54 of 58 people found the following review helpful
on November 1, 2010
The book seems ambitious in its scope -- HDSLR gear, camera techniques, sound, lighting, editing, software, etc. -- however the knowledgeable author, Kurt Lancaster, succeeds in providing a well-developed conceptual framework AND pragmatic specifics to help his readers to understand and achieve success with the complexities of HDSLR filmmaking.
Lancaster offers VERY specific advice about essential gear for a range of budgets. He dissects techniques used in specific examples, citing HDSLR videos for readers to watch at Vimeo and other sites.
I drank the KoolAid some time ago and do share the author's delight at how enjoyable it is to watch well-produced DLSR footage. Although I recall feeling impressed by Vicent Laforet's very clean, professional "Reverie" about two years ago:
vimeo (dot) com / 7151244
But it was the intensity and immediacy of one short piece about the 2010 Nashville flood, shot by Michael Deppisch using a handheld Canon 5D Mark II that really made a deep impression and triggered my deeper interest in learning HDSLR filmmaking:
youtube (dot) com / watch?v=vwCGz1vSh_M
To distinguish the image texture of "conventional/normal video" from "digital film", Lancaster explains in his introduction that the "film look" is a result of the overall image quality and "cinematic approach", not a particular technical spec on the camera or sensor. He also further distinguishes the look of cinema film from the "HDSLR cinema aesthetic".
I'm very new to digital filmmaking (fiction or documentary), but have worked with video for art and for marketing for over 20 years. Over the past four months, I've invested a good deal of time researching everything I could find online about shooting DSLR HD video from:
cinema5d (dot) com
vimeo (dot) com
cheesycam (dot) com
nextwavedv (dot) com
philipbloom (dot) net
blog (dot) vincentlaforet (dot) com / mygear
Lancaster links to some of those same sites from his blog at
kurtlancaster (dot) com / dslr-cinema
Lancaster continues to regularly add blog posts, which I've found helpful as I learn how to get professional sound and video from a Canon 60D.
"DSLR Cinema" covers most of the practical advice I was able to find in those several months of research, and he adds a great deal more applied knowledge which I doubt I could have ever found online, even after many more months of effort. The author seems to genuinely desire that his readers would be successful with these tools and it seems important to him to share both his delight and the wisdom gathered from his and others' experiences.
Because DSLR represents a convergence of video, film and photographic techniques, this book may not be helpful to every type of HDSLR video filmmaker (beginner to pro), but it does exactly meet my needs as I develop a list of gear to pack for my own journey into this exciting, new territory of DLSR film making.
Of course, pro DSLR photographers (like Laforet) are NOT the first to discover the landscape of cinema, much of which was settled long ago by highly-experienced filmmakers, directors, and cinematographers -- it has been over a hundred years since the Lumière brothers began to explore the realm of moving images:
youtube (dot) com / watch?v=4nj0vEO4Q6s
Lancaster works hard at being a native guide in this land and I'm grateful for his experience as I begin to learn how to shoot efficiently and effectively with these new tools.
[My apologies for the spelled out URLs. Amazon strips any URLs from the review, but oddly not from the Comments. I've added the complete review again as a Comment, below. Thanks to Pablo for the suggestion! - Jonathan]
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on November 30, 2010
In the past 3 months, I have purchased close to 24 different books on DSLR camera HD recording. This is an exceptional book with direct hands on recommendations for how to craft that mystic "35mm film look". It is packed with excellent insight and practical information that will immediately improve your skills. I have actually read some of the chapters a number of times and keep finding additional "golden nuggets". Love the executive summaries at the end of each chapter and the tips and techniques spread throughout the book. The equipment configuration discussions are excellent and I hope they keep the book current with new versions as more support equipment becomes available. At the moment, this is one of the top three DSLR books available and a must have book at that!!!
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on December 14, 2010
Kurt Lancaster has put together a comprehensive review of how to use your DSLR to create video with a definite film look. In fact, he sets the standard of DSLR filming. I like the many check-lists that prepare the reader for most eventualities when using a DSLR instead of a Prosumer Camcorder. He systematically addresses all aspects of production and post-production and gives some great examples of shorts filmed on DSLRs which can be viewed on the Publisher's Website. The detailed analysis of the making of these shorts is very helpful in understanding planning, design and other production issues when shooting with a DSLR. He also includes lists of equipment packages one might want to consider.
Not everyone is as excited about DSLR cinema as Kurt, and several camera manufacturers are already developing Prosumer Camcorders with substantially larger sensors that should be able to give the same "filmic" look as DSLRs. True, these camcorders will be much more expensive than DSLRs. However, the great advantage of a DSLR is its small size that allows one to record video in point-and-shoot style. By the time you have added a JuicedLink pre-amp that allows you to add a mic or two and/or lavalieres and suppress the automatic gain control of the DSLR, and after you've added a matte box for your filters, you got a substantial rig. Talent often prefers DSLRs because they are less intimidating. The future will show whether the DSLR develops into a shooting style of its own, or whether the DSLR will be useful in addition to a souped-up camcorder.
