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Old October 23rd, 2011, 09:55 AM   #1
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Do we really need this stuff?

Like young children waiting for Christmas, everyone seems to be overly excited about the new cameras, recorders, and other gear soon to be announced and released.

But, do we really need this stuff?

Why do the photo's taken with the latest DSLR and Photo Shopped to death, don't have the mystery and appeal of a black and white photograph by Ansil Adams?

Look at what was filmed in the 1920's with old technology. Last night I watch film clips of Buster Crabbe. How did those guys film and produce material like that? No computers, no FCP, and no “this years latest gadget”.

We have lost something. I'm so tired of looking at fake Photo Shop photos, and film productions that are nothing but hollow, empty, computerized special effects. Where are the theater actors? The script writers? The writers of great movie musical scores?

Like all technology and industries, I hope there will arise some photographers, cinematographers, and film producers who will begin producing high quality films and photo's using vintage equipment. People who will use their artistic ability, imaginations, and will lead us back into the light.

Here I am. Another night wearing out the TV controller. 250 satellite TV Channels, and nothing worth watching. I had better put AAA batteries on the shopping list.
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Old October 23rd, 2011, 10:19 AM   #2
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Re: Do we really need this stuff?

Couldn't agree with you more David. I am a student of cinema, I have produced hundreds of DVDs of classic film titles, shot documentaries on numerous classic films for TCM and PBS and I too lament the passing of quality storytelling and cinematic craftsmanship. The best storytelling in cinema in the past decade has come from Pixar and used computers to tell the stories, so there is hope that good storytelling isn't completely dead.

Everyone seems obsessed with buying gear that has better and better specs and few spend the time to learn how to light, compose and move the camera intelligently. There is still some good storytelling going on but much of it is ruined with synthetic, digital aesthetics.

I too agree with you that most films of the past decade look like moving Photoshop, everything looks fake, synthetic and empty, especially in action and adventure films. For me, it all ended with Bladerunner, that was the last big sci-fi film that sold me that I was seeing a real world. Everything past that is moving Photoshop. Sadly, to most people under about 35 today, they accept "moving Photoshop" as real because with the digital world, video games, avatars, social media, a "fake" virtual world is where most of them exist. So for them, there is no distinction between fake, overly Photoshopped stills and motion footage and their reality.

We can lament all we want, but I don't see us being "led back into the light" anytime soon. Motion picture film cameras died a few weeks ago ;-), Kodak is bankrupt, real sets, real actors, real locations will be fading away soon (have you read my article earlier this year in HD VIdeo Pro about the Stargate Orbis System?). I only say these half kiddingly. I don't see many John Fords, King Vidors, Preston Sturges' on the horizon. Few people I know today will even watch a b&w film or anything made earlier than 1990 so how can we expect young filmmakers to update and carry on the traditions when they have never been exposed to great cinema?

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Old October 23rd, 2011, 11:17 AM   #3
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Re: Do we really need this stuff?

Over 40% of the population is over the age of 55. Sure they don't buy movie theater tickets. But, they are people who have the money, and control the purse strings. They watch more television and are exposed to more television commercials than any other group, and buy most of the products too. You would think that the industry would pay more attention to them.

Someday, some people in the industry is going to figure that out, and become very rich.
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Old October 23rd, 2011, 01:21 PM   #4
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Re: Do we really need this stuff?

Coincidently ... happened just last night ... While awaiting the start of a live production, my remote control camera operator started the conversation below:

24-yr old College student: Videos should be all shallow depth of field.

Me: No they shouldn't. It's a special effect.

24-yr old College student: You're wrong. The best is when the nose and eyes are in focus but the ear is not.

Me: You are an idiot

24-yr old College student: Another thing that makes great video is lens flares. You can't have to many lens flares

Me: sigh
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Old October 23rd, 2011, 02:06 PM   #5
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Re: Do we really need this stuff?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dan Brockett View Post
We can lament all we want, but I don't see us being "led back into the light" anytime soon. Motion picture film cameras died a few weeks ago ;-),
Don't know about them dying, they have an extremely long life expectancy, many have had a 50 year working life. Many objects, like combat aircraft, have long lives after the manufacturing has finished, a prime example being the B52
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Old October 23rd, 2011, 02:38 PM   #6
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Re: Do we really need this stuff?

We don't new better technology and more stuff, we need a change in direction.

With all the endless variety of interesting subjects in the world. History, culture, sciences, literature, and music, all we get now are “Remakes”. A new remake of Conan the Barbarian, they must be joking.

