The Genius of Stanley Kubrick

Stanley Kubrick is one of those ‘marmite’ directors – people seem to either love or hate his films. Some people will grudgingly acknowledge that Kubrick was an auteur who commanded respect but they just can’t love his movies. I however, admire his work more than that of any other mainstream English-speaking director before or since (I love marmite as well).

Was Kubrick really a genius?

A genius can be considered to be anyone with exceptional intellectual ability, creativity and/or originality. If we accept this simple definition then Kubrick undoubtedly was a genius, an opinion well supported by the testimonies of many people who worked with him. And even if you only look at the films – which is after all what matters most – it’s possible to see that there was a genius at work.

However, Kubrick is by no means universally loved or admired. His films are often criticised for being cold and unemotional and it’s acknowledged that he could be extremely demanding and difficult to work with. Nevertheless, most of his films have an undeniable iconic power, producing images and sounds that are instantly recognisable. Here’s a summary of why, for me at any rate, Stanley Kubrick was truly a genius filmmaker:

Crossing genres

War, love, historical epic, film-noir, heist-movie, dystopian vision, satire, science fiction, horror, psychological thriller – Kubrick made important films across a broad range of genres, whilst at the same time making markedly fewer films than other directors of similar stature. He made only 13 features in 40 years, yet they are some of the most memorable and influential movies ever made.

So how did he realize those iconic moments and characters that have gone down in movie history? What made a Kubrick film a Kubrick film?

Choosing a great story

All of Kubrick’s films, apart from the very early ones, are based on novels or short stories. Someone else had done the initial ‘heavy-lifting’ of creative story telling. His genius here is to choose the right story – often fairly obscure – and hire the right people to turn it into a script worthy of the great man’s time and effort to film.

A photographer’s eye

Kubrick’s first job was as a photographer for Look magazine in New York in the 1950s – the golden age of photo-journalism, epitomized by people such as Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Capa. As a professional stills photographer Kubrick possessed a keen eye for composition and the powerful static image that would later come to characterize his movies.

He knew how to move the movie camera for dramatic effect when necessary but also how to frame a shot and create static compositions that had the power of great photographs. So many films are visually unremarkable – Kubrick’s never are.

 

Attention to detail

The word ‘obsessive’ is often used pejoratively to describe Kubrick’s filmmaking style. For some of his collaborators, there’s no doubt that his attention to detail could sometimes seem absurd. He would often ring people in the middle of the night to discuss an idea as it occurred to him. He famously used to visit movie theatres to check that the sound and picture were technically correct before they screened one of his films. No detail escaped his gimlet eye.

Science and technology

As well as a keen interest in music and art, Kubrick also loved science and technology and because of this he strove to depict science accurately, as in the weightlessness and silence of space in 2001, or the remarkably accurate recreation of a B52 cockpit in Dr Stangelove.

He also pushed the limits of film technology. For Barry Lyndon Kubrick sourced and adapted super-fast f/0.7 lenses (the largest lens aperture in film history) from NASA.

And for The Shining Kubrick was a very early adopter of the Steadicam camera stabilizer invented by Garrett Brown a few years earlier. The Shining was the breakthrough movie for the use of Steadicam and which has become ubiquitous ever since but it’s never been used more memorably or to better effect.

Collaboration with exceptional people

Garrett Brown, Arthur C. Clarke, Peter Sellers, Douglas Trumbull, John Alcott, NASA – Stanley Kubrick was noted for seeking out exceptional talent to realize his vision. He would think nothing of contacting the world experts in different areas to ensure that his vision was historically or technically accurate.. Kubrick had a reputation for using people to further his own ends but I suspect that most of them felt privileged that he considered their opinion worth hearing.

