I've just released an audio CD, I interviewed cinematographers, directors and shooters who shared their technical expertise and field experiences shooting on HD cameras. It's a resource of uncharted information, whether you're looking for more technical expertise, deciding between cameras for a shoot, or deciding on a purchase.
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Stephen Murphy is a London based Director of Photography who works internationally using all the major film and HD camera systems.

"I've done a couple of projects on the EX-1, I was really happy with the results, I was really surprised at the results, the footage was as nice as something I'd get from say, a Sony 750. I didn't notice any problems with the blacks and I think I do remember we had some kind of color matching issue, we were shooting with two cameras and I think one was
slightly redder than the other, but that happens in most digital cameras. Again I think, my initial impression was quite surprised, I was like wow, for such a small little camera the image that it gives you is quite impressive. Which is not to say that I wasnít picking the image apart the same way I would the other kind of HD image but I was quite impressed with the bang for your buck you got from that particular camera. So, if someone said to me tomorrow, weíre going to shoot a job, it has to be HD we were thinking of the Sony 750, I mean in this part of the world [UK] a lot of TV drama gets shot on Sony 750 and I would quite happily shoot it on the Sony EX-1. So that was sort of my yardstick or how I was comparing them. So any image problems I would have associated with this Sony 750 I would also associate with the EX-1, I was just surprised I could get that picture quality or that level of picture quality from this camera with a higher compression ratio.

We didnít have any green screen, there were no effects involved, so we didnít have any compositing to do, and perhaps if we had we might have looked at the picture in a different light and seen more problems with it. I know the color space is quite compressed as well on the EX-1. I didnít have any problems with the pictures from that camera that I wouldnít have had from a higher HD camera. Another thing to bear in mind is I tend to, I'm grading images, I rarely grade them heavily. I shoot with my kind of look basically 95% on the neg or on the digital neg whatever way you want to put it. So I usually donít have to manipulate the images a great deal in post. And perhaps if I had shot something flat and then tried to create a look in post the image might haven fallen apart a lot easier and then you might have seen more of the artifacts that youíre talking about. Because I didn't go down that route, itís possible that I wasnít seeing them because we were literally
doing very minimal brightness contrast and saturation tweaks to the images, so that might be why I didnít notice anything.

Q: It seems like my experience and a lot of people who start out in film, and when digital acquisition formats were not viable, we all sort of still tend to think in a film mode when lighting. And so I agree with you, the same issue as if you were going to have a film negative, you'd want it to get it as close to the look you want to get. Once you start going in, even in telecine youíre still adding more or subtracting and possibly creating more issues then you started with.

Yeah exactly. That is my approach to anything that I shoot digitally and thatís not to say that thatís the only way to do it, but itís the way that I need to approach something from my film background. I kind of need to convert everything over to the terms I have in my head in order to understand what I'm doing. So I still use light meters. I don't use waveform monitors, I'm not particularly good at reading waveform monitors, I understand what they do, but they just don't have a place on my set. They don't work for me. And whether it's RED or Sony EX-1 or anything. I just finished shooting a project on the RED, and I looked at the false color overlay and I looked at the raw file occasionally but I just can't use those to judge exposure in the same way and at the same speed as I can with my light meter on film sets."

Click here to listen to part of Stephen Murphy's interview. His award winning cinematography can be seen internationally in features, commercials, music promos and short films.

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Stephen Murphy