The past few years has seen a rapid increase in the use of DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras in a wide variety of narrative and documentary films. Their use results in a number of distinct aesthetic outcomes that were previously unavailable to filmmakers working with tight budgetary constraints. Yet while their adoption is widespread, there is a noticeable lack of academic inquiry into the usage and effects of DSLR especially
In the context of what I phrase a new ‘DSLR aesthetic’, this thesis explores the manifold links between aesthetics and science, between aesthetics and communication in film and thus between aesthetics and communicating science. The goal of these explorations is to examine and evaluate the propensity of the DSLR aesthetic to more effectively entertain, engage and educate viewers in natural history and science documentaries.
This thesis first sets out to examine notions of general aesthetics and documentary aesthetics, with reference to general film aesthetics, which are the most significant forebear to the DSLR aesthetic. Then, following a detailed explanation of DSLRs’ technical specifications and resultant aesthetic outcomes, this thesis evaluates the communicative efficacy of the DSLR aesthetic with specific reference to natural history and science documentaries. As well as a range of case studies and critical commentary I also draw extensively from my personal experiences shooting the environmental film ‘A Delicate Canvas’, exclusively using DSLRs.
I conclude that the DSLR aesthetic offers many new avenues for aesthetic expression that are effective in entertaining, engaging and educating audiences. Such avenues include the use of shallow depth of field, High Definition resolutions, low-light filming, increased compactness and increased affordability. I also note a number of drawbacks to the use of DSLRs, which in some ways detract from the advantages the afford.