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Old January 27th, 2009, 08:36 PM   #1
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Help me out please.

Here's the situation. This up coming summer I'm taking a shot at making a feature length micro budget movie.(A few thousand dollars) I've looked at a ton of sample footage and as for the money the canon HV30 or maybe the upcoming HV40 would be my choice for a camera. Footage from other cameras, even those costing up to two or three times as much, just don't look all that much better. I'm on a limited budget so the lower price of the Hv30 along with it's picture quality would normally make it my choice without a doubt.

Here's the problem. I'll need to strongly promote my movie as a "real film" to get people involved locally. But the HV30 is a consumer level camera and looks it. People will be disappointed, maybe even laugh at me, if I show up with with that tiny camera for my "real film" I've thought of putting a few extra bells and whistles on it but that's not going to do it either.

So my question is this. Does anyone know of lower cost professional looking camera that might meet my needs? I'm willing to go used. Maybe a lesser known camera that's slipped under the radar? I've looked at more well known cameras like the hdr-fx7 and it's not all that impressive at $2000. I need something lower cost that looks pro and produces a good image- if that actually exists.

The movie will take place entirely outdoors in bright sunlight. The film is full of action and I'll be moving the camera a lot. Running with it, dolly shots, crane shots, etc..

My max budget for equipment is about $2000.(I need most of the money I have for the film itself) That's for the camera, sound equipment, and material to build my own dolly, crane, etc... And I can't "just save more for such and such camera'" which is common advice I've seen. I've already been saving for 2 years. I eat the worst cheap crappy food, I never go out, I cut my own hair, and I've started giving plasma for the extra money. You name it I'm doing it in the name of saving money for my film. I want to end up with something good enough for film festivals and it will have some life on DVD.

And renting and borrowing are not options. So, any ideas?
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Old January 27th, 2009, 10:42 PM   #2
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Hi Les...........

Hmm, bit of a pickle, and no mistake.

OK, let's take this "cojones" thing seriously for a moment.

I will temporarily suspend all belief systems and play along, just to get the ball rolling (if that isn't a mixed metaphor?).

What if you advertised, scrounged, etc etc wherever (living hand to mouth as you say you are, you must be pretty clued up on where to get stuff real cheap) for a totally trashed internaly but cosmetically perfect Canon XL1s/ XL2 (say) and sit it in paralell with a HV20 on the same head.

Excuse: XL is taking the footage, HV20 is taking the "rushes" (use your imagination!).

The XL doesn't have to be capable of working whatsoever, the HV is doing the lifting.

Just go Hollywood and plain straight out lie.

Solves the "cojones" thing (bit of a bugger for the running shots but....) and gets your footage on HD to boot.

I'm sure there will be many more inventive suggestions coming your way.

Can't think of anything else which won't bust the bank.


Last edited by Chris Soucy; January 27th, 2009 at 10:43 PM. Reason: Whoops.
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Old January 27th, 2009, 11:39 PM   #3
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Thanks for the reply Chris. I have already given some thought to a similiar idea. Putting the HV30 into an empty shell of a bigger camera. But that, and the side by side idea just are not practical. And my 5 main actors are going to be intimately involved in the enitre production. They'll be no getting anything past them. And I'm not much into trying to fool people.
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Old January 27th, 2009, 11:58 PM   #4
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Give some serious thought to the Sony HVR-HD1000U. It's a hi-def shoulder-mount design, and has an external shotgun mic clamped along the top. Very pro-looking. It's got a focus ring on the lens... that's good too. And the lens shade looks like a matte box! B&H sells it for $1379.95.


P.S. -- Good composition and lighting will trump any slight difference in resolution. (imho)

Last edited by Ken Hull; January 28th, 2009 at 12:29 AM.
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Old January 28th, 2009, 01:33 AM   #5
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Les -
There's no doubt that the small cams can get incredibly good results, IF you've had hands on time with them and know the limits.

The one thing that sends up red flags for me is the "high action"/"lots of moving around". If you don't already know what Rolling Shutter artifacts are with the CMOS cameras, take a few and research it. Camera technique and stabilization is CRITICAL with these little guys, and it takes a while to figure out and master. They are not forgiving of bad camera technique, PERIOD. You need actual hands on time with one, sounds a bit to me like you're planning on picking one up at 3:00 and start shooting at 5:00... you'll be wanting to shoot yourself by midnight... my first outing with an HDV cam was not pretty... but I had backup angles to work with.

