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Old October 2nd, 2002, 03:40 PM   #1
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Why will the film look make or break you?

I don't want to start a flame war but I get the impression that a lot of people are convinced that the "film look" is the one thing they need to make all their directorial dreams come true. It seems to me that if the only thing wrong with a project is that it lacks the film look, then the director of that project is ready for $100 million budgets.

I am certain a lot of people saw the XL-1 and thought their prayers had finally been answered. They got their camera, pressed the record button and then waited for the riches to pour in. For 99% of them, it has yet to happen. Then in 1999 FCP came out and ATA hard drives were cheap enough and fast enough to work with several hours of DV footage. Now you could not only tape high quality footage, but you could manipulate it in any manner you wanted. Was this going to be another false holy graile (sp?)? It sure seems that way.

I applaud companies like Apple, Canon and Panasonic for making these tools so affordable and available to anyone who wants them. But I think that they know they are giving people what they think they need to be succesful knowing full well it will never happen for most of them. And if it doesn't work out for joe-average, well it isn't their fault right? Remember, desktop publishing was born in the 80's and I don't know of any enthusiast who put National Geographic or Automobile out of business with a Mac, a scanner and a 35mm SLR.

I just hate to see so many people get their hopes up thinking this camera will make them a film maker when in fact it won't. I know this camera will make it much easier to convert a video project to a film project, but it won't do anything for character or plot development and is certainly won't teach you how to light a set and direct actors for the screen.

I would love it if some people could chime in on what is so special about the "film look?" It seems reasonable to me that if video had been around for the last 150 years and film was new, everyone would be wanting to duplicate the "video look." I know that the longer shutter speed allows for more motion blur, for example, but why will more motion blur make your project successful?


Greg Matty
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Old October 2nd, 2002, 03:59 PM   #2
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For extended beating of this horse, read a thread I started some time ago:


Per this camera, a progressive image beats any interlaced image by a long shot for many us who have bought this camera.

I think you are mistaken if you believe we expect to be $100 million filmmmakers. I'm working on my second short film. 20 minutes, total budget around $20-25,000 including 2 cameras. I just want the best image possible in that price range. My choices are super 8 or miniDV (given a 10:1 ratio and the fact I'm paying cast & crew plus 3-d animator and some other folks)

16mm is not an option nor obviously 35mm or HD. So we shoot on video and most of us just want to be rid of interlaced images and tiresome deinterlacing in post.

That's all. (Plus the other nice features of this camera).

Only a very few folks are buying this camera or bought an XL1 (I owned an XL1 for almost 3 years) and think it's going to look like 35mm.
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Old October 2nd, 2002, 04:47 PM   #3
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Dude, I just bought the camera so I could tell stories. Stories that would not otherwise be told unless I managed to work my way up through the film world. I picked it up so I could make mistakes and not spend $30,000 making those mistakes. I bought into the sexiness of the camera because I am a tech nerd and I like being able to screw with it. I doubt I will even touch the film look process. By that time I may be ready for my next camera which could be a HiDef. Until then, the immediacy of DV works quite well, thank you.

Not many people here have the particular illusion you speak of (though some do out there).
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Old October 2nd, 2002, 05:54 PM   #4
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I agree with both Steve and Kieth.

I used to shoot movies and documentaries on my parents Sony 8mm and
edited them on 2 VCR's and a tape deck with RCA connections for sound.
I used my Sega to make white text on black and recorded it to VHS then added them as credits for the intro....I hated how all my stuff looked like
a home movie, I was so frustrated with that. Yet it beat the hell out of any
home production any 13 year old kid could do. Fortunatly I can now
afford and (thanks to technology) produce things like this on my PC
with a nice XL1 with "progressive" capturing. It may not look identicle to
FILM yet it DOESNT look like a home movie!!! That definatly was a breath of
fresh air for me.......IMO. And having such un-costly methods of achiving this,
definatly makes room for higher learning and experimentation.

Maybe in the future ill have the oportunity to take another step ahead and work with Hi-Def or maybe something better that technology will provide then.- Push the envelope, watch it bend.
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Old October 2nd, 2002, 06:16 PM   #5
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Making _anything_ I shoot look like film is a must for me.

I am a director/DP in music videos...and the vast majority of music videos are shot on film. MTV and record labels expect a certain level of production value, and part of that is shooting film. They really don't _actually_ care if it's film or not much of the time (see the smattering of major videos shot on the Sony 24P camera lately)...they just know what they like when they see it.

