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-   -   Cheapest miniDV Film-Like Setup... (https://www.dvinfo.net/forum/techniques-independent-production/37967-cheapest-minidv-film-like-setup.html)

Dejon Hamann January 18th, 2005 08:55 PM

Cheapest miniDV Film-Like Setup...
I know alot of people have discussed the "best" film-like setups (xl2s, DVX100s, mini35s, etc.), but I think it would be interesting to see the cheapest and easiest setup. The focus being an entry level setup for beginners to get in and practice the craft. Something cheap enough yet with enough quality to get all those finicky first time shoppers off the bench and into the game!

Essential elements might include, but are not limited to:
- miniDV for ease of editing/pc transfer/cost
- some kind of 35mm adapter/contraption
- widescreen mode
- hopefully an external mic in
- quality zoom speeds

The goal here would be to put forth a total cost with an itemized list including camera, 35mm kit/components, etc. etc. The competition centered around providing the best overall quality at the absolute lowest price! Camera/components should be readily available, preferably used, or new if cheap.

Thankx to everyone for the wealth of info I've obtained allready on the subject - looking forward to some great suggestions!

Rob Lohman January 19th, 2005 05:36 AM

Welcome aboard DVInfo.net Dejon!

In my very humble opinion a beginner really should not have
such things on his or her mind until later in the game. There is
very much to learn, and as with any craft it takes time to learn
it well! Experience and a good eye only come over time, even if
you have a good enough feel for it.

I think nothing holds more true then to just pick up a camera
and do it. Make some movies (short ones!). Then you will know
what you need to improve. In my opinion the following is far
more important than the cheapest miniDV film-like setup:

- a good story
- good actors (no, not your friends)
- composition / lighting
- audio
- editing

Ofcourse some equipment comes in to play in that list (like a
computer, editing software, audio recording equipment, support
like a tripod etc.).

It's a nice idea you want to start a list (since I just did as well),
but I'm not sure of your overal thought behind it (ie, the oh so
often talked about "film look").

You say: " best overall quality at the absolute lowest price! Camera/components should be readily available "

As you know best quality and lowest price do not go well together.
But I assume you mean good quality and low prices in respect
to the quality (so it may not be cheap, but cheapest in that
quality range).

When you say components should be readily available (and given
the cheap statement above) I don't think any 35mm adapter or
contraption is going to happen. Buying them commercially is very
expensive and the only other option is making one yourself (which
requires technical knowledge, time, money and isn't readily
available). Personally I think beginners should not even think
about 35mm adapters and film looks, especially the former.

Just try to explain to them what shallow depth-of-field REALLY
means in terms of your production. A beginner probably doesn't
even know what an iris or shutter does, let alone things like

I think the idea is very interesting (to compile a list of items to
get someone started with a good enough quality at a low price),
but is too grand for the beginner.

Dejon Hamann January 19th, 2005 03:09 PM

I hear what you're saying about the many facets that go into a successful piece, but that wasn't the direction of THIS thread.

This is merely a thread to compile example cost effective kits that would produce a film-like result.

Maybe we should replace the word "beginner" with another?

You see, I consider myself a beginner though. I've probably only held a video-camera 12 times in my life, but I've been a close study of film for my 31 years. I could probably build a 35mm adapter with the right direction. I'm familiar with most of the miniDV equipment on the market. I've been an aspiring musician for over a decade recording my own albums from home studios. I understand what DOP is and why it's important and thus the creation of this thread.

I appreciate your input Rob and I think some of the language set aside you know what I'm getting at:) Maybe you could put forth the first rig? Just take a stab at it!

By the way, this beginner was just about to sink $1300 plus into a PV-GS400 w/ accessories. I've seen a few static 35mm adapters that produced good results for way under $200 - add the appropriate dvcam, etc. and you've got a "cheap" setup to produce film-like results. The thing is the list of components, cameras used, an directions to assemble are somewhat scattered and confusing. I was hoping to collect examples here in easy to read "kits."

Kurth Bousman January 19th, 2005 04:18 PM

nattress !
$100 and any video camera with true 16:9

Rob Lohman January 24th, 2005 03:46 AM

Seeing the lack of responses it looks like most don't see this
happening Dejon, sorry.

What I was getting at is that there is no real (camera) package
(in my opinion) that gives you a film look unless you have money
to burn. The one that people seem to agree comes the closest
is the Panasonic DVX100A. Personally I can't live with the noise
of that camera though, but that's very personal indeed.

In the end the best way to put together a (camera) package (or
any for that matter) is to:

- write down what you need to have on the camera
- write down what would be nice to have
- write down what you don't care about

These lists should contain your budget as well. Then you should
be able to make a good list of camera's that fit your lists. Then it
is a matter of trying them out to see what you like.

