Over the thirty-two years that I have been entrenched in the TV production business, I have seen many changes and advances in the design and technology of cameras. Let me just say – cameras have come a very long way!
When I first started in the business, in the early 1980’s, cameras were attached by a cable to a three-quarter inch or 1 inch video tape recorder.
By the mid to late 1980’s, cameras and recorders were one piece of equipment and the Betacam format became the preferred choice for most professionals.
The Sony Betacam BVW-600 was the camera most professionals were using. The Sony Betacam’s resolution, frame rate and tape format were all the same.
Today, it’s much different. There are many cameras and formats to choose from, and lots of questions to be answered before you shoot. Which camera is in my budget? Do I shoot in 4K? 2K? High Definition? Which frame rate should I use? Which codec works best for me? With all the options, you could be overwhelmed before you even start.
Here’s some information that might help…
What is Resolution?
In simple terms, resolution refers to the image size and how much detail the image holds. It is measured in mega pixels. The more pixels the greater the resolution or clearer the picture is. In 1993 High Definition or HDTV became the standard in the US. At first, HD had a resolution of 1280 X 720 often referred to as 720. With advancement of technology, that was increased to 1920 X 1080 mega pixels, commonly referred to as 1080. The majority of video production work is still shot at 1080.
Today, we are now able to shoot much higher resolutions-usually referred to as Ultra High Definition or UHD. Most profession camera’s can now shoot UHD, including 2048X1080 (2K) and 3840X2160 (4K)
What is Frame Rate?
Frame rate is the number of frames that are shot to produce 1 second of footage. The higher the frame rate or fps, the clearer the image is. Frame rate is also used to produce great slow motion footage. If you shoot footage at 180 fps and play it back at 30fps, this creates dramatic slow motion footage. Most professional cameras will shoot standard frame rates of 59.94, 29.97 and 23.98. and many can shoot higher rates for beautiful slow motion footage.
Which camera is best for my budget and project?
DSLR cameras like a Canon 7D or Sony A7s are relatively inexpensive and are better used for lower budget shoots such as weddings, low budget documentaries, etc… They usually rent for about $200 per day.
Mid-range cameras like the Canon C-300, Sony FS-7 or Sony F-55 give you a high-end look without the high-end prices. Used for many reality tv shows and corporate videos these are the workhorses of the industry. These rent for about $500 per day.
High End cameras like the Arriflex Alexa or the Phatom Flex are the top of the line cameras and are used for high end production work with large budgets. These rent for around $2500 per day
There’s no doubt that cameras have evolved over the years. From huge machines mounted on wheeled pedestals to hand held models you can take just about anywhere and large bulky videotape to digital cards the size of a quarter. Today’s cameras give you many options, so whether you are shooting a news piece, a documentary or a reality tv show the right camera is out there to fit your budget and project.
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