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Canon XL and GL Series DV Camcorders
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Old August 7th, 2004, 07:16 PM   #16
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"Let him or her choose the camera of their preference"

I worked with a friend of mine who directed his first money and got this DP who volunteered his services. He was supposedly fairly well known in the indy community, though I've never met anyone other than his friends who knew who he was. Anyway, my friend went that route, letting him make decisions, and wound up talked into renting the Panasonic Varicam to the tune of about $20000 for the month. Fine price, I'll admit that, but was it necessary?

Well, this guy being the blowhard that he was, had no ability to import and edit HD-SDI. So a year later, my friend still has no movie, while this idiot DP still fumbles around trying to figure out how to edit.

My advice is you pick the camera and the budget, know how it's going to be edited and by whom, and then if you want a separate DP, he needs to work with your equipment and budget. He might complain, but too bad - it's your money and project.
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Old August 7th, 2004, 07:56 PM   #17
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How about this Peter: can we agree that a director/producer pick the FORMAT based on researching the pros and cons for the entire workflow from soup to nuts, and then respect the DP's suggestions within that format? If the DP in question had sold himself as an editor without understanding the post-production workflow, then obviously he screwed himself. Normally it's not the DP's responsibility to figure that out for a production; it's the producer's, and the post-production supervisor.

When it comes to picking the look of a given camera within formats, I believe that to devalue the DP's input is foolish. The decisions should be made via testing. Every rental house is more than happy to provide whatever gear is necessary to shoot tests in house. Which camera is better for the project, the Varicam or the Cinealta? Do we use the DVX100a, or the XL1s? Is the Mini35 worth it? You shoot tests, the director views them with the DP, and they make their choices. Does the DP have to work within the budget? Absolutely. Will and should he recommend and push for what he feels is the absolute best format for the film within those guidelines? Yes he should, if he is passionate about his craft; and if he's not, he's probably not the guy you want to shoot your film.

Years ago I shot a short film for a first time director. We discussed the options and settled on Super 16mm. Literally two days before the shoot, the director had a discussion with somebody who told him "you can't screen Super 16 at festivals, you should make your film on regular 16mm". We had always intended to shoot widescreen, and I patiently pointed out to the director that this would now involve cropping down a much smaller negative to begin with. Imagine this (and watch me deftly bring this discussion around to this forum!): comparing the 16:9 mode of the XL2 to shooting in the 4:3 mode and masking off the top and bottom to create a 16:9 frame within that. That's almost exactly what we ended up doing, much to my chagrin. Not to mention that we were using a high speed stock, and I had suggested that what would have originally resulted in a somewhat grainy look was about to become a REALLY grainy look. The director listened, and said "nevertheless, this is what I want to do".

Cut to a week later in the telecine, when the director turned to me and said "OK--I"m not comfortable with the amount of grain in these images". I ran down a lot of possible responses in my head before selecting the most political one I could muster under the circumstances. Probably went home and got drunk, I don't remember.

And you know what? He cut the film on video, and showed it that way at festivals. It never got conformed back to film. The whole argument was a waste.

Hope I've made my point--or some point of some sort!
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Old August 7th, 2004, 09:48 PM   #18
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I think it's a good point, In your case, you were the one who knew what he was doing, and the director was not. The pitfalls of having such a knowledge gap between the DP and Director. It's the corrolary to my case, where the director did not know what he was doing, and the DP claimed to but didn't.

If you're putting up your own money, you get burned if you trust someone who turns out not to know what they're doing. Look at his perspective - he thought that he might be disqualified from film festivals because of the choices that were made. It's just about trust, and it's extremely hard to find people you _can_ trust. So in your case, he didn't trust you, but you did the professional thing and let him learn his lesson.

