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Old July 14th, 2009, 03:53 PM   #1
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Choosing equipment for feature length

I'm currently working on my own feature length movie. The last "short" I made generated a large amount of money and opportunities for me, but was accepted by very few film festivals. I wonder if it wasn't because of the cheapo gear that I used to make it.
Now I own a Sony HDR-FX1 HDV camera, and that is what I am using to create my own feature length movie. The next step for me is to buy a new Mac computer, but I have the bad habit of regretting my choice in equipment a year or two down the road when I become more knowledgeable.
My questions are:
1. Are the HDR-FX1 cameras sufficient for feature length, or will they be shunned by festivals or professional competitors simply based on the technology? (I'm making it anyway, I'd just like to know incase I start another project)
2. What do I need in a Mac Pro so that I am not kicking my self in the face 2 years down the line? If I rent a Red camera for example, and I am unable to even edit or watch the footage, then I will be in the same boat I am w/ my current computer. -I also do animations in after effects and my computers are too slow for this as well. It takes minutes just to look at one frame of a project while I'm working!
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Old July 14th, 2009, 05:26 PM   #2
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2. What do I need in a Mac Pro so that I am not kicking my self in the face 2 years down the line? If I rent a Red camera for example, and I am unable to even edit or watch the footage, then I will be in the same boat I am w/ my current computer.
I'll e-mail you off list regarding a mac. I may have a stop-gap solution for you.

Edit: Why don't you e-mail me instead.
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Old July 15th, 2009, 09:27 AM   #3
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I can't email anyone? I've checked the FAQ but there is no way to email on my end, so I'll just post mine. aricamannion@hotmail.com
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Old July 24th, 2009, 10:56 AM   #4
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It looks like I could always add to a mac pro as needed, but there still are a few things that I need to have figured out before the initial purchase.
My only question is: Should I get the octo, or the quad? And should I get the default Nvidia GeForce GT 120 or the ATI Radeon HD 4870 512?
Please help, I'm buying this tomorrow and I am working on such low end machines that I have no way of comparing these two. It will be a couple years before I can really see the difference for myself. Does anyone know the real working difference between the 2?
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Old July 28th, 2009, 04:26 PM   #5
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Why email privately when others may want to know the information to help out.

Here are my answers:

1. Gear doesn't matter... Skill does. But if you can compose a good shot and have terrific lighting and set design, you'll have a great looking movie.

2a. FX1 rules--we used a Z1 for my film 9:04 AM (YouTube - mpsdigital's Channel) but we had a great lighting package, a fantastic DP (Jon Fordham, and a terrific crew. Features are harder to get into fests but we were in two and I won a filmmaker award in 2007!

2b. RED doesn't make your movie better (see above and #5).

3. Use Nattress (Nattress) to go to 24p.

4. Rent lights!

5. Most important: I hope your story is great. If not, no matter how "awesome" your movie looks, if the story (and acting) aren't strong, you won't get people to watch it.

6. Don't be the DP if you're the director--you'll lose focus on something. Steven Soderberg barely does both well. I think he's sacrificing his directing skills to shoot.

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Old July 31st, 2009, 09:31 AM   #6
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I am confident in my skills, just not my gear. I think I'll concentrate on shorts till I get proper funding. Also I never quite bought that notion that the idea is more important than gear. I assumed that is just something film festivals like to say to make them sound good, I wonder if names and image quality are as important if not more than creativity.
I think I'll use my FX1 for years to come, but my powerpc computer has got to go. I think I'm making the right decision with a Mac Pro "Two 2.26ghz" 8-core ...my animations and special effects are intensive.
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Old July 31st, 2009, 09:42 AM   #7
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Aric,

If a movie that looks and sounds good is better than the story, direction, and acting, then why do movies like Stealth, The Island, Meet Dave, Land of the Lost, etc., all bomb?

Also, why did a $70 zombie movie get distribution?

$70 zombie movie hits the big screen - CNN.com

I used to run a fest and though bad sound was an automatic dismissal, the jurors would rejected high quality movies if the story, direction and acting totally sucked.

And finally, would my films get into film festivals if I had better gear? Who knows, but I doubt it.

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Old July 31st, 2009, 10:44 AM   #8
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Aric,

If a movie that looks and sounds good is better than the story, direction, and acting, then why do movies like Stealth, The Island, Meet Dave, Land of the Lost, etc., all bomb?

Also, why did a $70 zombie movie get distribution?

Heath
Your forgetting box office hits like Transformers, Pirates of the Caribbean, Independence Day, Armageddon, King Kong, Matrix Reloaded...
and good movies that tanked like The Fountain, Black Cat White Cat, Ashes of Time Redux, Adventures of Baron Munchausen, Miller's Crossing...

