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Academy of Film

Easier Tools Make Movies Easier?

Mr. Joel LAM
Senior Lecturer, Academy of Film, HKBU. Also working as an independent film / video maker.

Mr. Joel LAM. Senior Lecturer, Academy of Film, HKBU. Also working as an independent film / video maker.

People love movies. With the rapid development of technology, more people can make movies in easier ways than before. Besides the various price-cut HD video camcorders that are available in the market, mobile phones and SLR (single-lens reflex) cameras are also the trend tools to record moving images as well. We need to be aware that different tools have their own operational and image-forming features.

Take mobile phones as an example. The major advantage of mobile phones is that users can shoot anytime and anywhere they like. Its convenience encourages users to press the record button. But their lens with fixed focal length, super small sensors, and / or rough pixels are some of the major obstacles for demanding users. Also, limited by their slim design, most mobile phones can only capture longer DOF (Depth of Field), which is different from the images captured by normal video camcorders. Mobile phones cannot produce “film-feel” or decent movie-looking images, based on their finger-nail sized lens and sensor tools.

On the contrast, SLR cameras have comparatively shorter DOF than normal video camcorders; it takes extra care on the focus pulling and swinging. If a user does not wire out the video signal of a SLR camera to an extra bigger monitor when capturing, the camera cannot promise every shot can get an expected sharp image for non-professional DPs (Directors of Photography). However, one of the major advantages of SLR cameras is their inter-changeable lens system. Users can shoot like a professional film crew, but the built-in non-directional microphone and limited sound recording adjustment definitely cannot provide professional sound quality. Sound effects are extremely important to a movie. We have been spoiled by fancy sound recording and mixing for a long time. No one will enjoy watching a movie that with poor or even disturbing sound recording. A SLR camera is not a video camcorder. Photo-taking is the main purpose of this machine, while movie-shooting is only a bonus feature. If it can work like a video camcorder, it would be named as a single-lens reflex camcorder (SLRC). Users cannot ask too much from it. Moreover, based on the limited communication structure built between the lens and camera, a SLR camera has less responsive auto / manual focusing procedures on video shooting. Adding up its shorter DOF feature, using a SLR camera to shoot movies will end up needing extra professional expertise to handle the images, or you will have to consider your camera movement and mise-en-scene cannot be made in a complicated way.

It is true that we have many more choices of tools to make movies nowadays, but one thing we should keep it in mind – great movies need great ideas and stories. Easier tools can help us shoot easier, but they cannot guarantee that we can create a picture with inspirational ideas.

(No Chinese translation is provided yet. 此文章暫沒有中文翻譯版本。)