Beeswax and Buzzwords


We’re minding our own in today’s harsh climate. Not the climate here in Southern California—although it’s chilly—but the economic climate. Despite all the gloom going around there’s an undercurrent of excitement. The buzzword remains convergence. We began talking about it on Zoom Street in 2007, but 08 was the year actual products arrived.

Last summer I tested Casio’s Exilim EX-F1, a new breed of camera. Not a DSLR as it came with a fixed zoom lens, yet featured a  record-breaking still frame rate: 60 fps. That was only the half of it… it included full HD video capability. Priced at $1,000, it fell squarely  into the (warning: buzzword ahead) “prosumer” category. Some reviewers dismissed it as a “gimmick” while others saw a niche market for people shooting sports and special effects. (Here’s the link to our review.)

Forgive me for sounding like an oracle, but I saw the future in the EX-F1. Thus, the inevitable release of the Nikon D90 and Canon’s EOS 5D Mark II.  Check out Brain Valente’s article A Milestone in Time in the December 2008 issue of Digital PhotoPro. Referenced in the piece is Vincent Laforet’s video Reverie which was shot using only the EOS 5D Mark II. The HD quality and production values are exquisite. It’s a full-blown TV-spot that rivals current car ads. View the video and you’ll see why all the ad agencies are abuzz.

But, as Zoom Street‘s DV editor Wendell Sweda pointed out, it’s not art. Yes, like a commercial, there’s a mini story under the hood, but not one to hold an audience for half an hour. That, of course, was not the point and Laforet—a photographer for The New York Times—may indeed be capable of producing a full length art film. This was merely a test to show what’s possible. All that’s needed for the rest of us to replicate his results  are the EOS 5D Mark II ($2,600), a car-mount, models, stylists, a helicopter, etc. Oh yes, almost forgot, a good eye for visuals.

These two DSLRs mark the beginning of the techno rush toward PSV (professional still/video) cameras. The cams from Canon and Nikon are Betas with deficiencies and drawbacks… but once digital SLRs start offering full manual controls and accessory expansion on the video side, well, bye-bye stand-alone prosumer video cameras. We’ve already grown accustomed to being able to grab vids with inexpensive digicams, so it shouldn’t surprise us to see this capability creep into the DSLR. What is surprising is the incredible quality even in its current rough form. Migod, just look at the results you get for under $200 with the little pocket-sized Flip MinoHD.

OK, now fast-forward further into the future, say, 2020. Consumer cameras will be able to produce Major Motion Pictures in a new format: SHHD-3D (sky-high high definition +3D) which can be projected at billboard-size with razor-sharp clarity in 3-dimensions. (The blurry 24p film look will have gone out of style.) So then what?

Will Hollywood be dead? Every home a cinema? Nope.

Cable TV will certainly be gone, replaced by the Net, but that’s happening already. No, what’s worth remembering is a simple fact. Technology does not give us talent. It gives talented people the means to create whatever they imagine. Standards will always be set by artists. The markets will follow.

The beeswax and buzzwords will soon be different. New business models will spring up to meet new realities. And technology will continue to evolve beyond our ability to predict. People will still be people. Images (moving and/or still) will fill the world: good, bad, mediocre.

Yeah, it’s the talent, stupid.