Raw video and Obsession with Tech Specs

The buzz over the Magic Lantern hack of the 5Dmkiii has dominated my Twitter feed over the past week to such an extent that it’s even drowned out the obsession with Adobe’s Creative Cloud (which is of course another blog post, but I’m waiting to actually use it before I really get into it!). And it seems to exemplify something that is easy to fall into the trap of, but is none-the-less counter-productive – tech spec obsession.

Now before I launch into this, let me just say that I think it’s an amazing feat of software engineering that Magic Lantern have this working and I applaud them for it – Canon are consistently failing to cannibalise themselves, and so eventually someone was going to do it for them. As Stu Maschwitz wrote in his excellent post a few days ago, it’s no longer okay for camera makers to not give us everything they’ve got. I highly recommend checking the post out; http://prolost.com/blog/2013/5/15/space-monkeys-raw-video-and-giving-us-all-youve-got.html

The results from the raw recordings look great. So much so that I’m sure it’s hard for 5D owners to go back to shooting crappy H264s afterwards. But my main complaint of both the people who think that raw on 5D is the second coming *and* those who dismiss it as a waste of time, is that we’re absolutely focussing on the wrong things. The tech specs are thoroughly unimportant to a normal person.

I’m a filmmaker because I want to tell stories that move people and make their lives better in some way, however small. I honestly believe that it does not matter to them one bit which camera a film was shot on. When I go to the cinema it *barely* matters to me. What is more important is being moved emotionally. As I’m immersed in a movie, its look (through lighting, framing, movement) has an effect on me on a subconscious level, as it should be. If you’re aware of the construct as you’re watching it, then how can you fully engage with the movie?

I’m not saying that shooting raw is bad, far from it, it allows yet more possibilities for creating exactly the look that you want. For some projects it’s overkill I think (documentaries) and the workflow isn’t anywhere near as simple as it should be (though it’s getting better), but the bigger point is that if you can’t light, shooting raw isn’t going to fix that. If you don’t have a good sense of composition, shooting raw isn’t going to fix that. The technique of the person shooting is so much more important to a movie than the tech spec of the camera being used.

As usual, it seems to come back to my stock line about all gear; it’s just a tool – now go make a film which makes me feel something.