Creative Storytelling in web, iOS, and Film

JAG35 and I’m Not Talking About a Navy Lawyer

By on Apr 25, 2009 in Blog, Video | 1 comment

hv30_setupxI’ve come across a really cool gadget that is really awesome for anyone using an HD camera these days. But, before I can explain it, some background is really in order…

One of the things that most video cameras don’t do is deliver the kind of imagery film cameras provide. Or, more accurately, the kind of imagery film lenses deliver. The cocktail of performance, durability, cost, and longevity conspire to create products that deliver crystal clear pictures, but without some of the key capabilities more expensive product provide. As one example, a Prime lens on an Aaton camera will allow you to create a visual image that draws the viewer to a specific spot in the frame – based on something called “depth of field.” In a typical high-quality HD video camera, the entire frame will look almost real. The difference, however, is that when telling a story, you might not want the viewer to take in the entire screen.

Imagine a couple discussing a plan to rob a bank. They’re sitting at a coffee table in the foreground of the scene you’re shooting. In the background, a woman is applying makeup before leaving her table. She’s busty, dressed in red, and is wearing lots of jewlery. So, what is the audience supposed to look at?

If you can shorten the depth of field of the shot, you can help the audience focus in on the subject you want them to pay attention to. The couple are discussing robbing a bank. When the partner on the left is speaking, she is perfectly in focus. Her partner on the right is slightly soft, while the background is a colorful blur. When the partner on the right speaks, he is perfectly in focus, and she is slightly soft. It may be very subtle, but it really helps the audience follow the story. And, if you shoot with video, you have had limited options without spending significant money on add-on gear.

Enter JAG35. The company’s primary products are adapters for video cameras that permit the use of 35mm still camera lenses. Once installed, these lenses create the same effect as a very expensive motion picture lens – i.e. highly controllable depth of field. Because still camera lenses are very fine quality, adding them to an adapter will not create a poor quality image. In fact, in reality, if you use one of these products, your video camera will essentially be taping a projection of the image the still camera captures on a highly ground bit of glass. It may sound like hocus pocus, but it’s effin’ fantastic. Take a look at this video clip to see how the Jag35 helps the audience focus in on a single element of the screen…

What makes this even cooler is the price. There are some cool 35mm adapters out there, and I’ll even chat up about one or two in the coming few weeks, but they are typically more expensive than the HD camera to properly kit out. The JAG35 products are typically under $500. That’s really fantastic. And, it means none of us have an excuse any longer to not control the look of our images. One note about this – the use of these adapters is based on shots that are deliberately set up and arranged. The run and gun “cinema vérité” style of shooting is not what these lenses were designed for. But, combine one of these devices with some other cool stuff and your shows will be really fantastic. In fact, our shows will be really fantastic. Even better than our old shows. And those were pretty good, too.

Oh, and one other thing… the JAG35 products will make even a small HD camera, like the CanonHV30 (street price is about $780) shown above, look like a totally pro rig. So, now you don’t have to get a lot of big cameras with bad output and weak chips. Get a cool small camera and a JAG35 bit of kit and you’ll be putting a block on your phone with all the calls coming in.