Cameras used on The Fair Trade movie

Sony FX1So, several people have asked for the more technical details about how we managed to get such a beautiful film on such a small budget. The easy answer is “hard work” and a shared vision amongst everyone working on the film. But, in the first installment of a technical rundown of The Fair Trade, we’ll cover the various cameras and techniques used while making the documentary.

First, the decision was made to shoot the entire film at 29.97 frames per second (29.97fps) and standard definition (SD), not high-def (HD). These were entirely budgetary considerations: the common denominator amongst all cameras was SD and 29.97, so that’s what we used. We didn’t rent any cameras, so we used what was available. Here’s what got us our footage:

Sony HDR-FX1. Wait, you said you shot SD, didn’t you; the FX1 is high-def — what gives? Well, we shot in HD at 29.97, and captured in SD, giving us the opportunity to go back to the HD if we ever needed to. Chris, our lead cinematographer, shot some excellent footage with this camera. Since it was shot in HD, the footage was automatically 16:9 aspect ratio — no stretch; so even in SD, this camera gave us more visual information than the others because there was no anamorphic squeeze in-camera.

Sony DCR-VX2100. Jordan’s camera of choice provided hours of beautiful footage. This camera rocked in low light, so it got used a lot. The 2100 has a good anamorphic stretch for a 16:9 picture.

Panasonic AG-DVX100. It’s a low-budget indie, so this camera had to be on the list, right? We bought one for a corporate shoot right as we started filming The Fair Trade, so we were able to use it as a “B” camera. Since we always had it on sticks, it became the primary audio camera as well — I patched main mics (usually wireless lapel mics) into this. Again, used the in-camera anamorphic squeeze for 16:9.

Canon GL2. If it’s grainy in the movie, then it’s probably this camera. But in its defense, this model is old, and great in bright light and outdoor conditions. It was primarily used as a “B-audio” camera — so that we could have two more channels of sync’d audio (usually plant or boom mics), and we were never intending to use the video from this camera. Oh well: good intentions and everything. This was the final camera that got the in-camera anamorphic stretch for 16:9.

Then there were a couple other cameras that got used for specific scenes in the film: a Canon consumer camera in an AquaPac waterproof bag for the underwater shots. That’s a funny story: Denise originally shot test footage with a waterproof digital ELPH camera at 15fps — and it looked so good that we had to try and recreate what she did. So she got in the pool and shot a lot of that the second time around, and Chris and Tamara and Denise were all in an EXTREMELY cold pool for that shoot. Brave folk.

Other footage was shot with various consumer camcorders, as well as footage that was found or brought to us (from before we even started shooting the film, such as footage of Matthew before he died).

At a later date I’ll discuss some of the post production details.


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