Use of music

Another characteristic of a Kubrick movie is the soundtrack. His attitude to music in films was similar to the storylines – why go to the trouble of composing inferior ‘film music’ when the world was full of sublime music already such as that written by Beethoven, Vivaldi, Bach and Strauss? He used music playfully in his films often in bizarre juxtapositions such as Singing in the Rain to accompany a violent scene in A Clockwork Orange…

…or Vera Lynn’s We’ll Meet Again as a nuclear warhead detonates in Dr Strangelove. Quentin Tarantino has since built a career doing something similar.

Cultural impact

Few other directors can match the amount of enduring iconic  scenes as those created by Stanley Kubrick. If you take just one film, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and measure its cultural impact more than 40 years later, its influence is remarkable with imagery and concepts still used today in popular culture from commercials, to The Simpsons and countless parodies on YouTube.

 

Controversy

Kubrick was often controversial – even if he didn’t always intend to be. Most of his films, from Lolita onwards, created varying degrees of debate and unease as he explored forbidden love, nuclear war, killer computers, ultra-violence, madness and dystopian futures. Making controversial films inevitably pushes the boundaries of what’s acceptable, often helping to drive debate within society at large, therefore going beyond mere entertainment.

 

In 1972 Kubrick took the unusual step of withdrawing A Clockwork Orange from circulation because he was disappointed by the public’s reaction to it and disturbed by the incidents of alleged copycat violence that had occurred in the five years since it’s release. He never intended to glamorize the violence in the film and for nearly 30 years, until after his death, it was not legally publicly shown in the UK. The film has fostered much debate about violence in film and whether films like A Clockwork Orange are merely a reflection of society or in some way go about helping to create the world’s they depict.

Kubrick and the Movie Industry

For even more proof of Kubrick’s genius you only have to look at the fact that although his films did win many awards, Kubrick never won an Oscar for best director or best movie. If Hollywood doesn’t like you, you must be doing something right! He might not have been particularly popular with the Academy but his peers gave him two lifetime achievement awards towards the end of his life. He largely worked outside of the Hollywood system but had a unique deal with Warner Brothers who pretty much let him do what he wanted with little or no interference.

Final thoughts

Kubrick’s films are often unsettling at a deep psychological level. They don’t provide easy answers to questions about the human condition; they are not comforting; they provoke endless debate about their meaning and his intentions; and even after repeated viewings have new things to offer.

 

I can understand why many people prefer the comforting films of people like Spielberg where generally everything is nicely resolved at the end; the knowing cleverness of Tarrantino; the ambition of Cameron; the ingenuity of Hitchcock; or the scale of Lean; but for me nobody else comes close to matching Stanley Kubrick’s status as a genius filmmaker.

 

Large sensor cameras: depth of field, field of view and bokeh – it’s a circle of confusion!

Even though you (or your DoP/lighting cameraman) might know how to get the look you want in terms of selecting a format, lens, aperture and camera position you might be hazy on the details of their relationship to each other. So here’s my take on the technical and aesthetic aspects of how large sensor cameras achieve that lovely ‘soft bokeh’ look.

Bokeh is a Japanese word that refers to the out of focus parts of an image. However, for the purpose of this post I’m using bokeh to refer to the ‘blurriness’ of a scene’s background, which is typically the look of movies, commercials and big-budget TV dramas. Now, more and more of us are trying to achieve an attractive bokeh in more budget-constrained genres like corporate video.

Depth of field (DoF, or depth of focus) is a term any photographer/cinematographer understands as the amount of a scene’s depth that is in focus. ‘In focus’ is actually an objective assessment of the sharpness of an image decided by its circle of confusion (CoC). In photography, the CoC diameter for an image is often defined as the largest blur spot that will still be perceived by the human eye as a point. I’m not going to go into any detail about CoC here but there’s a link at the end of this post if you’re interested. For the purpose of clarity, I’m also not going to get into hyperfocal distance and diffraction which are relevant to any discussion on sharpness and depth of field as these are also covered in the links below.

