This is an amazing time to be alive, what with all the things that are changing, evolving, improving.
A major step was just taken that will revolutionize how video is produced and consumed. It’s called the Panasonic GH1.
It dispenses with the traditional SLR mirror and optical viewfinder, allowing a shorter lens-to-sensor distance; in turn enabling smaller, lighter, and quieter cameras. The platform, called ‘Micro Four Thirds’, maintains the same-size image sensor as a traditional DSLR, and uses similar (though smaller) interchangeable lenses that allow for shallow depth of field, which is one of the defining characteristics that DSLRs have long had a monopoly on versus point-and-shoot consumer cameras.
So it’s smaller. Why is this camera so revolutionary, then?
Well, size is not the revolution. HD video functionality is.
Though hardly the first digital camera to shoot HD video (notable examples include the Canon 5D Mark II and the Nikon D90) the GH1 manages to provide jaw-droppingly-good HD video (1080p) in a smaller and less-expensive package* than its predecessors and rivals. This means that any idiot with a thousand bucks, a subject, and a PC can become a movie producer.
Here’s the freshest example of HD video shot off a Panasonic GH1 (if you watch the HD version closely and notice the shallow depth of field and fantastic quality, you’ll understand how revolutionary this is!):
What we’ve seen with print media–the replacement of the top-down newspaper/magazine model with a more democratic, user-generated model–is exactly what is going to happen with digital video. With the increased accessibility of cheap HD video recording, sites like Vimeo and FunnyOrDie are going to be swimming in quality user-generated content (if they’re not already). The losers are going to be the big studios, whose only advantages will be 1) bigger budgets for marketing/production, 2) star power, and 3) existing distribution channels (movie theaters, et cetera). The studios, however, will be at a massive disadvantage on the internet, coming up against small niche players who will be able to undercut them on production cost AND content pricing, providing the content for free (ad-supported). If the big studios eschew the free-content route, as print media did, and they’ll lose market share to the internet upstarts.
This is a MASSIVE opportunity for anybody with film-making experience. You have the opportunity to be involved in a revolution. Yes, the democratization of HD video will mean declining prestige, and an increasingly flooded content marketplace. But at the same time, it allows content creators to put more professional-looking creations on the web and garner maximum exposure before the big studios begin to adapt to the new platform.
If there is to be an internet video production star made, he/she will be made king very soon. As I said earlier, this is an amazing time to be alive.
*Note: the Panasonic GH1 may be priced similarly to the Nikon D90. We’ll have to see.