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Old January 17th, 2004, 07:33 PM   #1
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Considering spec reel with DVX100 and PS+Technik

Hey guys--Well this device certainly seems to be the answer to my prayers. I'm about to embark on shooting a commercial spec reel and was pretty convinced I'd have to finagle my way into some 35 gear, film, and free processing. I'd like to shoot using the DVX100A, but I'm still a little skeptical about resolution issues considering all the glass that's going to be put in front of the CCD. Mizell, I e-mailed you for the DVD, does it include any test ftg with the DVX100? Does anyone else have experience shooting with this DVX100 and the PS Technik? Charles, I read in an earlier thread that you were shooting a commerical with the XL-1 and the PS Technik. In your estimation, are the results good enough to meet the very high standards needed to get hired off a spec reel? And finally, what about simply shooting my spots with the DVX100A, sans PS Technik adapter? Charles, do you think this cam is good enough on its own to work with a spec reel (I wouldn't mind saving some money...but I want to make sure I do this reel right the first time)? OK, thanks for the help guys. As always, much appreciated.

Peter
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Old January 17th, 2004, 10:27 PM   #2
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Peter:

I think that the DVX is good enough to use for a spec reel; most producers do not have the eye to determine what is or isn't digital--and if their project is digital, that's all the better:

"Loved your reel, but we can't afford film; do you have any digital footage you can show us?"

"That was digital".

"Oh!"

The real trick is to light and shoot the living snot out of the footage, and do some killer color correction and/or effects in post as needed to give it a nice commercial gloss. The bottom line really is garbage in, garbage out...it's possible to shoot in natural light with 35mm and get gorgeous results, whereas that's less likely in the same scenario with DV. Really careful control of your exposure ratios and lots of attention to composition and lighting is the ticket.

As far as using the Mini35: absolutely, it's a powerful tool in helping to sell the high-end look. The Amex spots that we shot with the system looked incredible, and I think that many people who view them will assume we originated on 35mm.

The real key here is that demo reels are likely to be seen under less-than desirable situations--DVD's are finally becoming more standardized as a format for demo reels but it is not uncommon to still be asked for your reel on 3/4", believe it or not.

On my DP reel, I have some digital footage intercut with the film material, and while I can personally see the difference, no-one else has ID'd those shots as being originated on tape.

If you have high-speed work (greater than 72 fps, for instance) or scenic vistas (where the resolution of digital vs film is more apparent), you may still want to consider film, although 16mm may be more viable financially assuming an excellent telecine.
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Old January 17th, 2004, 11:36 PM   #3
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Thanks for the excellent advice Charles. Is there any place I can see your AMEX spots? I guess it's impossible to say either way whether the PS+Technik is a "must have", but do you think the diff in production value warrants the cost of a rental? That's great to know people can't tell the diff b/t your film and digital stuff, very encouraging. Do you think the fact that my reel was shot in digital should be kept a secret, or do you think it would be a selling point, to show what I could pull off, even on a $3500 cam? Also, what's the commercial market like now for new directors? OK, thanks again for the very helpful advice,

peter
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Old January 17th, 2004, 11:44 PM   #4
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<<<-- Originally posted by Peter Richardson : Thanks for the excellent advice Charles. Is there any place I can see your AMEX spots?>>

Not yet, they will come online in March from what I hear. There's a lot of animation work being done on them at the moment.

<<< I guess it's impossible to say either way whether the PS+Technik is a "must have", but do you think the diff in production value warrants the cost of a rental?>>

I believe so, but again with the caveat that you have to be able to use it properly, which means a solid familiarity with 35mm lenses and accessories as well as shooting techniques.>>

<<Do you think the fact that my reel was shot in digital should be kept a secret, or do you think it would be a selling point, to show what I could pull off, even on a $3500 cam?>>

I wouldn't tell them unless it comes up.

<<Also, what's the commercial market like now for new directors? >>

No different than it's ever been, I guess. It's a tough market to crack, but it sure can be done.
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Old January 18th, 2004, 12:22 AM   #5
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Thanks for the info Charles. Do you have any experience with the DVX100 and PS+Technik? Curious to know what the results are like compared to the XL-1. Also, are there any books you would recommend that could educate me more on 35mm lenses etc.? I read American Cinematographer, went to film school, and when I crew try to hang out with the camera crew as much as possible, or work as camera PA, but are there any other resources you would recommend? Thanks again!

