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Old July 20th, 2004, 11:21 PM   #1
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Varicam HD for feature

Hey guys, especially those who have worked with/rented a Varicam (or similar) HD camera.

I want to price out what difference it would make in shooting a feature film, to go from miniDV (say an XL2) to a Varicam (rental package- not purchasing).

I know the camera rental is about $800/day and a Pro35 about $400 a day, not including glass. What I really need to know is what editing costs I'd incur for working on that footage in terms of gear rental/what to edit on, deck rental, etc....

I'm also wondering, what other costs would be involved beyond that that I don't know about?
Pricewise, it looks cheaper to just shoot in 16mm. ANy idea which looks better blow up to 35mm and projected?

Any feedback is appreciated!

Thanks
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Old July 21st, 2004, 11:51 AM   #2
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<<<I know the camera rental is about $800/day and a Pro35 about $400 a day, not including glass. What I really need to know is what editing costs I'd incur for working on that footage in terms of gear rental/what to edit on, deck rental, etc.... >>>

The Varicam records to DVCPro100. Panny is bringing out 1/2 rack sized deck
to the market with firewire for just under $30K. You could do a couple of
things depending on work flow. The cheapest is to work in DVCPro100,
but you can also take the HD SDI out of the camera to a D5 deck for
less compression and 10bit sampling.

$800 a day is pretty cheap, but it doesn't sound like a whole package.
Around the Detroit area the "kit" goes for about $1200 a day with
a single telephoto lens (not the Pro 35 setup).


<<<I'm also wondering, what other costs would be involved beyond that that I don't know about?>>>

The kit (I think) consists of tripod, 8" HD monitor and the camera controller.
Those last two items cost like another $50K?

<<<Pricewise, it looks cheaper to just shoot in 16mm. ANy idea which looks better blow up to 35mm and projected?>>>

It is cheaper depending on which 16mm camera. An Arri SR3 probably goes
for about the same with a couple of lens, but I could be wrong. An old Bolex
with turret lens is cheaper ;)

Where are you located again? Here in Detroit there are a few options:

Mid America and Stratton Camera are two of them.

If you go with the Varicam you might want to pony for an experienced
camera op that can show you the ropes (saving a lot of money).

The Varicam is great, but there are things to know such as back focus that
can really bite you hard if unaware.

HTH
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Old July 21st, 2004, 01:18 PM   #3
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I have a friend who's used the Varicam, but I haven't. What's different about its back focus and back focus with an SD lens?
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Old July 22nd, 2004, 10:34 AM   #4
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Thanks Jaques!

Yes, I forgot to include the price of lenses in that rental cost, which could be a minimum of $200 per day. I'd definitely want an experienced operator for it too.

Looking at the 16mm film option, I can rent an Arri SR-II package for about $350 per day. Compared to the Varicam at at least $1000/day, the difference buys a whole lot of film, and probably makes up the telecine costs as well.
I'm not sure what looks better though.
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Old July 22nd, 2004, 10:45 AM   #5
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If you go with 16mm, what will you do for audio? You'll have the cost of a professional soundman with gear. Then you'll have some lab costs when you transfer to video to transfer the audio too and sync up the takes.

Shooting in 16mm will give you a different look than HD, and in some areas it will be better and easier to light for. It would be a good idea to make a contact with whatever lab you plan to use and get a good estimate of your total cost for shooting film. Get the cost for processing, transferring, syncing each roll and then make a good estimate on what you think your shooting ratio will be. When is shot 16mm I always budgeted for a 5:1 shooting ratio, which was considered fairly low by most people.

Your comment about the $650 per day difference in equipment rental...if you shoot for 10 days, that's only $6,500. That's not a lot of film when you consider the total cost.
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Old July 22nd, 2004, 12:15 PM   #6
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The thing with back focus is you really have to check it on a real HD monitor
or scope. From what Al Hart, a super cameraman and person, told me
was that 'real' guys were taking the varicam rig out and doing what they
thought was a great job, but when they got back and viewed the footage
on the huge HD monitor,
they found that focus was just ever so slightly out because of backfocus.

HD has so much more resolution that you must adjust backfocus
(with a card) every time you take the lens off. At least that is what
he always does to help keep Mr. Murphy at bay.

All kinds of factors involved, but the simple story is it must
be (re)set or you can get burned.

This is second hand info, but I don't doubt it, and because IMO
it is always better to know you're cool than to take the risk and lose the unrecoverable.

The Varicam looks good, but I don't think it smokes an Arri S16mm with film lens
and good telecine (and as you mentioned Bill, contrast ratio handling and color depth).
You also have other things you can accomplish with
a telecine (pan/zoom/color correction) and film that you can't do (as well) with
720P without some resoution loss if delivering the final output in film or HD.

OTOH, Discovery HD and some of the others are starting to look down their
noses at 16mm in their submission requirements.
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Old July 22nd, 2004, 12:21 PM   #7
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Anytime you take a lens off of any professional camera, you need to adjust backfocus. And anytime you set up a camera after it's been moved around a lot, you need to check backfocus. That's just a normal part of shooting any kind of video.
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Old July 22nd, 2004, 12:36 PM   #8
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They probably weren't checking BF after the initial set up for the day
and the image still looked great in their 8" HD monitor after they made their first move (being used to NTSC). Maybe they were downconverting the HD out
to NTSC. What's just slightly out of focus in HD is probably fine in NTSC.

They got caught for letting their guard down or being lazy for a second.
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Old July 22nd, 2004, 01:25 PM   #9
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Yep...the minute you take something for granted in video, it bites you in the butt.
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