I attended the ReFrame conference in San Francisco last week. I had some medical stuff that kept me from making the trip to New York for Photo East, so that freed up a few days to go to the Bay Area to learn more about convergence.
It seems that I could have also done that in New York. Based on reports I got from friends at the show, this year’s Photo East was all abuzz over hybrid video/DSLR cameras.
ReFrame was focused on the wedding video business. Frankly, I have no personal or business interest in that space. But there was plenty of content that I found helpful just the same.
I did learn a great deal about the people who shoot wedding video. First of all, most of them are far more talented than I would have imagined. Gone are the days when they set up a camcorder in the back of the church and hit the “record” button. These folks are straight up filmmakers. I was impressed.
The conference was put on by a group called the ReFrame Collective. The organizers did a fantastic job of seeing to the needs of the attendees. The food and parties hosted by the group were amazing. The facilities at the Clift Hotel were good for learning and everyone had a good time. It seemed like everyone learned something. Many of the questions, even those coming from seasoned filmmakers, surrounded the idea of hybrid cameras and their use.
I was particularly interested in spending time with Philip Bloom. He’s a pioneer in the convergence space. He’s also a terrific guy and a great shooter. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen ANYONE who enjoys themselves more behind a camera. And that’s saying a great deal since I pretty much just spend my life hanging with other image makers. If Philip has a camera in his hand, it’s almost always accompanied by a grin that can only be matched by a 13-year-old boy who just discovered his first Playboy magazine.
Philip and his business partner Dennis Lennie were gracious with their time and spent time shooting with all the attendees at the Palace of Fine Arts. I got lots of great tips from both, and had time to record a few interviews with Philip that I will share here at a later date.
Suffice it to say that if you’re like me, and a long-time still shooter, you may think that you can just buy a video/DSLR and make great films. Believe me, nothing could be further from the truth. Still photographers have a leg up on pure video newbies because they understand (or should) light, composition, exposure, etc. But that is the end of any similarity. The rest of it is new stuff that we all need to learn. And if you thought learning Photoshop was tough, wait until you tackle Final Cut Pro! Editing is clearly as important if not more important than capture in the video world.
The gear (other than the camera) really does make a difference here. I saw all sorts of rigs and contraptions at the conference – some I’ve never heard of. There were lots of follow focus devices, dolly tracks, stabilization tools and sliders. Then there’s audio and lights to consider. In short, I left the conference having learned a great deal – mostly – what I learned was that I have a lot of work to do and a long way to go before I get good at this video stuff.
But in a way, that’s good news. It’s a new challenge. And I have absolutely no doubt whatsoever that learning the video side of things will make me a better still shooter.
Attendees were sporting gear from Zacuto, ( see my review of the Z-Finder here) RedRock Micro, and Glidecam and all of it was very interesting. Philip’s F-Stop Academy stuff was also on display – something I’ve already reviewed here and worth a look.
Like it or not, convergence is upon us. The hybrid cameras are the ones generating all the buzz. Even if you have no interest in shooting video, I came away from ReFrame thinking you could learn from the trend. And getting back to the filmmakers I met at the conference, do yourself a big favor and watch Kevin Shaninian’s Bollywood movie. It will change your opinion of “wedding videographers” forever. It will also teach you something about visual storytelling no matter what device you use to capture your images.