It seems your budget is pretty low (the DVX is around $3500 or
something), not sure what would produce a "film look" for you in
that price range.

How many movies have you seen with those homebuilt 35mm
adapters? How many of those looked really good? Can you build
such a thing for under $200?

Keep in mind you will want a progressive scanning (or a Canon
frame model like the GL1/GL2 = around $2500) camera in any
case (at least that would be my pick if this "Film Look" is so
important to you).

Aaron Shaw January 24th, 2005 11:22 AM


Can you build
such a thing for under $200?
Yes. The question is, how good will it be?

Rob Lohman January 24th, 2005 04:06 PM

That was exactly my point Aaron! (I know you can, the question
is can someone else and what will the quality be...)

Matt Champagne January 24th, 2005 09:52 PM

I'll take a stab at the original idea of this thread...though my opinion is entirely from research not actual experience.

I'll take the cheap end approach...I think that an absolute beginner with a low budget should start off with something like an optura series canon...as low as the 30 since they all have the same ccd from the 30 up...but really its not a huge price leap to the xi. Use that with a laptop in photo mode and direct to disk...and from what I've read you can get progessive footage at a higher than normal resolution ...or use the shutter spead low and you can get psuedo progressive footage...as well as it having native widescreen (though I've been told its not true 16:9 by a friend...not sure if he's right). That covers all your camera needs minus the zoom speed thing....and I say if your doing film...just don't zoom.

For audio grab something like this:


$60 and it has a 1/8" connector so it works better with consumer cams and you won't need an adaptor. I'm sure its not the best mic in the world..but it will beat the pants off of your camera mic.

Then maybe some home depot work lights, and a few basic lighting accessories: a reflective car sunblocker thingie (whatever they are called) to bounce light off of....a large foam core thingie...maybe a large posterboard with some gold leafing glued to it. Ok yeah...I'm sure that proves I'm definatly not an expert, but hopefully I've said something helpful.

Personally, I would build an adaptor...to me it is just too good to pass up, but I am an engineering student and have been building rediculously thrown together stuff for years. But then the costs really start to rack up when you start having to buy lenses.

Then other than that...you just need a computer and editing software...I'd assume someone reading this has the first. I'm pretty sure there is some halfway decent open source stuff if your computer didn't come with any.

All in all...I'd say without the adaptor...you could keep a rig like that under $1000.

Rob Lohman January 25th, 2005 04:08 AM

The optura series indeed is NOT native 16:9.

Aaron Shaw January 25th, 2005 08:06 AM

Sorry, Rob. Wasn't questioning you there! Just agreeing with you!

Dave Eanton January 25th, 2005 12:24 PM

I think that one of the ways to achieve a film look is to make sure that your audio is solid. I think that good audio helps "convince" the eyes that the footage is filmic. Seeing that you are already recording in a studio, you should have no problems with that.

As for home made adapters - I've seen a few, and I've built one myself. After working with the homemade stuff, you quickly want to go out and purchase the real deal - it's like in music - you eventually give in and purchase the LA-2A or that 1176. I think that for experimentation, it is simple to take test shots with a homemade adapter, and you might be able to pull off a short, but the problem is that - if you try to make an extended film with it, you will get problems with focus, registration, dust and stability of the adapter. This causes quite a bit of heart-ache during the post production when you realize the camera shifted, or that there's dust sitting in a crucial part of an action scene. In the end, you spend WAY more time in the post than is necessary...

Rob Lohman January 26th, 2005 03:31 AM

No worries Aaron, just wanted to make sure everyone understood
what I meant by that line. We are indeed agreeing! <g>

Steve Puttock January 26th, 2005 08:21 AM

What is an Adaptor?
I have been following this thread but do not understand what an adaptor is.
I presume its a fitting for the lens ?
It seems to be important ......

Noah Yuan-Vogel January 26th, 2005 01:54 PM

I've been looking at these things a bit, and it seems to me the best combination of film look features on a budget would be to use a nv-gs400e (pal) camera to get 25p (street price as low as $1050, the better option, 24p costs 2-3 times as much) to get native 16:9 and frame mode and nearly filmic frame rate. then throw on a 35mm adapter for DOF.

I almost went this route, but since i already have GL-2s and xl-1s available to me I couldnt justify the $1000+ for a gs400e. I did go ahead and build a 35mm lens adapter which seems to work pretty well and cost about $100 altogether.

