Why Vincent Laforet’s “Paradigm Shift” Isn’t One

canon-1d-mark-iv.jpg

With today’s launch of the new Canon 1D Mark IV, Vincent Laforet stated in his blog:

“I think it’s safe to say that every single filmmaker and
photographer has always dreamed of cameras that can see what our naked
eyes can see.  This time these cameras can actually see more.   Sure –
they may not have the dynamic ranges of our eyes just yet – but they
see more than my naked eyes can see in low light.

“Period.

“And that’s qualifies as a paradigm shift in my book.”

I’m about to make a semantic argument with Vincent.

First, let’s state the obvious. Vince’s first short film that he created on the Canon 5D Mark II was pretty mind-blowing. While no one was about to hand out an Emmy for “Reverie,” and there were surely many professional film guys who probably rolled their eyes, the fact is that it was a defining moment in D-SLR history to have pro-level video output on a still camera. We’ve been talking for years about “convergence” and “hybridization” and the 5D was definitely an inflection point where talk became reality. And like everything Vince does, thousands of photographers were inspired.

The 5D was a paradigm shift. It allowed for dual (simultaneous) capture on a single device. It spawned a crapload of videos on Vimeo — some of very high quality — which made it seem like professional film making could be attained with a $2500 camera. It certainly was a paradigm shift for Vince as he contemplated ways to focus on something other than the still image that had defined his career up until that point.

But let’s be clear, the paradigm shift was niche. A hardware paradigm had shifted — not so much a creative one. Yes, the ante has been upped for professional D-SLRs to include video capture capabilities. But has it really resulted in either a 1) creative paradigm shift or a 2) commerce paradigm shift? In my opinion, no.

Newspapers have, for years, been trying to figure out how to monetize multimedia. The CD-ROM of the early 90s, gave way to the slideshow with audio, to fast cut video with After Effects. But who is really making money with video? Brian Storm? Check. YouTube? Check. Your local newspaper? No. Your aspiring filmmaker? No. You? Probably not.

Does the inclusion of ISO 6400 video constitute a paradigm shift? Are your wedding clients going to suddenly pony up another $2000 so that you can shoot the first dance at high ISO? Are you suddenly going to find an untapped market for stock footage in near-dark conditions?

Here’s the thing. While the technology has improved, good movie making still requires:
– a non-trivial investment in additional hardware and software
– a good story and script
– a good director
– good editing
 
But you and I aren’t going to pick up a Mark IV or D3s and suddenly become proficient at screenwriting. We aren’t going to become expert at non-linear editing. Forget mastery of the software, all of these things require skill and experience. And there is no level of technology that will replace the hours that are required to do something well — whether it’s playing basketball, designing a building, or making a movie.

Do I want a D-SLR with video? Yes. But I don’t, for a second believe, that it is going to turn me into the next Polanski Spielberg without dedicating 10,000 hours (wink at Gladwell) to become an expert.

Vince will continue to create films and images that inspire and awe. The Mark V will be better than it’s predecessor. But a true paradigm shift will require more than better low light capabilities. A true paradigm shift will alter the consumption of video by the mainstream, and shift dollars and eyeballs from the status quo.

The Mark IV is cool, but what’s cooler with today’s announcement was this statement from Vince:

“Once again – we had very very little time to prepare.  Just under 72
hours.  And we were
ALL busy working on other jobs as this economy
seems to be awakening again.”

That’s a shift we can all get behind.

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This article was written by

Allen Murabayashi is the Chairman and co-founder of PhotoShelter.