What about getting the cam ASAP, and start shooting "screen tests", but put enough work into them that maybe just maybe you can use them as "final" footage. Say you're using the little cam so it's not so intimidating and attention getting, and that you're planning on doing the "big production" a bit further on, but want to test the script/actors/flow/whatever...

I think a fair question to ask is what camera are you shooting now, and how much "behind the lens" time do you have? What about finding a benefactor who might rent or loan you something a bit better (this is a good place to have some footage from the small camera in the can, maybe generate some interest)?

It's not the size of the camera, it's the nut behind the lens that counts... if you've got a good script, a good eye and the determination that's already apparently there, you'd be surprised what can be done on a shoestring budget.
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Old January 28th, 2009, 05:00 AM   #6
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Look around this site, and you'll find some incredible footage shot with the HV series Canons. I'd suggest showing this to your talent, or editing some of your own footage from the HV. If the final product looks good, they shouldn't care what the camera looks like.

Ken Hull got it right: Composition and lighting will make all the difference. I hope you get a few crew members to help with lighting.
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Old January 28th, 2009, 05:52 AM   #7
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Having worked in the industry for many years, I would strongly advise against spending your last dollar to make a feature. However, if you are still intent on doing so, I would be willing to sell my personal Canon XL-1s kit. That would give you a more professional looking film package than an inexpensive consumer HDV camera, as well as manual control of all your camera settings, and a very manageable SD workflow for film festivals.
Good Luck!
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Old January 28th, 2009, 06:24 AM   #8
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Here's the real question. There is an equilateral triangle in this business - Money, Time & Quality. It's a basic rule in video/film that if you lower any one of the three you have to increase the other two.

If you have to shortchange two of the three then you should seriously think about whether or not you should proceed with the project. You say that you want a professional looking camera that also produces professional results yet you don't have the money to buy/rent such a camera. Look at the triangle - either you have to spend more money on a better camera or settle for lower quality.
"The good thing about science is that it's true whether you believe it or not." Neil deGrasse Tyson
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Old January 28th, 2009, 07:24 AM   #9
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What about sound?

IF you decide to put it all on the line for this production, I have another question. Have you thought about sound? I hope you do not rely on the built-in mic on whichever camera you choose for sound. A quality mic, a boom, and a mixer - not to mention a person to operate them - can be pretty expensive. Even with excellent video, if you use audio from the built-in mic, the production will suffer.

I feel you pain, as I've been there before. Actually, I'm still working pre-production on a short film I want to make. I started it about three years ago with a script. Bought an XH-A1 two years ago. Heavy-duty generator was purchased last year. I just finished up story boarding this past fall. So far for me, it's been a one-man show. When shooting time comes around, I'm enlisting the help of my closest friends to be the crew. They know this, and they agreed to do it for free as long as they eat for free while working. It will take several weekends to shoot. I'll need to do all the outdoor shots on one weekend to get some continuity of weather. I'll also need to prep a closet for sound-booth use for post recording.

In the meantime, I'm using the XH-A1 for event videography on weekends to make money for this crazy hobby of mine. I'm saving cash for a portable mixer, at least one more light. Maybe in another year... it all depends on how "business" is going.

After reading all that, if you still want to make that film, you're just as crazy as I am! Good luck.
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Old January 28th, 2009, 11:45 AM   #10
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Les please read what I have to post as constructive and not negative. You have the wrong attitude about filmmaking. I see similiar "philosophies" from other filmmakers that they worry so much about looking professional and big time "real films" that they don't worry about the story, the actors, the production quality. I'm not saying you won't but if someone is going to laugh at your HV30 then they just aren't going to fall right in line with anything else you have to say. A "real film" is an engaging story told well visually and audibly.

Are you going to pay crew? Have craft services? Will C-Stands, Flags, and miles of cable be in view for all to see? If not, then it isn't going to look like Hollywood's in town.

My point is that there are successful films with bare bones production costs and they were hits for creativity, not for looking like a Hollywood movie at a fraction of the cost. I suggest watching films like Primer and El Mariachi (espicially this one since it has lots of action too) to see how quality can come from minimal resources. Robert Rodriguez would get ADR from his actors in his car going into a tape recorder. I imagine that didn't come across as "professional looking" but he got the job done and did it well.

