A pretty girl with a camera, gets me every time.

I have to admit, I am a very impulsive person. I do things as they come to me, and if I like something I do it over and over and over again. My sense of self-awareness and autonomy rivals that of Johnny Five from the Short Circuit movies. I tend to get distracted and suckered in to something that I forget everything around me and just flow with what’s in front of me.

Of course by now you realize I’m attempting to make an elaborate excuse for justifying not posting in the last couple of weeks. Shame on me. Well here’s the skinny.

For the last few months I’ve been contemplating purchasing a new video camera because I wanted to get down more episodes of “The Bastard Chronicles” which is my MTV Diaries-like documentary on things that go on in my life, as well as shoot a pilot for my new webshow, whose title has not yet come to mind.

Despite my normal spontaneous buying habit (take action first, remorse second) and video quality that looked like pooh no matter what camera I played with at the local Best Buy, I opted to research and look into it. This was going to be my fifth camera purchase and each camera I had served a different purpose.

My last video camera was a Sony Handycam which had fair quality on it (and by fair I mean it was ‘meh’ quality) but I made a whole lot of crap with it. That camera was stolen on my vacation a couple of years ago and it destroyed me, emotionally I mean. I was devastated, not only could I not film anymore with ‘meh’ quality but I had no way to watch any of my archived footage which were captured on Hi-8 tapes. (They don’t even sell Hi-8 camcorders amymore!)

I then bought a Flip Mino HD on impulse thinking I could rival my last camera in quality being almost the same image sensor size. It was less smooth but higher resolution but it had a really bad case of rolling shutter (where the images on the edges of the screen skew as you pan or tilt the camera) really bad for anything requiring you to scratch your leg while filming. The nice thing about it though is its small size and minimalistic features. I could carry it in my pocket, then whip it out whenever some new idea hit me or I passed an accident on the freeway all at the press of a giant red button.

This time around I wanted to up the quality… visually. And I was willing to shell out the money for it. Hell, my Sony cost me a good $600 for ‘meh’ quality, and with technology moving at such an exponential pace, I’m sure anything today would have been better quality.

So I hit Vimeo, (my favorite video posting site mainly because almost everyone on there were serious about filmmaking and professional quality material) looking to see what up-and-comers were using to capture their ideas with. From Panavision to HD camcorders (used to Crank 2) to iphone video, these guys put out excellent production value. My production value has always been high since I script out, edit, and score all my own videos, but it’s still a visual medium, my old videos didn’t even compare to some of the “polished turds” I’ve seen floating around.

Anyway, one thing led to another, and another, and another, and then several more when I finally ended up watching the season 6 finale of House.

I noticed a lot of people on Vimeo were using the HD video features of their dSLR’s to make their videos and was astounding by the cinema-like visual quality: 24 frames per second, shallow depth of field, detailed surfaces. In my mind, it was ‘wooooo’ quality. Watching maybe more than 200 captures shot with these cameras, it led me to an article on that episode of House I was talking about.

That particular episode was shot on a Canon 5D Mark II. The script called for shots within tight spaces and the Director of Photography, Gale Tattersall, had the idea to use this still camera for those specific shots. They ended up using the camera for the whole episode. I was amazed, given a professional production crew, with a camera that cost about 3-4 grand at the time (a pittance compared to the Panavision cameras normally used on a television series) the episode came out beautiful. You’ll notice in the more recent episodes they still use that camera; anytime you see a shot with a very small part of the screen in focused, or higher than normal contrast, you can pretty much bet it was captured using the Canon and one of their prime lenses (fixed focal length, precision cut glass, and very expensive lens ranging from $1000-3000, don’t quote me though).

The price for the camera they used was still out of my league so I took Canon’s more affordable option: The Rebel T2i.

With a slightly smaller sensor size than the 5D, I was still quite impressed with the detail this camera was able to produce. Looking at my new quality I was compelled to up my game. With such beautiful image quality the last thing I wanted was to be another polished turd floating in the bowl of amateur film making.

I’ve spent the last few weeks making test videos, and trying to figure out my workflow from capture to finished product. Of course, me being who I am (a curious little bugga) I got distracted along the way; hence, my lack of posts. Not only was I obsessed with attempting to technically get the best quality I could from my newly captured videos, but I wanted my stuff to look compelling visually as well. I had to up photography composition skills as and learn the complex art of cinematography, buying a dozen books in the process and inundating (code word: overloading) myself in that world.

My brain is fried. Now I’m writing again.

Anyway, here are the three test captures I created.

I still have a few more tests to run, but I have a lineup of video projects on the way, including the much talk-about webshow I’ve been delaying for two years. Looks like my path has just gone from amateur hobbyist film maker to visual motion professional. I think I just made that up. J

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image: modenadude