Sundance Camera Preferences and the Direction of New Cinema

Earlier this month, Indiewire published their “How They Shot That” list where they inform us of all the the cameras used by the 2015 Sundance Filmmakers. The article listed each film under its corresponding camera, but I was curious to see what this information would look like as an easy-to-read chart that compared, visually, what the top choices of cameras were. So, I dropped the list into Excel and created this chart.

023 Sundance Image 001

 

A total of 23 cameras were used in 2014 to shoot 84 movies. In 2015 almost twice the amount of cameras (44) were used to shoot 97 movies. My guess in this discrepancy is that a) Not enough filmmakers in 2014 provided enough or complete information on their cameras or b) the filmmakers in 2015 felt the need to use different cameras on the same movie.

I also wanted to compare the cameras used at the 2014 Festival, so I created a second chart, again using Indiewire as my sole resource. From the article, it is hard to tell exactly which camera was used. For example, one of the filmmakers said, “We used Super 35mm with some Red Epic, and a little Super 16mm. There is also one Canon 5D shot in the picture.” Which Super 35 and which Super 16 camera they use? And was is the 5D a Mark II or Mark III? It obviously was not the first 5D model as that camera did not offer video capabilities. In these cases I only added the Red Epic to the tally.

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How is this information useful?

For me it’s simple curiosity, as I believe a great storyteller can be as effective with an iPhone as with any high-end $50K camera. Give me an Alexa and a million dollars and I still wouldn’t be able to shoot a single frame better than Emmanuel “Chivo” Lubezki or Roger Deakins.

The camera is just a tool after all, but these charts show an interesting trend. Perhaps a AC or DIT can look at these trends and determine they better get acquainted with the Arri Alexa and Red Epic in order to get some high-end jobs under their belt. This can also be useful to anyone planning to upgrade their gear, as it clearly shows market trends among independent filmmakers.

023 Sundance Image 003

 

What I find most interesting about this data is how consistently some of the cameras are used, such as the Arri Alexa, and how one of my go-to cameras, the Canon EOS C100, was used only twice last year and wasn’t used at all on any of the 2015 films.

Another interesting takeaway is how diverse the cameras used for Sundance are compared to the cameras used on Oscar nominated films, where the Arri Alexa also rules, RED and Blackmagic have been absent. And we wouldn’t dare see VHS or iPhone. Or, at least not yet, I should say.

 


Eduardo Angel is an independent Technology Consultant, Educator, and Visual Storyteller based in Brooklyn, NY. He currently teaches at The School of Visual Arts and the International Center of Photography, and mentors the photography program at the Savannah College of Art and Design.

He is a co-founder of the idea production company The Digital Distillery, author of popular filmmaking courses on Lynda.com, and regularly shares his thoughts on technology, photography, and cinema on his website eduardoangel.com.

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