When I was back at the Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington studying documentary film with shot with old super VHS, super 8 film and then finally we got our hands on the 16mm film equipment. We were able to shoot with the schools, Bolex’s and the CP 16. It was a blast, but there also was a lot of trial and error. I loved shooting on 16mm, but I did not like the cost. I finally got better with shooting 16mm when I bought a Krasnogorsk K3. I love that camera, but once again film is expensive. It was not until I moved to Los Angels for a short time that I finally learned how film and film cameras worked. When I was in LA, I was film loader and then trained to be a second assistant camera tech, or as in the industry we called it simply second AC.
I really enjoyed doing second AC work, it took me to San Francisco and then back to Colorado. I did some days training as a first AC, but to be honest I liked being a second AC better. Once I clapped the slate, I loved settling down in a quiet position and watching the director and the actors do their magic, or well not do their magic. I saw a lot of really bad performances as well. Most of those awful performances were when I was working on some really bad Cinemax movies in LA. But the process was the same as making a great film and I had a blast working with the camera crew that I got hooked up with. My favorite second AC job was actually back home in Durango, Colorado when I got the privilege to work on the movie The Claim. Michael Winterbottom, was the director. I really enjoyed the few days that I got to work on that film to see how he approached directing. Winterbottom’s style was very freeing from what I was used to seeing form other US directors. However, that is for another topic.
So finally Panasonic came out with the DVX 100 that shot 24 frames per second, just like film. I was very excited about this when I read that there was a video camera that had a film look and feel to the image. So I called Able Cine in New York and asked a tech if it was true that the DVX 100 had a film look to it’s image. The answer was yes. I was convinced, so I bought one from a place in Portland, Oregon. I got one of the very first units that shipped. I still have that camera and it has served us well. It was the main camera that we used to film our documentary El Inmigrante. While I loved the film look of 24p on our DVX 100 and our HVX 200 HD cam, I still longed for a digital camera that had more control over your ISO, shutter speed and having the opportunity to have a lens kit like 16mm and 35mm cameras have. Then all of a sudden DSLR cameras started to shoot high quality HD video, plus all the benefits of image control like on a film camera. I was sold. I wanted a DSLR badly. I did my research and I finally chose to get a Panasonic GH2. Boy, was I ever happy with my decision. I love my GH2, now with the hack created by Vitality and the Driftwood settings we are able to push the GH2 to some amazing results. I have quickly created a lens kit that I love. This past week, while in AZ I was shooting a lot with an old Sears 55mm 1.4 lens and I just love the results.
The DSLR film making is awesome. In the past few months I have created with my welding friend a DIY cage/fig rig and a slider/dolly system that has augmented my creative abilities to have more range with my shots. I am very excited to see where large chip DSLR, camcorder cameras are going, the future is bright for film making, I love the mix of old school and new technology. But first and foremost, excellent film making can be done with any camera, just as long as the vision is there by the artists who are creating the film. Here is a list of lens and gear in the Ouzel DSLR kit.
Panasonic kit lens 14mm-42mm 3.5-5.6
Sears 55mm 1.4
Konica 55mm 1.7
Vivitar 135 2.8
Vivitar 85mm-205mm zoom 3.5 (3.5 all the way through)
Soligor 180mm 3.5
Soligor 300mm 5.5
Computar C Mount 12.5 mm 1.3
Nikon DX 55mm-200mm 4-5.6
Nikon DX 18mm-55mm 3.5-5.6
Audio Technica AT 897
Audio Technica wireless kit
Tascam DR 40 field recorder
A set of variable ND filters 52mm, 55mm, and 58mm