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Old April 1st, 2013, 11:11 PM   #1
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Purchase to shoot a feature-length film

I want to shoot a feature-length film with my newly purchased Panasonic GH3. What lens and equipment with the GH3 should I use. I have some equipment. I have a professional tripod and decent video head (Manfrotto 501). I have a Lowel pro starter light kit; a Gopro HD2 (how can I incorporate this). I have an old Steadicam Jr (what could I do with that?!). I have a tight, micro budget of $3000. I'll get the extra battery grip. I'm thinking I want a slider, and I'm thinking of the Edelkrone slider plus (that's $699, I know! I like their follow focus, too). How about a matte box system that will also double as a shoulder rig (could I get away and save money with cheaper systems; Adorama cinema rig is less but not as cheap as others like CowboyStudio or similar lesser price models- but are they durable or a waste of that little bit of money). Can the Manfrotto 701HDV handle all that with camera and lens. I need some accessories like a vest for booming, need SD cards and come expendables. But mostly I want to buy some very good lenses. I definitely will purchase the Voigtlander 25mm .095 lens. What other lens should I need over all the other wish-list stuff above? Should I get a zoom lens? I would hope to keep a nice shallow depth of field. With the Voigtlander as a purchase, would I get a zoom lens in the standard zoom range (Olympus 14-54 11 f2.8-3.5 maybe); or get it in the telephoto zoom range ( I would like a nice image without being cheesy or breaking the bank). Instead, should I get a zoom with a range along 14-140mm ( like the Panasonic Lumix GX Vario 14-140mm/ f4.0 - 5.8)? I do know I couldn't afford a fast zoom, but which alternatives will still be very nice for video quality. Instead, should I get a wide angel prime lens like the SLR Magic 12mm or could that Gopro be a workaround?I plan to publish to the Web, but would like the option for some other delivery. I have tried to add it up every which way; with the possibility of finding some more dollars if need be - but not sure if I can. What is really essential?What inventive combination will get the job done as nicely and professionally as possible? I will be working with people that know very little, so I may be tantamount to a one-man crew. So much stuff, so little money. In a word - Help!
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Old April 2nd, 2013, 04:34 AM   #2
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Re: Purchase to shoot a feature-length film

Check out the link in my signature. It might exactly what you're looking for.

Overall, I'd say spend most of your budget on the talent, locations, crew and schedule. Split whatever's left 50:50 between audio and camera.
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Old April 2nd, 2013, 08:09 AM   #3
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Re: Purchase to shoot a feature-length film

What do you need to shoot a film?
Camera, tripod, lenses, audio and lights. But especially a good script and actors.

A good set of primes - 35, 50, 85mm, at least f1.8 - and a good zoom will suffice. No need to sink all of your budget on expensive lenses, take care of the crew first. I'm sure they're working for free. Feed them.

Also, no need to buy if you can rent cheaper. I shot my last film with a zoom lens, some cheap primes and one rented, really good Zeiss (for one weekend. Plan ahead). I managed OK without Steadicams, sliders, etc. If I had to, I could have shot the film on one lens. The strength of our film was in the excellent script and the actors, and the crew that believed in our film and worked their butts off. What camera and lenses we used was secondary to this. I used an FS100, and a Canon 5D, with an HPX250 as the backup cam. I would have been perfectly comfortable shooting the film on the backup 1/3" cam. The important part was just getting it shot.

A film, even a short, will suck money away. Spend it wisely. You may be required to have insurance, that was an expense that caught us by surprise.

It sounds like you're getting ahead of yourself in wanting this and that. Try a few lenses, see which ones are really necessary, and which are luxuries. Again, plan accordingly.
And take care of your crew!
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Old April 2nd, 2013, 10:47 AM   #4
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Re: Purchase to shoot a feature-length film

Further to what Glen says, you need to be honest with yourself:

Are you making a film to justify buying $3000 in gear or do you want the best $3000 film you can make?

I'm VERY anti asking people to work for free but I fully support groups of people coming together to realize the creative goals of the collective whole, either for money or for no money. In Vancouver, MANY of the best indie shorts are made this way, often by Big Industry working pros on days off with industry support from rental houses... and an equal number of lousy shorts are made by the "Work for Credit and Food" crews found on Craigslist.

So, if you have a good group of people (pros or enthusiasts) who are coming out for SOME compensation, including your involvement in the future on their project, you can use the Stone Soup method:

- Bob is able to come out for one weekend and he owns a Glidecam and is quite good at it so we shoot ALL the Glidecam shots on that weekend.