Despite what you might think, the amount of depth of field you have is not directly affected by the focal length of a lens (providing the camera moves accordingly in order to maintain the subject’s size in the frame, thus altering the point of focus). There are only two factors that affect DoF to a significant degree: aperture and distance to subject (point of focus). However, sensor size will affect the field of view (FoV) and therefore also distance to subject, so sensor size affects DoF as a result of maintaining the desired field of view or subject size in the frame by moving the camera nearer or further away. Of course, in the real world you change focal length to get a wider of narrower FoV instead of moving your position. It then becomes intuitive to think that the amount of DoF is somehow inherent to the focal length.

The following two images (shot with a Canon 5DMK11) illustrate this and were shot at focal lengths of 24mm and 70mm, with the camera further away in the 70mm shot to maintain the size of the foreground object.

You’ll notice from the cropped shots below that even though the perspective differs markedly between the two shots, the amount of DoF and background blur is actually the same. Why? Because the point of focus moved between the two shots as the camera moved back to maintain the subject image size and the DoF for the two different focal lengths became the same.

Although the DoF is the same, the resulting aesthetic of the perspective and bokeh are different. In the 70mm shot the background is more magnified which is typical as focal length increases.

Here’s another example where the subject (the coffee mug) is kept at the same size when doubling the focal length by doubling the distance of the camera to the subject. Again, the cropped shots show that the depth of field and the background blur are almost identical apart from the magnification effect of the longer lens:

In my own work, where I do a lot of interviews in small rooms with boring backgrounds, throwing the background way out of focus was always really difficult with video cameras – unless I could get either myself a long way from the subject, or the subject a long way from the background – neither of which was usually practical.

But now a super 35mm or full-frame 35mm sensor video camera with a medium focal length lens (such as a 50mm at wide apertures) and at a subject distance of, say, two meters will render even a close background out of focus without any magnification effects, producing a natural looking bokeh and perspective.

As I said, bokeh like this is impossible to achieve with small sensor video cameras – which was all of them just a few years ago. To get the same degree of softness in the background the camera would need to be several meters further back (in the next room!) and the perspective would be much more compressed with the background features greatly magnified.

Let’s look at another example, showing the difference between a large and small sensor camera in the same setup, without changing the distance of camera to subject. These shots were taken with two stills cameras: a Canon 5D MK11 and a Sony DSC F-717. The Canon has a full-frame 35mmm sensor measuring about 40mm diagonally and the Sony’s sensor measures about 10mm. Incidentally, the sensor in the Sony is around the same size as those in standard professional 2/3inch video cameras that have been the workhorses of the TV industry for decades, so it’s a nice demonstration of the differences between ‘traditional’ cameras and the new breed of large sensor video cameras.

The Canon is set to 70mm @ f/2.8 and the front of the bus is about one meter away. To match the shot size with the camera in the same place the Sony is set to 18mm @ f/2.8:

So whilst the increase in DoF is apparent with the Sony image at 18mm, this is only because the sensor is smaller and the FoV is narrower, and the camera is much further away at 18mm than it would be if it had a much larger sensor. If I had a 18mm lens for the Canon (I don’t) and matched the subject size by going closer, the DoF characteristics would look very similar to the 70mm shot (as shown with the earlier examples), though of course the perspective would be different.

Conclusion

To sum up there are several factors that affect the DoF and the bokeh:

DoF is independent of focal length – when the size of the image on the sensor is held constant by moving the camera and therefore the point of focus nearer or further away.

Distribution of DoF – does change with focal length so that at, say, 100mm the ratio of distribution of DoF is roughly 50% in front of the point of focus and 50% behind; whilst at 20mm it’s more like a 60:40 ratio. This may or may not affect the background bokeh depending on the situation.

Aperture – larger apertures = less DoF and more blurred bokeh. The amount of DoF roughly doubles or halves for every two stops smaller or larger respectively.

Sensor size – affects FoV but not DoF or magnification directly (magnification not to be confused with crop factor). However, the sensor size is going to determine your FoV and therefore your lens choice and subject distance – which will affect DoF. So you could say sensor size affects DoF but only with regard to these other factors.

