Cameras Don't Make Movies
by Walter Graff

There are all sorts of professionals out there. Some do weddings, some cable access, some broadcast, and some make the movies we rent. Each person uses the appropriate
hammer. There are hammers designed for various uses and one would expect you use the right tool for the right job. But the problem as of late seems to be that some folks think that a hammer without skill is going to make them better artists. Or said
another way, while I might not be as skilled as someone who shoots features, if I have a camera that has some sort of paper specs like a big expensive camera, maybe I’ll be on my way to being a better artist. Problem is it doesn’t work that way.

Take the hype over the new small-from HD cameras. Wow HD! Yea HD for three times the price of a camera folks couldn’t afford the first time around when cameras like the DVX100 came out. Yet the hype is how amazing it is. Everyone has to have it, but most of these people haven't even learned what looking room is, or really have any use for an Hd camera, or own more than a home depot workshop light.

I'm not putting these people down, simple saying that a hammer, or a 'better' hammer is not going to make you a better carpenter. I've seen folks who shoot weddings who say that their clients like big cameras cause it makes them feel those behind the camera are more professional. The consumer/prosumer world is no different. It's always about commodities to this genre, but rarely about the art to folks who want to be something but don't know where to start, so think if the camera looks good maybe someone will notice me.

So you might say yea, but a real carpenter is not going to use a hammer bought at the dollar store. No he is not, but if he had to, he'd be able to make it look like something no one thought a dollar hammer (where the head falls off every fourth hit) could! ANd he is qualified to own a $50 hammer. Most folks who max-out their credit card really don't have teh need for such cameras because the camera is not goign to make them any better at the art.

I shoot with all sorts of cameras. Most of the time I use cameras that are between $40k and $250k in cost. But recently I was asked to do a series on DV. And the result was that no one can believe how amazing I make the show look with a DV camera. Sure I bitch and complain to myself cause it's not what I am used to but it's never about the
commodity, but about the artist. And while the tool doesn’t offer what I am used to, I not only make the best of it, I find a way to make it perform more like what I am used to.

If someone wanted to learn how to paint and bought a book and an all-in-one painting kit on Monday but got frustrated because it didn't feel professional, is buying camel hair brushes and silk paint going to make them a better artist on Friday? No just as a camera is not going to make you better at what you do, only fill your insecurity. When I started it took me about five years behind the lens before I finally felt like I was part of what
I was shooting. In other words, I was one with the camera instead of afraid of it. Today I am considered one of the most respected hand-held shooters in the country. Is it because my camera has great balance or that it has a great lens, or that it has 1080 lines of resolution? No, it's because I spent 20 years shooting thousands and thousands of hours with a 30 pound camera on my shoulder. And sometimes a four pound camera.

So what's it like to take a 4 pound camera and try it? Amazingly easy for me like a 30 pound camera because I practiced, not because I had the biggest camera on the block.
So yes there are hammers for every job, but in the end, it's always about the artist who
sometimes does a lot with the right tools, but can also make due when he doesn't always
have what he is used to. And often the results are amazing.

The moral of the story: Stop worrying about the next greatest thing and start practicing
with what you got. A format or a camera is not going to revolutionize anything. Only the
people who use it will. More great movies are made with less than more, always! In the forties and fifties they put enormous cameras in steel blimps on heavv-gauge steel cranes with car tires and a total weight of 1700 pounds yet watch a film like “Singing in the Rain” and watch how gracefully the crane moves thorough four sets in one seven minute take, better than what a Steadicam could do today. Technology doesn’t make better things, it never did. Want to become more professional, practice!! No one learned how to drive reading a drivers manual. And no format is going to make what you shoot look better. Only you have that power.

Or said another way, how do you get to Carnegie Hall? Perhaps with a “Hochstein”
Antonius Stradivarius violin made in 1715? No, practice silly. Or let me say it one more way. If you want to learn how to play a violin, should you buy a real Stradivarius?
No not everyone is a carpenter. So will a guy with little experience, who buys a very
expensive camera make him a carpenter? I don't think so, but marketers (hey that’s
close in spelling to mousketeers) really don't care if you go into debt. They have a job to
do. They want to sell you equipment. I just want to shake a few folks to let them
know that it's never about the camera so if you don’t have $10k lying around, don’t put
yourself into debt thinking a camera is going to make you a better shooter or give you
more opportunity.

So where am I going with this? All I’m saying is that it was never the camera that
gave me experience but the use of all the cameras I used that did. I should add that
this is an art and as much as some folks try, they will never really get it. Some might say,
yes but I want the best I can afford. I say great, a good DV camera will do what you
need? But what about HD, I want high resolution? Bad news, unless you keep your
signal in HD, you don’t see any difference. Yes, an HD camera shown on a regular TV is
just regular television.


Copyright 2013 by Walter Graff. This article may be circulated and shared as long as the following reference is made:
'This article appears courtesy of Walter Graff-'

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