‘A DSLR and a Dream’

‘A DSLR and a Dream’

Some of you may know that outside of my working passion for tech translation, I’m a second-year beekeeper and just finished making a documentary film called Bee People.

For that reason, this week’s translation focuses on the technologies that enabled Bee People to happen. As my colleague and the director of the film, David Knappe, puts it: We had a DSLR and a dream.

DSLR? Digital Subscriber Line, Right?

Wrong. Probably the most important ingredient in the journey was his “Digital Single Lens Reflex” camera — a “prosumer”-grade device, which over the course of the last 14 months captured some 60-plus hours of HD video (1920 by 1080!) about beekeepers, bee rescues, honey festivals, child beekeepers, allergic beekeepers and even some escapades with the go-to beekeeper of the New York Police Department, Tony “Bees” Planakis.

The camera itself (a Nikon D5100) is fairly small (“artistic cinematic potential in a small package,” as he puts it; less stuff to lug, as I put it), which inevitably prompted questions from onlookers and participants.

Not being a camera aficionado myself, and knowing Dave as a perfectionist, I just figured it was good enough. On each query, though, he puffed up with protective pride: “We’re shooting on DSLR.” Imagine my amusement, then, when finding this DSLR description, on Wikipedia: “ ‘Shot on DSLR’ is a quickly-growing phrase among independent filmmakers. The movement has even inspired a branding: The ‘Shot on DSLR’ badge.”

What’s great about DSLR: One, it’s affordable, at least compared to a professional-grade camera. Dave’s cost about $1,200. Two, it captures video in HD, and compresses it using H.264. The H.264 part is important for storage, because it’s one thing to capture enough video for a movie but it’s quite another to store it and ship it around.

For all of this process, I was in Denver and Dave was in Hoboken, N.J. — so another big tech contributor was the plentiful existence of broadband and the emergence of cloudbased “shipping” services, like YouSendIt.com. With those two ingredients, we were able to collaboratively review and edit the footage as it came together.

Other observations: Should you ever decide to make a movie, know going in that everything will take longer than you’ve estimated, usually because the gear always needs something. Batteries, especially. Cords. Offloading footage to solid-state storage.

Bee People premiered at the Cable Center in Denver on Nov. 16, and we’re now anticipating the film-festival circuit while building the pilot for the spinoff TV show. (Ever the optimist!) All from a DSLR and a dream. And a beekeeping class.

Stumped by gibberish? Visit Leslie Ellis at translationplease.com or multichannel.com/blog.