In my case this DP was always going to be the editor (another mistake from the getgo, if you ask me). Yet he never developed an infrastructure plan for editing HD-SDI. I kept telling my friend, "use the DVX100 - it's your first movie, it's not going to be transferred to film, and you're already broke as it is" but instead Svengali got the best of him and now all they have to show for it is about 40 hours of varicam tape that no one has the capacity to import or edit. That's what can happen when you place trust in the wrong guy.

I guess I don't know what the right answer is, other than to only work with people you know you can trust. Unfortunately circumstances don't always give us that luxury.
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Old August 7th, 2004, 10:31 PM   #19
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Thanks for elaborating on the setup, Peter. If that DP had promised that he would be able to handle the post and hasn't come through, he is definitely in the wrong. At the very least, I think he should pay for DV downconversions (or whatever format he CAN accomodate) out of his pocket, and that way the director can find himself another editor, and the project can continue; it can cut right up to picture lock, then the soundtrack can be taken through to completion. And then your friend will have, for all intents and purposes, a finished film. At that point, he can assess the cost of doing an online assembly in HD, but I'd bet he'd be satisfied with an SD finish...many first time directors are sort of over their first film by the time they have finished editing it, since they have recognized their mistakes and are ready to make another film to improve on it. A lot of films don't get finished for this reason.
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Old August 7th, 2004, 11:43 PM   #20
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"Aww Keith, that sure was swell of ya! Do you want 10% commission if I take the job?"

Gee! Thanks for the offer Charles ;) Just remember me the next time you need some help on a shoot... And I'm not so - Geographicly Undesireable?
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Old August 7th, 2004, 11:52 PM   #21
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Hey

Hey everyone, thanks for the advice.

The deal is as follows: I'm working for a producer who has secured $500,000 in funding for a feature. The film will star one of the hottest stars working in France today (as the film is about a French guy in America). A portion of the budget is going toward that.

Anyway, the producer has been very adament about shooting on mini-DV up until now. I believe that when it comes to the technical aspects, he knows very little, and is relying on his DP to come through. Nonetheless, as he's going to shoot 24p and blow up to 35mm, I figured that by default, he's going to go with the Panny camera. Our shoot dates are in October, and I've been following the XL2 release for a while. I noticed in his budget forms that a large chunk of money has been set aside for mini-DV camera rental, MORE than enough to buy about three cameras. Which is why I had since considered suggesting he purchase whichever camera he goes with, and to further investigate the XL2 as an option.

I will discuss a mini-35 rig with him, but it seems to me that we're going to start paying huge rental prices for lenses. Also, I'm down with trying to convince him to rent the Panny SDX camera.

Given that we are blowing up to 35, which would you recommend as the best in terms of image quality? It's an 18 day shoot, and I imagine that HD will be moving out of our price range. Also, I just saw Open Water, and I must say that I was sorely disappointed with the image quality.

Advice?
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Old August 8th, 2004, 03:21 AM   #22
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More then enought o buy three cameras? so like in the neighborhood of 12-15 k? for DV rental? Out here (la) 6 primes and a mini 35 rent for 600 a day tops then you usually get 3day weeks (maybe 4 maybe 2) which would put you somewhere in the range of 7200 plus the cost of the camera (which may or may not have been rented with the pacakge) Which would be in the budget of purchasing an xl2 and renting the mini 35 set up WITHOUT hagling, which you should do.

You should consider the panasonic but you should also consider the f900 as I think you could get a month rental with some lenses and support and matteboxes etc, included fpr the mini dv budget you have et aside. I know there are good digital imaging technicians in NYC and I'm sure you could get them fairly cheap. this would give you a look that was closer to "once upon a time in mexico" and further from "collateral" image quality wise. Charles has the best pointin that at the rate you're looking at you should really consider some sort of film as well.
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Old August 8th, 2004, 10:21 AM   #23
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Nick (Carr), probably what would be a more useful figure than the $500K overall budget would be the below-the-line production budget, i.e. let's talk real numbers after the famous French guy, the producers and director etc. take their cut. Also curious at just why your boss is so hell-bent on DV--is it purely as a cost-cutting factor, or does he like the look? If the latter, which film in particular impressed him?
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Old August 8th, 2004, 01:01 PM   #24
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Just to put my small .o2 in. I met a guy working with my son who is using the DVX100a and the Tecknik Mini 35 getting excellent results. He does comercials and Mucis Video for MTV's latin markets (works out of Miami). He has nothing but praise for the setup. Just about everone thinks he is shooting on film.

