Three Simple Things

Recently I was asked by a major DLSR manufacturer what features I would like to see in their movie capture mode. I pledged to restrict my reply to things that I presumed (in my ignorance) could be accomplished in firmware. Here’s what I sent:

  • Choice of frame rate. Ideally we would be able to choose any frame rate from 1 to 30, with special cases for the NTSC speeds for 30 and 24 (which are 29.97 and 23.976 fps, respectively). But the “most wanted” frame rates are 29.97, 23.976 and 25 fps. 60 fps would be nice to have for slow motion, even if it had to be 720p.

    But 23.976 is the most important frame rate to support. It is worth mentioning that Getty Images now only accepts footage shot in 24p!
  • Manual control, ideally using familiar camera controls, of aperture, shutter, and ISO.
  • There is one additional feature that is probably slightly less accessible, but is nevertheless an important issue to explore. I have no problem with manually focusing while in video mode, but the challenge is that the rear LCD display, glorious though it may be, is not sufficient for gauging focus at 1080p. An edge-enhancement focus assist option of the kind found on many HD video cameras would be ideal. I quite like the one on the Sony EX1—it displays a colored outline on sharp edges.
To recap
  • 24p
  • Manual exposure
  • Focus assist
My Amex awaits!

I hope they’re listening. I keep holding up the boombox, but I don’t see much movement in the window.

I’ve also mentioned to anyone who will listen that it’s time for video cameras to respond to this DSLR excitement. There’s much more than the mere ability to record video that defines a video camera. Some big challenges lurk here though. A Sony EX1, with its amazing, filmmaker-friendly features but miniscule sensor makes a luxurious DSLR like the 5D MkII seem downright affordable, even with its L-series kit lens included. Remember that only Panasonic has shown a video-focussed SLR-esque camera. As a SLR replcement, its predecessor, the Lumix DMC-G1, has been criticised for being too big. As a video camera it borders on being too small, although that is easily fixed. The Micro Four Thirds sensor is almost as big as the RED One’s, and Panasonic knows how to make video cameras for filmmakers. The G1 with lens is cheaper than the Nikon D90. No word on price for the video variant.

A week from tomorrow RED will blow us all away with their latest announcements and the future will seem both closer than ever, and farther away as well.

In the meantime, these video SLRs could be an aweful lot of fun—if they’d just do three simple things.