The incredible shrinking tools of pro video

Still capture from video shot with a Canon 5D, MK II single lens reflex.
Still capture from video shot with a Canon 5D, MK II single lens reflex.

Shot my first video documentary some 20 years ago on bulky 3/4″ videotape in a U-Matic Ikegami shoulder cam that weighed more than 30 pounds with full sound gear.  The JVC tape deck and editing equipment filled a large room.

Later replaced the Ikgemi with a Sony Betacam SP, which used half-inch tape with a studio quality imaging.  The Sony was lighter than the Ikegami but stilled weighed in at 15 pounds, which could leave a sore shoulder at the end of the day.

When digital video (DV) came in, we replaced the Sony with a Canon XLS videocam that weighed in at less than 10 pounds and the tape could be easily edited on a Mac laptop in a hotel room.

High-definition HDV eventually replaced standard definition DV and our Sony HDV videocams were handheld units that could, if necessary, be used with one hand.

Now even the HDV videotape cameras are old-hat.  When I pack for a video shoot, I usually take four cameras that — combined — take up less space and weight far less than an original shoulder-mounted videocam.

Instead of tape, we capture video now on compact flash cards, flash memory and other solid-state media.  Two of our four videocams are also the same digital single-lens reflex cameras that I used to shoot still photos.  The third is a ultra-compact HD camera that can mount on a motorcycle helmet of on a wall with a strip of velcro and last is a small, handheld Sony “handycam” that can shoot five hours of high-definition video on 64 GB of internal flash memory that has higher resolution and better color range than the larger, more expensive, HDV cameras that set the standard just four years ago.

Add some wireless microphones a MacPro laptop and I have a complete video studio that can fit in a backpack.  With this setup, I can shoot an assignment for a television station, edit it onsite and deliver the finished product via Wi-Fi.

Times have changed.

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