Focal length – affects FoV, magnification and perspective but only affects DoF if the subject distance (point of focus) remains the same as focal length changes – in other words if the subject size changes. If you move the camera forwards and backwards to compensate for changes in focal length to maintain the same subject size then DoF will also stay the same. However, the distribution of the DoF will change with focal length, as stated above.

Subject distance (point of focus) – affects DoF in combination with focal length as described above.

So in a nutshell, large sensor cameras – due to the much wider FoV and closer point of focus with any given lens – allow you to achieve a significant degree of background bokeh in many situations that would be impossible with small sensor cameras.

Links and online tools
Here is a link to a more detailed explanation that also covers hyperfocal distance, diffraction and CoC. There is also another nice visual demonstration here that proves focal length does not, by itself, affect the amount of DoF all that much: http://toothwalker.org/optics/dof.html

Useful calculator showing the FoV with different combinations of camera and lens from Abelcine, equipment sales and hire outfit in New York: http://www.abelcine.com/fov/

From Stu Maschwitz at the Prolost website, a very nice graphical demonstration showing the FoV and DoF characteristics of video cameras with different combinations of sensor and lens: http://gallery.me.com/prolost

One of the better online DoF calculators and information resource: http://www.dofmaster.com/dofjs.html

Don’t forget the importance of audio

Audio is often seen as a poor relation compared to the images during the production of everything from big budget feature films to the humblest corporate video. This is a mistake. Imagine you are about to embark on a long-haul flight and you have the option of two seats: one has a TV with poor picture quality but great sound; the other has a perfect picture but poor audio. Which are you going to choose? My advice would be to choose the better sound – you can fill in the poor picture with your imagination if needs be but there‘s nothing worse than trying to listen to garbled audio.

During the early 1980s I was fortunate to work for an audio-visual production company, The Presentation Machine, in London. It was here, right at the start of my career, that I learnt the importance of a great soundtrack to any visual media production.

We made presentations for exhibitions, museums and product launches. These would typically use banks of slide projectors to project sequences of images across multiple screens, creating impressive panoramas and visual effects. Striking as these shows were, particularly at the time, the thing that really made them work were the soundtracks.

The Presentation Machine was owned by Roger Sinclair who started the UK’s first in-house corporate radio station for United Biscuits in 1970. Roger also owned Sound Developments, a recording studio that specialised in soundtracks for video and TV, and it was here that all the soundtracks for our productions were created. In fact the soundtrack came first and the visual elements were made to compliment the audio.

Of course I’m not suggesting that all productions need such powerful soundtracks. However, even the simplest video of, say, a talking head needs the sound to be considered carefully throughout, from recording, to editing and delivery. Is the room too ‘live’ with the sound bouncing off lots of reflective hard surfaces? Is there distracting background noise or a/c hiss? Is the mic positioned correctly? Whether to use boom mic or lavalier, or both? Have you compressed the audio in the edit so that quiet words are as audible as louder words? Would the sound benefit from some EQ enhancement? All these things will make the difference between great audio and mediocre audio.

Music is a difficult area for producers and directors. Everyone has an opinion about music choices and a vocal minority of the viewing public seem to object to properly mixed background music and effects, particularly in factual productions. This was recently demonstrated by the brilliant BBC Two science series presented by Professor Brian Cox, Wonders of the Universe. After receiving 118 complaints about the background music being too loud and/or intrusive following transmission of the first episode, the BBC agreed to lower the sound. Both the programme producers and Professor Cox felt that this was a mistake. Speaking on Radio 4’s Start the Week on 14 March, Cox said, ‘We can sometimes be too responsive to the minority of people that complain’. He added, ‘It should be a cinematic experience – it’s a piece of film on television, not a lecture’.
Choice of music can also problematic. In my own work I occasionally disagree with a client who objects to a particular piece of music. But as he who pays the piper calls the tune (!), I will always defer to my client’s wishes if they feel strongly about it. And at least we’re having a dialogue about audio and trying to make it better, which is a positive.