What will get people in line is that you are confident in your story and skills and that you can communicate your vision to others.

Best of luck to you and your project.
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Old January 28th, 2009, 11:55 AM   #11
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The new Crank 2 was shot with a combination of XH A1 cameras as well as a bunch of HV30s, or possibly HS11s, same basic thing in terms of quality. No doubt it will be as bad as their first film, but the trailers look great in terms of quality. If you've got a good story and know what you're doing, nobody cares what you shoot with. And here's a real movie you might want to watch--The Celebration. It was shot back in the '90s with single chip Sony TRV7s, or it could have been earlier, like the TRV5. No comparison to the much better quality of the HV30, but nobody cares because the movie is so good in terms of story and acting. It's still being shown these days--I caught a piece of it on Sundance or IFC sometime last year.
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Old January 28th, 2009, 01:21 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by Dave Blackhurst View Post
, sounds a bit to me like you're planning on picking one up at 3:00 and start shooting at 5:00... .
Really? How did what I post in any way imply that? I thought I stated straight out that I already had two years of 100 percent committment and sacrifice to this project. How does that translate to just grabbing a camera and start shooting? I've been working on my script for those two years and doing my research on the best possible camera for the price. I've made short films and I'm ready for something more. I'm not some 17 year old that just decided at random to make a movie. Just because I asked a simple question about cameras doesn't mean I don't know what i'm doing.

The only reason I even asked this question here is because during my research I came across the JVC GR-HD1U. It's one I had never heard of before but it's a pro looking camera that sells for under $1000 on Ebay. I thought there might be some other unknown low cost gems out there that people here might be able to direct me to. Money is EVERYTHING on this movie. I have none to spare. I need the best camera for the best price. Same as I need to save money on other things like good sound equipment and all other equipment but those are not the question at hand.

I thank the people who stayed on topic and answered my question straight out. But these other tangents are not welcome. You may think you're being helpful but you're not. It's just as annoying to me to have it implied that I don't know what I'm doing or getting into as it would be for you to hear the same thing.
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Old January 28th, 2009, 03:14 PM   #13
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My apologies, Les...

...if I sounded like I was implying you didn't know what you were doing, as that wasn't my intent. I was relaying my pre-production experience at filming. I was curious as to your sound setup, though, as you never mention it. I can't really speak for the other guys, but it is my experience that the people on this board are nothing but helpful. Throw around some technical jargon next time, and it will placate us geeks. ;-)

Back on topic: For under $1000 ($634.95 @ B&H), a new Canon HV series will give you the most control over your image and avoid the possible issues with CMOS rolling shutter. At least, that's my opinion.
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Old January 28th, 2009, 03:32 PM   #14
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One more thought, Les. There are quite a few hobby-type people that own good cameras. Perhaps there is someone in your area who might like to be involved for free in exchange for the learning experience. If you were closer I might offer to work with you myself !
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Old January 28th, 2009, 04:52 PM   #15
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I think Mark is on the right track here. Les, you have your vision and your script and your budget. It sounds to me like you are already the writer, director, and producer. There are a lot of independent films shot in this area (KY) and many of them are the direct result of a great writer joining talents with a skilled shooter. I would recommend contacting the local videographers in your area put a listing on CraigsList, go and meet them and see if you gel with anyone. I would be willing to bet that there is someone out there just as eager to shoot something as you are to produce something. As to the camera vs. talent issue I think Edward's point is correct. I have shot with many local actors, if they believe in the script and you as a director the camera won't matter. If they balk at the camera, you can probably convince them to spend 1 day recording and show them a daily so they can understand why you chose to go this route. A friend who shoots locally for an independent filmmaker, often uses consumer cams for outdoor shoots so officials don't bother him about his "permits." Also in reference to Ken's 3 to 5 statement, I think the point may have been lost. We believe your dedication and preparation without a doubt and absolutely mean no disrespect but i think the question Ken was asking was have you allotted much time for practice shooting with the camera you want to use. if you are not going to enlist someone who is intimately familiar with his/her camera and knows how to get the shot you have envisioned in your head the last few years then, you need to allow yourself time to learn how to get the camera to do your bidding.

You can do beautiful things with any camera and enough time. If you can find a partner who is already equipped then you can better distribute your resources to all of your needs. Best luck and if you happen to shoot in KY give me a call.
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