Blair Witch Project got distributed too, but I can't think of no a budget non-horror movie that has been distributed.

Anyway it's all subjective, and I'm pointing these out partly in jest. My point is only that the least subjective part of the process is the equipment. I am only assuming that expectations of quality are higher for feature length than for shorts. And if we have good ideas it's natural to want to present them clearly.
At least the filmmakers can all agree that the idea is more important than the equipment quality I think...
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Old July 31st, 2009, 10:55 AM   #9
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Sure, more money equals better quality, but not always a better movie (story, direction, acting). If you truly feel that having better gear will equate a better movie, will make you a better filmmaker, then go ahead.

But if you want to avoid spending tens of thousands of dollars on gear that will probably result in the same thing as if you spent only a little bit of money, then at least try renting the gear.

But I still reject the notion that an indie filmmaker will have a great movie simply because the gear is great. And what if the gear is great but the crew isn't? I know a lot of people who can shoot good angles and keep the camera in focus, but their lighting is rotten.

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Old July 31st, 2009, 10:58 AM   #10
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As Ken Rockwell always says on his website, it ain't the camera, it's the talent. People are making great photos with little Nikon D40s. Would they be better photographers if they were shooting on a $6,000-7,000 D3x? Doubtful.

Your Camera Doesn't Matter

What Makes a Good Camera

A $25 vs. a $5,000 Camera

A $150 versus a $5,000 Camera

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Old August 1st, 2009, 06:08 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by Aric Mannion View Post
I'm currently working on my own feature length movie. The last "short" I made generated a large amount of money and opportunities for me, but was accepted by very few film festivals. I wonder if it wasn't because of the cheapo gear that I used to make it.
A bit confusing to me, it would seem a lot of people's goal in getting into festivals is to attract money and opportunities.. you've seem to acquired the most important part, so why even bother with the festival circuit if they are unfriendly to you? Play on the opportunities and connections you've acquired and make the most of them.. unless the festivals are a lot of fun to you I'd rather skip the hassle of them if I could go straight to the honey pot
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Old August 1st, 2009, 08:55 AM   #12
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I will say this about film festivals--you spend a lot of money but you hardly get in. But when you do, it's really great!

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Old August 1st, 2009, 12:19 PM   #13
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My thoughts after 30 plus years in the industry.
I have never watched a movie because of... what gear it was produced with.
I have stopped watching a movie because of... Bad acting, bad writing, bad sound. I will generally sit through bad editing because I am so amused by deliciously bad editing.

As far as your question about choosing equipment for a feature...
You are not going to want to hear this, but I will say it anyway.
I don't know what other gear you might already have, but...
The first thing you need to do with any project is set a budget.
Lets use your feature for an example. What kind of budget do you have to work with?
It doesn't really matter, could be $7500.00 or $78,000.00, just as long as you set one.
Now that you have your budget set, you need to decide the overall quality level for the projected budget, and whether the feature and its overall quality, or owning gear, is more important in this equation. If owning gear was most important, I would start with a good lighting pkg. that could be used with any camera.
Want to up the quality dramatically? This is where you need to lay any ego aside,
Use that budget on more strategically placed items rather than spending on owning the gear. Like hiring a really good DP or steadicam op, quality acting, an excellent sound crew, light truck, and a decent camera.
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Old August 1st, 2009, 01:19 PM   #14
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@David,

Couldn't have said it better myself. We shot my feature 9:04 AM (9.04 AM) on a $20,000 budget because I got an incredible deal on renting a G&E package, found plenty of crew willing to work for free or at a good rate, and I went through two big casting calls and found a cast of 10-15 out of over 150.

Once again, RENT! If you can rent a great G&E package for the same price as buying a four-piece Arri or Mole Richardson kit, RENT!

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Old August 3rd, 2009, 02:28 PM   #15
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A bit confusing to me, it would seem a lot of people's goal in getting into festivals is to attract money and opportunities.. you've seem to acquired the most important part, so why even bother with the festival circuit if they are unfriendly to you? Play on the opportunities and connections you've acquired and make the most of them.. unless the festivals are a lot of fun to you I'd rather skip the hassle of them if I could go straight to the honey pot
This is true, but my support has come from museums.
I just assumed the only way to get your work into a theater setting was film festivals, but maybe there are other options.
I also don't know how one distributes a movie, or short.
I wish that with devices like PS3, XBOX, Netflix Streaming, iTunes, there would be more opportunities for short films. It takes a long time to download an HD movie. For this reason I really thought we would see the return of the short film. Shorts should be the starting point of this new technology just like the early days of film. Instead I am waiting all day to download the same old Hollywood movie for 5 bucks on a gaming device.
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