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General HD (720 / 1080) Acquisition
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Old November 25th, 2007, 03:14 PM   #1
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"acceptable" broadcast HD?


I am a yoga teacher filming a documentary series. In a pinch I can sell it directly to my students, but I would *like* to have the option of pitching it for broadcast, if only on small digital stations/PBS/CBC/BBC.

I have spent the past 6 months learning about shooting and editing and work with FCpro on a macbook pro dual core. I have been doing my practice shooting with a JVC Everio GZ-HD7. I never presumed it would be my final shoot camera though it has done some good things and is definitely nice and compact.

So, I was planning to pick up an HVX this week (though I have been frantically reading all the threads on "what cam to buy" in the run up!!). No matter what though, if I am spending money like this, I need to get a new camera that will produce image quality that will be basically acceptable for broadcast. Now, I am very aware most of it comes to my shooting and story etc...so lets leave that aside..that is a different issue.

I just ASSUMED that if I moved up to an HVX or similar level cam it would produce something I *could* sell MY part of the job was done right. However, I was reading through another thread and a side discussion came up about HVX level (lets call it $4000-6500) cams producing footage that would not be saleable for television.

Before I spend a lot of money on my cam and set off on my shoots (which are starting in less than a month!), I need to make sure my cam is going to produce something I can sell if i do a good job. Otherwise, I might as well stick with my Everio if I am just going to burn dvds for my students.

I have never sold anything, or tried to. Can anyone bring me up to speed as to whether I am wasting my time? Or maybe I should just do the standard def thing and get a used dvx. I thought I had this sussed but now I am concerned.

I hope this question is clear enough. Simply put, I need to know whether this level of cam produces broadcast level footage...or do you have to go up to that 20k level?

Thanks so much. Great board.

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Old November 25th, 2007, 06:19 PM   #2
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1- A lot of material on air is shot on prosumer cameras like the HVX, Z1, etc. etc.

2- These programs are typically delivering on a SD format like digital betacam or betaSP. But if you have any budget at all, shooting + posting HD only costs a little bit more that you might as well shoot in HD. But there are some VFX/CG-heavy shows that are finished in SD because a HD finish costs a lot more (these have budgets of at least $300k/half hour). Doing VFX at the higher resolution costs more.

There's is a very small advantage to shooting in HD since you can move the image around with little degradation.

In terms of cameras, the quality of the camera also makes a difference... a lot of the newer models tend to be HD.

3- Financially... you're likely best off selling your show *before* you produce it. (At least, this is what professional producers do.) Going into deficit is usually not a good idea.

3b- The market for one-offs may not be that high (unless it's for one-time events like a doc on WW2 and you air that near remembrance day, etc.).

3c- You have to figure out what type of money you'd get from selling your show (and what your odds are). A sale might only be several hundred dollars to a few thousand (for low-end shows). And then subtract from that your expenses, time spent selling the show, and you might realize that you're in deficit.

Your program also has to hit some broadcaster's needs very well. Small digital broadcasters, PBS, CBC, and BBC have **very** different needs.
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Old November 25th, 2007, 07:49 PM   #3
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Doing it

Thanks Glenn,

I THOUGHT that even DVX type stuff made it on air as doc material. I just read the post and though WOAH...I need to ask about this...

One of the reasons I was going HVX is that I can always start in SD and work up to HD if things go well. I will not have much in the way of VFX/CG.

In this case I am making the films without the benifit of a green light from anyone. They will be reasonably inexpensive so I can recoup (most of my) costs by direct sales. Without any proven work nobody is going to look at this...so I am just trying to make sure I have something I can pitch if it comes out well.

It is not one off... it is 6 peice...I understand this is a pretty good number (not that THAT matters so much).

I understand the channels have different needs in terms of content...I can edit it out a couple different ways...I just wanted to check that this type of camera can produce footage that could practically be used by such stations.

I know the money probably won't be great. My initial inquiries have pointed me to a station willing to pay a max of $2000 per episode which won't even cover my costs, but in the end I am doing it for me and just want a SHOT at covering my costs. You don't EXPECT your first novel to be a best seller though it is nice if you write it so it could be.

I think you answered my question...in that I am not being a complete rube in buying the cam and giving it a try. Thanks.

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Old November 25th, 2007, 09:08 PM   #4
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Be aware that most TV networks have guidelines already in place which dictate the formats they accept, the type of cameras they find acceptable to acquire raw footage with, the broadcast specs which you must meet, the total run time of the show, so forth and so on.
Not trying to burst your bubble, but it would sure be easier to get a Doc picked-up by a network if you were already a documentary film maker rather than a Yoga teacher with 6 months experience.
If you are really serious about the project, I would suggest renting one of the professional cameras accepted by the network which the show will be broadcast. Hire a DP and let him or her light and shoot.
As you will honestly need more than just an HVX to pull off a project like this.

On the other hand, by shooting a low cost project for distribution to your students, you will learn some of the pitfalls involved in a production of this nature, and gain valuable experience without spending a small fortune.

