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DOP's should choose the camera, not the Producer.

I have seen several job postings for DOPs/Operators over the last few years where the post has specified Arri and Red cameras only. There are other cameras out there that are just as good. The Panasonic Varicam/EVA family for example, or the Sony Venice/F65/F55, to give another, or the Canon C700 to give yet another. All the cameras I have mentioned have been used to shoot features and by Netflix/Amazon/HBO/BBC etc to shoot content.

All these cameras have their strengths and weaknesses. None, I would argue are better than any of the others; they are all different. So for a post to specify Arri and Red cameras only is just plain bonkers. Producers should leave the camera choice to the DOP and not think, just because they've read a few articles or seen a few inaccurate Youtube videos, that they know all about cameras and that Arri and Red are better than anyone else; because they don't know better than anyone else and Arri and Red cameras aren't better than any of the other cameras I have mentioned. Producers should stick to producing. Leave the cameras up to the DOP.

  • Only caveat I offer up is if a deal is already done with an Alexa package or whatever, then that's what you'll need to use. There can be reasons. That said, I'd want the DoP involved in the decision in an ideal world.

    4 weeks ago
    • I'm talking about posts where they want the DOP to bring the camera with them and state it has to be an Arri or a Red. Not talking about cheap deals done for kit.

      4 weeks ago
    • @Mark Wiggins Oh we agree there! Choosing beggars, and all ;-)

      I'd take a great operator and crew over a specific camera body or glassware any day. A camera body is just a tool, a tool that takes an expert to get the best from. In fact the better the operator knows the tool, the better the results overall. People get so hung up over pixel count or sensor brand when they really need to look at the overall picture (literally!)

      4 weeks ago
  • Regardless of any of the excellent points made by Mark and Paddy. It's the producer who makes the decision for whatever reasons he or she has and that may not be discernable to others.

    4 weeks ago
    • But when a producer is looking for an owner/operator to supply a camera as well as him/herself, I cannot see what reason they would have to specify Red and Arri over any of the others (apart from them being the only two high end camera manuafacturers they have ever heard of). I'm talking mainly about makers of low budget shorts/first features here.

      4 weeks ago
  • On that specific note Mark, I'd have to commiserate with you. Delusions of grandeur do arise occasionally with some producers. Low or no budget projects ought to be delighted if they get to use any of the alternative models on your list. They're all capable of producing great pictures. In fact there's a few even lower rated cameras that in the right hands can result in better cinema photography than achieved by some with those mega buck types.

    4 weeks ago
  • I think when people are advertising for an owner/operator and they specify the camera, it is the camera they are more interested in than the person using it. There are a lot of people making low budget shorts etc who seem to think, if they shoot it on a really high end camera, then the results will look like a Hollywood Movie; shoot your short with an Alexa 65 and it will look like "Rouge One." Well, it won't. You can only get great results out of a high end camera if the person using it has talent and knows how to use it. Give the aforementioned Alexa 65 to someone who has only shot home movies and you will get something that looks like a home movie.

    I remember seeing a job advert for an expenses only Focus Puller, I think it was. The advert actually said that they were shooting on a Alexa so the film was going to look great! People just delude themselves with lack of knowledge. If they had a well known and respected DOP shooting it and had mentioned that they had that person as their DOP in there post; now that could be a reason for saying the film would look great but to say it would look great based on the fact that they were shooting on an Alexa just shows ignorance.

    4 weeks ago
  • I can wear the same shoes as Ronaldo, but for some reason they don't let me play in the world cup.

    I disagree that the tools won't improve an amateur, however. The very fact that you're holding an expensive machine can increase your respect for the beast, and can improve the morale of certain cast members too.

    I have worked with people who became difficult when they saw that we had "cheap" headphones. Not many, but there are a few people out there who become easier to work with when you use "known" brands.

    (It's worse for administrative positions. Almost everyone asks for software by brand, not function, although very few people still ask for Final Draft when looking for writers.)

    P.S. If someone told me the film was shot on the same camera as Rogue One, I would not be impressed. If you had the same storyboard artist as Sixth Sense, then I might listen.

    4 weeks ago
    • While true having a big expensive camera will make actors etc take things more seriously and therefore work better it’s not going to suddenly turn a mediocre cinematographer into a brilliant one. Having a big expensive camera may make an actor act better but if the guy using the big expensive camera lacks skill, experience and talent, the pictures will still be crap.

      And, anyway, all the cameras I listed are high end big expensive cameras.

      4 weeks ago
  • One reason as was the case when I was looking for a DOP was that I own a Canon C100 and I was going to be filming a couple of extra scenes I wanted the DOP to either use my camera and lenses or one that matched. My DOP came along with 2 x C300, so that worked fine.