Great films and productions had great actors. But we don't get theater actors anymore. Just some pretty face. We make people stars, who are not stars. These stars become selfish, self conceited, people who can't even stand themselves, and eventually self destruct. There is the exception of some British Public TV Series, that do use real actors, that look and act like real people. But the exceptions are very rare.

Remember the great movie scores and catchy television show tunes? You know, the ones that were at the top of the music charts, that had a tune and melody, and you whistled all day? Remember the unforgettable background music for the great documentaries? What happened to the John Barrys of the world? I understand that a young person shouldn't pick a career in writing music. No one uses writers anymore.

Sorry about venting, but I can't find anything to watch on TV again this morning.
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Old October 23rd, 2011, 02:50 PM   #7
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Re: Do we really need this stuff?

Editing programs for $600.00. Cinema feel cameras (if you want to adapt and rig as needed) starting at $600.00. Decent sound gear kit starting around $ 1500 including a decent mic. Low light capabilities of cameras based on large sensors. A plethora of monitors, rails, inexpensive lighting gear, etc., etc. etc. Yes we need this stuff. Its going to allow the next great film maker to come into the light, despite the strangle hold on the business.

I for one am glad we have all these opportunities.
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Old October 23rd, 2011, 03:26 PM   #8
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Re: Do we really need this stuff?

Yet, Chris, there have been equivalents of this price point of gear around for a good ten years now, when a few feature films were released theatrically on DV. What has arisen is progressive levels of snobbery and a near-childish sense of entitlement regarding gear; people seem to want the keys to the kingdom for less and less cost. One could find an "outdated" HD camcorder on Craigslist for a few hundred and start making a film, but the obsession with fads such as uber-shallow focus and dismissing perfectly serviceable codecs and feature sets instead of focusing on the craft of filmmaking is discouraging.

My job has always required me to be something of a technologist, and never more so than these days as cameras and formats come hurtling out of the gate far more frequently than ever before, however at the same time I am less and less interested in those nuances and would rather focus on the craft of filmmaking and storytelling.

Going back to the original post, I don't think vintage vs modern equipment is the issue here at all, it's in the approach and mindset. I'm currently working with a 25 year old director who is (to my delight) a classicist and we see absolutely eye-to-eye on how to approach our work visually. We are shooting comedy but are eschewing the forced-handheld look that somehow got attached to that genre a few years back. At all times, our shared concern is that the visuals completely complement and never detract from the material and the performances. Any eye candy I can provide is folded into the basic look, nothing is done for flash appeal or trendiness or to "show off". It's an enjoyable process.

As far as "the good old days" of filmmaking are concerned, the past does not always translate to present day. A few years ago I worked with a legendary director who was returning to the feature world after a ten year hiatus. He stated that he was going to make the film the same way he always had, since that had worked well for him in the 70's and 80's. The resulting film was not a success, and felt (arguably) dated. There are many classic films that I cherish and I do bemoan the corporate structure that is killing a lot of creativity today, but at the same time there are still wonderful films being made, and television writing is probably uniformly better than it has ever been. The accessibility of equipment and exposure to works via the internet (cutting out the corporate "tastemakers") will probably allow more talent to be exposed in the future. Honestly, I think we may be heading towards a new golden age in that regard. The outlook is a bit bleak for those who currently make their living in this industry (myself included), and for those who hope to break in and make a living down the road, but if one is simply hoping to create for art's sake and tell stories, the time has never been better.
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Old October 23rd, 2011, 03:55 PM   #9
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Re: Do we really need this stuff?

Old gear is not a garantee for great movies.
Only great movies really stand the test of time*, so you probably haven't seen the shallow crap that has probably been made back then :-p
(*Okay, Ed Wood got immortal by making crap ;-) )

Do we need this stuff?
Some do.
And some think they do.
I only update when it's needed, not when it's possible.
You don't have to buy all the new things.
And yes, lots of overprocessed things are published in print and even more on the web (where anyone can post anything). And yes, a great amount of movies seem to be about the visual wow-factor instead of the story, but great movies are still being made.

I'm glad I don't have to splice celluloid or dub VHS when I edit.
I love the fact I can swap memorycards instead of blindly changing film in a black bag.
But I must admit: I have an analogue 8-tracker I still use to record music now and then; just for fun, not because it makes my music better...
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Old October 23rd, 2011, 04:08 PM   #10
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Re: Do we really need this stuff?

