Light at the End 4.8.2014
I just returned from NAB, the annual gathering of television, broadcast and film professionals. I was there on a quest for the perfect light, or at least the perfect one for shooting small to medium size video projects. Lighting for the film industry is in a great state of flux, with new efficient technologies like LED, plasma and others replacing the older, hotter and bulkier tungsten, flourescent and HMI sources that have dominated for the past decade. There were hundreds of manufacturers of LED lighting at NAB, each with their own "secret sauce" approach to creating a low-power, high-output light with accurate color rendering and high portability.
Last year we added several remote phosphor softlights to our arsenal, which feature high brightness, great color and the ability to run off of batteries, and this year we are looking to complete our lighting kit with LED versions of traditional fresnel spots, (these are type the lights you see most often on movie sets, and are still the most versatile light you can buy). The most exciting of these lights, the Arri L7-C has the ability to vary it's color temperature making it incredibly easy to light cinematographically. It can also match almost any "practical" source (meaning the various lights in your office, or any of the myriad shades of daylight that occur throughout the day. We've been testing one of these lights in the studio for the past couple of weeks. and I'm really excited with the results we've been getting. (UPDATE: We just added a number of these lights to our in-house lighting arsenal, and I'll post some footage soon on our vimeo page).
It's happened a few times. A client who knows, or sometimes another photographer asks me..."why do you keep shooting on medium-format digital, when most work these days ends up on the web."
I guess it's best to start at the beginning, which for me was sometime in late 2002. I'd shot commercially for more than 15 years, on film, and while I'd owned a couple of digital cameras at that point,they weren't something I'd ever shoot a job on. Well, that's not completely true, because I did shoot a couple of jobs that year on a brand new Canon EOS 10D, which at 6 megapixels was pretty much the state of the art. Frankly, I never felt particularly good about what I delivered on those 2 jobs. Most of my work in those days ended up on large format retail posters (actually, still is) and while 6 megapixels was certainly ok for small print ads, things looked pretty fuzzy when blown up to a 40x60" prints, (there wasn't a lot of photography on the "world wide web" in those days). So I continued on, shooting film, with the timeframes, costs, and, oh yes, romance, that one typically associates with those heady days.
Late that year, a company named Imacon (which later merged with the legendary Hasselblad camera company) announced a 22mp back designed for use on a variety of medium-format cameras. I called the rep for a Demo, and for the first time I was able to see an instant electronic image with the same characteristics as the film I'd been using for decades.
So that was then. This is now. Why do I still use a camera that costs many times that of what almost all of my peers use? Especially when it's very likely that those images will end up on the web?
Well, It has more resolution, better lenses, better skintones (important because I shoot a lot of people), and more accurate color....but frankly, for every time I've had a client tell me "this is just for the web," I've got a story about how I've seen that same image show up on a billboard, or how I've printed it as an 8 foot tradeshow graphic, or how the client all of a sudden needs to crop a headshot of the CEO out of the annual holiday card group photo (you think I'm kidding).
Finally, those images on the web...they've been getting bigger, and sharper (this website is a good example of that). I have a 30" monitor on my desk and next year we'll all be looking at 4k monitors because the manufacturers really want us to. It's amazing to see all that resolution on a lit screen just inches from your face. It's just another reason why the web space will continue to grow, and that more and more of my images will be seen "mostly" on the web. I'm glad I shoot with a camera that can handle it. I'm glad that every image I've shot for the last 12 years can handle it.