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Techniques for Independent Production
The challenges of creating Digital Cinema and other narrative forms.


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Old July 28th, 2006, 02:03 AM   #1
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camera for no-budget short film

I'm a high school student and have been interested in making movies for the last couple of years. I've taken lots of classes in screenwriting, and directing, and have made about 40 short films. Increasing in production values slowly, but surely.

I'm planning on making a short film for which I've written a script that I think is my best so far, also i'm going to revise it with a teacher I had at a screenwriting class.

However, the doubts I'm having right now is how my movie will hold up against others at film festivals based on image quality. Like I said before, I'm in high school and have no money. The $200 DV cam, and $250 videomic+boom pole I have has been the fruit of many hours mowing lawns.

I'm planning to submit to local film festivals and if my movie does well then start submitting to more prestigious festivals.

Do you guys think that my under-par image quality due to my cheap camera will instantly put me at great disadvantage in the festivals?

If so, the movie will probably be about a 5-day shoot. So I could rent a camera for those 5 days, but that would be almost $1,000. An amount of money I can only dream of. Any ideas on how to make that money?

Or a way to borrow a camera for those days?

Thanks,

Ernesto.
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Old July 28th, 2006, 03:16 AM   #2
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Films

I'm impressed by the fact you have made 40 films already!

A good script can go a very long way to make a watchable film so I would concentrate a lot of effort on that. Also editing the film well will pay dividends -you don't mention the editing side in your post at all. Remember 'shoot to edit'...

I think it is possible to make a certain type of film on cheaper equipment -almost part of the plot (I am thinking something like: Blair Witch here). Even if you spend $1000's on a camera it will still not give you a good look -there are things like lighting setup, make-up, sets, etc, etc. A comedy-horror short I intend to make revolves around the 'no-budget' filming antics of a bunch of wannabee 1st time moviemakers. The value of the piece is certainly not in the production values!

There are also some good tips to be found online about how to make the most of a limited film budget. Good luck!

P.S. If you want to swap scripts for some constructive critisism let me know!
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Old July 28th, 2006, 04:11 AM   #3
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Film festivals are nearly always subject to the personal tastes of the judges. If the judging panel is made up of artsy fartsy types you have Buckleys chance of winning with something like a gritty action film or a horror film, no matter how good the camera work or editing job is. I recently saw a film win a contest that was made up of nothing more than archived film clips downloaded off the web. The comp was supposed to be encouraging young filmmakers to create their own work. I found out later that this was the preferred genre of the head judge and organiser. Needless to say, there where a lot of peeved off film makers who'd spent days and hours writing and producing original work. Get a good camera like a Canon XL2 or a Sony Hd and follow your passion. If you can't afford one then its worth hiring one for your project.Try to pick film festivals that suite your genre of film and donít be too disappointed if you donít get selected the first few times. Stick with your own concepts and keep producing, eventualy you will be recognised.
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Old July 28th, 2006, 10:58 AM   #4
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Here's a budget shooter's tip: You may be better off with a cheap camera and great lighting than a nice camera and poor lighting. You can probably borrow ladders, clamps, extension cords and lights from your friends' dad's garages. You can buy Chinese lanterns and put 150W bulbs in them for cheap diffuse light. Any money you spend on this stuff stays in your kit for the next film.

Get to know your camera's controls. Light things on the hot side, and you can keep the gain low and play with the shutter and iris as needed. A small iris won't help give you depth of field, but it will be easier to keep things in focus manually. (You probably have +/- focus control, rather than a ring.) Test things, so you don't blow out the whites, but you also don't get noisy blacks.

Also, get to know your color corrector and other post production tricks. For instance, you can add a bit of film noise (round) to help mask the digital noise of your camera (square). By giving your scenes an interesting and consistent look, the quality of the camera will be somewhat secondary.

Most importantly, all of these techniques will still apply after you've saved enough cash to upgrade your camera.
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Old July 28th, 2006, 11:42 AM   #5
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I agree with everything that is said here... lighting and audio are sometimes more important than the camera.

We have an XL1s and a micro35 adapter on it and we have an Arri light kit with two 650's and two 300's... we can make some really good looking stuff... but on the scenes where we rushed the lighting we have some really pretty looking crap ;) With poor lighting even using a micro35 and a descent camera won't make it watchable.

Same goes for audio, people will tolerate bad picture quality (it's artsy that way) but won't tolerate bad audio (nothing artsy about that).
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Old July 28th, 2006, 12:16 PM   #6
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There's sample footage from various cams around this site...find a camera in your price range and check out the sample footage form it...ask questions here...plenty of answers forthcoming.

