The rapid evolution of video technology

posted by Jeff | Friday, April 19, 2013, 10:21 PM | comments: 0

When I bought my first professional video camera back in 2006, it was kind of a big deal. It was a big deal because it cost less than $10k, it was high definition, and it recorded to solid state media. That was only seven years ago, and it sounds quaint when I describe it out loud.

After six years, last year, I finally replaced that camera. The replacement cost less than half of the original, recorded in more HD formats, and it was smaller. The compression is kind of high, but the media is dirt cheap. Last year at NAB, manufacturers were all showing various "inexpensive" cameras. For the hobbyist video nerd and full-time professional hired gun, it was like a dream come true.

Then at this year's NAB, Black Magic starts showing two impossibly awesome cameras. The first is a "4k for $4k" camera. All of a sudden, they're offering a camera that has four times the resolution of cinema standard 2k for a few grand. Remember, it wasn't that long ago that shooting in regular "old" HD required a camera that was close to $100k. If that weren't enough, they're also going to offer a tiny camera that shoots conventional HD, with micro-4/3 lenses, and a completely ridiculous 13 stops of dynamic range, for a grand. A grand!

I'm cautious to point out that tools don't make up for experience, and that even in the ugly old days of fake 24p NTSC video, one could get decent enough results out of a cheap camera if they knew what they were doing. Lighting, exposure theory and production knowledge still go a long way to getting high quality stuff. But my point is that the barrier to entry is practically gone. Christopher Nolan and his film snobbery can suck it. College kids hungry to tell a story are going to make great films, even if their distribution is largely on the Internet. That's really exciting.

I don't have any excuse for not having something in the can at this point. I've got the tools, and I have a little bit of talent at least. I just need to write something, or have someone else write something I want to make. I don't know how many years I can go before I'm just a do-nothing douche in that regard!


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