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Old March 20th, 2004, 04:35 PM   #1
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What's really going on with DV?

Maybe others have already had this experience and can comment.
Even if you haven't though, I'd love to hear some opinions.
I've been trying to talk several professional producers and directors into coming on board my project, but they all keep coming back with comments like "that budget is way too low", or "someone did an independent film on $350, 000 - that's considered a NO BUDGET film". I'm puzzled about their reactions because we all know the digital format has brought the costs of filming way down. My question is, has MiniDV really made it possible to generate "industry standard" footage at low cost or is the industry still biased in favor of old fashioned film stock? Anyone have an opinion on this?
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Old March 20th, 2004, 04:44 PM   #2
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Quote:
has MiniDV really made it possible to generate "industry standard" footage at low cost or is the industry still biased in favor of old fashioned film stock?
Industry standard footage via miniDV? No. It won't look as good as something shot with film, but miniDV is easier and cheaper to work with and edit before it's transfered to film. For TV, however, you won't see a big difference, unless you know what to look for. Film to TV format has richer color, or so I have noticed.
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Old March 20th, 2004, 05:21 PM   #3
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You have to consider ALL the costs, including production costs, labour, equipment, etc. etc. Just because one part may be cheap not every other part is. For feature-length films, they really do consider $350 000 to be a no budget film.

Also, they also may not consider DV to be good enough quality for threatres. HD and 35mm should be noticeably better in theatres, although films shot on DV still get in there (28 days later, etc. etc.).
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Old March 20th, 2004, 06:28 PM   #4
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Roger
You are completely off base (please don't take it personaly) when it comes to mainstream productions, DV, and budgets. THe best example is 28 Days Later which was shot on Canon XL1s'. Thats about as cheap as you can get for a "real" camera. It had a budget of 15 MILLION dollars. If it was shot on 35mm film it would have had a budget of 15.1 MILLION dollars. See the point? The cost of the medium is nothing compared to the cost of the production.

Its easy to get the two mixed up if you are coming from an independent point of view. If you are used to making movies where everyone helps for free or for deffered pay, and you get sets free, and use props you already have, and do most of the work yourself, then you can easily make a feature length film for less than $5k. Hoever, it will probably look like you made a movie by yourself for $5k, and it will likely not look like a marketable, polished film.
On the other hand, if you had to pay people, and wanted to do it "right": I figure I would want at least a skeleton crew of 6-8 people on a bare-bones no budget movie, not including cast or myself, times at least $150-$200/day times at least xx shooting days. Plus a lot more money for no-name actors that can actually act, food, transportation, set rental, lighting/grip rentals, props. $350,000 starts to seem pretty reasonable.

There is a reason most people can only name a handful of mainstream feature length movies shot for "no-budget", and thats because almost all of them have such poor production quality that they are unmarketable to the mainstream.

Remember, a good movie has nothing to do with what camera it is shot on.
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Old March 21st, 2004, 01:51 AM   #5
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I don't think digital has brought the price way down. I think what digital has done is allow for mistakes to be quickly corrected for next to nothing. Digital has also given some control back to the producer who would rather skimp some on real production and spend it in post.

Where digital is also exploding is with the newbies who think their first project will land them a huge directing gig. The funny thing is the naivete of that thinking actually does help because by the time they realize how silly they were for thinking that way, they've learned so much that the big prize is actually not as far away.
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Old March 21st, 2004, 03:36 AM   #6
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Okay, those are all the type of eye-opening replies I was hoping for. I like to have my assumptions challenged and you don't get that by listening to all your buddies who think exactly the same way you do.

- Dylan, no offense taken. I figured I MUST be off base somehow to be so surprised by what the pros were telling me. Since my main focus has been writing up until now I expected to have to face a learning curve when it came to production. Thank you all for your input. A little of it has gone a long way.
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Old March 21st, 2004, 03:48 AM   #7
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Roger, shooting 16mm gives good results plus the cams cost less as well as the film/processing. 16mm can also be transferred to the larger, screen format.

I have seen some good results with miniDV to film. One doc was shot with a PD100A, low budget, but the film transfer was the killer regarding cost.
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Old March 21st, 2004, 08:03 AM   #8
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The main thing that DV has done for "indepedent" movie makers
(in my eyes) is this:

1) give us a far better quality then we could previously afford (I mean the costs to buy an actual camera with a good picture quality)

2) give us a far superior way of editing without quality loss (since it is all digital). Far superior to previous options, not film (although DV editing is easier than film)

3) give us lower operational costs in terms of media (DV tape is cheaper then film stock)

4) give us instant feedback on how it looks (and thus saving costs on unneeded film stock)

5) give us more freedom (lighter, smaller camera and basically do as many takes as you want due to cheap tape)

Everything else basically stays the same. You basically controle
how much your movie is going to cost. A movie like phonebooth
(quite entertaining I must say) is FAR FAR FAR cheaper to shoot
than something like Gladiator or a science fiction movie.

This does not mean that your phonebooth movie or any "acting"
movie is going to be cheap.

Besides your camera you will (probably) need extra gear:

1) audio equipment (microphones, boompole, cables etc. etc.)

2) lighting equipment (lamps, stands, bouncing boards, filters and whatnot)

3) camera support (tripod(s), dolly, steadicam, monitor etc.)

Then you will also need things like props, clothing, makeup,
food & drinks and all sort of extra facilities I fail to mention
(too much anyway).

This probably can all be rented (except for the food and makeup,
heh), but it still costs money one way or the other.

Then ofcourse this all needs to be managed and executed. Not
even speaking about actors.