Peter
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Old January 18th, 2004, 01:15 AM   #6
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I guess I'm a little unclear--are you planning a directing reel, a DP reel or both (director/cameraman)? If it's just a directing reel, it would probably be a good idea to get an experienced DP to shoot it for you if at all possible. It's not that hard to find such a person to shoot a good spec for free.
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Old January 18th, 2004, 02:04 AM   #7
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I used the DVX100/mini35 combo on a spec spot recently. The results were outstanding.

We had the mini35 mounted on a PD150, a DVX100, and the JVC HD1. Unfortunately we weren't able to get ahold of an XL1 adapter to be able to do side-by-side tests directly between the DVX and the XL1.

The DVX100 results, like I said, were absolutely fantastic. I've seen the demo DVD, and from what I've seen, I'll go ahead and say that I believe the best "filmlike" results possible from the mini35 are going to come from the DVX100 version. The demo DVD shows mainly XL1 clips, but there's one on there ("Narren") shot on the VX2000 which is every bit as sharp, or sharper, than the Canon footage. The worries about the camera's built-in lens all basically amount to nothing -- the newer technology and higher-resolution chips in the DVX and PD150 easily compensate for the lens differences. The DVX's higher-resolution progressive-scan chips, newer design, and 24P frame rate combine to give very, very, very filmlike results with the mini35.

Go for it, you will not be disappointed.
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Old January 18th, 2004, 02:25 AM   #8
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Good to hear, Barry, thanks for posting that. I'm looking forward to checking out the 400 series Mini35 with the DVX100 soon, I hope. Of even more interest is the PRO35 with the SDX900 Panasonic, which I'm hearing some great feedback about. Very very nice.
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Old January 18th, 2004, 11:45 AM   #9
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Thanks for the great info Barry, that is extremely encouraging to hear. Charles, to answer your question, I'd like to do a director/cameraman reel, hence my interest in lenses etc. Perhaps I just need to spend a little more time with the camera dept. to get the necessary info. But if there are any books or manuals you'd recommend please do let me know. I will def. heed your advice to get as experienced a 1st AC as possible, though, as I generally think things look better in focus ;) Can you let us know when your spots are on the web Charles, I'm anxious to see what this system can do. Thanks!

Peter
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Old January 19th, 2004, 10:53 AM   #10
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Peter,

The DVD that I'm currently sending out only has the XL1s and VX2000 footage as mentioned. We have not had a critical mass of DVX100 submissions to yet make a viable reel.

What I can pass on is that Edward Burns of "The Brother's McMullen" fame has just purchased a complete Mini35/DVX100 system to shoot of his future movies. They have had excellent results so far and film out tests have been very promising.

There is also a video for the Yani Camarena song "Noche de Estrellas" which was shot with the rig and was an MTV Latino top 10 last I spoke with the director.

That is not to say the DVX100 isn't a great camera if used properly. I just got back from the AVN adult expo in Vegas and brought back a bunch of promotional trailer discs. There are a couple of companies that are using that camera and really nailing it...to the point where there is no aesthetic difference between it and Super16 originated footage.

So one question would be, do you want to present a S16 or 35mm reel. The DVX100 by itself will give you S16 if done properly and the Mini35/DVX100 will give 35mm. In all reality it couldn't hurt to have a couple spec spots with each configuration.

As far as telling people what the origination format was, Charles is absolutely correct to say don't mention it until they bring it up. There is still a great predjudice to MiniDV and we recommend all clients present their Mini35 footage on a higher format or DVD, letting the persons convince themselves their seeing high quality, then lower the MiniDV boom. I hear it can be quite exciting to see their faces blanche when their told what their acutally seeing.

As far as a book or manual...it's kinda of like asking for the holy grail. I certainly can't think of any one book or manual that would cover all the subjects properly. There is of course the ASC manual itself. "Cinematography: Theory and Practice" by Blain Brown is very popular at the moment. There's also the book forum here at dvino, http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/forumdisplay.php?s=&forumid=36 , which might be worth checking out.

mizell
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Old January 19th, 2004, 10:45 PM   #11
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Hey Mizell--Thanks for the great info. It certainly sounds like the mini35 is the way to go. Be sure to post on dvinfo when you guys have some DVX100 footage out. But even without seeing it, I have no doubt the results must be pretty incredible, judging from my own results with the DVX100 and from the footage available online of the mini35 with the XL1. Now the big debate: whether to buy or rent. I checked rental rates here in NY and the DVX100/mini35 pkg goes for 900 a day. I'll probably be shooting my reel in LA, though. Could I expect similar rates there? Ten days with this setup and I might as well buy it. Do the systems depreciate very much? One thought is to buy the system, use it for a couple months to execute the reel and other projects and then sell it. Any idea what the market is like for these systems? OK, enough questions! Thanks for the book recommendation. Take care,

Peter
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Old January 20th, 2004, 09:04 AM   #12
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Now I'm confused. The DVX100 is still recording 4:1:1 sampling, 5:1 compression DV25 in a .91 pixel aspect ratio.

