Technicle article

Why film director insists on VariCam for inhouse gear

Digital Cinema

The VariCam LT, even more than its big brother VariCam 35, is the by far most underrated 4K digital cine camera on the market. Still. Why still? Well first because 4K is still more than most cinemas can play and because: it's been around already quite some time now. Many Netfix series and some cine movies have been shot on them and the only reason why we hear not much of them is because of how the industry works and crews get used to workflows. Which need to be learned and being certified for to get hired. This is why it took many decades until Hollywood adapted ARRI. Even if Fritz Lang requested to only work for Hollywood with ARRI cams. Now ARRI dominates Hollywood besides Panavision which is doing a lot of rehousing of Sony, ARRI etc and so it comes that a strong competitor has a hard time to keep its food in the door. The VariCam line is so good that its dual ISO idea has been even tried to be adapted by ARRI's new ARRI 35. But their still don't get it right and it is not quite good as it is implemented in the LT. In ARRI it is rather a denoiser, that's why they gave it another name. With its low light and night watch capabilities the VariCam LT seem to be focused on cine documentary film makers. But I think this was a big marketing mistake becasue therefor the LT is too big. There were already smaller cameras on their way in the market, far better to handle in the jungle. This is why they brought up EVA afterwards. But really, VariCam is too great in cine color to be a one hand gimple runner. It is hard to be a niche product. But I still believe they should have focused more on drama, placed their marketing rather for story tellers and independend film makers. Especially the artistic ones. Arthouse and film d'ateur. Because is perfect for 1 and 2 operators in a small crew. 

Maybe it was because of the 35 being not that much adopted like hoped before. The LT treid to be a smaller version of the 35, but finally brought even some new things in it, which makes it even better than the 35. As long as 4K is still the upper limit most usual cinema houses can play I really will raise my voice for this underrated cine camera.

Sadly most example videos of VariCam out there are not the best examples to show off the LT capabilities, especially its awesome color, because the Varicam LT colors are incredibly good (if not the best on this time) combined with the right lenses. But VariCam does not have this "buzz" around its cameras to be spoken about a lot on YouTube etc. And most cinematographers who use them are not keen on sharing such infos in the social media etc. It is rather a silent and serious product line for the not so hippster ones. Maybe that is one reason why I love to shot on them. It is attracting people like me. Even if I make noise here for it. And even  if I am friend with ARRI and appreciate its success in the world a lot as a German film maker and shot a lot on their awesome and legendary cameras including the newer ones. But they please should not feel offended of my philosophy: The market is dominated by ARRI for now and the Varicam 35 and LT would hold up each of them actually in a rather independend film makers price range and have reached the Netflix specs even 3 years before ARRI did. 

It should be noted that Varicam was a development brand by its own and has been aquired/merged into Panasonic to play a part in the new digital 4K cinema industry. And Panasonic was known for its TV broadcast cam lines back in the days and its sturdiness and long term support of their products. So it should be clear that the VariCam line is not a toy. The work done on Varicam line was incredibly well good development in the shadows of existing and praised camera lines like RED and ARRI. I hope that Panasonic will not give up on them or that the original guys of Varicam have something in the pocket to fight the market again. Diversity is good. Monolithic market dominance is bad. And it is good to have slidely different digital cinematography results to create different shades of cinematic story telling. I am bored of seeing all the time the same lenses, same camera "look", same grades and even same scores. 

Oh - to use this chance here for a vote: Please stop this boring boooom in the beginning of each trailer of your action movies, it became sooo cheesy over the time. Find something new! It remainds me of the early days of film makers discussions where we decided to classify TV shows as cheesy when the trailer starts with helicopters. Hahaha. Today it's the drone fly of the forest or tight on the top of the water of a lake combined with the boooom sound in the beginning...

Let us try out different things and open the market for more different professional products which actually just need someone who really knows how to handle them. And a new accepted gear will be part of film making history...