Does a Canon 5D Mark II Make You a Cinematographer?

I read somewhere that a recent episode of the TV show “Housewas shot entirely with the Canon 5D Mark II.  A dozen thoughts ran through my head – Who would have thought that a prime time TV show would be shot with a still camera?  – Isn’t it amazing what technology has made possible? With a big production budget, why did they choose this camera? Did they back it up – just in case?

But the biggest thought that ran through my head was that this article oversimplifies the production process and leads you to believe that now just about anyone with a few thousand dollars can become a DP on a prime time TV show. In other words – when talking just about the camera, things get taken out of context.

What about the fact that they most likely had dozens of these hybrid cameras on set, with a crew of hundreds? Or that the sound guys were capturing the audio with tens of thousands of dollars worth of sophisticated equipment.  And then of course there is the post-production aspect where the file from the camera gets tweaked, modified and enhanced by professional colorists.

I think many times still photographers overlook the fact that there is a lot more to a large scale production than just the shoot and the camera.  And most of the time it goes way beyond the capabilities and role of the individual photographer who is used to working in a solo manner as opposed to collaboration.

Don’t get me wrong, there is a big part of me that absolutely loves my 5D and my 7D.  It allows me to deliver a motion product with a stunning visual.  But after shooting motion for 11 years, in addition to my 35 years shooting stills – I know that not only do I need to think differently when I shoot in motion but I also need to collaborate with others to be able to fulfill the needs of the production.

So when you hear that an entire movie was shot with the 5D – think beyond the camera.

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3 Replies to “Does a Canon 5D Mark II Make You a Cinematographer?”

  1. As a DP for 20 years, overlapped 50 years as a professional photographer, what I see is, yes these little still cameras are outstanding tools. But they are just the basic part of the kit. By the time a shooting rig is set to shot a show such as House it has become something quite different add follow focus kit, mattebox rails, external electronic viewfinder, camera support system either some form of tripod/dolly or steadycam knockoff and as you mention all the audio stuff, it is no longer your still camera in your shoulder bag .

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