Cameras: TV Dramas Are Finally Changing with the Times

While movie producers are usually more willing to be experimental with different types of cameras, TV producers have generally been more cautious. It’s easy for filmmakers to try a new camera on a single project (the financial risk is much lower), but TV shows already have heavy investment in their current equipment. Sometimes there’s little reason to change, much to cinematographers’ woes. If they’ve found something that works, there seems to be little need to change it, so tried and true models like the Panasonic VariCam and the Sony F900 are still popular choices, though they are dated models.

The RED ONE and later, the RED ONE MX became increasingly popular for low-budget feature films, but TV producers who were comfortable with their current method saw little reason to change to these cameras. However, the ARRI ALEXA, a new player in the camera market has seen a bit more success in the TV sector. For some reason, it caught on in a way that the RED couldn’t. So what’s the reason?

For one, the ALEXA has stronger brand strength than the RED; people trust it more. It also uses SxS Pro cards as its storage format, which is a popular choice among directors and producers. Though its output is in 2K (compared to the RED’s 4K), it has a greater dynamic range.

Additionally, it has a highly-praised, intuitive design. Its removable parts and power outlets make it more convenient and easy to use. Critically-acclaimed director Steven Spielberg switched from the Sony F35 to the ALEXA for his series Terra Nova. The Sony F35, one of ALEXA’s main competitors, remains a popular choice due to its low cost but high value. For low-budget TV series and commercials, the Sony F35 is very well-liked.

The ALEXA didn’t start as perfect camera though. Earlier builds had problems in production that caused some bleeding of pixels. Thankfully, the newer upgrade has addressed this problem.

Another up-and-comer is the EPIC, whose small body size and lower weight is desirable by hand-held camera operators who spend 10 hours a day with a camera on their shoulder. It can shoot at 5K with increased resolution and the largest range of frame-rates currently available on the market. The EPIC is becoming more popular with 3D films in Hollywood as well (The Amazing Spider-Man used the EPIC).

In any case, it seems that the long-time stubborn TV market is now becoming more open to trying new cameras, so we may see changes in the way TV is filmed in the near future.

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