Good Luck with your project!
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Old November 25th, 2007, 11:31 PM   #5
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I believe the acquisition guidelines are more for shows that the broadcaster is paying for. In that case, the broadcaster is the client and they want a good quality product.

Regardless, there is a lot of broadcast work that is shot on prosumer cameras (and HDV). Especially documentaries.

2- What camera you shoot a doc on is really not that important as far as selling the show goes.

IMO the key issues here are:
A- Selling the program. You have to know what the broadcaster is looking for (demographics, their programming strategy, maybe they have weird CRTC regulations, what formats they would program, etc.). And you need to know about the sales side of things.

As far as the broadcasters you listed go, they have very, very different needs. PBS is probably not interested in ultra-low budget production... they are likely more interested in programming that is "good for you" (e.g. educational, high brow) and with good production value (and they have some stringent technical requirements for their own shows).
CBC- Their strategy is changing because Richard Stursberg is now in charge. They are definitely looking for a lot of viewers and have somewhat less of their traditional more-nichey public affairs programming. I don't see them airing ultra-low budget docs unless it's part of their public affairs programming (and on a public affairs topic). Otherwise, low-budget production values means they're not going to attract viewers.

There is probably some niche broadcasters targeting the same crowd as the yoga crowd. You have to have a sense of what they're looking for and their needs.
And sometimes their needs might not be obvious... e.g. why did Global air Train 48? (A terrible show.) It's because it was a Canadian *drama*, which is 150% Cancon. It was something like $50k/episode, watched by nobody, and made them a lot of money because they got to air more American programming during primetime.

B- Technical / producing the show. It takes experience and some talent to shoot something well. And usually it is done by a team of people to divvy up the labour. It's rare to find somebody who is good at producing, directing + interviewing people, camera, audio, editing, etc. etc. Plus wearing all those hats at once might be taxing.

3- Another idea would be to forget broadcast in the short-term future, and try to make something that would play at Hotdocs and other festivals like that. If you get good attention there, you can use it as a stepping stone towards future projects.

3b- Nowadays there are other distribution mediums... selling DVDs, internet are some other mediums to look at. (But figure out if that's profitable.) For niche markets, you might be able to make some money selling DVDs. (But then you have to figure out distribution, marketing, etc. etc.).
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Old November 26th, 2007, 05:26 AM   #6
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I'd imagine that you're only going to be approaching local/smaller broadcasters? If so, then recording HD won't probably matter that much as I doubt many of the smaller companies will have the infrastructure in place to broadcast in HD. But then again, I could be wrong (as I've never been to Canada). If you're approaching bigger broadcasters, then you might still have issues broadcasting HD, as they may have stricter guidelines on what they actually classify as HD. I know for instance that in the UK, the BBC only regards 1920x1080/50i and 1920x1080/25P shot on "pro cameras" (i.e. not a HVX or Z1P) as HD. So, I'm just throwing it out there - if you're serious about broadcast, then maybe HIRING a pro SD camera is a better option? My suggestion: contact the people you THINK you're going to sell it to and ask them what they require before you start filming. Anyway, just something to ponder!

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Old November 26th, 2007, 08:18 AM   #7
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Thanks everyone...

It sounds like you got the gist of my question and there is lots of useful advice.

I am making this series for the experience. I am filming things I would do anyways and people I would interview anyways. As David suggested, I am hoping to learn about filmmaking by experiencing it. I have a good captive market in my students though that won't get me to break even, but does subsidize the costs to a reasonable level.

Part of the experience I wish to gain is learning to get to a broadcast level. Maybe that is unrealistic, but it is getting the big picture.

I have no illusions about being good at all the different facets of filming. However, I can't afford to hire and so have researched and practiced and I think of it a bit like film school (which I don't have time to attend!). I am learning the basics of everything, so I am conversant with the different jobs if I ever end up producing something bigger.

As for channels, I am setting my sites low but trying to learn the details and make a product as useful as possible. It is good advice to contact the stations directly. I have done so about their buying terms etc, but they did not offer technical requirements and I did not think to ask as I thought it would be fairly standard. There are a wide range of small stations I am aiming at. I have been directed to a channel called ONE by Discovery Canada. They specialize in yoga/spiritually related programming. That said, Discovery, Life and some larger channels do sometimes run programs dealing with similar subject matter. I will take your advice and write them individually for their broadcast requirements. It is my understanding that these requirements are generally used to guide development of programs they buy before completion/coproduce as that is the way it is normally done.

I asked about the TVO/CBC/BBC crowd because while I am on location in places like Peru and India, I have some side projects I would like to shoot relating to international development/human rights issue. These are certainly within the scope of what those channels currently broadcast...and over the years I have seen some pretty low production values in some documentaries of this type being aired.

So, the long and the short of it is that I will invest in a better camera as at the very least it will continue to develop my abilities as a "shooter" and *might* give me the oportunity to pitch to certain stations.

BTW..thanks for the encouragement. I know it is a bit cocky to just pick up a camera and shoot and hope to get anywhere, but it is a medium that I really love working in and it can obviously be very powerful. I have worked hard to train myself and though it may take some years and some crappy films to get there, I hope to produce some decent work one day.


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