The Impact of Camera Innovations on Visual Aesthetics in Documentary Films – A Filmmakers Perspective


Innovations in camera technology often have a direct impact on the moving image aesthetics. This is especially true for documentary film productions, where cheaper camera models from the consumer and semi-professional sectors are frequently used (Ellis, Documentary: Witness and Self-revelation, 2012). Documentary filmmakers have strongly responded to the new possibilities of portable camcorders and other mobile devices and introduced new visual styles. This paper presents the first part of a mixed-methods research project that investigates the interplay of camera innovations and visual aesthetics in documentaries from a filmmaker perspective and its possible effects on a cinema audience. Ten video interviews with expert filmmakers were conducted to gain new insights and discuss important changes in documentary filmmaking in the last thirty years. Three main shifts can be identified: 1. The introduction of digital palmcorders in the mid 1990s allowed for more intimate and spontaneous filming that led to a home-video like visual style. 2. Around 2005 DSLR cameras (Canon 5D) reestablished a cinematic look as they were able to shoot HD Video and could use a shallow depth of field. 3. The use of multiple small cameras like GoPros, smart phones and drones emerged around 2012 and brought a renunciation of the anthropomorphic, single camera view. These camera developments offered the potential to change the nature of documentary practices and aesthetics of the predominant, heavy shoulder cameras.

Author Information
Stefan Dux, Zurich University of the Arts, Switzerland

Paper Information
Conference: EuroMedia2020
Stream: Film Direction and Production

This paper is part of the EuroMedia2020 Conference Proceedings (View)
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To cite this article:
Dux S. (2020) The Impact of Camera Innovations on Visual Aesthetics in Documentary Films – A Filmmakers Perspective ISSN: 2188-9643 The European Conference on Media, Communication & Film 2020: Official Conference Proceedings
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Posted by James Alexander Gordon