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Old July 1st, 2007, 12:45 PM   #1
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First XH-A1 film - Last Round

Hey everyone. I just purchased my XH-A1, and a few weeks ago I entered a local 7-day film competition to try to learn my new gear. I was amazed at what I could do with this camera with careful lighting, especially on a quick shoot. Here's a link to it on my website:

http://www.c4animation.com/film

It's called Last Round (8 min runtime).

Please let me know what you think. Keep in mind it was for a 7-day project, so sacrifices had to be made (ie. audio cleanup got the short end of the deal as we slammed into our deadline!) But the audience enjoyed it, and that's what counts for me.

Thanks and take care,

Reagan
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Old July 1st, 2007, 01:28 PM   #2
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I enjoyed that, really, had its moments of a comedy but not. Great job, was this with just the camera and no 35mm adapters?
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Old July 1st, 2007, 02:37 PM   #3
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Actually, I did get an M2 adapter, but it was so new I didn't feel like I had time to break it in with this type of quick shoot... I just wanted to keep this simple. I'll use the M2 when I have time to work with each scene and get everything right.

So to answer your question, no, this is straight up XH-A1, no adapter. I was still impressed with the camera's DOF anyway. What you see is just raw footage - no color correction either. No time to do much else.

I'm glad you enjoyed it.
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Old July 1st, 2007, 07:37 PM   #4
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It was... okay.

I don't mean that to sound bad. I thought the camera looked good, but too sharp and flat at times... leaving me to be distracted by knowing that I'm watching "video". But of course, that's only because I'm familiar with the camera.

The lighting was a bit too high key for me. This is what I thought made some of the shots look flat to me. Also, the high key took me away from some of the suspense that was supposed to be building.

The performances weren't great, but I do understand that this was a quick 7 day turnaround and the perfect cast and script is hard to come by. Please know that I'm not trying to put down anything, just as a filmmaker myself, I see where I might have taken different approaches. If you are curious, I will let you know, but for now, I'll just end it right there.

I do appreciate you sharing. Thanks!
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Old July 1st, 2007, 08:25 PM   #5
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Nicholas, thanks for the feedback. When you say it was too "high key", what do you mean? Wouldn't high key mean that there's too much contrast between the key and the fill? But then, you said it looked flat, so that must not be what high key means. You must be saying that there was too much fill, making the contrast too low for your tastes, correct?

Anyway, the good looking, filmic image (as opposed to "videoish"), lighting and performances were what most people (competing filmmakers in the audience) complimented the piece on, so your opposing take on it is curious and interesting to me. Rather than asking you what you would have done differently, I will take a look around the forum first and look for some examples of your stuff to see how you do things and what you think is the better way to handle things.

Thanks again.
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Old July 1st, 2007, 08:33 PM   #6
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Nicholas,

I can't find any examples of your stuff on these forums. Could you point me to them, or maybe do you have a website with some examples of your work so that I can see the proper way to use the camera, light a scene and get great performances that you are used to getting? Once I see them, I can ask more specific questions about how you achieved your results.

These short films are just learning experiences for me (I'm not a professional filmmaker) so I'm always interested in learning better ways to do things from people who know how to do it better!

Thanks,

Reagan
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Old July 2nd, 2007, 02:04 AM   #7
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Hi Reagan,

I was afraid of that. I think I hear sarcasm in your voice. Like I said, I didn't mean to sound condesending or make your work sound inferior. Quite not. But you did post and ask what people thought of it, and I responded honestly. If you take a look on the board, everyone that responds seems to all say the same thing "good job, it was great, keep up the good work...", few are critical, which I personally feel are more beneficial. And to be honest, the only reason why I responded to your post (because I rarely respond) was because I did see some ideas in your film that were clever and interesting, which I feel is rare.

