Technology Used in Documentary Production

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Technology Used in Documentary Production


There are three basic types of camera:

* Film camera (35mm, 16mm, 8mm);

* Analogue video camera (Betacam Sp, U-Matic) - these became widely

available in the 1970s;

* Digital video camera CDv, Mini Dv, Digi-Beta)- these became widely

available in 1995 and are now nearly all broadcast quality.

The advantages of the video camera:


* The film camera retails from approximately £10,000; the analogue

video camera from £8,000 and broadcast quality digital video

camera from just £1000;

* The average cost of 35mm film stock for a 90-minute documentary

would be around £5,000 while the average cost of digital tape

stock for a 90-minute documentary would be less than £100.

* The film processing and lab fees for a 90-minute documentary would

be around £5,000, while there would be no such fees for digital

tape stock that doesn't need to be processed.


* Film cameras can be heavy and clumsy to use;

* Cheaper film cameras are noisy, causing sound problems; Film stock

needs to be kept at a certain temperature and requires 'warm-up'

time, which is costly when 'time is money' on a production;

* Digital cameras are lightweight and portable.

* 60 minute digital tapes are half the size of a pack of cards;

digital cameras record CD quality sound directly in-synch with the

picture, saving the need for post-synching the sound.


Non-linear editing has revolutionised the video and filmmaking

industry in general as it gives the programme maker an enormous amount


... middle of paper ...

... an infinite number of times

before committing the final copy to a tape.

Recent technological developments

Steadicam: developed in the 1970s, this is the trade name for a widely

used device that balances hand-held cameras gyroscopically, allowing

for greater flexibility and fluid movement that is usually used to

provide point-of-view (P.O.V) shots. (The corresponding device made by

Panavision is known as the 'panaglide'.)

Video Assist: this is an adaptor with a video camera inside, which is

fitted onto a film camera. When shooting, the video images are shot

simultaneously with the film images and through the same lens,

allowing the director to review the scenes as soon as they are


D.A.T. (Digital Audio Tape): this enables crystal clear sound

recording that can be synched to film or video.

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