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Are the same cameras used for TV series and movies?

4

There used to be much more difference between TV and Film camera usage than there is now... and it also varies depending on the type of show you're talking about... I'm going to assume you mean feature films and narrative TV shows.

Cameras used for TV shows and films now vary widely depending on the preference of the director/dp of the show. Many tv shows are shot on the same cameras as films. Look at Game of Thrones. This is a very cinematically-shot TV show and they use ARRI Alexa digital cameras... so were a bunch of the Oscar nominated films. And all of these other TV shows and films.

Now, I wouldn't want to look like I'm advertising for ARRI, so here's some selections from the RED's list of TV shows and films:

And there's all sorts of oddballs... apparently they shoot The Walking Dead on Super 16mm film cameras.... and this format was also used for all of these films.

But what about the big boy... 35 mm. Only films use that, right? Well.. not so much. True Detective shot on 35... it's not the only one but I'm getting lazy.

And, because it's cool, here's a list of films shot on digital cameras and what camera was used... and the sibling list of TV shows. You'll notice a lot of crossover on these two lists.

Before the digital era, this was different.

Most TV shows had that TV feel because they were shot on videotape formats while films were shot... on film... so, in this sense, it's not that they're using different cameras, so much as they're using different media.

Film cameras are expensive, large and heavy. Videotape cameras can be, in contrast, small, light-weight and the medium is relatively inexpensive. Film processing can also be a lot slower, so for a TV show that needs to produce an episode a week, film was a crunch on their time, while videotape requires no processing other than editing.

Digital video gives TV shows (and films) the option of (relatively) low-cost, extremely high quality product that requires little to no processing time, can be reviewed on demand on set, and can be easily and quickly duplicated.

3

Definitely not. It changes from movie to movie, series to series, and scene to scene. Game of Thrones, for example, definitely uses cameras that are on par with the best movie cameras, but The Flash is much lower quality. One of the biggest changes you'll notice is in movies with indoors and outdoor scenes. In Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, I distinctly remember the camera quality dropping through the floor when they transitioned to inside scenes, especially in the ship's cabin.

  • The Flash is much lower quality @PiPatrol Actually, it's nowhere near "lower quality." The Flash, Arrow, and Games of Thrones all use the same camera. The Arri Alexa. Now, the colour grading, cinematography, composition/editing of shots is obviously different, and that greatly influences the final look. – Cyber-Logic Feb 29 '16 at 15:55
  • @Cyber-Logic could you cite a source for this? As it stands the answerer and yourself are directly contradicting one another and it would be good to have a primary source to confirm this one way or the other. – Tom W May 27 '16 at 20:03
  • @TomW Source: fxguide.com/featured/fabricating-the-flash The statement "Game of Thrones definitely uses cameras that are on par with the best movie cameras, but The Flash is much lower quality" made by the answerer is wrong and self-contradictory. The ARRI Alexa IS a "movie camera" and is used on BOTH Game of Thrones, The Flash, as well as a lot of other TV shows AND films. The fact is that most good TV shows are shot with the same cameras which are typically used to shoot feature films, unless it's a very low budget indie TV series or something. The other 2 answers are on point. – Cyber-Logic Jun 9 '16 at 15:55
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Very rarely indeed but it does happen.

It's basically a budget thing, in general movie cameras are rented due to their cost (even with new digital ones such as Red's models) whereas any TV show filmed in a studio are generally owned by the production facility. That said I know for a fact that the large studio-based cameras inside BBC studios are particularly expensive and have some great lenses.

Most cameras used for anything reality-based have to be able to work without maintenance for a long time, take a bit of manhandling and be comparatively cheap to replace. Movie cameras tend to be much more static in general, shoot shorter takes and aren't often put in danger. Obviously there are overlaps, some expensive TV shows will use great cameras ('Band of Brothers' is an example) while some movies will use cheaper cameras (anything 'found footage').

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