- James can't come out but he's willing to lend Cindy the DoP his primes for a week.

- Augustine the sound person of indeterminate gender is willing to work on the dialog heavy days, as long as they are Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday...

You see where I'm going with this...

NO ONE SHOULD WORK FOR NOTHING but if you are creative, you can get folks to work for no cash around their schedules on a project they believe in OR can invest sweat equity into with a realistic expectation of drawing out that investment in the future.

If so, that money can be spent onscreen instead.
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Old April 2nd, 2013, 10:49 AM   #5
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Re: Purchase to shoot a feature-length film

Quote:
Originally Posted by Glen Vandermolen View Post
And take care of your crew!
Which means NO PIZZA!

Get lots of crafty in bite-sized chunks like Halloween candy for grab-and-go energy as well as healthy snacks and real food for lunch. I happen to be one of those cats that doesn't mind chili and sourdough bread on set... as long as everyone is working outside after...
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Old April 2nd, 2013, 11:24 AM   #6
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Re: Purchase to shoot a feature-length film

$3,000? Consider that your food/catering budget. :) More important than camera, lenses, and lights is keeping the crew happy.

First start with your vision. Then determine the tools necessary to achieve that vision. And if you can't afford or acquire those tools, simplify your vision and refine it until you have a look and feel that support the story. You can also adapt the story to fit the look.

For instance, if you only had an old VCR-tape camcorder, you could make a film set in the 1980s done from the point of view of some kids with dad's camera. In fact, the video can look terrible. (I recently watched Jean-Luc Godard's Les Carabiniers, which is shot cheaply, outdoors, and even has many "accidental" cuts to black. However, the audio must have high quality. Humans can close our eyes for ugly scenes, but we can't close our ears to buzzy, hummy audio. And if the dialog is unclear, the audience will walk. Sure, you can intentionally grunge up the audio, but it must be attractive and respectful of the listener.

The keys to decent dialog recording are simple:
1) Use equipment and cables that don't buzz or hum.
2) Set the levels properly to avoid clipping yet minimize noise (hiss).
3) Place the mic close to the speaker to minimize outside sounds, room reverberation, and noise.
4) Mount the mic in a way that doesn't rumble or bump due to handling noise.

Great audio takes more skill and excellent equipment, but if you eliminate obvious problems, the result will be adequately professional. On the other hand, if you have any of the four problems above, the casual listener will recognize it as unprofessional.

For a feature, I strongly recommend shooting a test scene. Check that the equipment works well. More importantly, check that the mood and style work. If you're doing something new, it can be hard to predict if the look, pace, dialog, actors, and shooting style all come together. By chance, it might be fantastically good and original. Or it might be total crap. And if it's crap, don't shoot 100 minutes of it. Correct mistakes from the test so that your production material will be clean. Otherwise, you'll have a ton of "fix it in post" work ahead of you. Too much "fix it in post" and you risk never completing the project - or delivering a product that's fatally flawed.

But above all, remember that a well fed and hydrated crew will be a happy crew. :)
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Old April 2nd, 2013, 02:30 PM   #7
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Re: Purchase to shoot a feature-length film

Thank you all for your comments. I am soaking them in. Please, please continue to give more, if you will!

The budget of $3000 is only half of my total budget. I put aside the other half for just that - feeding our volunteers. I, too, learned that was important on some short projects. I have a lady that will cook our food for most of our production days, and local businesses also donate some food, since it is ministry effort.

I didn't want to waste their efforts and time on less than the best of what I could provide in a quality production.

I have a very good script. I will be working with mostly volunteers because this is a ministry project. We engage teenagers to let them have a project to work with, and others, who like you said have an enthusiasm for our common vision. We will not be working long days; we don't anticipate revenue. It is our goal mostly to want to give them an interest in the process, at the same time give them fellowship and friendship as we work. So, we hope to make it interesting and productive; so, they can see the fruits of their labors.

I envision them learning to create more projects - in which they can play different roles in each other short productions. The story, the lens, the film, I hope spurs on them to think about how they see and react to the world, and formulate a life philosophy that will serve them.

I would like to find others to bring more expertise to the effort; but, I'm a little apprehensive because we are so green in the process. It took some big hearts to get the budget we have, and, we will hope in faith to secure more; but I wanted to secure enough equipment to fuel our future efforts independent of future donations. I would look to rent, also, but, our schedule is going to be less planned, more fly by the seat of our pants sometimes - locations will mostly be available, people not so much.

