a fad. And we’ve been caught up in it.  Caught up in the revolutionary DVX100, RED One, 35MM adaptors, and now HDSLRs. Spending countless hours reading about the minutia of the technology instead of actually implementing what we are learning. And it’s easy to do with Cinema5d, Planet5d, and Phillip Bloom (who I have huge respect for) posting about the next juicy review and video after another.

But at the end of the day, the tools and technology will fade. However, the work will stand, and the talent people behind the work will sustain themselves and their businesses.

Having a background in web development, I’ve seen this with coding languages, social media networks, and countless tools, technologies, and platforms. So let’s get practical… What does that mean for me as a filmmaker? What do I invest in? (Invest = Time/Money)

1. DON’T over-invest in cameras. HDSLR a game changer? Yes. But this is just the start, stay on your toes, be ready to invest in a new lens line, or stick to PL mounts- be ready to jump back to RED, Nikon, or whomever. The race is just starting. Do you spend time figuring out which Mac to buy? No. You buy an iMac or Mac Pro, debate over. Don’t get too caught up figuring out what to buy and how it works, the technology changes too fast. Find the right piece of equipment, then move on.

2. DO Invest in quality glass. If you notice, quality lenses hold their resale value. Take the Nikon 28mm 2.0 AIS lens. This lens was built in the 70s, but you still have to pay upwards of $400-600 to purchase a used model. But according to Shane Hulburt, these lenses hold with the best of them. Plus, the build quality is incredible, the focus rings are large, and the pull is smooth like butter.

3. DO Invest in lighting. This is a technology that has not changed much over the past fifty years. LED lighting has emerged but the technology and basics of LED lighting (that’s a whole other blog post) are still in the nascent stages and HMI lighting is still the cinematographers weapon of choice.

4. DO invest in rigging, tripods, and. Gliders, dollies, grip tape, Redrock, Zacuto rigs change relativly slowly. Incremental changes are made, but the investment is solid as we are talking about metal, rubber, and gears here. If it has a good built quality and smart engineering, it will hold its resale value. However, be careful, realize that while camera sizes are shrinking, good lenses and rigging may not shrink very much. So that fluid head rated for 15 pounds may only be useful for a few applications.

5. DO invest in your knowledge of timeless technique and your body of work. Ten years from now, HDSLR video will be a blip on a wikipedia page, and more importantly, the audiences can relatively care less about what camera you shot with. They care about your ability to move them as a storyteller, as a designer, as a curator, as a connector of ideas. Spend time writing your script, fine tuning your knowledge of lighting, go shoot more video. I liken HDSLRs to the printing press, or development of the papyrus/pen.

Everyone has a pen. But can you write? That’s why HDSLR Video is a fad. What do you have to say?

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