There are 13 comments for this article
  1. Eric M. Townsend at 11:03 pm

    I think there is so much hype behind the video people completely loose sight of why you are buying a camera in the first place. I know so many photographer who feel then need to become directors now. For what? If you have spent 10 years becoming a great photographer what makes you think you can flip a switch and become a director overnight? It’s not to say the transition is not a lot easier but the point still stands. Directors spent the same time all of us have becoming top notch at their craft. I remember dreaming about how someday a camera would be able to shoot a clean 6400ISO or 12800ISO image and what that would be like in theory. Its a spectacular thing because we are a few years away from it actually happening. Many people say its here now, but I disagree. In 5 years it will be here unquestionably. Now its still an always evolving transition. Manufacturers are cranking out new cameras with new technology as quick as possible and thats great, but the paradigm shift comes when the technology actually settles and becomes a standard. Right now things are still very much all over the place. Until there is some sort of settling, although it will never be completly settled in today’s age, I don’t feel like the shift has been completed. Soon, but not right this moment.

  2. Jack at 12:34 am

    I agree with you. The 5D Mark II was a paradigm shift. Stunning video and stunning stills in one package. The 1D Mark IV, while it’s very cool, is an improvement on the 5D Mark II but not a paradigm shift or game changer. Nobody has fixed the issues (sound capture, autofocus) with video in dSLR yet. If the 5D Mark II is vers 1 of video in a dSLR, the 7D and 1D Mark IV are at vers 1.25.

  3. Scott Story at 3:33 am

    I understand, in part, why people are so excited about video. I often bring along a camcorder on wildlife shoots and sometimes simple footage is an easy sell. That’s the useful part to me. Shooting without a storyboard, director, script supervisor, writer, etc., then trying to piece it all together in iMovie or FCP…that doesn’t sound like fun at all. Another point is that while it’s nice to have even more features in the latest and greatest still camera body, I wonder where we’d be if the manufacturers focused their efforts more on still image quality and performance than on trying to force one tool into another. I don’t think the two tools will ever merge very well. Still photography is more a tool in hand kinda thing, and filming is more a tool on a tripod or crane sorta thing. I can imagine what the Canon 1D Mark VII will look like…XLR connections coming out the side, dual hot shoes, power zoom lenses…ugh…sounds heavy.

  4. Eric M. at 3:39 am

    Personally, while I have no qualms about video in a still camera (I’ve had it almost every P&S I’ve owned since 2000), I find it funny that so many pro photogs gripe and moan about semi-pro and hobbyist photogs buying a pro DSLR and thinking they’re pros now, destroying their livelihoods and bringing down the industry, yet they’re all quick to jump on the video bandwagon now and become “videographers” and “cinematographers” because they can get decent video with some depth-of-field in it. I can only imagine what longtime pro video and cinematographers really think of this trend.

  5. Fredrik Naumann at 8:33 am

    Allen makes a good point. While the DSLR cameras are great new tools, they don’t in themselves make a new business plan, or magically reverse the economic downturn many photographers feel. Even if photographers learn all the new tricks, with all the new gear, there is still the question: who is willing to pay for all this fun?

  6. Virginia Wind at 9:04 am

    So-so story, cool visual without much content, wonderful technology that has a future, same bad Canon wide-angle lenses. Now I can shoot video in super low light and make sure my edges are soft. Easy for Vincent to make predictions for the future. He is good at that. He excels at promoting himself, Canon and the accessory manufacturers. He is leading a group of people who believe his is a visionary. I don’t know if he is or not.

  7. Dave Warner at 11:23 am

    Interesting point of view, and actually the opposite of what I was thinking. I feel that there is SOME opportunity with the addition of video in DSLR’s. I’m not sure what it is yet, but there is something there. I’ve been talking with some folks who are using it on the LensFlare35.com site trying to figure it out myself. First one was with Steve Weiss of Zacuto, who talked about Webisodic content. Maybe he’s onto an idea. Tomorrow (the 22nd of October) I’ll post an interview with John Moon of NortherLight FilmWorks. He is using it and has some ideas. Next will be Philip Bloom, who is working with it as well (his show should go live next week) and as far as Vincent goes – he was going to talk with me until Canon told him to pull the new video and not talk to folks! (read his blog about it). So, I think there is something there, but as still photographers, we’re not going to become overnight videographers. THAT’s clear from all the extra gear, software, and expertise that you have to acquire to do that. But, once again a good point of view!