The world’s greatest film directors paid particular attention to the soundtracks of their movies, which often then turned out to be crucial to their films’ iconic status. Stanley Kubrick, David Lynch, Steven Spielberg, John Carpenter, Sergio Leonie, Francis Ford Coppola… the list goes on. If you consider some of their respective films, such as 2001: A Space Odyssey, Blue Velvet, Jaws, Halloween, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and Apocalypse Now – the soundtracks are fundamental to their success. So don’t forget to think about the audio and place equal value on it to the images, even for the simplest production.

Eye-tracking study reveals where we look when watching a film

Where do our eyes look when we view a film? You might assume that the main focus of interest is say the face of the actor who is talking, or the person walking across the frame. Mostly you’d be right, but as some recent fascinating research shows our eyes dart about the screen the whole time taking in lots of details that are sometimes peripheral to the main action. Researcher David Boardwell has used infrared pupil tracking to map exactly where and for how long 11 volunteers were looking whilst watching a clip from the film There Will be Blood.

This is really interesting work into how we perceive film and what directors and editors can do to direct the audiences attention. Here’s an excerpt from the film showing the tracking data. You can read more about the research here as well as many other articles relating to film academia.

“This is an excerpt from There Will Be Blood (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2007). 11 adult viewers were shown the video and their eye movements recorded using an Eyelink 1000 (SR Research) infra-red camera-based eyetracker. Each dot represents the center of one viewer’s gaze. The size of each dot represents the length of time they have held fixation.”

3D – television’s Quadraphonic moment

In the 1970s the music recording industry, searching for innovation, came up with Quadraphonic audio or ‘Quad’ as it became known to hi-fi buffs. It was one of the earliest consumer offerings in surround sound and it was a commercial failure due to its many technical problems, which were solved too late to save the technology from disaster. The format was more expensive than standard two-channel stereo. It also required extra speakers and suffered from a myriad of conflicting formats, as well as a lack of available high quality music. For most people stereo was just fine. Eventually along came the Walkmans, CDs and iPods that provided the real innovations people wanted in terms of audio quality and flexibility.

Surround sound continued however, mostly in the cinema, but most people I know who are not audio geeks seem completely indifferent to surround sound. Some even find it weird and distracting to have random noises coming from behind when the action is in front of them – after all, humans have evolved to fear loud noises coming from behind them for very good reasons! Of course having multiple speakers dotted around an auditorium makes the soundtrack sound fuller and is a good idea, but the mix has to be subtle and devoid of audio gimmickry. Good sound designers know this and keep their surround sound mixes under control for the majority of films, most of the time.

3D cinema and TV share some interesting parallels with quad audio and surround sound. Personally, I don’t really enjoy the experience of viewing 3D movies and the idea of 3D TV has a whiff of the ‘Emperor’s New Clothes’ about it, hyped by TV manufacturers desperate to shift a new generation of TVs by pushing the technology to an indifferent public who have almost no access to decent content. Hollywood and the broadcasters also see 3D as a cash cow and are gasping at the finery of the Emperor’s latest outfit.

I saw two films last year that were in 3D. The first was one of the best films I’ve seen in recent years – Toy Story 3 – and the other was amongst the worst – Tron: Legacy. In both cases the 3D aspect was irrelevant. I would have enjoyed Toy Story 3 just as much, or more, in 2D and Tron was still awful despite some admittedly nice visuals.

If 3D actually worked, delivering a truly immersive experience, I’d be all for it but it just doesn’t. The heavy glasses (even more cumbersome if you’re wearing spectacles already), dim picture and the sometimes clumsy 3D implementation distract from the story rather than enhancing it. There’s also the problem that a significant minority of the audience without perfect binocular vision don’t see the 3D effect as intended, or at all. And 3D works best if the screen is filling your field of view, rarely achievable for cinema audiences and impossible on TV unless you’re going to sit two feet in front of the screen.

