Over the past six or so months I've made some huge changes. Personal changes and professional ones too - I looked at my career as a cinematographer and tried to pinpoint what wasn't working, or how I could do it better, do it happier. So what wasn't I enjoying about my career in the first place? Well, fluctuating incomes, inconsistent work leading to financial issues etc, etc. On top of that, I began to feel the pressure of working on 'no-budget' films where time and money were less than limited and the expectations were super high and hopeful. The usual story of any freelancing film-maker who takes their job seriously and tries to break into the inner circles of the industry. I've been TRYING, professionally, for nearly 7 years now...so when will that hard work pay off? When will I get invited into the 'inner circles'? Sounds sad doesn't it. And frankly, it is kinda sad. Like everyone, I wanna work on the big films, with the big gear, the big lights and the big crews. I want to be paid my day rate, not a students day rate. I want finely detailed storyboards, weeks of pre-production, luxurious locations, 50KW of portable power, exotic and frequent craft service schedules and people who respect what I do. The sad part is, I think I've realised that that's never going to happen, not unless I change.
SO! There's the realization part out of the way. A painful part, but hey. That's the dramatic side of this blog post for you :) So now for the camera part.
What have I MASSIVELY missed since I purchased my RED Scarlet-X back in 2012? Mobility. Speed. The freedom to JUMP into action when inspiration hits. That's not to say that you can't "run and gun" (I hate the phrase) with a Scarlet, but let me assure you that even though it is relatively small, it's relatively fucking huge too - especially when you rig it for work. But here's the thing. I've spent that past several years focusing less and less on quick setups and available light, and more and more on lighting from scratch and working with a team. And to be honest, the Scarlet is perfect for that..and let's face it...that's how a movie SHOULD be made....right? Time, planning and collaboration - that and some wiggle room for accidental magic. The problem is, I'm rarely called upon to be part of a shindig like that. To cynically break it down, it usually goes like this:
"Dude, we love your work. We want you to shoot our film. We have no money and no time. We love your work. Come with us. Dude!".
So then I read the script and think...yeah....okay. I'll just have to eat less and skip some bills this month. At least I get to light a camp-fire scene (which I'm still DYING to do BTW). So then we have three days un-paid pre prod which often involves no production designer or location manager, and I'm going to stop there because this is just going to get depressing hehe ;)
The point is, I love shooting and lighting films and that's what I do, 110%, no matter what. The more paid films I work on the better, and even better than that, the more awesome people I work with and meet, the better again :) The problem I was facing outside of the above issues was that I felt like my camera, my awesome RED Scarlet-X (that has never let me down), was actually....letting me down. Was it the image quality? No way...I love that sensor. It was the bulk and weight of the thing. But let me explain a little more, before we get into that.
The only time I've ever grown as a cinematographer is when I've tried something new. Lit in a new way, or shot in a new situation. The problem was, I wasn't seeing enough new situations. I wasn't being presented with new challenges.....just the same old "make this shit location look awesome using the lights you've owned for years and do it fast". Sure, that challenge is a great one, but it's not exactly inspiring, well, not every time anyway. I'm lucky enough to have this kinda "flame" in me (I know right...next I'll be using the word 'journey'), in other words, I get SUPER inspired to try stuff. I'll see a shot in a movie and think "FUCK! That's looks SICK! I want to try something like that!". But then I'm faced with the internal dialogue "FUCK! I'm gonna need some help with this cam....and a permit for that location....and some big ass lights....and a crew to help me". Then, not long after, the inspiration fades and I get back to looking at Instagram feeds of successful DOPs closing down streets with balloon lights above, shooting RED Weapon 8K and Arri Master Primes rigged to a Movi following a Ferrari.
BEFORE I grew up and suffered like this, I used to grab my 5D Mark II and get out there. If I had an epic idea, I got epicly inspired and got the fuck up and SHOT shit. That's how I learned! That's how I became [MTS]Films! What the hell happened!?!? God damn it....hehe :)
Change was needed. I HAD to fix this shit, and now that I knew what the problem was, I decided to buy a small camera again. Sony A7S(II)? Nearly......GH4? Almost. 5D III hacked? Yeah...maybe....but it's too expensive for what it is and the workflow required. I don't have any money remember? So then I looked at the Black Magic Design family, and what a lovely family they are.
The BMPCC (Black Magic Pocket Cinema Camera) was released a few years ago and I was impressed back then....but back then I was like "I got a Scarlet so I don't need a Pocket cam". That was true....back then, remembering that it was THE ONLY MOTION PICTURE CAMERA that shot RAW, and wasn't priced over $100K. Anyway, the pocket cam for me, is BASICALLY a pocket sized Scarlet. Once you pop on a focal reducer you can get the crop down to actually LESS...it shoots RAW and it's the size of two iPhones stacked on top of eachother (the only thing iPhones are good for is this comparison).
So now I'm mobile again let me tell you I'm fucking loving it! I'm back baby!! hehe :)
But what about the battery issues? The black sun spot issues, the IR contamination, the moire, the rolling shutter, the shitty monitor....etc, etc. Yeah, yeah, what about them? They're all manageable. And for the wonder's it has done to my life thus far, they're minor issues. My new 'life journey' haha....is underway.
Just quickly, let me adress the issues I faced with this cam and how I've solved them.
THE BATTERY ISSUE