We can learn a lot from professional cinematographers.
The most ambitious use of HDSLRs so far was the season finale of House, which aired May 17. While most network TV shows are shot digitally, with HD cameras such as the Sony HDC-F950, House typically is shot on 35mm Fujifilm stock, using a 16x9 3-perf format with Arricam LT and ST cameras.
“The season finale was shot in an incredibly tiny set, a collapsed building,” says House cinematographer Gale Tattersall. “We had no room to work. We shot for three or four days on our hands and knees, and eventually on our bellies. The starting point for me: What’s the right camera for the job? The idea of dragging conventional cameras in there with heavy support equipment was absurd.”
Tattersall got his first taste of DSLR cinematography while shooting a commercial for Canon Japan on the Universal back lot. “They asked, ‘Can you shoot it on our 5D Mark II?’” he says. “I thought we must be out of our minds, shooting a full-fledged commercial on a still camera.”
However, Tattersall discovered it offered a unique capability no film camera could match. “You can achieve incredibly shallow depths of field because you’re shooting on so much more real estate than you would if shooting 16x9 on 3-perf,” he says.
“We wanted to put House into his own head space, his own world. We were able to shoot in our regular hospital sets and throw the backgrounds completely out of focus. It was something you couldn’t achieve any other way, especially given that the Canon lenses we used are so fast, f/1.2 and f/1.4.”