On SDX900 boards, other than the lens quality issues, DVCPro50/DigiBeta recording (4:2:2, 3.3:1 compression) appears to maintain a high quality image. And of course the lens quality where then lens costs 5 times as much as a DVX100.

And on the DVX100 boards, a lot of effort is spend with the anamorphic adapters. Doesn't ZGC sell matte boxes modified for the adapter?

From earlier posts, it seems the Mini35 with 35mm lenses leaves a 4:3 image non-anamorphic image.

So wouldn't the image end up being a 720x376 crop recorded on DV25? Other than DOF, can that stand up against a 16:9 anamorphic image in DV50?
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Old January 20th, 2004, 11:14 AM   #13
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<<Other than DOF, can that stand up against a 16:9 anamorphic image in DV50?>>

No, but that's why the SDX900 costs 6x as much (likewise the PRO35 adaptor vs the Mini35). I would much rather shoot with the SDX900 and would suggest everyone do the same, except that the original question was about the DVX/Mini35 combo and for most readers of this forum, the higher end package is out of reach even as a rental.
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Old January 20th, 2004, 11:17 AM   #14
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Peter,

I believe the rates are comparable in the LA market. Anectdotally I've been told that rental rates out there tend to be more expensive, but are equal to what it would take to rent the equipment for cheaper in New York and having it shipped West.

Rental vs Purchase can be a sticky issue. You mention 10 days with the rig, but is that production days or rental days i.e. 10 rental days is actually 30 production days. For most rental houses figure 3days/wk, 10day/mo.

So for the sake of argument, let's say 10 rental days, or approximately $10,000. That amount of money will buy you the Mini35, but then you still don't have the lenses, tripod, external monitor, etc that comes with the rental package.

The purchase price for a comparable kit to the rental package could easily top $36,000, which has been evidenced by the production I've been working with. Now it's a totally sweet package, but not one that just any person can afford.

As far as depreciation, I cannot make any guarantee, but the 300 series units seemed to hold up rather well. Units that sold for $8,500 were reselling for $6,500 as much as 18 months after purchase. Since we will prolly not be able to lower prices anytime soon, it's quite likely that a 400 series unit will maintain most of it's value.

David,

Your post raises some valid questions, but also splits the conversation down an aesthetic vs technical line.

My comment earlier in the thread concerning DVX100 being comparable to 16mm and Mini35/DVX100 being comparable to 35mm was addressing the aesthetic quality of the production. If Peter wants to create a MiniDV reel for use in obtaining 35mm shoots, then the Mini35 is the answer. If Peter, or anyone else, was looking to break in the Super16 production world then the DVX100 alone could very well be a good option.

I've seen MiniDV and Mini35 blowups and they work well. They're not perfect, but the average audience memeber has been significantly dumbed down to what constitutes quality. Who ever thought 5 years ago that we'd be seeing really bad video phone transmissions shown extensively on the broadcast networks.

For shooting in video, but as close to Super16 as possible, the SDX900 is prolly the only true choice at the moment. It is a great camera. And with the PRO35 attached to it, you've got a setup that could compete nose to nose with any of the HighDef rigs...unless of course they have the PRO35 as well.

So while the 2/3" CCD cameras do offer a better overall quality, the Mini35/DVX100 can produce more aesthetically resonant images that otherwise mask any loss of quality introduced by using MiniDV.

mizell
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Old January 20th, 2004, 12:34 PM   #15
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Hey Mizell--Thanks for the clarification. When I was checking the prices at TCS here in NY for the rental pkg I obviously missed all the accessories (there are a lot) that come with the 950 rate--no wonder it is more than renting the cam and mini35 separately! I think I understand your rental vs. production day explanation. Does this mean that for 950 I actually get three days of rental? Lastly, I checked on your website's list of rental houses but could not find anyone in NY who is renting the mini35 with the DVX100. Are you aware of any who are? Thanks again!

Peter
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