Three letters to a child: Producing a documentary film with mid-range technology

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School of Arts, Design and Architecture | Master's thesis
Degree programme
Master's Degree Programme in Sound in New Media
Recent technological developments have made cinema production- and post-production hardware and software accessible to large audiences. Historically, cinema production has been an endeavor that has required such manpower and initial monetary investment that the art has been beyond the reach of most people. Thanks largely to computer-technology –related developments, however, equipment and software for filmmaking are becoming affordable, thus a development that we can call the democratization of filmmaking is taking place. Most cinema productions that end up enjoying any appreciation or attention tend to still be relatively high budget productions. This gives rise to an interesting question: is this because of the talent of those people working in high-budget productions, or is it due to objective quality that can only be achieved with relatively high-end production- and post-production hardware and software? Or could producing professional-quality cinema be possible with mid-range technology? The latter question is the research problem in this project. My hypothesis is that it is in fact possible to produce professional-quality cinema with technology that is not prohibitively expensive or complex for a lot of people. In other words, at least in theory, it is now more possible than ever for aspirants to produce decent cinema. The most relevant technological developments with regards to the democratization of cinema production are the emergence of DSLR video, and software developments related to increased computer processing power. These factors together make it possible for anybody to build a “film studio”, with modest investment. To prove my hypothesis, I set about making a documentary film with the slimmest of resources: a one-man team. As far as hardware, my production kit is built around the Canon EOS 5DMKII DSLR camera – the piece of equipment that has been key in the “DSLR revolution”, if you like. The end result of this project is the documentary film “Three letters to a child” – which I wrote, directed, shot, edited, color graded, sound designed and composed and produced music for. While “professional quality” is a subjective term, initial reactions to the film are such that it indeed seems that producing professional quality cinema with mid-range technology is indeed possible.
Ikonen, Antti
Thesis advisor
Suutari, Virpi
documentary film, DSLR video, video production, audiovisual production
  • Documentary film: "Three letters to a child"