The XL-1 and it's frame mode has allowed myself (and many others) build their reel without going through the expense of shooting film out-of-pocket. Prior to acquiring representation for directing, all of the videos on my reel had been shot on the XL-1 for next to nothing. Everybody I was hawking my reel to (mostly very well-credited music video exec. producers) thought it was all 16mm. 2 videos on my reel shot with the XL-1 were in rotation on MTV2 at times.

So where does this leave me now? I'm a struggling director...while my rep tries to get me $100k+ videos to direct, I keep my reel moving by shooting videos on my own time out of pocket. For these low and no-budget videos, I need the most film-like tools possible, because I AM in fact trying to emulate film. 24P is not the only thing I need to do this, but it is certainly a BIG part of it. The rest is lighting, composition, and color-correction.

In fact, I just finished a video for a national indie-rock act called The Apples In Stereo. The budget was $5000. Format? I originally wanted 8mm, but after we found out the 8mm is now almost as expensive as 16mm, we went with the XL-1.

The DVX100 does everything the XL-1 does, and looks quite a few notches better in the process. Having my work shot in 60i and have motion qualities of the evening news will not cut it.

THAT is why _I_ am buying one. Not because I think it will make me a star director (that will come of my own hard work, if ever), but because I know it is the best tool for the job.
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Old October 2nd, 2002, 06:22 PM   #6
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I think the point Greg is trying to make is that instead of focusing on getting the newest and greatest technology to stay one step ahead of the Jones, get out there with what ever you have and just shoot. I agree with him in that no amount of technology will make up for poor production techniques.

Take Japanese TV for example, some of it is totally appauling, bad lighting, poor sound, some shocking camera work and terrible story ideas. It's mostly shot on Sony DVCAM DSR300/500s but it just looks and sounds like home video. There are some truely talented crews making awesome shows, but the I really remember are the sh**tty ones because they annoyed me that all their technology is going to waste.

THis new cam is a great step forward, but next week, as Keith said, there will be something better. In the end only one thing matters...telling the story, any way you can. Just go shoot.
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Old October 2nd, 2002, 06:35 PM   #7
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Thanks for all the replies and for not tearing me a new you-know-what.

I would never argue that getting the best camera for the money is the smart thing to do. That is just a given. It is just that so many people, or at least it seems like so many people, have been using the expression "film look" as if it is the only thing missing from their projects. Those are the people I am curious about.

I started reading 2-pop.com about three years ago and one of the most often asked questions was, "How can I get DV to look like film?" I think Adam Wilt answered this best, "Take a 16mm film camera and write XL-1 on the side of it." I just wondered why so many people were concerned with that one aspect of post production. I always figured most people would be better off asking about lighting and getting good audio, than how to convert their video to get a film look.

I guess my post was directed more towards the people who are buying their first camera along with their first NLE, who will be working on their first project and absolutely need the "film look." All the replies to this thread so far have been by folks with quite a bit of practical and/or professional experience. I am thankful you took my question for what it was and were not offended by it.

Lastly I am also in the market for a camera and delayed my purchase of a GL-2 to see how this camera fares. Personally, I like the idea of 30p so that I can grab still images in FCP without having to de-interlace. It also looks like this camera will produce a dynamite image with 3 1/3" CCD's and their higher pixel count than the XL-1s.

Greg M

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Old October 2nd, 2002, 11:28 PM   #8
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Hi Greg,

One component of this discussion sometimes gets lost in the debate:

For many people, myself included, it's not so much about trying to get a "film look" as it is trying to make it look less like video.

I never really liked the way video looks. There are of course many different flavors of video. Personally I don't like the harsh, cold, overly-sharp blue type of video. I like it warmer, softer, a touch toward the red. Sort of a non-video or an un-video flavor (what 7 Up is to cola, I guess). That's why I've been a big Canon fan. They scored with Frame Movie mode, which, well, doesn't look much like video.

This Panasonic camera promises to produce video which looks even less like video, and for that reason there's a lot of interest in it, understandably. Hope this helps,

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Old October 3rd, 2002, 01:40 AM   #9
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Film is pretty! We want pretty pictures! Remember when "The Cell" came out? Did the reviewers say "wow what a brilliant movie, and isn't Jennifer Lopez a talented actress?" Hell no! They said, "this movie sucks, but it sure is pretty!" Would it have looked like that on DV? Hell no! Pretty pretty pretty pretty pretty pretty pretty film!

