Convergence: Tools of Multimedia

Randall Packer and Ken Jordan’s volume of essays detailing the history of multimedia Multimedia: From Wagner to Virtual Reality draws a clear relationship between the development of technology and multimedia art/design. The pioneers in motion design and interactivity relied on advancing technology and were often involved in its development. This process continues today in the camera market.

Canon is again leading the way in the DSLR market by embracing multimedia enthusiasts. The video features available on their newer cameras are not simply overhyped point and shoot CCDs thrown into SLR bodies in order to pile more features on to an already packed device. The video is gorgeous and easily on par with, and in my opinion superior to, the current offerings in the pro-sumer camcorder market. The biggest advantage? Manual controls. Try to play with depth of field with a digital camcorder and you’ll realize the frustration inherent in automatic camera modes. Check out the videos below to see some great examples of the video capabilities of current Canon DSLRs.

The reason that the manual controls make such a difference has to do with the way that the digital camera sensors work. Digital camcorders split incoming light into 3 spectrums to record frames in its internal sensors. Although it allows a crystal clear picture it has a tendency to force everything into focus. The engineers behind the Red One camera realized this and looked to a single DSLR style sensor to solve their problem. Now the Red camera is taking the filmmaking industry by storm because it has quality and resolution comparable with film 4K cameras, works with manual lenses (the same ones cinematographers have been using for decades) on an industry standard mount, and the price of entry is $17,000 to own versus $25,000/month to rent as is the case with traditional film cameras.

Now there are significant differences between the video equipped DSLRs and Red camera; resolution is 1,080 lines as opposed to 4,000, the video is not recorded in a RAW format, and there is a rolling shutter effect when the camera is moved rapidly. While DSLRs with video will not begin taking the film industry by storm in the same way that Red is it will serve the purposes of many multimedia enthusiasts and videographers. Check out what is possible with the modern tools available. The Typophile Film Festival opening titles were created using A Red Camera as well as a variety of DSLR cameras, including the video capable 5D Mark II.

The biggest point in all this technical rambling is that carrying two devices is a pain. I recently travelled in Perú for almost three weeks and although I carried a DSLR and a camcorder I only pulled out the camcorder 3 times while I used my Rebel XTi multiple times a day (I’m working on a fun video of Machu Picchu by the way). I already use a device to capture both photos and videos but an iPhone has a different level of quality than would be desired. It’s good enough for family videos but not much else, see below.

Integrated tools lower the price, monetary and headache-wise, of entry into the multimedia world. I’m going to save my pennies so that I can jump in, one day it will be nice to carry 1 camera that does the job of 2.