Of course 3D does have its place for those who like it and for the right film. An IMAX film, for example, can produce a great 3D experience. What worries me is that there will be steady pressure from the industry to produce films and TV shows in 3D that really don’t need it, ruining them in the process.

If you need further convincing that 3D is deeply flawed, American film critic Roger Ebert, also a 3D skeptic, has recently published a letter on his blog from respected film editor Walter Murch on why evolution has not equipped us to watch 3D images.

There are numerous technical, financial and aesthetic hurdles that 3D must overcome before it becomes mainstream. But like Quadraphonic audio in the 70s I suspect that it never will. I, for one, won’t be sorry.

Tech stuff – as a client, how much do you need to know?

The creative worlds of film, video and TV are now driven by digital technology and have converged with the IT industry. So, although many people consider themselves to be ‘non-technical’, it’s becoming clear that at least some degree of understanding of basic IT concepts and how they relate to digital imagery is essentia to be able to instruct others to produce the best results. Perhaps unfortunately for some, getting to grips with the basics behind things like aspect ratio, bit rates, codecs, video compression and digital formats, etc, can be a bit tedious but is increasingly necessary.

One of the aims of this site, and my blog in particular, is to collect resources and information that will help others to become more technically literate, allowing them to more clearly communicate their technical requirements.

With that in mind, I was pleased to find this on Ben Cain’s Negative Spaces blog.

The Digital Fact Book, published by Quantel, is a pdf document that lists everything you could possibly want to know about the technical aspects of the industry with clear and straightforward explanations.

Quantel are a really interesting British company, responsible for pretty much inventing modern TV graphics. In the early 1980s the production company I worked for bought a Quantel PaintBox, one of the first in the UK outside the BBC, so I was fortunate to be able to play with this revolutionary device that, at the time, cost three times as much as an average house. Our in-house graphic designer went from Letraset and airbrushes to a tablet and monitor practically overnight, brave man! Now, of course, the humblest desktop PC is more powerful and Photoshop significantly more capable, but at the time it was like magic.

Lighting interviews – keep it simple (sometimes!)

Sometimes the really simple approach, devoid of gimmicks and the latest gadgets, can produce the best result in the shortest possible time.

Lighting interviews is a good example. On a recent trip to Marseilles to interview a Professor of Oncology I took five lights with me: 2 x 150W Dedos; an 800W Lowel Tota; a 300W Sachtler reporter light; and a Microlite Pro LED camera light. I also took a Chimera softbox; an umbrella; reflectors; gells; 5 x lighting stands and a gobo projector for the Dedos. This is a pretty standard kit for me to take on fly-away jobs and it’s reasonably compact, fitting into a medium Dedo soft case.

So how much of this kit did I use to light the interview? As it turned out I only used one light – the 300W Sachtler, which is a compact 300W tungsten light.

The key with location situations, where you have limited options to change the environment, is to make whatever available natural or ambient light work for you, instead of trying to change it too much.

The room was long and narrow with high windows on two sides fitted with venetian blinds that cut the light by about 50%.

With the subject placed to get the best-looking background, he was facing a white wall about five feet away. All I had to do was bounce the Sachtler off the wall as a soft key light and it looked pretty good. The windows on the other two sides (with the blinds mostly closed) provided the fill and a little backlight. The only other thing I did was to fit a dichroic to the reporter light and white balance with a Warm Card to warm up the daylight coming into the room.

I could have spent more time (that we really didn’t have) trying various other lighting set-ups, but I knew that this was the best approach, as well as being the simplest.

The client was happy with the way it looked and the Professor was happy because there was minimum disruption to his day.

