January 11, 2012 \ Geoff Birmingham
Video Production Cameras – It’s Not About the Tools

Tool Wall

Last week, I attended an event, along with about 200 other video production folks, to see the latest Canon camera that will be released in the next few weeks.  A Canon rep was there to give a demo of the camera and discuss its many merits.

In the audience were a fair number of tech-heads, and they loved the rep’s rather lengthy discussion of pixels, chips, color coding, etc.  Much of the tech talk was of little significance to me.  After his presentation, he showed several clips that were shot with the camera, and the images looked good, just as we all expected.

Following the presentation, I was chatting with a camera guy we work with often. He was kind of chuckling to himself.  One reason was that most of the tech talk went over his head also. Second, he pointed out that if he was given the equivalent of the Pepsi/Coke challenge, but instead had to distinguish footage shot with the Canon camera versus its Sony equivalent, he would utterly fail the test.  “There’s absolutely no way I’d be able to tell the difference,” he admitted.

Reflecting a bit on this afterwards, I came to a couple of conclusions that aren’t really all that earth-shattering but still worth noting.

1. It’s not about the tools. Video production companies should obviously stay as current as possible with new technology, but the tools have very little bearing on the quality of the final product.  Yes, there is going to be a difference between a $400 consumer camera and a $10,000 professional camera, but it’s the person using the camera who is going to make the biggest difference.  One could easily argue, actually, that a $400 camera in the hands of someone who knows what they are doing is going to lead to better results than a novice using the fancy camera.

2. Telling stories trumps everything else. Sure, I want the quality of my footage to look good, but even if it’s not so great, I think most of us would choose a good story with lousy footage rather than polished footage/lame story.  I think awhile back to The Blair Witch Project.  I kind of remember walking out of the theater thinking, “Wow, the guy with the camera was a total amateur.  But that sure was an entertaining movie!”

Photo: Kim Carpenter