Also, video's frame rate is to me very distracting. The whole time I'm watching something that's well lit, etc. I'm thinking "this is sooo shot on video."
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Old October 3rd, 2002, 09:28 AM   #10
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I will spend some time this weekend taking a closer look at 24P clips versus 60i. Maybe I just haven't paid close enough attention while watching film and then comparing what I have seen to video? Typically I get too involved in the story, the characters or the special effects, or whatever, to really notice how the film look contributes to all of this. My biggest dislike for video is from days past when I would flip through the channels and watch a few moments of a soap opera. I remember how something like a candle would trace an image on the screen as it moved around. Now that is a video look I just can't stand.

I do like the idea that the fiilm look may be as much to escape the video look than to specifically look like film.

Greg Matty
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Old October 3rd, 2002, 10:30 AM   #11
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I too think Chris nailed it with that statement, and I think I'm going to co-opt it and use it daily (Chris, there's still time to take out a trademark on the phrase before you start seeing it on t-shirts...!) Another way of putting it that I have used is that it takes the curse off the video look.

Has anyone yet seen an in-depth side-by-side analysis of the DVX100 vs XL1? I am very curious to see how they compare in various ways: sensitivity, dynamic range, color rendition, edge detail/smoothness, amount of strobing present when panning at given speeds (24p vs 30p/frame mode), that sort of thing. My brief examination of the Pana at a trade show was inconclusive.
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Old October 3rd, 2002, 09:18 PM   #12
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(Putting on Sarcasm hat)
This all reminds me of the Desktop publishing revolution in the 80s. (Started by Apple). Everyone was gonna get a Mac, PageMaker, and an Apple Laserwriter and become the next great publishing tycoon. Then 99% of the people who bought into the hype found out talent and lots and lots of hard work was still required. Many had a real hard time dealing with the 'talent required' part.

Now it's happening again. Only this time Apple didn't start it, they just want everyone to believe they did. And you'll automatically become rich and famous using FCP and a 24p DV camera.
Geez at least I'm using Vegas Video, VV3 really will make me talented, rich and famous. I just know it will darn it.
(Okay, taking off sarcasm hat).
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Old October 3rd, 2002, 09:22 PM   #13
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JVC counters.
JVC is offering some great deals to counter this camera. Until Nov30 they are offering a 13inch color field monitor with each dy300 sold through an authorized dealer (including on line ones). they are offering rebates on several of their other cameras. Aint competition great?
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Old October 4th, 2002, 06:53 AM   #14
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Being honest about the DVX100

I'll be honest, I'm trying to get the film look because folks don't like video. Hear me out. To many of us video is a fine medium. We except it and it's cool. If you have a million dollar ad budget you could advertise your digi-films and make them in DV with a DV look and because there's so much hype around it people would check it out to see what all the hype is about (i,e the movie "Time Code" which had a video look, it also had Selma Hayek). But the people here, most of us, don't have that. We're lucky to have a 25,000 to 50,000 budget.

Now when we put our film out there, people are going to notice the look of the piece before any story is ever told. The layman is used to certain things being told in certain formats. DV is one format that's new. People are getting used to it but many using DV still try to emmulate film or get an "off video" look unless they're doing reality TV, soaps, or news.

Frankly when this camera comes out, others will drop in price. I might end up with a GL or XL but if it's in my budget I want the 24p. Take into consideration, I'm a beginner but I'm trained in film and video, I know my lighting and I've shot a short and I'm working on more. I'm a decent story teller, and many people are by the time they start posting on a forum like this. The key here is I want people to not worry about the format, but just fall into the story. Now there's some stuff I plan to shoot at 60i but most of my stuff I'd want the film look or "off video" look for.

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Old October 5th, 2002, 02:05 PM   #15
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Talking about equipment vs talking about the art
of storytelling.

After reading newsgroups and other groups that
are centered around DV, film, video, etc., I've
come to the conclusion that it is just much easier
to discuss technical equipment issues, rather than
talk about the art of storytelling. Some of us, like myself, are interested in producing videos
that tell a story in a creative way. I want to do
the festival thing, which requires a great script
as a starting point, along with great lighting,
great acting, great directing, and great sound/
soundtrack. After all of those givens, a decision
on what camcorder to use, is also part of the
overall picture. So, maybe 5% of the final video,
is a reflection of what camcorder was used. As artists, we have to take that 5% seriously, -as
seriously as lighting considerations, or wardrobe.
I saw Tadpole. Looked like Hell. Especially any
scenes that had prominent background elements that
were fairly far from the camera. Like trees. But,
I ENJOYED the movie because the story was good, and told in an interesting way, with great acting.
...I guess I'm making the point that the art of
making a film, is not very easy to talk about.
-doug lauber

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