Ever since the first film camera was patented in 1888, this gateway to the world of entertainment has continually evolved. From that first celluloid device, movie cameras have seen the continual addition of many features and enhancements.
The Creation of an Industry
The cinema camera is the basic film-making camera that gave birth to the movie industry. By the early 20th century the standard film production camera provided interchangeable lenses and a variety of features that made it more flexible. Eastman Kodak introduced the 16 mm film stock in 1923, and this became the standard film format for decades.
The iconic cinema camera was large and bulky, and not easily moved. Mounting on mobile platforms changed this limitation, but the camera was basically limited to use on sets. Even outdoors, the cinema camera had to have special tracks and accommodations for shoots.
However, these limitations were accepted because of this unit’s ability to use multiple lenses and provide the high resolution needed for large movie screens. These cameras are used today in controlled environments to produce planned, precise works that have a long-life. The availability of full frame sensors provide zooms as fast as F1.2, adding to the director’s options for lighting and action shots.
Of course, the introduction of digital video camera equipment has dramatically changed the concept of the cinema camera.
Responding to the Need for Speed
The growth of movies for entertainment along with the introduction of news services and the world of TV created a need for greater mobility and flexibility in cameras. The concept of Electronic News Gathering gave birth to the idea of covering breaking news with video camera equipment.
To meet this demand, the ENG camera is primarily designed to fulfill its role as a highly flexible camera where taking time to swap lenses is seldom an option. From the battlefields of WWII to the growing number of television broadcast stations, the need for speed overrode the requirements of quality and resolution. Consumers accepted a grainier and less artistic visual in the interest of getting immediate news on film.
News, documentaries, and other uses drove the ENG as a unit designed to fit the shoulder comfortably and provide full mobility. The ENG camera allows the user to grasp the lens for focus and zoom (11x to 22x normally), and today’s units provide an electronic viewfinder to make the whole system “one with the shooter.” For documentary use, the most advanced ENGs fit on tripods to provide near-studio quality filming opportunities.
The real power of the ENG resides in its lens, providing maximum flexibility and quality while minimizing concerns over movement and lighting. Typically using a B4 mount, the ENG lens makes the shooter feel like one with the camera, allowing rapid transitions from very wide and long shots to intimate closeups. The introduction of the electronically controlled rocker allows even amateurs to produce smooth and accurate zooms in multiple environments and lighting conditions.
In fact, technology is rapidly eliminating many of the fundamental distinctions between the modern ENG and the traditional cinema camera. Some users combine the ENG lenses with the cinema camera to create powerful capabilities, including a range of 16-320mm with full-frame sensors. With increasing resolution and the use of digital media, many quality films are being produced on very low budgets with ENG cameras.
These capabilities encouraged the use of Electronic Field Production, where pre-scripted stories are shot with much the same feel as true studio films with cinema cameras. While differences remain, there will be a continual merging of the capabilities and features video camera equipment.