What I found most helpful was the discussion of the colorspace in the DSLR and the rationale for its adjustment both before shooting and in post production.
This is a very thorough and knowledgeable discussion of DSLR filming.
20 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on March 3, 2011
I am a DSLR shooter, so naturally when I see a cool new book about DSLR cinema, I order it immediately. But this isn't the best book on the subject out there. FROM STILLS TO MOTION is better.
Also, there are so many blogs and websites out there that are dedicated to DSLR production that are absolutely free to read, there is no sense wasting your money on this book. It doesn't cover anything new, special, or different that all the other blogs cover. For example, nofilmschool blog gives you a DSLR guide for free if you sign up on his mailing list. That one guide may not be as flashy as this book, but the information is the same AND FREE!! So if you are new to DSLR shooting, do a web search, don't buy this book.
I read the DSLR Cinema from cover to cover in two hours then I tossed it. I wasted my money.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on March 28, 2011
Kurt Lancaster has assembled a step by step guide to Digital SLR film making emphasizing how to achieve the look of film and setting high standards in the process. As a professional still photographer with an audio back ground, I have been searching for a book that cuts to the chase. This does it.
As a Nikon user for the past 25 years and having recently moved to Canon's 5d Mk II to take advantage of its incredible still and video capabilities, this book was the perfect 'short course' on the Canon's video modes and the steps necessary to obtain the best look this camera has to offer.
The book begins by assuming the reader has some basic knowledge in the field, it goes on to cover everything from creating custom presets to transcoding footage and color grading as well as many other aspects of production and post. I also appreciated the encouraging words sprinkled through out relating to our endeavor as film makers to pursue our own individual style.
A variety of short films shot using DSLRs by some of the top directors and DPs in the DSLR movement are used to illustrate topics - these high quality videos were easily viewed on vimeo. Analysis of the techniques used to create these shorts gives an in depth look into a host of other areas in the film making process.
Excellent section on gear choices as well, very specific and current.
I'd spend 10 times this much on a workshop and probably retain half the info, the best $35 I've invested in a while.
A well thought out and great resource. The right book at the right time! Thanks Kurt.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Unless you're a film techie, you may not have realized that the film industry is going through a DSLR revolution of sorts. Some of your favorite Hollywood blockbuster films and favorite television shows have been shot, either in whole or in part, on DSLR cameras costing only a few thousand dollars. It's an exciting time to be an independent filmmaker because the affordability of these extraordinary cameras is making it possible for even low-budget filmmakers to produce films on par with projects costing tens of millions of dollars.
But the camera itself is only one tool of the filmmaker. Using it properly and maximizing its potential are even more important. This is where "DSLR Cinema" comes in. I ordered this book because I wanted a technical guide to shooting with a DSLR. I studied television and news video production as an undergrad, but DSLR cameras weren't part of the curriculum (it was more like $350,000 television studio cameras and mini-DV cameras for field work), and cinematography isn't as important in news production as it is in film.
"DSLR Cinema" is much more than a mere technical guide. It's actually a textbook for film students and only assumes pretty much two things about the reader: that the reader knows how to shoot and how to edit.
The author begins by explaining how DSLR cameras are revolutionizing the film industry and why they are so great and then divides the book into three parts from there:
Part 1 is roughly a 140-page course on DSLR cinematography. It covers composition, lighting, exposure, lenses, styles, recording audio, and postproduction/editing. I was pleased to see an entire chapter dedicated to audio, since a lot of beginning filmmakers don't realize just how important this is. That chapter has great explanations of types of equipment and includes examples of equipment used by filmmakers. There is even a chapter on storytelling, with tips on creating interesting characters, evoking emotion in the audience, writing good dialogue, structuring a good story, and more.
Part 2 is a series of case studies of DSLR filmmakers. I love case studies, so this is a particularly exciting part of the book for me since I get to get inside the head of the filmmaker a bit, and even learn what specific equipment was used in different situations and what techniques produced the results they wanted. This is very valuable information and something most will find useful to refer back to again and again.
Part 3 is about 64 pages dedicated to nothing but equipment. It explains pretty much everything you'll need to get started and provides suggestions based on your particular budget. This will help beginning DSLR filmmakers save a lot of time by not having to do the research themselves and help them to get all of the good, quality equipment they'll need without busting their budgets.