Here’s an ungraded still from the video:

An essential new guide to production management with FREE templates

My friend Linda Stradling, a hugely experienced PM and tutor (currently running courses at the National Film and TV School), has recently published a brilliant guide to the skills involved in production management. Drawing on insights gained through her extensive career working for the likes of Channel 4, the BBC, Darlow Smithson, Mentorn, the Discovery Channel and National Geographic, Production Management for TV and Film: The Professional’s Guide includes details on self-organisation and the best systems to use, budgets, schedules and cost control, hiring and firing, contracts, insurance, setting up a shoot, dealing with contributors, acquiring copyright, people skills and ethics.

Plus Linda has provided FREE templates for all the essential documents that PMs need, such as cash flow, call sheets, etc. These can be downloaded from the publisher’s website where you can also, of course, buy the book:

Linda’s book

Download templates

Whilst it’s obviously an excellent resource for professional production managers, independent filmmakers and those of us who find ourselves managing a production without the benefit of a PM, will also find the information invaluable. I highly recommend it and, to borrow a quote from the Documentary Filmmakers Group:”What Linda Stradling doesn’t know about production management isn’t worth knowing”.

Is the ‘perfect’ video camera tantalisingly close?

Last year, after a tense courtship, the moving pictures industry fell head-over-heels in love with the Canon 5D MK11 and its cousins, despite their well-documented failings as professional video cameras. I jumped on the bandwagon with everyone else and I’ve not regretted it. The 5D takes fantastic stills and is still the only remotely affordable camera that can shoot HD video with a full-frame 35mm sensor. It has a unique aesthetic and, used appropriately, delivers great results – it’s a vey useful tool to have in the box along with a ‘proper’ camera like my PMW EX350.

This year, with the introduction of the Panasonic AF100 (101 in Europe) and the Sony F3, we are tantalisingly close to seeing a one-size-fits-all video camera, able to shoot anything from news to a full-length movie – but we’re not there yet. Both these video cameras have largely overcome the limitations of the HDSLRs with pro sound inputs and little in the way of aliasing and moiré artefacts. However, they are far from the perfect video camera – with poor viewfinders, weak codecs and dodgy ergonomics being the most obvious shortcomings. These cameras also handle like bricks, being difficult to hold, but you can’t put it on your shoulder either. I don’t mind bolting on stuff to my 5D to turn it into a video camera as, to be fair, it’s a stills camera but if I’m buying a pro video camera I don’t want to add anything to make it properly useable, like shoulder supports and viewfinders.

So where’s the Canon large sensor video camera? They have no high-end video cameras whose sales they need to protect. The 5D and 7D will continue to sell well whatever else they bring out. It would be no surprise therefore if they are about to unleash a large sensor video camera that will eclipse both the current Sony and Panasonic offerings and make people think very hard about that RED they plan to buy.

Here’s my wish list for the camera I hope Canon (or just possibly JVC) will announce at NAB this year:

1. APS–C size CMOS sensor optimized for video – no aliasing or moiré.

2. 4:2:2 recording at 25, 50 and 100 Mbits.

3. Compact, shoulder mount form factor, around 3kgs.

4. Plenty of buttons in the right places like an ENG camera.

5. Able to take any lens from PL to FF35mm.

6. Auto focus, face detection and auto iris with compatible lenses.

7. ‘Windowing’ feature allowing use of 2/3” B4 mount lenses.

8. Large, high-resolution colour viewfinder.

9. At least 8 stops of continuously variable ND.

10. All the usual refinements of today’s pro HD cameras like XLR audio, uncompressed HDSDI output, cine gammas, under/over crank, time-lapse, cache recording, etc.

11. Five (or better) megapixel stills capture at the same time as video recording.

12. Standard 15mm rods support built into the base along with Sony tripod plate compatibility.

13. Pro battery mount options like PAG, V-LOK, Anton Bauer.

14. Price without lens around £8-10,000 ($12-15,000).

15. More expensive version with a full-frame 35mm sensor.

Please leave your comments as I’d be interested to know what others think.