Movie-making cameras are rapidly increasing in quality while lowering in cost. Twenty years ago, it would have been largely impossible for an independent filmmaker on a shoestring budget to afford the necessary equipment to make a high quality video production. Although most Hollywood movies are still shot with expensive cameras, it’s becoming more commonplace for even famous directors to experiment with digital camera technology.
The film camera is the traditional tool used to record a motion picture. Film cameras typically record images on to 35 millimeter polyester film stock. Unfortunately, most film cameras will be beyond the budget of most casual and beginning filmmakers, with costs exceeding tens of thousands of dollars. The most popular brands of film cameras are Moviecam, Arriflex and Panavision. To have an idea of the expense of these cameras, note that even many major film studios choose to rent film cameras instead of buying them.
Digital cameras are video recording devices that record visual information onto digital media, such as DVD, hard disk drive or digital tape. Compared to film cameras, digital cameras are very inexpensive, and have opened the doors for any home video maker with the slightest interest in video production and a couple hundred dollars to start making movies. Many independent projects are shot with digital camcorders, and as the quality of digital video increases, Hollywood directors will likely take notice and use digital video more often.
High Speed Camera
A high speed camera is a device that records significantly more frames per second than a traditional camera. While normal film cameras record 24 frames per second, and digital cameras record either 24, 25 or 29.97 framers per second, a high speed camera can record up to 250,000 frames per second. These types of cameras are ideal for shooting slow-motion sequences for your movie. Although most digital cameras have a built-in slow-motion feature, the quality is inferior to the sequences you can shoot with a high speed camera.
Examples of movies using film cameras are everywhere. Virtually every Hollywood movie you’ll find was shot using a film camera, though special digital effects are added to most in post-production. Digital video is generally used in lower-budget independent features, though important directors such as David Lynch have already converted to digital video. The format was used exclusively for his latest production, "Inland Empire." High speed cameras are generally only used to film slow-motion sequences of movies or television shows. Examples of this can be seen in TV shows like "MythBusters," where fast action such as an explosion is slowed down and analyzed.
As a beginning filmmaker, your budget will probably be limited. A simple, low-cost digital camera will certainly suffice. Remember that it’s often what you shoot, as opposed to how you shoot, that will set your films apart and gain you notoriety as a filmmaker.
- Film: An Introduction;William H. Phillips; 2005
- Digital Video 101