I have how to kinds of stuff on my site as well for low/no budget filmmaking...you probably know lots of it with 40 shorts...we decided to learn it all at once and make a feature length piece...67 hours of footage...editing now.

More important to spend time/money in front of the lens than behind...you can get that $200 camera to look nearly as good as a $5000 cam...just takes time and working within the limitations of your capture device...here's a diatribe on digital video (some technical inaccuracies - mostly color space and compression related - that I'm working on).

http://www.yafiunderground.com/Turnkey/1.html

originally part of a larger educational piece I'm working on, I'll be rewriting that project and moving this to a diatribe page.
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Old July 28th, 2006, 11:13 PM   #7
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I'd try and get some production companies on

your side. A highschool kid trying to make a short that will seriously compete in festivals is worthy of attention. I'd like to suggest that you put together a press release and see if you can get a local paper to cover your efforts - y'know, a human interest story. Call local video production companies and see if you can get any of them to loan you a decent camera for the weekend and maybe some lights. You might even be able to get a local DP on board - y'never know.

If you approach your local newspaper, take time to figure out what you've done that's extraordinary and be aggressive about talking about that. Give them what the story is upfront so they don't have to guess. Tell them you're trying to find local resources to make a film and that you've made forty already. Let them know you're working with a local instructor on your script and expect it to be your best. If you can edit, put together a press kit with a selection of clips from your films - that'll catch someone's eye.

Best of luck. Keep us abreast of how it's going.
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Old July 28th, 2006, 11:43 PM   #8
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YES...Pimp...Your...Self! No one else will do this for you. Every phone call begins with: "My name is ... I'm a local filmmaker ... I was looking for a location/use of a prop/food or soda donation...

or

... I will be putting together a crew to shoot a film locally...etc


With the papers, push the local angle...they are starved for local content...so much comes from the AP wire that anything they can do in house that is a good uplifting story of successful residents will go over well.

Try to talk to the entertainment writer (look at their paper to find out who writes their entertainment stuff). Go in having done homework...how many other films are made completely locally or have been recently. Check the film boards' website for your state...mine says "Mighty Ducks" (I was on this set for a day) and "Slaughterhouse 5" were filmed here (in what state do I live?).
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Old July 29th, 2006, 01:38 PM   #9
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OH the topic of the thread...I remember that:

This ( http://www.gumspirits.com/sundowning.html ) was shot with a Canon GL2. That's right around the $2k new/ $1.5k Used price point. If you get the XM2 (PAL version of the cam), you can shoot 25p with it which ends up at 24p with a 6% speed reduction. I believe PAL also has a slightly higher resolution.
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Old August 10th, 2006, 09:21 PM   #10
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I recommend shooting digital, as that's what fests accept in terms of video. Or just say it's digital. (wink) Work on your script, direction, planning, camera work, lighting, SOUND (!!!!), and post and you'll be fine. That's more important that camera choice.

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Old August 12th, 2006, 11:42 AM   #11
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get a gl1 on ebay for around 1000
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Old August 12th, 2006, 01:02 PM   #12
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A GL1 will do the trick, but find yourself an XLR adaptor that can manually control the audio going into the camera.

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Old August 12th, 2006, 01:04 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Heath McKnight
A GL1 will do the trick, but find yourself an XLR adaptor that can manually control the audio going into the camera.

heath
beachtek makes anice one.
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Old August 12th, 2006, 08:03 PM   #14
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Cole,

I couldn't agree more.

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Old August 20th, 2006, 01:17 PM   #15
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Ernesto,

Are you 18 yet? If so you could always go to a local Best Buy and get a camera on credit. You have 30 days to return it. You said you only needed 5 days. 30 day will give you plenty of time to get your movei shot and have time for any pick ups you may need to fine tune it.

The guy who shot "My Date with Drew" did this. I know the cameras aren't pro grade, but they have a few nice ones, with good quality. I've seen the Panasonic GS500 (best frame/film look mode available in that price range) and the Sony HC3. I've even seen higher end stuff like GL2's there on occasion. They also have various returned cameras on discount there.

What microphone set up do you have? The Beachtek may be a necessity.

Yes, the sad truth about judges in film festivals is that they all usually have an agenda as to what type of film they want to win and will overlook quality films in other genres for sub-par work in their favored genre. However there may be a judge that has an agenda that matches your genre. So submit, submit, submit... for every minor bit of acceptance there is a mountain of rejection. Keep at it.
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