I have mixed feelings on this subject since on one hand, I cut my teeth in the old analog recording industry. I was an "audio engineer" which meant I aligned the tape machine, wired all the gear together and had to tell the artist..."I only have one more track of tape for you to get your vocal right before we start burning old takes."
I miss those days because we all had specialized jobs and it took a real musicians to get stuff to sound good. Pro Tools, ADATs and Auto-Tune have irreversibly changed the music world. In the right hands...great things can be made. The masses of average and sub-average musicians who can now purchase the equipment and make themselves sound "good" for a fraction of what a complete album at a pro studio would have cost have destroyed much of the joy I used to have working in the industry.

I am also a musician...so the flip side is, now, sitting in my bed at 4am with a guitar, a mini keyboard and my laptop, I can compose complete music tracks that are ready to go...with drums, bass, keys and any other instrument I can download. Convenient... yes! BUT it's hurt my ability to play. I have lost a lot of the chops I used to have 'cause now I can "fix it in post"

Film and video have gone much the same route...cheap, great looking technology has opened up the industry and the masses have responded. Most of it crap IMHO because the stories aren't there. I think putting the tech in reach of the writer has hurt the business by giving them too much to deal with. Some people can handle wearing all the hats but most can't. And call me guilty again 'cause I do, on more than an occasional basis wear all the hats. Those projects never turn out as nicely as when I divide the effort among specialized talented people. But I can't always afford to work the way I want to. Budgets and deadlines are the name of the game.

With the film industry, why spend days on practical SFX when you can farm it to a group of CG artists in China!

The "Verrucca Salt mentality" (I want it NOW!) is possible because the tech exists to support it. Real creativity takes time and effort. It's made a good chunk of the world's population lazy!
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Old October 23rd, 2011, 04:29 PM   #11
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Re: Do we really need this stuff?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Walter Brokx View Post
I'm glad I don't have to splice celluloid or dub VHS when I edit.
Splicing celluloid is no big deal, it's non linear editing, dubbing VHS is the painful part. Downside to film editing can be the physical scale of the stuff and the winding backwards and forwards. Although, I suspect pointing bricks is worse.

It's nothing to do with the gear, you can be totally cinematic with a video camera or completely un-cinematic with a 35mm motion picture camera. It's how you use the material and like any language it evolves a new vocabulary, or the meanings begin to change with time.

At one time it would be extremely trendy to use a zoom or have loads of flares down your zoom lens. The films which used these devices thoughtfully and in a manner appropriate to the story tend to survive better than those when they're being used because they're the current fashion. Of course, the fashion can come full circle and they become hip retro.

Last edited by Brian Drysdale; October 24th, 2011 at 02:36 AM.
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Old October 23rd, 2011, 05:16 PM   #12
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Re: Do we really need this stuff?

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Originally Posted by Walter Brokx View Post
(*Okay, Ed Wood got immortal by making crap ;-) )
That's true, but it came from the heart... I hope that still counts for something.

No matter what one thinks about Wood's work, it can't be denied that he pursued it with enthusiasm.
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Old October 23rd, 2011, 05:32 PM   #13
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Re: Do we really need this stuff?

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Originally Posted by Chris Hurd View Post
That's true, but it came from the heart... I hope that still counts for something.

No matter what one thinks about Wood's work, it can't be denied that he pursued it with enthusiasm.
True!
(I love Tim Burton's 'biopic' on Ed Wood because of that enthusiasm.)

But... I think most (if not all) filmmakers pursue their (own) projects with enthusiasm; the good ones, the bad ones and even the ugly ones... So enthusiasm is no 'parameter' for quality of 'unforgettability' ;-)
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Old October 23rd, 2011, 09:52 PM   #14
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Re: Do we really need this stuff?

No we don't really need all the new stuff just to make good movies. The real question is "How do you create a good movie?" And that's an impossibly difficult question to answer even with a US$100 million budget and the best experts, consultants and advice at your disposal. Then there's the secondary shadow question, "How do you make a good movie, that sells?" Which can get you into some dark & murky waters.

My favorite quote about how really difficult creativity can be:
Quote:
Call it overstatement, but I’ll say it anyway: it was easier for Hitler to start World War II than it was for him to face a blank square of canvas.
-Steven Pressfield, The War of Art
On the other hand we're in good company, I'm sure the old Italian Renaissance masters had this exact same conversation back in the day, sitting in some piazza in Rome, Venice, Florence etc.
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Old October 24th, 2011, 08:46 AM   #15
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Re: Do we really need this stuff?

Quote:
Originally Posted by David Rice View Post
do we really need this stuff?
oh yes! I need it! even though it doesn't make me a better story teller, it makes my story look better;
and I am sure that we still can enjoy work of old Italian Renaissance masters just because they used the most advanced at the times paint, and techniques of painting;
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