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Old August 9th, 2004, 11:59 AM   #25
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You guys are nuts

..unless your producer has no clue, if you using a "star" you might as well shoot super16mm. Digital negatives are down to about 10k.

Just wait till your producer says "how come it doesn't look so good" after you are done shooting mini-dv... ;-)
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Old August 9th, 2004, 03:42 PM   #26
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<<<-- Originally posted by Joe Carney : Just to put my small .o2 in. I met a guy working with my son who is using the DVX100a and the Tecknik Mini 35 getting excellent results. He does comercials and Mucis Video for MTV's latin markets (works out of Miami). He has nothing but praise for the setup. Just about everone thinks he is shooting on film. -->>>
I've used that combo, and it is capable of superb results -- on a television screen. Not so good for blowing up to film though -- I've transferred mini35/DVX footage to film, and the resulting image was a bit too soft to be acceptable.

Really, the idea of shooting a $500,000 film on DV is -- well, it's kind of silly and a bit misplaced. Unless there's something compelling or overwhelming about the DV format (small size, spontanaeity, something like that) that the script requires, you really should be shooting this on 35mm. Camera rental and film would run you as little as $50,000... a small price to pay for the huge image quality increase and marketability that a 35mm negative will give you.
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Old August 9th, 2004, 04:42 PM   #27
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Well, maybe they're putting the money toward other important things, like sets, costumes, lights, and sound. Also they may have no way of editing 35mm. I don't know what those machines cost but it can't be cheap.

At the very least, though, you should shoot on the Panasonic Varicam. As long as you know how it's going to be edited ahead of time! :)

Also I'm not sure of this talk of buying multiple cameras. Why? Are you going to have multiple photography units? That's a pretty big undertaking.
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Old August 9th, 2004, 06:25 PM   #28
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Sets, costumes, lights etc. are all important, of course, but a $500,000 budget for a miniDV film? I'm just saying that the priorities seem out of whack a bit. Spending 10% of the budget for shooting on film would probably be a very wise move.

I do agree, the very least they should consider is the VariCam. If your budget is $50,000 then DV makes sense, but at $500,000 it should be at least high-def or 35mm.

As for editing film, nobody edits on film anymore (besides Spielberg). You get it transferred to tape and edit it just like as if you'd shot on a DVX or XL2. When you're done, you output an "edit decision list" and hand that to a negative cutter, who will conform the negative to match what you edited on the computer, and then make an answer print. It's really not too big of a deal.
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Old August 10th, 2004, 12:10 AM   #29
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gonna have to go with barry here, the proportion seems a whee bit outta whack. then again maybe not right? what's the budget of that thing with seinfield and superman? wasn't that shot on miniDV? i bet that cost close or more than $500k.
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Old August 10th, 2004, 01:03 AM   #30
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Gents:

My last post seems to have fallen on deaf ears.

Our noble thread-creator has indicated that the famous Frenchman is taking a "portion" of the budget. That could easily be a big portion, plus the other above-the-line costs I mentioned earlier. The actual production/postproduction budget could easily be under $100K. That being the case, a $50K chunk for camera rental/filmstock/processing would not be feasible.

Let's hear what Nick has to say about the actual budget that is allocatable to these concerns.

That Seinfeld "thing" had a very sizeable above-the-line budget, but they creamed us on the below-the-line (one reason for the insistence on shooting on DV). I myself had to sleep on friend's sofas for the NYC portion of it, they would only hire me as a local.
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