IN THIS ISSUE
Tech Corner: DSLR vs. Camcorder —
Which Should You Choose?
by Abner Collette
Feature: The Road to Hellifax
by Evan Bower
with Nicole Steeves & Struan Sutherland
The Shot List
Calls, Grants, Opportunities
DSLR VS. CAMCORDER
WHICH SHOULD YOU CHOOSE?
DSLRs are still popular in both amateur and professional markets for videography and have been for the past 15 years or so, since HD video functions were made available. Although Canon, Nikon, and Sony have all recently stated they won’t be developing any new DSLRs because of the rising popularity of mirrorless cameras, DSLRs will still be around and in use for many years to come. DSLRs remain a cost-effective option compared to mirrorless cameras—and with DSLR prices dropping at a decent pace, the discussion of DSLR vs. camcorder seems a topical one, as they grow closer and closer in price.
So, what exactly is the difference? And why do some folks insist one is better than the other?
One reason DSLRs might have an edge over camcorders is because of sensor size. DSLRs typically boast larger sensors when compared with camcorders (unless you’re willing to shell out a decent chunk of change for a professional camcorder purchase). Bigger sensor size means better low-light performance, dynamic range, and the availability of higher resolutions. Camcorders, on the other hand, typically have smaller sensors. But they are single-purpose devices and do what they do very well. Some camcorders have multiple colour-dedicated sensors, one each for red, blue, and green (RGB), which makes them much more effective.
DSLRs provide versatility if you are interested in both photography and videography. They are designed primarily for photography, while shooting video is a secondary function of the camera. Having said that, most recent DSLRs do a good job when dealing with video functions. As with everything in filmmaking, there are some drawbacks and advantages to consider.
DSLRs are designed to shoot some photos, move along to another setting, shoot more photos, and so on. You raise the camera, take the shot, then lower it down again. Conversely, camcorders are designed solely to shoot video and, because of this, are lighter and more ergonomic for longer shots and events. You can hold a camcorder for quite a stretch of time comfortably before your arms will tire. This also makes camcorders better for run-and-gun shooting.
DSLRs usually have a capped recording time of 30 minutes, whereas camcorders can record without limitation (in most cases) until the card is full or the batteries die. This makes camcorders more practical for shooting concerts or documentary interviews, for example. If you tried to capture the same type of action on a DSLR, you have to pay close attention and may get interrupted by the dreaded timed-out “ka-chink!” shutter sound mid-interview.
Additionally, camcorders have better auto-focus and auto-exposure (as do mirrorless cameras), and this makes them an ideal stepping stone for those who are new to videography. The auto-zoom toggle on camcorders is also an added benefit for beginners when compared with manual zoom with a DSLR. Zooming with a DSLR manually makes keeping your subject in focus a challenge, even with auto-focus it probably won’t be perfect.
AFCOOP recently purchased a prosumer camcorder, the Canon Vixia G50, and it has been booked solid ever since! For a comparable price, we could have bought a low-to-mid range DSLR body, but no lens.
Lenses are probably the crux of the debate between camcorders and DSLRs. Quality lenses cost a lot of lettuce, and most up-and-coming videographers struggle to purchase a decent lens selection for their DSLR. But the benefit of being able to change the lens makes up for that pricing challenge in a big way. And DSLR bodies are becoming cheaper, making it more affordable for newcomers. Being able to change your lens is important for amateur and professional videographers alike, because it means creative and visual freedom, and the ability to control the quality of the image with much more nuance.
Camcorders, in contrast, almost always have fixed lenses. While this can be kind of a bummer, newer models typically have good quality lenses made by Zeiss or other trusted brands. Camcorder lenses are always zoom lenses, with a good focal range that gets better as you move from consumer-grade camcorders into prosumer and professional models.
Like all things, the answer to the question of which is better is subjective. It depends on your needs, experience level, and budget. It will be interesting to see how camcorders fare as mirrorless cameras gain ground. Camcorders and mirrorless cameras are a lot closer together in terms of the quality of their auto settings. But mirrorless cameras are still pricey and may remain a barrier to entry for some time to come, and you still have to invest in quality lenses (with a very limited selection of mirrorless lenses available). At least a couple of those expensive DSLR lenses we all bought will fit our new mirrorless overlords with an adapter.
Do you have a tech question that needs answering? Ask Abner!
Send your questions to: email@example.com
THE ROAD TO HELLIFAX
ANGUS SWANTEE ON CREATING A GENRE FESTIVAL AND FINDING HIS PEOPLE THROUGH HORROR
by EVAN BOWER
The first movie Angus Swantee ever saw was a horror film—he can still remember watching TV late one night when Paul Lynch’s Prom Night came on. From there he was hooked, working his way through the ‘80s horror classics through 99-cent VHS rentals from the convenience store across the street from his childhood home.
“It was just interesting to me, being at that age, that a film could cause you to feel fear and anxiety,” he said. “I was just drawn towards it.”
Since then, Angus has discovered tight-knit horror communities at festivals across North America as a filmmaker screening his own shorts, and with the second edition of Hellifax Horror Fest from October 30–31, he’s hoping to bring some of that energy to the HRM.
“When genre festivals are established, they have huge turnouts and the screenings are more like events … it’s a real community experience,” he said. “Even outside of the screenings you get to know attendees. It’s a fun time, and from that experience I thought it would be nice to try to bring something like that to our local area and build that kind of atmosphere.”
Angus began working on the festival in December 2019, just months before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down festivals around the world. The Hellifax team managed to move the festivities online by October of last year with three days of short films screened on Facebook.
This year, Hellifax will present its first in-person fest, with screenings at Saint Mary’s University, including 50 shorts and four international features. Tickets are available online for $6.66 in advance and are $10 at the door.
