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Looking at Video in a New Light

By Eric Richardson
Published: Thursday, February 04, 2010, at 10:21PM
Laforet Eric Richardson [Flickr]

Vincent Laforet sets up a shot on a Canon 1D Mark IV during filming in Downtown on Thursday.

The average Downtowner has never heard of Vincent Laforet, but the shorts the photographer-turned-filmmaker has released over the past 16 months are required viewing for camera fans around the world.

The first, "Reverie," went online in September 2008. Shot using a prototype Canon 5D Mark II, the two-minute film was the first to show the potential of a digital SLR to produce professional, full HD video. It has received more than a million views since.

Those two minutes changed an already impressive career.

A Pulitzer Prize-winning still photographer who had worked for outlets like the New York Times and Sports Illustrated, Laforet had been looking for a chance to experiment with film. "Reverie," though, was just a happy accident.

Laforet happened to be visiting Canon U.S.A.'s New York offices just as the first prototypes of the 5d Mark II were set to be unpacked. He convinced the company to let him borrow one for just the weekend, pulled together a few friends and two models and hired a helicopter. The results astounded the camera world.

"I just happened to have the camera at the right time," Laforet told blogdowntown today during a lunch at Senor Fish.

He was in the neighborhood to shoot his third Los Angeles-set short. Laforet and his family moved to Manhattan Beach last year, but when it comes time to shoot, he always seems to end up Downtown.

"I think there's a natural grit to Downtown," he explained. "Just a style and geometry."

"I spent a good part of my career making New York look beautiful from the air. I feel that for L.A., it's kind of my job to highlight the inherent beauty that most people don't see."

In December, the neighborhood served as backdrop for "Nocturne," shot at night, using only available light, with a pre-release Canon 1D Mark IV set at ISO 6400. The streets of the Arts District proved the perfect place to show off the camera's ability to cope with even the nasty color tint of sodium-vapor street lights.

Despite being the guy the Canon now turns to whenever it wants to show off the video capabilities of a new camera, Laforet said he has no clue where the technology is headed. "I actually have zero idea what the next body is going to be," he said. "I wish I did. I have no clue where this is all going in the next three to four years."

While the form factor of current generation DSLRs isn't ideal for video, Laforet firmly believes that the technology has changed film. "It gives every filmmaker what they've been searching for, which is the ability to focus more on the story, and how they can tell it, and not worry as much about the limits of their equipment and how it slows them down."


Laforet posts frequent updates to his blog and Twitter account. Earlier this week he posted this photo of a DSLR mounted on a camera car, and yesterday he posted this one of a DSLR mounted in a focus-pull rig.

He's also one of the organizers of The Story Behind the Still, an HD video contest sponsored by Canon.

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