    3 weeks ago
    • Doesn't work in my example as Red and Arri cameras don't match. So not a valid argument.

      3 weeks ago
  • An DoP with excellent sense of the final picture working with his own equipment is the best without doubt. However, if you are going to have other footage to mix in, then you need either the same equipment, set to the same values at the location, or you need some amazing editing. (I once got over a mis-match but letting a red mist descend on the scene in post. Got away with it. Wouldn't like to chance a mismatch on a multicamera shoot!) If sometimes you are using more than one camera to shoot the same scene, you need to match the cameras, or know that you can hire the same make and model for that shoot, and that the camera man for it will know that camera type well.

    3 weeks ago
    • As I said in response to another person, my example is of someone insisting on an Arri or a Red, so the argument of matching cameras isn't valid as Arris and Reds do not match.

      3 weeks ago
  • Mark, you're not going to change the fact that these kinds of postings appear, however much they irritate you.

    Arris and REDs are the best cameras that are known to the most inexperienced filmmakers and producers. The Varicam and Sony F55 and the like simply are not.

    Best thing for you to do is simply annoy those posts piss you off, otherwise you end up wasting an hour venting over things you simply cannot change!

    3 weeks ago
    • Yes, I know but I think we should try and educate; hence my post. Hopefully some of the people it’s aimed at will read it and be educated. That’s also why I made a list.

      3 weeks ago
    • @Mark Wiggins
      I hear you.

      3 weeks ago
  • I agree with Mark about posting for specific kit. People will do this because their favorite major motion picture was shot on this camera or that. I've shot certain scenes outside at night on Sony a7S's with Samyang prime lenses that were nearly indistinguishable from an Epic in the look of the film on-screen. Not to speak of saving about 2K pounds on lighting. What really matters is end product onscreen. I'd argue it's all that matters.

    3 weeks ago
    • I totally agree George. Whilst there's no doubt that the megabucks types offer a very real edge on some facets of latitude and or may offer additional digital head room for manipulation in post, though even those comparisons with many of the latest sub £5000 types have become somewhat moot. I think that much of their worshipfull attraction is of the 'Emperors New Clothes' variety.

      3 weeks ago
  • I once made the mistake of allowing a camera person to decide which camera we would shot with because they owned it I assumed that they would be able to use it competently, big mistake, they mistakenly believed because of the latitude of the camera's exposure, that everything could be pulled out in post, so they didn't even bother to light properly, I had to garbage some shots in posts after expensive and time-wasting exercises failed in attempts to correct ridiculously poor exposed shots that we captured during production. A well-lit scene, apart from being very interesting, also plays a part in directing the eye and therefore carrying the narrative. When a camera is selected many other things have to be taken into consideration, workflow, the cost and difficulties of post-production (not many editors are capable of working with or even creating proxies to work with, 6K raw footage that some camera mentioned are capable of filming), data storage, the top end editing equipment required to edit, grade and deliver that footage could ramp ost production costs to double or triple their original estimates, as importantly, the required media capture cards and skilled data transmission by a competent person that doesn't screw-up the data transfer, heavy duty grip equipment to be able to move the chosen camera and lens to compliment it. A D.O.P. brings skills to a production that can enable if proficiently experienced, to capture and add additional complementary depths to the narrative that would be missed by less experienced novices. A camera person who is totally familiar with all the strengths and limitations of their equipment can and often do achieve incredible, beautiful shots, save time knowing what is and isn't possible, rather than experimenting during expensive production days. So owner-operators often have a great advantage, familiarity with their equipment which is invaluable to a producer on a tight budget, over D.O.P.s that are hiring in the latest bit of kit that the barely had any time to test out and experiment with. In the hands of a skilled camera person almost any camera can capture powerful and beautiful footage that can go on to fill cinemas around the world, there are dozens of proven examples of this, i.e. sixteen millimetre, pixel vision and iPhone blow-ups. It is simply a proven fact, it is not the camera used but the way that a camera is used, that is most important.
    www.imdb.com/name/nm0002916/

    3 weeks ago
    • Like what Ray says!

      There's a difference between a house painter and an artist, which has little to do with pallet and brushes provided.

      The competences of a mere camera operator, are not as great as those of a lighting camera person or a DoP. Producers ought to understand those differences and ensure that they are getting the competence they need as being far more essential than any specific model of camera.

      3 weeks ago
  • People obsess over equipment. I’d say start the conversation with a DOP whose work suits the project before discussing kit requirements. If your doing a low/no budget feature you shouldn’t be requesting such high end cameras as you will be restricting yourself with storage costs and potentially restricting the DP’s creativity. It is far more important to have a good story and a creative team.

    3 weeks ago