No, I don't have anything posted on this site, nor do I have it posted on-line (I have before, but not recently). I use the Canon XH-A1 for events and corporate projects. All my narrative shorts are done in 16mm. And they are out dated (meaning I haven't had time to shoot a narrative in almost a year and a half) and most are music videos. Never did I mean to imply, that I always did things 'better', nor did I say I knew the proper way on how to work a camera, or perfectly light a scene or got perfect performances everytime. If I did, I would have Academy Awards spewing galore, but I don't. Far from it. But do I need any of the above to be allowed to critique? I hope not. Back when I went to school, even freshmen were encouraged to critique senior work. You could accept it, blow it off, whatever you like.

That aside, I will answer your questions. Yes- when I said the lighting was high key, I basically meant that the contrast was low. Why did I think it wasn't as effective? Because since you didn't use the M2 adapter (and I completely understand it was a quick shoot and you didn't have the necessary time to break it in), it makes it more difficult to have good DOF. Without good depth of field, yes- video looks more like video. To me, more contrast would help this (if that is a goal at all). And (again, if this was your goal) it creates more of a tense environment because you force the audience to feel more confined and use their minds to fill in the gaps, needing to anticipate what is hidden.

The performance of the media/photographer guy was amusing. I liked him. He seemed natural. Everyone else was okay. Was everyone believable? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. There was a self consciousness that surrounded the cast at times- where it seemed like they were thinking of what their line was. These actors could be pros or maybe not. I don't know.

So, you can take what I say with a grain of salt, or you can think maybe that I am arrogant and sit on pedestals without having anything posted. It's up to you. Admittedly, I only watched your film once. But if you don't think I watched it closely, I will tell you some specifics... to let you know that I sincerely examined your film.

Example- The entry of the first thug. It was about a medium shot. We see his face and some of his body. He looks around and proceeds to walk toward the preist. Next shot was a close up of his feet walking toward the preist. At this point, I recognized the whole tarantino 'foot walking close up' shot (I like them myself) and can appreciate it. But then I felt it would have been intriguing if that shot was done before his medium shot (kind of like how you did as the boss entered). It creates suspense, because then I would wonder who is behind that 'walk'.

Example 2- The shot of the guns in the foreground, pointing towards the media/photographer guy. I noticed the guns but they do not point AT the guy, they point TOWARDS the guy. Since there are shapes and lines in the frame, the eye naturally follows the angled perspective of those lines. In this case, the lines were the guns pointing out at a subject. The perspective led my eyes not directly on the subject, but to the side of him. While this is not a big deal, because the intent is obvious, it may distract them, even if just a second, from the story.

Reagan, again, I really want you to understand that I only mean to be an honest opinion. If you don't agree with me, I am fine with that. For your intent and purposes, your film was probably done better how you did it. Different perspectives allow all of us (including me) an opportunity to expand our thinking and our craft.
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Old July 2nd, 2007, 10:20 AM   #8
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Watched your film. Overall pretty well done, especially for one of these kind of events. I've entered roughly 5 or 6 of these type contest myself over the years - some 24 hour events, other 7 day events and it's a challenge to get it done.

Yeah, you're going to have some bad acting, low production value, plot holes, etc. - but that's not what these contest are really about to me. They're about getting filmmakers to do a novel thing - MAKE FILMS. So many people sit around and talk about making films, but so few actually do it. BTW, the craftmanship and technical skills, etc. come with experience (i.e. making films). :)

Good luck with your new A1 and your future projects.
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Old July 2nd, 2007, 12:52 PM   #9
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Nicholas... no! I wasn't being sarcastic at all.

I really did just want to see some of your work. My problem is that I'm not a pro, so I don't really know terms about lighting, etc., so it is better for me to be able to visually look at another piece that the person did where they can say, "see how I set this light here and had this one a few stops higher than you have it to create more contrast", etc. rather than just relying on terms I may or may not be familiar with. I just learn better that way. Of course, you could point to examples from other people, but then you wouldn't necessarily know how they set it up exactly or be able to answer specific questions.

I definitely *did* ask for feedback, and that includes criticism. I criticize people all the time when they ask and I'm not a pro, so I don't think you need to be able to personally do something better to be able to point something out. I came to this forum for two reasons: 1) I know people won't be brown-nosing me like friends tend to do and 2) people here are using my same equipment so they might be able to offer specific suggestions.

