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Two short films, shot with a sub-$800 DSLR Camera

December 6, 2009

Would you believe you could shoot a short film with a camera that costs less than $800.00? I’ve seen plenty of Vimeo flicks lately shot with the Sony EX-1 and EX-3, which are full HD video cameras, and the Canon 5D Mark II and 7D, which are Digital SLR still cameras.

But I didn’t realize the Canon EOS 500D (Rebel T1i) also shoots HD video, until I discovered work by photographer Anders Backman, who has made two top-notch short films with it. The Rebel does not have many of the pro features of some of the higher-end Canon models, but as you will see, in the right hands, with the right vision, it’s a really excellent storytelling tool.

The first short features some very nice color grading, but according to the videographer, it was shot completely handheld, with natural light, with one lens, in 24 hours, for a film competition. Amazing!

That’s just a really touching film. It introduces its characters, reveals their essential relationships and inner nature simply, without much sentimentality, and makes you care about them without feeling sorry for anybody. All three characters have endearing qualities. There’s a tinge of inner conflict, which is resolved with the graciousness of the new boyfriend in the story. Very nice work, with a very satisfying ending. I’d like to see more of these characters.

This next video by the same film maker is a little darker in theme, but just visually stunning.

I was struck by the powerful photography in this one, and the simple way it paints a sympathetic portrait of a guy who’s lost someone he cares about. We only know they were together, and now he’s alone, living with his memories. In both short films I was left with a clear idea of who the characters are, and how they will all get along in the short term. Very minimalistic, but very effective storytelling, and it doesn’t depend on dialogue but rather on visuals and music and universal themes.

What you’ll notice about both of these pieces technically, besides the very shallow depth of field…

… is the great use of color to strike a mood. In the first piece, “Sister & Brother,” he uses a simple, washed-out, pastel color scheme, to go with the childlike innocence of the piece. In the second piece, “Love ,” he uses color to separate the main character’s current time frame looking back at his lost relationship, with cool blues for his isolation and warm, golden light for his memories.

In both cases, he’s using apparently a lens with some really good internal stabilization because not only are the images smooth and steady, but also you don’t see much of the infamous “rolling shutter” issue associated with CMOS imaging chips. This makes the image wobble around like Jell-O, leading many aspiring videographers and photographers to label it “Jello-Cam,” which you can see if the camera is shaken without any optical lens stabilization, and usually it’s very obvious with hand-held work. If you go back and watch these pieces, which you probably will several times if you’re like me, you’ll have to look carefully to see any kind of unsightly screen-splitting or wobbly, Jello-Cam shots. That’s just great camera work on the part of this film maker.

The film maker edits his videos in Adobe Premiere Pro, with finishing and color grading done in Adobe After Effects. Along with Apple’s Final Cut Pro and Sony Vegas Pro, the Adobe suite is one of the most common standard professional editing software packages.  He says “Sister & Brother” was shot with a Canon 17-55mm lens, which on this smaller-sensor camera is equivalent to about a 24-85mm standard 35mm lens, which is a great standard zoom that gives you everything from wide angle to portrait-cropped frame sizes.

Here’s a link to his Vimeo page if you want to see his other work or subscribe to his channel. I will be watching to see how much art he can make with this “consumer-level” DSLR camera.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. filmindustrynetwork permalink
    December 16, 2009 6:45 PM

    This looks absolutely superb! How do you find this kind of material? I love low budget innovation. Thanks for sharing this 🙂

    Kind regards

    Iain

    http://www.filmindustrynetwork.biz/

  2. December 17, 2009 12:08 AM

    Thanks, Iain…

    Glad you enjoyed the posts; I am always on the lookout for short films that meet several criteria, most of which are in the list in my top sidebar. Great visuals, story structure, surprises, innovation, memorable moments and images, great sound, things like this are what I think short-form storytelling really needs to establish it as a respectable genre.

    Up until the rise of YouTube, Vimeo and others, short films have been basically viewed as a calling card for aspiring filmmakers. But now, with all the big video hosting sites supporting really nice HD video, and with an increasing number of people demanding short, quality films with good storytelling and technical skill, great short-form pieces are beginning to appear more regularly.

    The huge popularity of Vimeo and sites like it are driving the demand for more content, and the acceleration of affordable new filmmaking tools like HD DSLRs are turning photographers and videographers into cinematographers and filmmakers. I don’t see that trend reversing itself anytime soon; rather, I think the demand for quality short films as a desired format will only increase, especially as web-to-TV boxes begin to replace DVD players.

    Free, on-demand web video is a much better and cheaper solution than buying or renting DVDs, or buying and paying for Tivo or its competitors. One box with unlimited, quality web video streaming is the future of entertainment, and the hulu.com model will be the next big thing after video sharing sites, in my opinion.

    I predict the demand for short films, selected and showcased by sites like Vimeo and hulu, will drive a California gold rush of micro-filmmaking, backpack cinema, citizen documentary photojournalism and targeted network web content.

    By the way, what a great resource your short film guide is! I recommend anyone wanting to make this kind of work check it out:

    http://www.filmindustrynetwork.biz/category/resources/filmmaking-tutorials/

    Best,
    JMG

    • December 17, 2009 6:39 AM

      Hey JMG,

      I really appreciate your comments. I think there are uniquely talented people making micro budget movies, and I must say this is going to change distribution and the way the studios take on film projects, particularly with the success of Paranormal activity. According to Paramount (insider info here) there has been a decline in DVD sales yearly of about 2-3% and that the big blockbuster films are less profitable because they have such high production costs (name talent)

      I am looking forward to promoting more of these people, and to get better quality films made for us to see!

      Cheers

      Iain

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