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Canon XH Series HDV Camcorders
Canon XH G1S / G1 (with SDI), Canon XH A1S / A1 (without SDI).


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Old April 3rd, 2007, 02:49 PM   #1
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Professional Advice for student of film

After reading numerous reviews, these forums, and saving money I really want to get an A1.

I was talking to a professor and his opinion is "spielberg doesn't own a camera". His advice was to just rent a camera and get sponsors.

My point is, how can I improve my knowledge in the craft of film making if I do not have a camera to practice with.

I am just starting school, so I have a few years to go and I know the a1 will have a long life.

thanks in advance
william
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Old April 3rd, 2007, 03:06 PM   #2
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I don't agree with your prof - as cameras are so cheap now that experimentation is so easy. Old time directors would have found small, low cost camcorders an amazing tool - just because they didn't have them to use, doesn't mean they wouldn't have if they could. Spielberg would have had to lug a huge lump of kit around with him, making the process awkward, but Hitchcock would have needed a truck! If technology offers features that produce a real benefit, then use it!

Framing and compoistion can be done with he hands, making a frame - but if you intend shooting the material yourself, then you need camera skills - my guess is that speilberg might possibly have had a lighting cameraman to do this for him? I always found watching movies then trying to recreate the shots really useful from the experience point of view. The classic Hitchcock-esque style zoom and track to change perspective is a great effect, but ta.kes ages to perfect
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Old April 3rd, 2007, 03:29 PM   #3
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Lots of filmmakers grew up shooting 8mm film, later video.

But, if you're in film school...doesn't the school have equipment you can check out and use?

I'd say don't buy a camera until you have a legitimate need for one. For instance, if you've written a script, or outlined a documentary, and have a need to start shooting regularly and so often that it would be difficult to do so with the school's equipment, then it might be time to get a camera. But keep in mind that the camera is only a part of what you need to shoot a movie.
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Old April 3rd, 2007, 03:33 PM   #4
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Wow. I could write a book right now on bashing that "professor."

Instead of wasting money on that class, get a refund and put it towards a camera and life experience.
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Old April 3rd, 2007, 03:41 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by William Becker View Post
After reading numerous reviews, these forums, and saving money I really want to get an A1.

I was talking to a professor and his opinion is "spielberg doesn't own a camera".

I don't know if that's true. As I recall, Spielberg's mom bought him an 8mm camera as a youth and he made tons of short films with it. I doubt seriously that he rented it.

Renting ain't cheap and you don't always know what you are going to get. If you think you're only going to shoot one project, then yes, maybe rent. but if you want to make a bunch of projects, owning probably makes financial and practical sense, esp. with how inexpensive great cams are these days.
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Old April 3rd, 2007, 04:21 PM   #6
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Film schools typically teach you a bit of everything, and most of them give you access to cameras, so in a way, your professor is correct...

I would venture that the ratio between the number of camcorders out there, and the number of films (be they low budget, no budget or student films) actually being made is probably a ratio of several hundred thousand to one.

It realy depends on what you want to do:

If you want to direct documentaries, I think that owning a camera makes a little more sense as they typically involve many more hours of shooting per minute of finished film and often on personal projects, the director is the DOP. Owning a camera also means that you can get used to it, so that you don't fiddle when the time comes to shoot.

Same goes if you are interested in cinematography (director of photography). Having your own camera will allow you to shoot others student's projects, which will give you a lot of experience. A still digital camera is also very important, as developing your skills as a still photographer will also improve your cinematography.

If you want to direct fiction, than I would say that owning a camera doesn't really advance your cause, and may even bog you down with technical issues that have little to with directing actors. If this is your calling than get involved with actors, because that's what it's all about. To a lesser degree I would also learn to edit, and would think that your camera money woud be better spent in a laptop (did I say MacBook?), which is also handy for writing scripts, not mention actually making a film (the part about feeding your cast and buying tapes). Time spent actually shooting is minimal compared with the rest of the process... the part about the script, working with actors, and planning your production... And when the time comes to shoot, you will be sure to find many individuals who haven't listened to your Professor; they're the ones with the neat cameras but nothing to shoot....

my 2 cents
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Old April 3rd, 2007, 04:29 PM   #7
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Most people own low cost/economical cameras/camcorders. They use them for fun and for profit when they meet their needs (e.g., for wedding videography).

People rent expensive/high gear for paying professional productions, or use gear owned/leased/rented by their employer...

or when their Prof. tells them to rent, or maybe when they show up as a tourist hotspot and forget to bring a camcorder with them.

Some folks use a course at school as an excuse to buy a neat toy for later use. (I recall using a public speaking course as an excuse to buy a good tape recorder years ago.)