Our script is dialog heavy, so, thanks for that very important reminder to pay more attention to the audio. I will test the scene to see what will work with the audio I have.

We are planning lots of rehearsal time with our actors. And, we have to teach some skills to who will be our crew. So, that's, also, why I need to get what equipment we will be using.

Thanks for the advise about a good set primes, and the zooms. Do you have more specifics according to what I was thinking to buy in my post, and with my budget. What primes and zooms to you recommend?

Thank-you all, because, at this site, I received great, thoughtful advise. I have learned check here before I leap. :)
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Old April 2nd, 2013, 03:02 PM   #8
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Re: Purchase to shoot a feature-length film

Thank you all for your comments. I am soaking them in. Please, please continue to give more, if you will!

The budget of $3000 is only half of my total budget. I put aside the other half for just that - feeding our volunteers. I, too, learned that was important on some short projects. I have a lady that will cook our food for most of our production days, and local businesses also donate some food, since it is ministry effort.

I didn't want to waste their efforts and time on less than the best of what I could provide in a quality production.

I have a very good script. I will be working with mostly volunteers because this is a ministry project. We engage teenagers to let them have a project to work with, and others, who like you said have an enthusiasm for our common vision. We will not be working long days; we don't anticipate revenue. It is our goal mostly to want to give them an interest in the process, at the same time give them fellowship and friendship as we work. So, we hope to make it interesting and productive; so, they can see the fruits of their labors.

I envision them learning to create more projects - in which they can play different roles in each other short productions. The story, the lens, the film, I hope spurs on them to think about how they see and react to the world, and formulate a life philosophy that will serve them.

I would like to find others to bring more expertise to the effort; but, I'm a little apprehensive because we are so green in the process. It took some big hearts to get the budget we have, and, we will hope in faith to secure more; but I wanted to secure enough equipment to fuel our future efforts independent of future donations. I would look to rent, also, but, our schedule is going to be less planned, more fly by the seat of our pants sometimes - locations will mostly be available, people not so much.

Our script is dialog heavy, so, thanks for that very important reminder to pay more attention to the audio. I will test the scene to see what will work with the audio I have.

We are planning lots of rehearsal time with our actors. And, we have to teach some skills to who will be our crew. So, that's, also, why I need to get what equipment we will be using.

Thanks for the advise about a good set primes, and the zooms. Do you have more specifics according to what I was thinking to buy in my post, and with my budget. What primes and zooms to you recommend?

Thank-you all, because, at this site, I received great, thoughtful advise. I have learned check here before I leap. :)
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Old April 2nd, 2013, 03:03 PM   #9
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Re: Purchase to shoot a feature-length film

Regarding lenses, watch various films and decide how you want to show the scene... close and personal? distant and impersonal? medium and neutral? wide, showing the space and action? wide and tight, emphasizing perspective lines? shallow focus? deep focus? If the focus is deep, how will you draw the eyes to the subject? Are you shooting super fast so you need a zoom? Are you shooting in low light so you need fast primes?

Each of these situations requires a different approach for your lenses.
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Old April 2nd, 2013, 03:06 PM   #10
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Re: Purchase to shoot a feature-length film

My advice is to get yourself mentally prepared for challenges such you have never faced.

You are going to have to develop a VERY thick skin to push through those that will look to derail you.
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Old April 2nd, 2013, 03:45 PM   #11
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Re: Purchase to shoot a feature-length film

Sareesh,
I just downloaded the Comprehensive Guide to Rigging ANY Camera. And I'm pouring over it.

Glen,
I'm going to slow down, and stop being so anxious to spend my money on all the eye candy. I read where a few filmmakers shot all their film with one 50mm lens. Got to remember, we're not a big studio. Less is more.

Shaun,
I'm calling a guy I know that runs a non-profit for the arts in town. I'll look at the local cable company, there are some people their that run programing for the community. I heard there is a young man that has started his own production company, and is working on a few of his own projects with friends. I hope he might be interested in whatever he can do.

Jon,
I have a couple of Zoom H1 Handy recorders. My thoughts were to get a few more to mic the talent. And cover the scene, also, with a boom mic - which I have. The mics I have are inexpensive - down right cheap $25; so, maybe, I should upgrade them into the recorder.

Glen and Jon,
I'm going to storyboard to plan the shots. I may need one fast prime for interior shots where I can't set up lights. There are a lot of exterior shots on summer days.

