Sunday, 19 October 2014

Yr3 Week 1 (Fri 10 Oct - MDA 3400 Workshops & Black Magic Camera induction)

One of the key things to mention, before we start on this entry, about MDA3400 is that this is a more optional module: you can attend the workshops you wish based on what pathway you want for your final dissertation project (a short film, a script or a critical essay). I write this up so as to properly explain why this will be probably the least documented module on the blog, given my main interest is in writing, and of course, there are only a small handful during the first term, with tutorials during the second.

With all that out of the way, let's get to the focus of this introductory session;the Black Magic camera. While not an immediately conventional film camera (looks more like an obese Ipad with a lense), the Black Magic has in recent years grown in popularity among indie filmmakers, mainly due to its wide variety of options/shooting choices, the key one being its resolution options for footage. The Black Magic can shoot RAW (uncompressed), each frame encoded akin to a still or more traditional film stock, which is great for maximum quality. Of course, as the name implies, this does mean one has to invest in a lot of hard drives for storage. Ideally, us students will be using the Pro Res (a name familiar to those who've read this blog before) 422 and DNX HD (Ideal for AVid and PC-centric editing).

Other features of note on this little wonder are a touch screen monitor, 13 Stops (which allows for a really wide range of light information control), an ISO that can go up to 1600 (though for day, we'd use lower) and two 90 minute batteries (so early booking is required to gets extras!). Once done with the tech jargon, David allowed us, in groups, to finally play around with the Black Magic, letting us set it up and then going out and trying the different features, shooting bits and pieces of test footage around the University. Though it won't be my focus, I found the camera fairly easy to use; it's fairly light, the touchscreen is a very comfortable way to set up the different features with a messy cluster of buttons, and the image quality was excellent even though we weren't shooting RAW. The only major downside, aside from the limited battery life, is the memory cards; much like the 7D last year, the Black Magic takes much larger, both figurative and literal, SD cards, which are more expensive, and despite the space, don't store a particularly huge amount (on RAW, for example, you'll only get 8 minutes tops). For students, that's not exactly a very cost effective or economic piece of equipment, but again, the results are befitting the price.

And so with that, I had to depart on other business once finished goofin-err, I mean FILMING around the University, so I did not attend the afternoon workshop, which focused more on supplements to the camera, such as dollies and arms to enable more range of movement. All in all, it was interesting, but as I've said, the technical side is not my strong suit, and the Black Magic is not ideal for someone who may not be able to meet its financial requirements, so it's really only for serious indie/guerilla video and film makers out there, and not a one off gig for the course. Oh well.

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