Interview With Andrew Reid From EOS HD.
I wanted to interview Andrew Reid from the website EOS HD. His website specilizes in all things DSLR. He has also written two e-books on using anamorphic lenses with the newer DSLR cameras. His site has done very well in the past year and I wanted to find out more about the man behind EOS HD.
Here is the interview.
When did you realize that you were going to get into cinematography/filmmaking?
I was far more into computers and electronics. But my father and mother were both art teachers. About 10 years ago I bought this high end (for the time) digital camera and my sister brought back a Panasonic DV video camera with flip out LCD from college one day. I picked that up and immediately wanted to shoot something.What made me interested was the two together – technology and art – and being inspired by great filmmakers like Ridley Scott and Stanley Kubrick. The director and his taste is everything. Look what happened when Ridley Scott did a commercial for Apple – legendary – then Tony did one and it was total shit. I was no film buff when I was young, I never did watch tons of stuff, a few inspiring moments were enough (Koyannisquatsi, Michel Gondry’s music videos, Andrei Tarkovsky’s shooting style and Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange).
What was your first camera?
I bought a a Mini DV Panasonic GS30 and took it to university with me. It wasn’t a film school but I decided to shoot nothing but films in art class anyway and ignore everything else. I half dropped out and didn’t follow the course because it was the creative freedom I wanted and they had a big dramatic arts department so it was a chance to work with actors and actresses. I upgraded to a Panasonic GS120 with 3CCD sensor soon after – much better colour and Leica video lens but I couldn’t even afford a DVX100 at the time. Actually my favourite work came from the challenges of having limitations, some of them artificially imposed by my Icelandic artist tutor. She told me 80% of the film had to be black & white, with only 7 seconds of music. It focusses you onto a singular path and forces you to come up with interesting answers. I decided to have a grid of 18 shots with only one in colour, and the colour followed where the actress was, she went around the grid and the story unfolded through several shots and into an apartment block, then the grid morphed into a cut away of the block with an elevator (we call them lifts in England!!) in the middle. Eventually I got a Sony VX2000 because before DSLRs there was a big gap between consumer camcorders and semi-pro stuff. My first HD camera was a Sony FX1. When DSLRs came along I started EOSHD and set myself up full time as a cinematographer.
How would you describe your website to someone who is not familiar with cameras?
It’s a filmmaking and cinematography blog with an emphasis on both tech and the art of it. I guess that is what DSLR video is as well. I try and expose the stories behind the news, give my own spin on things. It is a personal blog of my work. It is a way to get my voice across.
What is the main purpose of the website?
I like to be outspoken. It isn’t to ram PR down people’s throats or toe the line. I think it’s important to have an alternative view. EOSHD is for me as a filmmaker to pass on my knowledge and share experiences. I think that it’s also helpful not to take too binary a view of things, because filmmaking (like life) is more complicated than that. For example content isn’t king, tech isn’t king, both are important. Some filmmakers are career filmmakers not artists. They think art has to be done in a certain way. It doesn’t. It seems much easier for people to quantify something if it is one way or another and not balanced, likewise gear is easier to quantify than creativity and so it creates the most buzz. “If I get camera X then I can do X standard of work and get hired for job X”. That isn’t the full picture.
How did you land the gig with DP Review and how is that going so far?
Their editor Simon contacted me earlier this year, the site used to be based in London but I didn’t any of them, I was just a reader. Thankfully he was a reader of EOSHD as well and was looking to expand the site editorially. They’re a great bunch of people. I’ve written twice so far and I enjoy it though it’s tricky to gauge what someone else’s audience is interested in. They felt the need to cover DSLR video, they are very interested in it but I think some of the purist photography guys don’t really want to see video modes on ‘stills cameras’, though really they are hybrids now because of convergence and that is not just happening to cameras. Look at the iPhone. Some traditionalist Nokia users didn’t want cameras on their phones! It’s a similar mindset.Inspiring them to see the worth in DSLR video and making them believe they can get great results from it is the key.
How long do you think this whole DSLR thing is going to last?
I think we’ve just seen the beginning and none of the stand-alone video cameras are affordable or accessible enough to replace DSLRs. If they were, they wouldn’t be as good image quality wise because the sheer volume of production that DSLRs ramp up to allow Canon, Panasonic and Sony to put very advanced technology into something that sells for a low price. Pro video is more of a niche, they can’t achieve the volume, so the price per unit is higher to justify the R&D. Manufacturers are not going to suddenly take video modes off DSLRs and DSLRs aren’t suddenly going to disappear, in terms of quantity of users they massively outrank pro video stuff. They evolve very quickly.However I think the DSLR video community has become highly commercialised and obsessed with gear. I will always be interested in the gear and technology but I think we need to find a way to get people more interested in the creative side again and less in upgrading to the ultra high end. People are being hired because of their equipment not because of their talent. It’s wrong! I really dislike the creeping consumerism in the creative arts. I think that DSLRs are still the foundation of a massive community of filmmakers – a level playing field – the biggest we have ever seen – it gives us an excuse to join together and talk. It would be a shame to lose that. For me a community always gives me more than a camera ever will.In terms of the market there’s no chance that DSLR video won’t keep growing and improving to keep pace with the more expensive dedicated video stuff. The manufacturers will always find a way to mark-up and ‘add value’ to the high end but the low end gets so good that eventually you start to wonder just how high a spec you need! There comes a limit and we are nearing it now. 120fps slow mo or 300fps slow mo? It is a lot less stark a choice than 3 years ago – having a cinema look and not having it. It’s a bit like how home computers improved to the point where they were near to design office workstations, as near as makes no difference to the user and their project anyway.