It is your money and your choice, so do what you gotta do.
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Old April 3rd, 2007, 05:50 PM   #8
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If you're worried about price and will be using the schools equipment a lot anyways but yet still wanna practice on your own, get an hv20. 1080 24p, practice your framing and composition and still be able to give out dynamite image quality that is light on the wallet.
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Old April 3rd, 2007, 05:57 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by William Becker View Post
I was talking to a professor and his opinion is "spielberg doesn't own a camera". His advice was to just rent a camera and get sponsors.
William just saw your post... is this a teacher from Orange Coast College... if so I have an idea who you're speaking of...

That is if he still teaches there...

Actually Spielberg did own a camera... he shot 8mm or Super 8 growing up... so once you become as big as director as Spielberg then you can just rent a camera instead of owning...
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Old April 3rd, 2007, 07:26 PM   #10
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Gary, yes it is Brian Lewis at OCC. He only teaches History of Film and gave me the rundown when I asked him if I could take a test a day early so I could head down to Las Vegas for the NAB in two weeks, which also happens to be my 21st Bday.

As for my direction; I like cinematography much better than directing. But of course as you know a lot of co-directing will take place in film classes..especially early ones. I do get involved in as much shooting as possible, but since theyre not my project and a senior with an XL2 does all the shooting, i am left the underrated responsibilty of lighting that everyone is afraid of doing.

My school only rents out film cameras (and of course lights, mics, etc)...not digital.

I do have a macbookpro and if i get the a1, fcp, a b/m 508 tripod, and some filters will be soon to follow.

sorry to be so short on initial post..F/T job and student has that effect.
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Old April 3rd, 2007, 07:46 PM   #11
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Hey Will...

I am too a student of Film! I attend the University of Central Florida's Film School and I just recently bought an A1. I saved up for quite a while to afford such a camera, and It's paying off big time. I'm working on a short documentary for my Documentary Filmmaking class with it. Here's a snippit:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NKAd01MAQXI

Hands on experience is vital to the development of filmmaking skills. One of the things my school teaches is "theory, theory theory!" with very little hands-on training. I feel both hands on and theory should be equally as balanced.
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Old April 3rd, 2007, 08:09 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Adam La Prade View Post
Hey Will...

I am too a student of Film! I attend the University of Central Florida's Film School and I just recently bought an A1. I saved up for quite a while to afford such a camera, and It's paying off big time. I'm working on a short documentary for my Documentary Filmmaking class with it. Here's a snippit:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NKAd01MAQXI

Hands on experience is vital to the development of filmmaking skills. One of the things my school teaches is "theory, theory theory!" with very little hands-on training. I feel both hands on and theory should be equally as balanced.
Should have gone to school a few mins down the road to full sail. Such awesome gear there.
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Old April 3rd, 2007, 08:14 PM   #13
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Should have gone to school a few mins down the road to full sail. Such awesome gear there.

One of my best friends just graduated there with their Bachelors in Film. I thought about going there...I thought long and hard but eventually settled on a standard University for a few reasons. Mainly accreditations and the rep that Full Sail students have in the industry. But it comes down to the same thing, just in opposite situations: Full Sail has the stare-of-the-art equipment up the ass and the technical knowledge to teach how to use it, but it's film history and theory teachings are sorely lacking. Hence why I'd love a school that combines both equally.
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Old April 3rd, 2007, 08:27 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by Adam La Prade View Post
One of my best friends just graduated there with their Bachelors in Film. I thought about going there...I thought long and hard but eventually settled on a standard University for a few reasons. Mainly accreditations and the rep that Full Sail students have in the industry. But it comes down to the same thing, just in opposite situations: Full Sail has the stare-of-the-art equipment up the ass and the technical knowledge to teach how to use it, but it's film history and theory teachings are sorely lacking. Hence why I'd love a school that combines both equally.
Pretty fair. What do you mean by full sail student rep? The industry has a high opinion on full sail students. Plus you get out of there in 21 months and you're not gonna get a entry level position flapping your gums about film theory and knowing what year Georges Méliès trip to the moon came out.
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Old April 3rd, 2007, 09:31 PM   #15
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Another Prof's Perspective

William, I disagree with your professor. Just to give you a sense: tonight we just screened a rough compilation (can't yet call it rough cut) of a doc being produced by three former students of mine at Trinity College (Hartford, CT) on Venezuelan politics (Hugo Chavez, etc.). These former students were able to get to where they are now in part because the got their own DV cams, starting with cheap single-chip Canons, then moving on to 3-chip Panasonics, and now after graduation an HVX-200, and so they practiced, did little projects while in school, continued to experiment and develop their skills, etc.

As other people have said in this thread, even Spielberg began to develop his skills with 8mm cams his parents gave him. Moreover, even if you don't plan to be a DP is helps with getting a better understanding of the various aspects of filmmaking, and not just with cinematography alone.

Therefore, work, save money, get something you can afford, including not just the camera, but some decent, affordable mics (or borrow them from school) and at least a tripod. Practice, practice, and practice, and also watch a lot of films, from different genres, periods when they were made, styles, etc. And read, read, and read about film. One little advice I always give is to get Walter Murch's books (by and about him) as a good start, for example, because, in the end, it's all about storytelling, even if it's a documentary film.
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