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Welcome to the Revolution- DSLR Digital Filmmaking

August 3, 2011 | By | Add a Comment

Amanda Brinton

One video camera is revolutionizing the digital movie industry.  Since its advent in 2008, high definition DSLRs are changing the way DIY films are made.  DSLRs, or digital single-lens reflex cameras, are immensely popular with both established and aspiring filmmakers for their affordability, large image sensors, and lens interchangeabilities.
Nikon D7000
DSLRs are the digital offspring of SLR cameras.  SLR cameras use film to produce still photographs.  However, digital SLRs are able to shoot both photographs (.jpeg files) and video footage (.mov files) simultaneously. DSLRs record its images—whether still or moving—onto an image sensor inside the body of the camera.  The larger the image sensor is, the greater quality the image.  One of the principal differences between DSLRs and consumer-grade point-and-shoots is the image sensor size.  Professional-level DSLRs, such as the Canon 1D, have large image sensors that mimic the size and shape of a 35mm film camera.   These sensors contribute to the videographer’s ability to manipulate depth-of-field.  In short, DSLRs allow filmmakers to shoot digital video that has the look of a professional-grade film camera.

Videographers must be very familiar with a DSLR and all its functions in order to produce results that mimic the look and feel of professional-grade film.  Its many settings and options may seem daunting at first, but with a basic knowledge of a film camera, DSLR-shooting is possible for anyone wanting to record video.  Just like a film camera, DSLRs are able to manipulate the aperture, frame rate, and depth-of-field among many others.
A traditional SLR and a point-and-shoot
However, DSLRs fall short in their ability to record audio.  They come equipped with a small microphone, but many filmmakers find the quality to be subpar.  Attachable microphones are usually used when sound has to be recorded.  Yet, this disadvantage lends itself to another characteristic of DSLR shooters.  Countless filmmakers begin their careers by making music videos.  DSLRs are especially convenient for this style of filmmaking where audio recording isn’t necessary.

Amateur-grade DSLRs, such as the Canon Rebel series, start for less than $1,000.  More professional cameras can run near $5,000 just for the body.  Of course lenses are additional, but that is what makes DSLRs so appealing to filmmakers.  Before 2008, budding videographers shot on camcorders.  Although less expensive than DSLRs, these compact shooters lack the ability to manipulate depth-of-field—or the range of focus in an image—as well as substituting various lenses.  DSLRs are unique in that lenses manufactured for SLR cameras can be mounted on them.  Additionally, adapters are available that allow different brands of lenses to be used on different cameras (a Nikon lens on a Canon camera, for example).

Perhaps what is most significant about the DSLR revolution is the strong community of filmmakers it has created, both in person and online. It is common for videographers to own his or her own DSLR camera body and then share lenses with fellow shooters, thus building a network of filmmakers.  For film and video students at Chicago colleges like Columbia and DePaul, a DSLR is seen as an investment.  Many of these students are starting their careers by making shorts or music videos with fellow aspiring filmmakers.  A similar community exists online on websites like, where filmmakers and viewers alike gather to share their work and explore the work of others.  More than ever, blogs are allowing filmmakers to promote and distribute their work.  Many filmmakers use the “Shot on DSLR” tag to distinguish their work online and to heighten viewership of fellow DSLR revolutionaries.


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