Giving this book 5 stars is a no-brainer. It is, in my opinion, exactly the kind of information a beginning DSLR filmmaker should have. Whether it's a post-college beginner like me or someone who has years of experience with other types of cameras, just about everyone will find this book to be a valuable addition to their bookshelf--and to have on set!
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on January 9, 2011
This is not a general film technique guide. It's not a book on lighting, sound design, the business of film, editing style, or cinematography.
What it is is a book on using DSLR cameras to shoot film.
And in that regard, it covers every nook and cranny that you can expect from a volume on the topic. From selecting equipment, to using it correctly, to processing, editing, and presenting your work, Kurt Lancaster brings together a guide that covers chapter by chapter the technical elements of professional filmmaking on a DSLR in a way that is clear to even those without any technical background in filmmaking. From lighting to lenses to recording sound when using a DSLR rig, the book devotes a chapter to each element of your camera's pre-production experience. Latter chapters are devoted to case studies of particular films shot with SLR cameras. Although these don't offer as much technical advice, they present a variety of ways that an SLR camera can be used to a director's and DP's advantage. The last chapter is a helpful buyers guide that covers different choices of equipment for different budgets.
You may want to check out other guides on filmmaking if you're just starting out, particularly on specific topics like cinematography, screenplay development, or editing. But from the hardware side, if you're thinking of using a DSLR for filmmaking, this is not only an excellent guide in that area but also one of the most clearly and well written books for film technique that I have ever read.
And if you already have a video capable SLR camera, there is little reason not to pick this volume up. It was written with you in mind.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on July 3, 2011
Overall, I enjoyed this book and the information it offers, though the author tends to repeat key concepts. I also think he spent too much time creating gear combinations for different budgets - low, mid, and high. Better to just explain what a certain accessory can do for filmmaking, perhaps point out a range of manufacturers, and then let the reader decide on their own. Or, just explain the gear and leave the shopping to the many gear-centric blogs that inundate the web.
Despite sounding a bit like a Canon sales pitch, there are some good tips to be had, and it's nice to have them all available in a searchable format on my Kindle. I preferred reading the ebook on my laptop so that I could immediately jump out to the many Vimeo-hosted videos linked in the text.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on December 26, 2010
This book is the "BEST" and most complete resource that I have found for specifically using a DLSR for video.
You get real life examples with frame grabs, camera settings, lighting used, and specific reasons for coloring.
Pretty happy with it, most books on DSLR's only cover a small section on the video feature, while this one has it all.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
When I bought the Canon 5D Mark II I knew it had HD capabilities. What I didn't know was how powerful, and ultimately, how popular this camera would become for film makers. I was stunned to learn that entire television episodes were made with this camera (House). I started finding movies online that were striking in their quality and professional finish. I came from using a digital camera that had movie capabilities but limited to modest "web quality" sized movies. It was great to be able to make this little clips but I never had any expectations that these films would be pro-quality.
With the DSLR, that changed for me. Now I had in my hands a device that could make professional-quality cinema. I quickly learned how little I knew about making movies. I also learned that some things that were automatic on my lesser camera were manual on this device. I would have to manually focus the camera as I shot - wow, not since the days of shooting film had that been an issue! And doing it while filming? Yikes! Then there's exposure and white balance. Again, I was used to doing these things automatically and not worrying about them. As I read this book I learned that there's more to it, and automatic is generally not the best choice for these settings...
And finally, at a gross level, sound. Again, my little camera has a built-in microphone that did reasonably well to capture sound and make the movie more interesting than a silent film. The Canon 5D Mark II has a microphone but it's not going to win you any awards. A stereo mike (and whole sound system really) is going to be necessary to get pro-quality sound out of a DSLR.
With all these high-level issues, there are a myriad of details. To get the best out of a DSLR that makes HD video, I had to read this book and really understand what is involved in making cinema. The book covers tons of topics and refers the reader to numerous online examples of movies made using the techniques:
- Composition, Blocking, Camera Movement
- Picture Styles
- Post-production and workflow
- story telling
- The film look through post-production, rapport with characters, lenses, location and CGI art, light composition and blocking
- by budget
Then there are afterwords and appendices about image resolution, tests of the Canon 5DII and 7D, exposure and dynamic range, luminance and chrominance compression, story treatment, and "Twelve Steps to HDSLR Shooting"
This book has 275 pages of highly detailed discussion of everything you will need to know to get started, get outfitted, and practice shooting in a way that leverages the incredible capabilities of these cameras. The book is, in my opinion, Canon-centric, but many of the discussions are equally relevant to Nikon, Sony and other DSLR cameras that provide HD-quality movie capabilities.
Overall, I highly recommend this book to anyone who owns the Canon 5D Mark II or 7D, or wants to learn the more general wisdom offered here for using a DSLR to make cinema.