“Whatever your taste is, if you enjoy genre films you’ll find something,” said Angus.
On opening night you’ll find Hellbender, the story of a home-schooled, mountain-dwelling teen who begins to suspect her mother is a witch. The film was written, directed, shot, and edited by a family of filmmakers: Toby Poser, John Adams and Zelda Adams.
“The team behind it is a mother-father-daughter team … and if you didn’t know that, you’d think this was a movie with a budget,” said Angus. “The acting is excellent, even the visual effects are great, and they’ve been doing this for years now. It’s extra impressive when you hear the backstory behind it.”
The shorts lineup runs the gamut from Selfie, a story in which a girl’s deleted social-media posts come back to literally haunt her, to The Archivists, an arty dystopian musical about a band of travellers who recreate lost songs from the past.
“It’s close to being not a genre film, but it’s so beautiful we were happy to include it as something a little different,” said Angus.
Hellifax isn’t afraid to branch out with its programming choices, partly because it knows that the typical horror fan is willing to go there with them. Horror engenders a real trust in its audience, an open-minded and unwavering desire to see it all.
“I find that even a bad horror film is still generally interesting to watch,” said Angus. “You can’t really watch a bad comedy, you know, a bad drama isn’t a good experience.”
He suspects that’s largely because even if the story is weak or the production is dodgy, people can’t help but respond to stakes. And the highest possible stakes are horror’s promise to the viewer, and they come with guaranteed payoffs.
With streaming services like Shudder and Screambox pumping out a constant supply of original horror, there’s no shortage of new work out there to keep people occupied. Still, there’s an even greater number of horror films getting lost in the recesses of the internet and going unseen, like some grotesque VHS on the video-store shelf waiting to be discovered.
“There’s a lot of content out there now to compete with,” said Angus. “YouTube is absolutely stocked full of excellent horror shorts, and many of them don’t get the shine that maybe they deserve. A film festival like Hellifax, that’s one of our biggest goals, to shine a light on these filmmakers and their films and kind of get the word out.”
Evan Bower is AFCOOP’s Online Projects Coordinator and a programmer for the Halifax Independent Filmmakers Festival. He’s also a writer and reporter living in Dartmouth, N.S.
SCREAM MEMORIES (!!)
with NICOLE STEEVES & STRUAN SUTHERLAND
In this very special edition of Scream Memories, two Halifax horror aficionados offer a few freaky film recommendations to add to your Halloween watchlist. If you dare? Ahhhh!!
Blades (USA, 1989, dir. Thomas R. Rondinella)
This movie is literally Jaws on a golf course—but instead of a shark, it’s a sentient lawnmower. We kid you not. It’s not so much a spoof as it is an insane remake. The premise sounds slapstick, but it actually isn’t. The tone gets more and more serious as the movie progresses, which in turn makes it hilarious. There is some fun gore and pretty competent camera work. The story flows nicely too, even though it is, at its core, insane. The acting… it’s not the worst we’ve ever seen. And don’t let the movie poster fool you: this isn’t a classic ’80s movie where women run around half naked and get torn apart like some cruel punishment for sexuality (the poster was likely made later as a marketing ploy). The main female character is still underestimated at every turn, but it’s told from her point of view, not the dudes who are underestimating her, so that’s nice. I guess? All around a super fun take on a classic horror movie for seemingly no reason! Available on Blu-ray from Vinegar Syndrome.
Psycho Goreman (Canada, 2021, dir. Steven Kostanski)The heartwarming story of a young girl who finds herself the master of a psychopathic, murderous monster when she comes into possession of the magic gem that controls him. This movie is incredible! It’s funny as hell and so delightfully gory. It’s also Canadian. It was written and directed by Steven Kostanski, who is also an incredibly accomplished special effects and makeup artist, and it shows. It was clearly made by someone who knew what they could accomplish with a modest budget by being extremely creative. Having gobs of talent probably doesn’t hurt either. So, yeah, for anyone trying to break into the industry, just start with that! Available to stream on Hoopla, Shudder, or iTunes.
Slaxx (Canada, 2020, dir. Elza Kephart)
This is another Canadian gem! From writer/director Elza Kephart, Slaxx is as much social commentary as it is a horror-comedy. A pair of pants, possessed by the blood of the young girl forced to pick cotton to make them, sets out to get revenge on all involved in the fast-fashion industry. Basically the jeans are supposed to have some technology that forms to your body to make your butt look amazing, but they end up squeezing the life out of anyone who dons them. Slaxx is a funny and quite absurd take on an important issue. It’s available to stream on Amazon Prime.
Nicole Steeves (she/her) has written and directed six short films, two features, and has produced two feature films as well. She, along with writer/director Tara Thorne, was the recipient of the 2020 Telefilm Talent to Watch funding for their queer, feminist vigilante film, Compulsus. Her first feature, Head Space, was made possible through the 1K Wave Atlantic program created by WIFT-AT and Ingrid Veninger of pUNK Films. Her second feature film, Aliens with Knives (co-directed with Struan Sutherland), was created in partnership with Cinema 902 and Eastlink Television and had an award-winning festival run.
Struan Sutherland (he/him) is a writer, director, animator, and stand-up comedian who has had work in the Atlantic Film Festival, on CBC television, and at the Halifax Independent Filmmakers Festival. His short film The Hold Up was nominated for Best Short Film at the Screen Nova Scotia Awards 2015, awarded top prize at the Shärt International Comedy Film Festival, and won Best Comedy at Comic-Con San Diego 2016.
Want to contribute? Send your SCREEN MEMORIES to firstname.lastname@example.org