Everything in life has its purists. There are Mac purists and PC purists -- vinyl purists and people who hate music (kidding.) In the filmmaking world, there are plenty of things to be a purist about, especially when it comes to cameras. (Canon and Nikon might as well be the Hatfields and McCoys.) But cameras, as well as almost every tool we use, have their advantages and disadvantages, and understanding which tools work best in certain situations is something that DP Timur Civan has learned to do. In a recent interview, Civan explains how making a decision on which camera to use depends less on prices or reviews, and more on the context of your material.
Timur Civan worked with Vincent Laforet on the intro video of the MōVI. The footage was jaw-dropping for 2 reasons: how smooth it was and the great cinematography. Civan is known for using experimental equipment, like when he used a 102 year old lens (1908 Wollensak Cine-Velostigmat f5) on a 5D MarkII to get some beautiful images, showing, at least to me, that the artist creates art, not the tools.
He recently sat down with Filmmaker Magazine and answered questions about the decisions he has made as a cinematographer, starting with his studies of sculpture and video at NYU and shooting projects on a little DVX100. The thing to take away from the interview, in my opinion, is Civan's openness to incorporate an array of new and different equipment into his projects -- treating cameras like stylistic options rather than a be-all and end-all in quality. Check out his cinematography reel below to get a feel for his style:
He mentions that since camera rentals are getting cheaper, your choice of camera isn't governed as much by what's least expensive. So, without money, or lack thereof, getting in the way, filmmakers may choose a camera based on what it itself brings to the table. Civan says he looks for flexibility, but that's not all. It depends on what his project calls for.
I own an Epic. The reason I bought it is that it’s very flexible, so it can accomplish pretty much everything. If I was shooting a science fiction film, I’d definitely use the Epic because it’s super sharp and clean. Prometheus and many other films have been shot on Red. But if I was to shoot a western or a dramatic piece or something period, I would possibly go with an Alexa for its nostalgic look. It just depends on the context of the material.
I may not be a camera purist, but I am in other areas of my life. For instance, there is no possible way for anyone to convince me that Zildjian doesn't make the greatest cymbals in the world. My K series splash sounded better than a thousand reincarnations of John Bonham drumming on Sabians made of Keith Moon's hopes and dreams. (Which is ironic because Bonham was a Paiste man -- and so was Moon for the most part.)
But the fact is, sometimes certain cymbals are better for a certain style of music, whether it's jazz, rock, or whatever. The same goes for film. Different cameras, lenses, and film capture subtleties that others don't. They capture their own mood or look. Being a purist about what you use only limits you as an artist. Civan says, "Sometimes a project needs a 5D, sometimes it needs an Alexa, sometimes it needs an Epic." I'd even say that sometimes it needs a dinky point and shoot. It all depends on what mood you're trying to set.
Not convinced? Check out the footage Civan captured with that ancient Wollensak lens. Can a lens be more outdated and obviously unequipped with the latest technological advances?
What are your thoughts on using different cameras in different genres? Is there a camera that has never steered you wrong in any project? Are there cameras that you use specifically for different genres? Let us know in the comments.