As the industry continues to innovate with the highest quality video capture technologies, the nostalgic look and charming imperfections produced with classic analog cameras cannot be overlooked or easily replicated. While the image capabilities of modern digital cinema cameras are ideal for capturing 4K/UltraHD HDR video, some directors of photography (DPs) opt for classic VHS-C camcorders to create a highly stylized look, establish a time period or tone, or enhance visual storytelling.

A master at the art of storytelling through cinematography, DP Mihai Malaimare, ASC, first devised a process for integrating classic cameras into a fully digital workflow for the 2017 crime drama “November Criminals.” Capturing the film’s opening sequence with a VHS-C camera presented a range of challenges; although the sequence was filmed analog, the footage needed to be recorded digitally for dailies and seamlessly integrated into the production workflow. Furthermore, a video signal of the analog footage had to be routed to monitors on set for live review by the director and crew members.

Using a single cable hidden on the back of the camcorder, Malaimare routed the VHS-C signal to an AJA V2Digital™ analog to HD/SD-SDI digital video converter. Once the camera output was converted from analog to digital, the signal was recorded in 1080 24p and routed to a transmitter and the director’s monitor for live on set viewing. The voltage capabilities of the V2Digital allowed the crew to power the converter using a battery with enough power for half of the day. Malaimare shared, “I ran a test of the workflow, and everything was perfectly in sync, plus the post-production team was amazed. There’s no way you can replicate the look of a VHS-C without a workflow like this. Manipulation in post with filters won’t create the same artifacts, light streaks, or look of the lens, so nailing this workflow to capture it in camera was critical.”

For the 2022 sports drama “Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty,” Malaimare and Cinematographer Todd Banhazl, ASC, leveraged a similar production workflow to transport audiences to the 1980s. A V2Digital converter remained central to the workflow, they shot on analog Ikegami cameras using old lenses, and Panavision provided cages that worked with modern accessories, like remote focus. For sequences shot with analog cameras, Malaimare and Banhazl recorded interlaced video to double the perceived frame rate without using additional bandwidth.

Malaimare concluded, “Although modern lenses offer superior visual quality, the imperfections you get from filming with older cameras offer such a distinct look you just can’t recreate with all the modern technology in the world.”

For more information on Malaimare, visit: http://www.malaimarejr.com/.

About V2Digital

V2Digital is a high-quality, cost-effective analog to digital video converter that’s perfect for facilities needing to integrate signal types. V2Digital provides AJA’s high-quality 10-bit conversion of component or composite analog video to SDI at either SD or HD resolutions utilizing a full 10-bit data path and 2x oversampling to ensure a quality conversion all at an extraordinary price. V2Digital accepts YPbPr (SMPTE, EBU-N10), Betacam, or RGB component inputs or NTSC/PAL or Y/C (S-Video) composite inputs with a 4-line Adaptive Comb Filter providing high-quality decoding of composite sources. Configuration can be set by on unit DIP switches or remotely via AJA MiniConfig software control over USB. www.aja.com/products/v2digital

Gabriel Mays

AbelCine Director of Rental
As Director of Rental, Gabriel Mays oversees growth of Rental by nurturing business relationships and unifying the customer experience nationwide. In his previous role as the LA Rental Manager, Gabriel worked with producers, cinematographers, and assistant camera operators to provide the highest level of customer service possible. He also ensured that all their equipment needs are met on budget. Before coming to AbelCine in 2015, Gabriel previously worked as a Communications Instructor and Electronic Media Engineer at a private university. He taught various courses in electronic media, including film, broadcasting, and digital arts. Gabriel is an award-winning cinematographer, director, producer, and editor known for his innovative research and implementation of new film techniques. He was also one of the first to implement HDSLR cameras into filmmaking. He has been the cinematographer on dozens of independent films, documentaries, and music videos.