About 40 years ago, a group of filmmakers – among them Albert Maysles, D.A. Pennebaker, Ricky Leacock and Robert Drew – founded a school of documentary they dubbed ‘Direct Cinema’. The essential tool of the school was the quiet, shoulder-mounted 16mm camera, which afforded greater intimacy between filmmaker and subject. Today, DV cameras continue to push the possibilities of the verité approach. Maysles recently described his new Sony PD150 as ‘a near perfect one-up on the16mm film camera’ and was so taken with the device he sat down and compiled a list of advantages innate to the smaller digital cameras. Here’s an excerpt:
1. Single system picture and sound.
2. Unlike the 10-minute 16mm film camera magazine, each tape runs 40 or 60 minutes, so there are virtually no run-outs.
3. Camera can be held in many positions with viewer still visible.
4. Holding camera below chin, a cameraperson can see much more than is in the eyepiece.
5. Holding camera below chin, the cameraperson’s gaze is available to subjects, which assures rapport.
6. Camera much lighter (about four pounds versus 20).
7. Camera costs only around US$3,500; a 16mm film camera with lenses and magazines is around $100,000.
8. Easy to film in tight quarters. For example, in cars.
9. Totally silent.
10. Less intrusive.
11. Batteries are tiny (3′x 1 1/2′x 1′), weigh little, and run for as much as eight hours.
12. Quality satisfactory for tv and can be blown up to 35mm.
13. All you need to shoot goes into a normal camera bag.
14. Can shoot all alone when necessary.
15. No waiting a day for rushes. Results are immediately available.