30 May 2014

DSLRS? GH4s? Blackmagic Cinema Cameras? Is the Amateur the new Professional?

  • Written by 
White water White water Simon Wyndham


New types of affordable and lightweight camera mean that there are new types of film making. And the film makers are challenging the skills of "traditional" professionals. Simon Wyndham takes the sport of Kayaking as an example

As a whitewater kayaker I spend a lot of time thinking about how to film my sport. Long have I wanted to make a documentary on the subject, but haven't quite come up with an angle that I am happy with yet. Many guys will just get on and film their experiences come what may, regardless of whether there is anything interesting to say, but my professionalism is my Achilles heel in this regard.

There is a lot of programming these days that gets made when perhaps it really shouldn’t, or at least it isn’t ready to be.

Meaningless montage

There, I've said it. I don't want to make a meaningless montage of shots. Yes, I know many camera gurus have made a career out of doing just this, and some people find such videos awe inspiring for some reason, but I won't join their ranks. If I make a film about my sport it will have a purpose, an engaging documentary that I would hope also holds the interest of those who have maybe never even paddled before.

I was recently asked to shoot a promo for a whitewater kayaking holiday/coaching provider in Slovenia. It was a tricky job given the limited resources available, but the work called upon my ability to be able to take a boat loaded with camera gear into the gorges that are encountered on such a trip.




I was thankful that I was using a DSLR. I can hear the sniggers now, but you can trust me that a camera any heavier would be more effort than the pain would be worth in such circumstances. My hat goes off to those who regularly take Sony FS700's, or even Red cameras on such trips. A kayak gets weighed down very easily and the responsiveness of the boat becomes very sluggish, as well as much more difficult to roll back up in the event of a capsize. It is a question of safety and skill level as much as it is about boat performance, and I know my limits.

Added to this I was sometimes required to go on ahead of the group along rapids I had not seen before so that I could get shots of the clients paddling down. Yet I had it pretty easy. Whilst some of the water there was pretty pushy, especially with a laden boat, my class 3-4 rapids were nothing compared with what a lot of the world class guys are doing on often extremely life threatening water.

Those guys are now often taking Sony FS700's and quadcopter drones into some of the most inaccessible places on earth. Gear that weighs far more than anything that I took. Through the canyons of Chile, Peru, Norway, Iceland, British Columbia, Vietnam, China, and Nepal, to name but a few, places and environments that need specific skills to reach, often only accessible to whitewater paddlers. A separate bank side support team isn’t really a viable option in most cases.

Many of these videos are produced by amateurs, and only a few years ago such things were very poorly produced using Hi-8 and whatever else was available. The boating skills and the beauty of the environments were undoubtable, but the production values of the videos themselves often left a lot to be desired. Typical Extreme Sports Channel fodder with endless montages of carnage set to 90's heavy metal music.

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Simon Wyndham

Simon Wyndham is the Editor of RedShark News, a professional cameraman and video producer of 20 odd years. With a background in indy feature making, he has been writing camera reviews and tech articles for as long as he can remember. When he isn't producing bread and butter corporate videos he can be found hucking the gnar on rivers whitewater kayaking and adventure sports filming.

Website: www.5ep.co.uk

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