  8. lc at 2:58 pm

    Great low light performance “could” create a paradigm shift for video pros. Think about this, renting a truck can get expensive quickly depending on how many and what lights you actually use. Generators create noise. If you can capture the same image quality with half the light- then filmmakers with lesser budgets can produce the same “quality” image as the big guys. You still need a lot of experience, good editing, quality lighting, and a good story- but then again did anyone see Transformers 2? So maybe a good story isn’t essential. If you can save 1/4 of the budget, by not having to rent HMIs, then that creates a shift, but maybe not a on the paradigm level. This also depends on where you a are shifting from. If you are a still photographer, then the video capabilities added to the camera may not be the biggest deal. If you are a video pro, then having a camera with the ability to change lenses and shoot in low light with variable film rates at this price is like someone coming out with a 1D for under $500. That’s a shift, and a big one.

  9. jon at 5:04 pm

    I agree.. “movie making still requires: – a non-trivial investment in additional hardware and software – a good story and script – a good director – good editing” A good camera is no replacement for a good idea and lets face it camera manufacturers dont make or sell those! Too many photographers are under the misconception that they should be shooting video and as a result are convincing everyone else about that too. This is to their cost! If canon didnt pay vince and dan and their “filmaker crew” would they be making money? No. Have any of them actually made a film? Or just clever cuts that masquerade as films but are in effect promo videos for new products. If you want to find out about film ask a film maker and if you want to find out about photography ask a photographer. unfortunately the comments by Vince come from someone who is neither.

  10. Richard Wong at 6:43 pm

    I agree with your thoughts, Allen. When people have been talking about the “need” to diversify and get into video, I have been wondering how the heck everyone is going to have the time and resources to devote to perfecting the craft? The way I see it, a dedicated film-maker is always going to be a better filmmaker than myself so I’m not going to try playing their game. But I can certainly blend the disciplines into a souped-up slide show like this piece I did on a local Southern California wilderness park. http://www.rwongphoto.com/blog/nature-photography-multimedia-video/

  11. Tommy Zablan at 11:52 pm

    When students asked me for a camera recommendation recently, I recommend a Canon T1i, a Nikon D5000, or even up to a D90 is they could swing it, because they are also taking video editing next term. With all due respect for Mr. Laforet (who is a really good photographer), what really inspired me to think differently about DSLR video was the original Japanese HD video with the Mark II featuring the Noh dancer here; http://cweb.canon.jp/camera/eosd/eosmovie/index.html. I show the original 5d video in class, and show them Reverie afterwards, and we do have a bit of fun with how ‘Hollywood’ Reverie looks – helicopters, crane shots, car-mounted cameras, low-mounted screeching tire shot, knight in shining armmor gets the girl type of thing with on OOF bridge in the background – it’s like Michael Bay in DSLR video-style. That being said, the newer one is definitely more refined, cinematography wise. If students get anything in class out of that, I’m hoping it’s that not everything has to look like a Hollywood action movie. What I’d like to see is an organization that’s a cross between the American Society of Cinematographers and the ASMP. If photography had the same level of organization, standards development, and respect for their craft as say, the ASC, that would be ‘a paradigm shift in my book’.

  12. Paul at 7:33 pm

    I totally agree with you Allen and the bottom line is your quote ” there is no level of technology that will replace the hours that are required to do something well”. Last week I had a corporate event shoot on in Sydney and the client had hired me to do the stills and a professional videographer.There was no way the client was going to hire a still photographer and then ask him to put together a bit of amateur video footage whilst doing the stills. The client was a professional organization and required professional results. I think though that video in still cameras gives photographers like myself a great opportunity to promote our work with multimedia presentations etc and adds a new dimension to presenting feature stories online, but who is making any money out of it?

  13. Delane Rouse at 8:45 am

    The same guys that make good images on film/digital will have a good chance to make nice video/moving images. The same guys that suck at creating still images will have an equally good chance at creating horrible video that looks like crap.

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