The only thing strange to me about your comments are that you disliked the very things other filmmakers pointed to as things they liked, so I wanted to explore why that was. Don't take that as me being upset about your point of view. On the contrary, I do want to know where filmmakers diverge on their impressions of good and bad.

I liked your specific ideas, like the one about using the feet closeup first to build suspense. As far as the lighting, I think it was already a little too stylized feeling and heightened contrast may have made it even more cheesy, but you never know. I was also so constrained by time that we didn't have time to explore a lot of lighting alternatives. What I saw on the monitor matched what I was looking for in my mind, so we went with it.

As far as the actors go, I really expected sub-par given the situation and was actually quite pleased with how well they did. I thought the main "bad" guy and the priest were fairly authentic, but mostly just good in so far as they made me want to watch them. The photographer was more natural and funny because he was improvising, which is his baliwick. The other actors had to say specific - sometimes cheesy - lines from a script that was written in a day and given to them the night before, plus the main "bad" guy isn't even an actor, he's just a buddy of mine. Do they need work, sure. Will they? No, because they just did this once for fun.

The main thing I like about this film, and the reason I think audiences liked it, was that especially for this type of event, production values are usually quite low, and this looks pretty good, plus it has a story, some humor, keeps moving, and it keeps the audience engaged, and that's more the exception than the rule for a timed event.

So don't worry... I'm not looking for validation from this group - I've already got that satisfaction from the audience at the festival. I'm here looking for feedback from other users of this camera, good or bad, so don't be afraid to hurt my feelings.

Sorry to be long-winded but I didn't want to get off on the wrong foot giving you the impression I was wounded or anything like that. Thanks again for your responses!

Reagan
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Old July 5th, 2007, 07:09 PM   #10
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Then the miscommunication was my fault Reagan. That's the problem with electronic communication. Certain phrases you used sounded like it could be sarcastic. Otherwise, it was my own insecurities thinking that someone was being sarcastic.

Anyhow... there is something I do believe about shooting and filming-

There is no 'right' way to shoot, light, or direct any particular scene. Professional or non-professional. There is only 'effective'. And that depends on your goal, theme and vision for the piece. Yes, sure you can shoot something to make it look expensive and professional, but if it doesn't work for the story, it's just pretty wrapping. For example- the charm of certain films is that they don't look like "professional" films, like Clerks or Blair Witch Project, etc. Those worked because of their style or lack thereof.

I don't know if that helped you, or just made you more confused as to how to shoot a scene. Really though, to be a good director requires one to pay close attention to the details, but more importantly, what those little details are communicating.

Have fun.
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Old July 13th, 2007, 03:35 PM   #11
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Didn't get a chance to watch the whole thing but the intro in the bar scene had some great angles and composition.. bar lighting was on point too.

I like your camera work.. not afraid to take on different angles.. I think your on the right track and keep experimenting. Editing was nice too.

One point to make I think you had good actors that look and felt the part and you didn't need so much dialogue to express who they are and what they are concerned about. Except that photo guy little to much overacting and out of place..

Looking forward to see more of your stuff.
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Old July 17th, 2007, 07:09 AM   #12
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Hey Reagan... great looking stuff?

May I ask what you used to encode the big H.264 video for the web? Did you use Apple's H.264 or was it another companies blend? Thanks so much for posting it... looks fantastic!
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Old July 17th, 2007, 08:06 AM   #13
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I enjoy puns so your interrpretation of "freelance photographer who always misses the shot" really made me laugh.
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Old July 21st, 2007, 03:41 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Deke Ryland View Post
Hey Reagan... great looking stuff?

May I ask what you used to encode the big H.264 video for the web? Did you use Apple's H.264 or was it another companies blend? Thanks so much for posting it... looks fantastic!
Deke, I just exported from FCP from the HDV timeline using Compresor to H.264.
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