$10 for pvc pipe parts for housing (from homedepot)
$20 for condenser lens (about $12+5sh)
$30 for ground glass (20+10sh from optosigma)
$8 for UV filter (used to mount adapter to minidv cam)
$4 for rear lens cap (used to mount lens to adapter)
$25 for used 50/1.4 canon fd lens

I got all of the parts on ebay except for the pvc, and I already had pvc primer/cement, clamp, saw, and sandpaper that i used to put the housing together.

I had to buy some macro filters for the minidv camera, to get it to do macro while zoomed slightly out of its range so it could focus and zoom on the groundglass. This depends on what your minidv camera can do.

Only issue with this adapter is the image comes in rotated 180degrees so you need to use a video monitor that you can flip over if you want to have an easier time composing shots. But you'll probably want a bigger, higher res screen than the lcd on the camera anyway since you have to be more precies about focusing with that shallow DOF.

Im fairly new to some of this stuff but i did it all based on info i got from the forum on alternative imaging methods.

Noah Yuan-Vogel January 26th, 2005 02:08 PM

oh yeah, steve, to answer you:

first off if you arent familiar with Depth of field check out:

the pros shoot movies on 35mm film, so emulating the depth of field capabilities of that format is important in a setup trying to create images that look film-like.

the 35mm adapter people are talking about is a device that screws on the front of a standard consumer minidv camera and lets you put a 35mm slr lens on the other end. The 35mm lens projects an image onto a ground glass, and the minidv camera sees that image and records what is basically just a flat picture on a piece of ground glass. That image, however is the same one that would appear on 35mm film using that 35mm lens.

Glenn Chan January 26th, 2005 02:48 PM

In my opinion, the most effective places to spend your money on making your image look good are:

1- Lighting
Gear-wise, you need lights of course. You also need talent, which you can't buy in the same way you'd buy a piece of gear.

2- Color Correction/Enhancement
Adding a "s" gamma curve with any curves plug-in will immediately make your picture look better if shooting on video. Film naturally has this s-shaped gamma curve.
Selectively boosting color saturation via any color corrector with secondary controls can also improve your image a lot (i.e. boost all colors except for skin tones).
After that, you can create looks through adding tints (via a 3-way color corrector, curves, or magic bullet) and any of the various forms of diffusion.
You can also add filters to emulate on-camera filters... especially graduated color filters, which are better to add in post rather than on-camera.
If you want to take that further, you can use masks/windows and secondary controls to apply color corrections to specific areas of the images.

All that is practically free with most NLEs. Vegas for example can do all of the above. So can Final Cut once you get a curves filter.

3- Set decoration / art direction
Not really gear-related.

4- Tripod and/or steadicam-type device
In my opinion, the #1 mistake with low-budget films is not using a tripod. The camerawork is all shaky and distracts the audience. Using a tripod solves all of this. If you can afford it, a steadicam-type device (i.e. glidecam) or dolly would be sweet to have.

Dejon Hamann January 26th, 2005 06:20 PM

Just wanted to say thankyou to the people putting forth Ideas on the subject! It looks like we're gradually heading in the right direction.

Steve Puttock January 27th, 2005 07:18 AM

Thanks for the info,I will check out your link.
I have a Pentax SLR with many lenses ,will try it and see.

Oscar Spierenburg January 27th, 2005 05:55 PM

I rushed trough this tread, so I don't know everything thatís discussed.
I'm attempting the cheapest way to have high resolution results with a 35mm adapter recorded by two DV cameras.
I have a tread in the -Alternative Imaging Methods- category:


Matt Champagne January 27th, 2005 06:31 PM

Glenn made two good points...with a good NLE that can do color correction (I recommend vegas 5..i just love it) you can use almost any camera and if you work hard enough get very good results (though I really don't recommend the sony DVDhandicam...the image is just terribly noisey...worse than even the cheaper minidv versions...in fact I watched some video on a minidv handicam today..and it didn't look that bad at all) . My only reason for recommending the optura in my first post was the potential for progressive scan if what I have read about the direct to disk photo trick is true. Whether or not your results with just any camera are "film like" is more or less dependent on where your standards of film look lie.

Second...steady cam is a great idea. Check out this thread for a simple steady cam you can make for $14


Steve Wardale January 30th, 2005 05:25 AM

How is the GS-120 considered as a low-cost way of getting started? I ask because it is currently in my possesion and was also purchased as my first mini-DV cam. I was pretty impressed with it at first, but the DV artifacts are noticable all over the image. I bought it on the strength of it 3-CCD capabilities, but it seems like the CCDs just aren't big enough to give clear quality that other more expensive cameras obviously have.

Is the GS-120 deemed to be a good camera for indie filmaking or is the GS400 maybe more likely to be a superior candiate for this?