Ofcourse the more you can rent, borrow, get for free or have
work for you on a free basis the cheaper it will all be. And some
things you can do without or need to do without. And the more
this happens the more you can basically see it in the end result.

Now this is not to say you need all of this to make a great movie.
But the longer the movie the sooner you normally will need all of
this and the sooner costs start to add. It is a lot easier and cheaper
to shoot a 10 - 15 minute piece than a full 90 to 120 minute movie!

The most important thing is the story, ofcourse. Which you can
either buy (here come the costs again) or perhaps get free or
write yourself.

This is why most people in this thread have correctly pointed out
that the costs is usually not in the camera department. Surely it
helps save money, especially while you are still learning the craft
and getting yourself setup. But the more serious it will get the
more money it will usually cost.

This wasn't meant to put anyone off or not get any movies made,
it's just an explenation of how things usually work.

Good luck on all your movie projects!
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Old March 21st, 2004, 11:27 AM   #9
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not to disagree with everyone < because theyre right, to make some thing even ALMOST pro it will cost you!> but think of clerks: before miramax bought it a tacked a mil on to the price tag, it cost $28K. All sets were free, and none of the actors were paid pros <like you didnt notice!>. That 28 grand < all on credit cards> went to renting equipment, film stock, processing, and edit time.
If you already own a dv cam and an editing pc, you could shoot that same movie for a few hundred to a thousand bucks and better picture quality.
of course how many of us can make pure dialogue entertaining for a whole movie?

ps. clerks was originally rated NC-17 by the MPAA.
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Old March 21st, 2004, 12:53 PM   #10
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Another example

I had a recent conversation with a producer in Canadian film. The bottom line for a theatrical release in Canada is $10 million US including first week marketing.

That said, one of the home run hits in Canadian film was "Cube" which was produced for roughly $500,000 and continues to make lots of money in DVD cult circles, in Japan and Europe.

"Cube" had really nothing more than a good story/premise and one set they used over and over again by changing lighting and redressing it. The acting was so-so, directing was good. Special effects were fair. Almost all of the action was in the head which is what made "Cube" transcend B-movie status into cult-B-movie status. Nothing about the production made it look any better than the average Outer Limits (the recent TV series) episode - indeed many of the same people in "Cube" are veterans of that series - but the story was sustainable over the feature length.

Another model I would urge others to examine are the cult films coming from Asia. A good many directors there think nothing of using MiniDV not only to cut down on their production costs but also to free themselves as far as shooting on location and lessening setup time. Takashi Miike and Shogo Ishii are good examples. Kiyoshi Kurosawa is another. Their movies definitely have a cult status. It is not just the direction but the way out concepts they are prepared to take on.

Really, if you have the average resources of most of the people who have MiniDV in this forum, all you really have going for you is the freedom to do what you want. The money is against you. The distribution is against you. The only thing that isn't against you is your people and your ideas. So why try and make the same things that you see on TV and in the theatres with your microbudget? Do something new. How else are you going to gain recognition?

Too much of what I see is the same concepts but on a microscale. It is a waste of your freedom. Another "Luc Besson'-style movie but on DV. Boring. This is not even to address the fan films for the Lucas pictures that come out every month.
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Old March 21st, 2004, 03:12 PM   #11
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The low-budget films I personally know about include:

- "Blood, Guts, Bullets, and Octane," which was shot on a GL1 for $7,000

- The documentary, "Genghis Blues," which was shot on Hi-8 for not much money (Travel to Tuva is what cost).

- "American Yearbook," which was shot on a DVX-100 and I don't think has been transfered to film.

I don't know how much Tom Cruze's company paid to transfer BGB&O to film but I do know the cost to transfer Genhis Blues to 35mm for Sundance was $50,000 at Sony.

Fortunately for the Belic brothers, IIRC, a sugar daddy picked up the transfer cost because they certainly didn't have the money themselves. They probably haven't made that much on the doc since even though it won in category at Sundance and was nominated for an Oscar in the best documentary category.
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Old March 21st, 2004, 03:17 PM   #12
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I'm in agreement with a lot of your opinions, Keith. My story is a horror/comedy and one of its virtues seems to be that anything you do to screw it up seems to make it funnier - bad acting, unpolished imagery, unforseen mishaps, etc. The worst thing that could happen once I finished and screened it is that everyone would laugh at it, which, of course, is also the best thing!

It was planned to be a cheap, raw movie from the start, one that I could do easily without a lot of money. The professionals I spoke with did not know this and probably were thinking, well... like professionals, i.e., you MUST HAVE competent actors, you MUST HAVE good lighting, you MUST HAVE at least $350,000, etc. That's not to give short shrift to their opinions. I'm only saying that what they could not know or take the time to find out were the unique advantages and characteristics of my script.

Oh, well, it's all beside the point now. I've decided to take one of my friends up on an offer to convert the script into a graphic novel. Once I have that in hand, I plan on using it for show&tell in a search for investors. If I could've done the film originally for $10,000, just think what could be done for $350,000, or $1000,000! You guys have inspired me here.
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Old March 21st, 2004, 05:42 PM   #13
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Roger, there is nothing you cannot do if you put your mind to it!
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Old March 21st, 2004, 06:38 PM   #14
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Roger, who knows, maybe your screenplay as a graphic novel gets optioned. It's happening more and more. I pay attention to the comic world.

Last great concept I read was Y: The Last Man. It's about a pandmenic that wipes out ALL THE MEN in the world except one guy, who it turns out is a bit of a college dweeb. Great graphic novel, now optioned.
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Old March 21st, 2004, 09:42 PM   #15
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Fortunately for the Belic brothers, IIRC, a sugar daddy picked up the transfer cost
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