Why the GH2 and the smaller DSLR’s?
I just find the GH2 more creative to use than a traditional DSLR, there are less trade-offs for stills and I am a bit of a lens fanatic. The amount of lenses that influence your style is enormous on a mirrorless camera. Plus I like the fact that the image doesn’t have the moire or aliasing of the 5D. It also resolves far more detail. Panasonic started from scratch with the system and people are far more used to using Canons and generally Canon is accepted as the top brand with big professional looking bodies so 90% of DSLR video shooters seem to use something like a 60D or 600D on a budget even though the GH2 is just flat out better for a similar price, so I decided to write a book on the GH2 to enlighten people!
Your e-book about anamorphic photography has done quite well. What inspired you to choose that format?
It just adds that x-factor to an image that has cinema DNA written all over it, and stops HD from looking too lifeless and video-like. It is a number of things combined that makes anamorphic so cinematic to my eye rather than just one. The anamorphic aesthetic is dreamy. The way you compose in 2.39:1 or 2.66:1 is completely different to 16:9. In my view widescreen TV should also have been Cinemascope but they chose 16:9 – it was the wrong decision. The flare always astonishes me as well, you just don’t get it with a normal lens and you can’t really recreate it 100% authentically with filters or in post. The other advantage is the look of the bokeh – I can always tell when a movie has been shot in anamorphic now – maybe I am too obsessed!
What do you think we will see in the future for smaller interchangeable lens cameras?
I think small is the way to go. So they will keep getting smaller. Canon made a smart decision with the C300 to break from the traditional form factor. Panasonic and Sony missed that opportunity with their cameras because they didn’t have the DSLR (5D Mark II) or the feedback from DSLR shooters to inspire them like Canon did with the C300. Small and light has huge benefits for rigging and the creative side of that.I think we will see in the raw capabilities of DSLRs incredible stuff (especially the sensors) but they’ll be held back by limited firmware to keep them under the more expensive larger video cameras. To be honest I don’t mind because I prefer simplicity over complex operation and a myriad of features. I don’t want to rely on a ton of electronic crutches whilst shooting, I want to rely on my intuition.On the GH2/GH3 side we shall have Vitaliy Kiselev giving us more image quality for free. 178Mbit Intra frame codecs on a sub $1000 consumer camera is incredible, and it’s free. It’s not a bad deal! What separates a good filmmaker from a truly great however is not bitrate, 5K or 96fps, it is the filmmaker. It sounds so obvious that I wonder how a multi billion dollar industry was built on the high spec stuff. The answer is that high spec cameras make the life of a pro easier, it is a business investment as well as an artistic one and it gets you work. You look more serious and capable doing it. But for me DSLRs are purely an artistic tool not a business one. I am very luck that I’ve been able to isolate myself from reality somewhat with EOSHD and book sales, so that I am free to concentrate on my own work and cinematography and not shooting for someone else’s benefit all the time.The same goes for lenses – I buy based on character not on specs. My biggest investment will always be in lenses and it is another reason DSLRs were such a step up from the pro-DV stuff of pre-2009. I never felt inspired to start blogging about pro video gear because of the lack of interchangeable lenses for the most part. The DSLRs are just more exciting to me. The question I always ask myself is do I want a more ‘amazingly HD’ image or do I want more character?
When are you going to donate to my kickstarter campaign? Or better yet, What can we expect from EOSHD this Fall?
Now of course! Best of luck for the campaign. Documentary is actually one of my favourite forms of film, it can truly change the world and I like exposing the truth, giving other people a voice and showing things from their perspective. I’ve always been interested in the politics of getting a message across. I think The Board of Education will do well.In the next month I am in Shanghai and Tokyo and I love to shoot in Asia. Such a cinematic place, visually and in terms of audio too which I think has been a bit underexploited lately. I’m thinking of doing some audio articles, trying out different mics and I was really impressed with the piece Philip Bloom shot with the 3D Mic Pro… very immersive. Another area of audio that hasn’t been talked about much is the post processing and software side and I have a audio producer friend writing a book about that at the moment which hopefully people will find eye opening, and ear opening!