15 June 2009

Amateurs' Carnivale

Amateur artists have never had it so good. In fact, this is truly their day. Not only has the internet broken studio and publisher monopolies on distribution, they also control no longer the means for filming/recording and production. The industry still has most of the money, but of course nothing gets made without the artists, and now musicians and visual media artists can produce much of their work entirely on their own.

Recording software like Digidesign's Pro Tools is used in high-end studios to make glossy, big-budget recordings. But it's also found on 1000s of Macs in private garages and basements where really good music is also being made. Veteran bassist Lee Sklar (Phil Collins, James Taylor) says he is doing more and more session work in recent years in private homes, having literally recorded bass lines while sitting on someone's bed. Three of my all-time favorite albums (the three freshman albums by the White Stripes, the Black Keys, and Fleet Foxes) were all recorded in home studios, the first two on four- or eight-track recorders that give a great, raw retro vibe. But Fleet Foxes sounds purely studio. In fact, professional studios are being driven out of business by falling demand, due to the rise of home studios.

Amature film makers have had it a bit harder. Film cameras and stock are very expensive, and both editing and post processing really have to be contracted out. Camcorders have been out for years, but their quality has been nothing like studio. Even recent pro-digital HD cameras, while much less costly than $100k studio cameras, have still required substantial capital investment.

But I've been fascinated to see what amature film makers are doing with the Canon EOS 5D Mark II DSLR. That's right, it is a still camera, but it also can capture full 1080p HD video at 30fps, and looks brilliant. All for about $2500 (body). Even with a good lens or two, a computer, Final Cut Pro software, and recording and support equipment, you can start producing almost studio quality HD video with less than $10,000 in gear. Brilliant.

Loads of 5D videos and film shorts may be found on TheEOScars.com, and see more as well on the cinema5D.com forums. I've embeded one below. If you start it and then click the HD icon on the right of the screen, it will link you out to Vimeo, where you can watch the clip in full 720p HD. You'll want to let it cache, and it may not play smoothly on older computers. But wow is it gorgeous. The first feature-length film shot entirely with a 5D will be released next year.

wemakemusic* - Dance with a Statue from Sebastian Woeber on Vimeo.

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