01 Jan 2014

RedShark Winter Replay: Is the camera industry in meltdown or is this a new age for cinematographers. And can you build a camera in your shed?

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Can you build a camera in your shed? Can you build a camera in your shed? RedShark


This holiday we're re-running some of our most popular articles, in case you didn't see them the first time. Today: Electronics is so completely integrated now that building new equipment is just a matter of glueing together a few parts you can buy from the Internet. Is this true? And is this the biggest threat to traditional camera manufacturers? In this article, we investigate this, and the background to it, in detail

The apparent demise of Aaton in the last few days is a milestone on the way to... what, exactly? The total destruction of the industry? Well, seemingly no, because many content creators are saying that this is the best time ever to be behind a camera - especially if you have a limited budget.

As I said in this article shortly after RedShark started last year, "We're living in an extended period or rapid change". Quite simply, everything is changing, and with each passing day, year or nanosecond, the rate of change is increasing.

What this means is that whole industries can find themselves without any customers, because something better and different has appeared, sometimes overnight.

Consider the 19th Century

Back in the 19th century, cars didn't wipe out the horse and cart industry instantly, but they did eventually, and comprehensively. There was no point in inventing a better horsewhip when the same investment in better tires or engines would be appreciated by an increasing, as opposed to diminishing, buying public. And who cared about better cassette recorders when MP3 players were taking off (and who cares about MP3 players when you can have Spotify?).

This stuff comes in as if by stealth. A $1200 external ProRes recorder can accomplish much of what an HD tape deck costing twenty times as much could do, except that it's fifty times smaller and is also non-linear. And it can run on batteries. In the face of such change, how does an industry adapt and survive?

The demise of film is perhaps the starkest illustration of paradigm change. There will always be those who hanker for the analogue look and feel of film, with reason, because it had a quality all of its own; but the debate is no longer whether digital can exceed film in quality, but by how much? And - in a nuance even more subtle than that - whether it is actually necessary to make the quality is better now that we've reached such a high level.

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David Shapton

David is the Editor In Chief of RedShark Publications. He's been a professional columnist and author since 1998, when he started writing for the European Music Technology magazine Sound on Sound. David has worked with professional digital audio and video for the last 25 years.

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