Chris,
I'm trying not to be so afraid that I don't venture out. I study all the time. Pray all the time. I'll remember not to faint and push through.

Thanks so so much everyone, give me more if you got it :)
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Old April 2nd, 2013, 05:45 PM   #12
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Re: Purchase to shoot a feature-length film

On a full frame camera, I find that 28mm - 85mm is the core range for narrative film. (That's 14-43mm on a MFT camera like the GH3 - simply divide the FF focal lengths in half for MFT values.)

Here's my guide for full frame...

18mm or wider - This is a true effects lens. Use for an extreme view. (A fisheye is an even more extreme effects lens.)

21mm - I've got a ZE 21/2.8 which is a very difficult lens to use. It's between a normal wide and an effects wide. Use it well, at odd angles or up close for forced perspective and it's fantastic. Use it on a head-height tripod and pan and it's terrible. Unless you have a specific reason for this length or are a true expert, avoid it. Much better for photos than for video.

24mm - This is as aggressive as you want for a normal wide. There's some edge distortion, so use it well.

28mm - This is a wide that you can use broadly. It "gets a lot in", but it's forgiving. Great for forced perspective, but you can also pan it from head-high without problems. Very good for capturing wide action but keeping things "normal".

35mm - My favorite focal length. It's like a normal lens, but with a bit more perspective. That makes it more dynamic and aggressive than a true normal, but it's subtle enough to not draw attention to itself. I can - and have - shoot whole pieces with this one lens.

50mm - This focal length is very neutral. If you want a more subdued feel, use this rather than a 35. Use this as your one an only lens for a very dry documentary or slow-paced film. The best reason to own a 35mm lens is that you can get f/1.4 at a reasonable cost. It's the perfect lens for low light on a budget. I used a 50mm wide open on a photo shoot of people with their pets and it was perfect as a body portrait lens - intimate like an 85 or 135, but wide enough to cover both the person and the pet.

85mm - This is a great lens for interviews and medium closeups. They tend to have terrible close focus distance, which is why one might also (or rather) go with a 100mm lens. If I can only have two lenses, this one (or the 100) is second to the 35.

100mm - This is generally a macro lens that isn't as fast as an 85 but can do close focus. If you will show hands, jewelry, written notes, small clues, and other details, you will definitely want a macro.

135mm - Like an 85, this is often available as a fast lens. It's the ideal tight (facial) closeup lens. This can be used to really reveal the character. Be careful. In an interview it can make people look guilty. It can also make them look authentic. Nail the performance and it can make you cry. Use sparingly, if at all.

200mm - I owned a 200m and virtually never used it for narrative film. It's too tight for normal camera distances. I can back up for the shot, but not enough to make a real statement with it. You will want a better tripod for this focal length. Image stabilization really helps. All that said, I like this focal length for event videography.

400mm - In addition to a 200m lens, I had a 2x extender. My photos at 400mm looked like spy photos from the bushes. The subject is totally unaware of the camera. They use high-mounted long lenses in the Bourne films when the subject is in a crowd. The shallow DOF draws the eye to the subject and you feel that they are vulnerable to a sniper shot. Rent the best tripod you can afford for this and longer lengths.

I don't own an MFT camera, so I can't recommend specifics. But for full frame, I choose a fast 35 first, a 100 macro second, and a 24mm third. I also have a 50mm as its fast and cheap.

Another tip on ultrawides (wider than 24mm): a zoom makes a lot of sense. (I have a 16-35.) If you need a shot in a car or elevator, camera placement is restricted. A prime will likely not have the framing you want. A zoom can be a great problem solver lens, though you might need more light than with a prime.

In any case, always start from your vision. A 400mm lens is brilliant for cinema verite but worthless in a house. A 28mm lens might be great for an action scene but is terrible for showing the inner feelings of your character. A fast 50mm might be cheap and fast, but would be boring for a superhero film.

And don't forget to divide these focal lengths by two for MFT use. :)
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Old April 2nd, 2013, 06:20 PM   #13
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Re: Purchase to shoot a feature-length film

Jon,
Bless your heart sincerely!! That will prove to very valuable information to me. All of you have redirected by focus. I need to evaluate my needs according to how I can bring out the most in my story and actors. I'll reexamine my workflow in light of these comments and keep checking back. Thank-you.
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Old April 4th, 2013, 10:57 PM   #14
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Re: Purchase to shoot a feature-length film

Sareesh,

I love the guide you recommended. And I'm reading everything in it! Thanks very much, again.

Aletha
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