Dejon Hamann January 30th, 2005 03:04 PM


I think some people are saying if you work really hard (as in, good lighting, good audio, good whathaveyou) that any camera such as a 120 will give you decent results once you've corrected everything in a video editing environment. No doubt this is true. The amount of man hours may be staggering though. I think the "getting started" phrase points mostly to learning the process. The process of camera position, how to frame a shot, how to direct the talent, how to get your product into an editing environment and then manipulate it into something watchable, how to match music to video, etc. etc. etc. - all of these things can be learned "getting started" on a 120 or many other cameras.

Personally, after some soul searching I've decided I'm just too dam lazy to go around capturing poor video or correcting the mistakes of a consumer type camera, so I've got my sights set on a AG-DVX100a, a new 3gig/64bit computer (ready for windows 64bit), and a bunch of goodies like some lighting gear, mics, maybe an anamorphic lens. Hopefully all of this for under 5g - used ofcourse. I think with this setup broadcast/orfilm festival quality is capable - I just have to learn how to use the gear!

Then on the other hand, every day I spend shopping is another day I could be shooting if I had something like the 120 in my hand. And I'm going on probably 60 days of shopping since I decided to get into video. You make the call!

Nicholas Storr February 4th, 2005 05:08 PM

Interesting topic, with some great responses already. I'll attempt to coherently add my thoughts to the fray.

First of all, I thoroughly agree that one should learn the fundamentals before messing around with 35mm adapters. I started shooting SP Betacam for broadcast about ten years ago, using the Sony BVP 90 for the most part, and trust me - there are a million things you can learn about composition & light that will improve your results far more effectively than strapping a CD spindle and electric motor to your filter ring.

That leads me on to another point that's already been touched on here. I think it's possible to build your own DOF adapter to a usable production standard, but it's certainly not going to be a simple, or cheap proposition. Will you save money over a Mini35? Undoubtedly. However, I don't think you'll build something that's "ready for prime time" in 3-hours with $20 worth of gear. The Agus35 and all its derivatives have been really effective at de-mystifying the Mini35 and its much-coveted look, but as Dave Eanton pointed out a few posts back, you'll quickly go insane tryign to do any serious work with a jerry-rigged gaffer-taped contraption dangling precariously from the front of your camcorder. I'm currently messing around with a rail-design, as a few others on this forum appear to be as well.

My next opinion might be controversial... but what the hell :) personally, I think people are far too tied up in lusting after the latest & greatest gear, and not sufficiently concerned with how to extract the best results from what they've got. My aging Panasonic NV-DA1 PAL camera, with its single-CCD, would not even be considered by most here as "air-ready", but in the course of my professional career, I've pressed it into service dozens of times in situations where I couldn't take an SP rig. One shoot I worked on involved my shooting with the Panasonic from a parasail, while the producer (also an adept camera operator) shot SP from the tow-boat. With some slight colour correction, we intercut the two cameras with no appreciable difference, and the show was aired nationally here in Australia.

Don't get me wrong, of course I'm not saying that an early-generation single chip DV camera is the equal of a multi-thousand dollar broadcast camera/recorder. I'm simply saying that in expert hands, you'll get very good pictures from a cheap camera. Similarly, a rank novice let loose at the controls of the most prestigious professional equipment on the planet will almost invariably produce garbage.

I've digressed somewhat from the topic, haven't I! :)

I guess I'm encouraging people to get out and shoot what they want, the best they can, with what they have. You'll lose valuable time lusting after your DVX100, HDR-FX1, or whatever comes along next, and when you finally do get your coveted piece of gear, you'll have far less experience and skill than the people who spent the time actually shooting.

So, there's my rather verbose 2c worth :)

Steve Puttock February 4th, 2005 09:15 PM

Nicholas,thats the most sensible post I have read in the Forum.
I too have yearned to own the latest piece of harware,knowing full well I do not even know all the controls and settings on my present gear,thanks for bringing me,and a few othere maybe,down to earth .

Douglas Robbins February 10th, 2005 09:02 PM

Film look and "cheap" are hard to put together.

To me film look enhancement technologies include:

1. 24p
2. Vivid colors tending toward the warm
3. Shallower depth of field
4. Grain sometimes
5. Imperfecctions on occasion (scratches, hair etc.)
6. Rich sounds (avoid echo)
7. Wide screen (16:9 or wider)

How you get there using cheap technology is hard to say. I can tell you how to get there using expensive technology.

Probably the all around cheapest piece of technology that makes your mini dv look more like film would have to be Nattress Film Effects. That's probably the best bang for the buck.

Of course that assumes you already have a Macintosh and FCP.


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