The take away from the last ten years is that camera technology has had a democratizing effect on our industry, providing high performance tools at a low budget price. The splash has been so impactful, that some production companies, like Screen Gems, are using Sony α7 Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Cameras (MILC) as their main rigs, and the trend is growing.
“The Sony a7S cameras are a perfect fit for the movies we produce at Screen Gems because they afford us opportunities we might otherwise not get,” wrote Screen Gems’ head of physical production Glenn Gainor, to IndieWire
I remember watching Screen Gems films growing up, mostly on television, and they had a classic independent look to them. I think this is why using smaller, cheaper cameras fit right in with their long standing production values of getting as high a quality image you can, while keeping production costs down.
And with their latest horror film, Cadaver, they are looking to the full frame Sony α7S II to shoot many shots that their main camera, the Sony F55 couldn’t get. Capable of gaining a great image in low light without inviting a ton of noise that would need to be stripped out in post, the α7S II enabled them to shoot with a smaller crew and less supporting equipment.
A horror film about a disgraced cop who has to take a job at a morgue during the graveyard shift, Cadaver was born out of the inspiration that came from wandering around London’s Underground, where shooting with larger format cameras like RED and ARRI simply aren’t practical. Thanks to its ability to shoot in near darkness, and its extremely small footprint, the α7S II gives filmmakers the ability to shoot on the run, lending to the chaotic nature of a horror film.
But Gainor says he was most impressed with how the α7S II footage was able to blend seamlessly with the Sony F55’s 4K footage. “So then I thought, why not use this to make a whole feature with,” Gainor said.
The head of Screen Gems production says that being able to rely on lower cost camera systems that can keep the image quality up, will enable them to film larger stories without a minimal budgetary impact, and putting the money where it can really make a splash, like anamorphic lenses.
“By thinking differently, we’re also able to inspire our partners to widen their scope of production as well,” Gainor adds. “We utilized some of (Vantage’s) finest anamorphic lenses on Cadaver and never waited to change lenses because each lens was mounted on the camera. Imagine that. We never said, ‘Change lenses.’ Instead, we simply picked up the whole unit and shot. It helped us shoot more efficiently which helped us make a bigger-looking movie.”
It’ll be a matter of time to see if the low budget, high performance concept will pay off with Cadaver. But even a modest success will continue the ripple effect made by the digital revolution, and show the next generation of filmmakers that they can do a heck of a lot more with the lower budget cameras they already have.