Sunday, October 04, 2009

It's Not the Tools, It's the Talent

If you're at all interested in video production, one of the most exciting developments in years has been the introduction of digital SLRs (DSLRs) with first-rate video capabilities, especially the Canon 5D MkII and 7D, and the Panasonic Lumix GH1 (which technically isn't an SLR, but fits into the category in every other way.) For the cost of a mid-range professional camcorder from a few years ago, you can buy any of these cameras, a nice support rig from Redrock Micro or Zacuto, and a case full of Zeiss Prime lenses. The 5D MkII and 7D were used to shoot the new opening title sequence for Saturday Night Live, so keeping the cameras' limitations in mind (primarily their rolling shutter/"Jello" image problems with motion), they're "ready for prime time."

The tools cost less than they ever have, and provide superb image quality, so it therefore means that more people than ever can produce professional videos and motion pictures. Perhaps, but you can't buy talent at B&H. It takes more than a nice camera and great lenses to shoot compelling video. You have to know how to frame a shot, how to light, and how to pull focus. You have to know how to break down a scene into a sequence of shots, and how to get those shots under changing conditions. You have to know how to work with talent and how to communicate what you're looking for.

The point is that the ever-decreasing cost of tools is democratizing video production, just like the Internet is democratizing video distribution and promotion, but it takes talent (and training) to know how to use the tools to their best advantage. Talent can't be bought and isn't getting any easier to acquire. So, as excited as I am about these new tools, I'm also afraid that we're going to get even more schlocky videos, albeit with really great bokeh.
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