The invention of the stills camera that can shoot video, the HDSLR, has played a huge role in the continuing democratization of the filmmaking process. Quick definition: a Digital SLR or DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) camera uses mirrors to direct light from the lens to the viewfinder. An HDSLR is a DSLR that is capable of capturing high definition video.
While prosumer quality camcorders - introduced in the late 1990s and early 2000s - made it possible (and affordable) for just about anyone to make a film, HDSLRs made it feasible to make a half decent one (assuming you have an ounce of talent and training and the semblance of a decent story of course).
Small, versatile, familiar and realistically priced, HDSLRs have brought good quality moving pictures to the masses - but also provided new ways for established filmmakers to get their stories told.
Importantly, they also spawned an industry. Not just the small-form cameras themselves but also a host of related technologies that can be used to create 'proper' films.
Here are 10 innovations to look out for:
01. Canon EOS-1D C HDSLR
While the Nikon D90 was the very first DSLR capable of shooting video and the Canon 5D Mark II and III are still amongst the most popular, there is a new option from Canon that beats the lot: the EOS-1D C. This camera shoots 4K resolution movies (four times the size and quality of HD), is compatible with a variety of lenses and outputs uncompressed images - all in a package no bigger than your hand.
FACT: According to the European Broadcasting Union the EOS-1D C is the first DSLR to provide an image of high enough quality to make HD television.
02. Blackmagic Design 4K Production Camera
Although its September release date has come and gone without an actual release, Blackmagic Design’s 4K Production Camera looks like it will be well worth the wait. It has a large Super 35 size sensor (similar to that of a film camera) and shoots, as the name suggests, 4K resolution images. Costing £2,500 new, it is effectively a high-end alternative to an HDSLR but with an HDSLR price tag.
Along with 12 stops of dynamic range, the 4K Production Camera also features an EF compatible lens mount. This allows users to attach their favourite lens, regardless of manufacturer. Footage is recorded onto removable SSDs.
03. Go Pro HERO 3+
The Go Pro Hero 3 is a waterproof, wearable camera for capturing images on the move: from the surfboard to the motorbike. An Emmy award-winning innovation, it can shoot 4K resolution video at up to 30 frames per second, has built-in Wi-Fi for remote control and features a special mode for shooting in low light. The most recent release is 20 per cent smaller than its predecessors and has a 30 per cent better battery life.
FACT: An average of three GoPro tagged videos are uploaded to YouTube every minute
04. Glidecam HD-2000 camera stablizer
The camera is, of course, only part of the filmmaking process. If you want to avoid capturing impossible-to-watch shaky camera footage, then some sort of image stabilization is required. The Glidecam HD-2000 is one such option. Designed for compact, low profile cameras that weigh from 2 to 6 pounds - such as HDSLRs - it uses counter weight balancing to provide a smooth tracking shot.
FACT: A compatible Gyro system is available that allows for smooth shots when shooting from a vehicle or helicopter
05. Freefly MōVI M10 handheld stabilized camera gimbal
Another option for capturing stable shots is the MoVi M10. A handheld 3-axis digital camera gimbal it uses what the makers call ‘active stabilization’ (unlike, say, a Steadicam which uses passive stabilization). Capable of carrying up to 10lbs of camera the MoVi M10 converts the operator's movements into stable pan and tilt motion, allowing for very low profile single operator setup and accurate framing in tight situations.
FACT: The MōVI M10 can record its exact camera position, height, pan, tilt and roll angle to assist the VFX team during post-production.
06. Zip Shooter portable surface dolly
Serving as a linear dolly, a curved dolly or an under-sling dolly, the Zip Shooter is a tiny-wheeled device that can hold an iPhone, a DSLR or any other camera up to 20lbs in weight. Unlike the dolly that you might see being used by Steven Spielberg, one that requires the operator to sit on it, the Zip Shooter fits in a shoulder bag.
FACT: The development of ZipShooter was crowd-funded through Kickstarter.
07. Zoom H6 audio recorder
HDSLRs might capture great images but they are notoriously bad when it comes to audio. As a result, most professionals recommend the use of a separate, portable recording device. Following hot on the heels of the popular Zoom H4n, the Zoom H6 can record six channels at once, has four XLR inputs and comes compete with three different options for gathering sound: an X/Y microphone, a mid-side microphone and a Shotgun microphone (optional). A dual input device that includes both XLR and TRS inputs is also available.
FACT: The Zoom H6 can be mounted directly onto a DSLR or camcorder using an optional Hot Shoe mount adapter
08. Shure VP83F LensHopper microphone
Still on the audio front, one compelling alternative to the handheld audio recording device is an on-camera shotgun microphone that not only captures the sound but also records it. The Shure VP83F LensHopper does that. It’s a small HD condenser shotgun microphone with built in flash memory card recording.
FACT: The VP83F LensHopper captures professional quality WAV file files at 24-bit/48kHz.
09. Red Rock Micro 'One Man Crew'
The One Man Crew from Redrock Micro is a motorized parabolic motion system. Or, to put it another way: a camera slider. It guides the camera on a precision-curved track, at any speed you like, allowing the user to capture fluid background motion while keeping the subject of the shot stationary in frame.
FACT: The One Man Crew is another replacement for the much larger dolly and track system that would normally be required to get similar shots.
10. Rotolight RL48-B 'Stealth Edition'
While HDSLRs are renowned for producing incredible results in low light, something that many bigger video cameras cannot, decent lighting kit is still essential. One innovation that comes highly recommended for HDLSRs is the Rotolight RL48-B 'Stealth Edition'. A lightweight LED ring light, it attaches to the camera via a Hot Shoe and delivers warm natural light.
FACT: The 48 Ultrabright LEDs provide a great 'ring-light' effect but without red-eye or shadows.
Words: Will Strauss
Will Strauss is a freelance journalist, editor and designer based in Leeds. He has nearly 15 years experience of producing content appropriate for newspapers, magazines, radio, mobile and the web. Check out his website (opens in new tab) for more details.
Delivered in conjunction with ZED!
This content was produced in collaboration with HP & Intel as part of ZED (opens in new tab) - a Pop-Up Studio for the Creative Community held in Soho, London. For more information about ZED and any future events see here (opens in new tab).