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#1 Chayse Irvin

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Posted 04 January 2007 - 07:47 PM

I've been hired to DP a low budget indie feature called "Love Money". First time director Matthew Bennett, who is a veteran actor here in Vancouver, is directing it. I'm really excited to shoot another feature so early in my career with a decent budget and I like the script, but I have some major concerns. They want to shoot the (currently) 92 pages script in 14 days. Matthew Bennett comes from a TV environment and finds himself used to fast pace shooting and I came up working as a Lamp op on shows like Supernatural, Smallville, and Intelligence which are all really fast pace TV shows. I've been DPing music videos and shorts where things have to be lit the night before to get them done and my first feature last year which had a 25 day shoot but 1 week of prep (which wasn?t enough) and was very run and gun with no tech scouts and a inexperienced electrics crew (to start with anyway). So I'm used to having a lot of pressure on me to light fast and I know how compromise... but I think this shoot is really going to test me any my ability to get things done with minimal lighting and still make it look great.

As far as lighting goes my approach right now is to, along with the production designer, design the sets where there are well placed practicals or windows in the background to indicate my key light and give me that very back lit, silhouette, contrasty feel, but a sense of realism at the same time. One challenge will be that the director wants to stay wide on a lot of scenes as well as shoot a lot of steadicam. I haven't really done this style on a lot of shoots because rarely can production afford the lighting package I would need to light a scene from outside a room and I am not completely sure this production can afford those lights either.

My approach as far as camera right now is to build a camera package and workflow that would allow me to enhance my look in post. I've created a workflow chart to show you my plans.

Posted Image

I want to shoot with Zeiss Digi Primes shooting wide open at T1.6 for the majority of the film. Now this all looks great to me right now but I?m sure as the budget puts itself together with other departments needing more I may have to change a lot.

The RAID is not cheap. It is around 8k for 3.5 terabytes. I want to buy the Mac Pro, Black magic card, and what not for myself. Then rent it back to the production. However one problem is I need a 5 terabyte RAID to store the footage for a 6:1 shooting ratio, granted the director wants to keep non-circle takes. Which I know with working with so many first time directors they usually don?t want to keep anything but they takes they like... but often burn them selves because they don?t know what is usable and what isn?t. With such a short shooting schedule... will there be time to make that right judgment call?

I feel if I record to disk uncompressed 4:4:4 I can take the time in post to polish my image and crated a cool looking film. I feel if I take the time in prep to really figure out what the coverage is, I'll be able to pull it off in 14 days.

Anyone have comments or advice?
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 04 January 2007 - 07:55 PM

It would probably help to use two cameras for this 14-day feature but that makes your on-set data recording all the more harder. You should also consider whether going to HDCAM-SR decks instead of data recorders would be a little smoother on the set in terms of time, complexity, etc. If it is, it would be worth it.

Good luck -- I can't imagine someone who only has the budget for a 14-day shoot has the money to shoot 4:4:4 HD though. I've never been able to convince a producer to do that on my HD features. It almost doubles your camera rental costs over a camcorder design like the F900 or Varicam since you are paying for both a camera and a recording system of almost equal cost.
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#3 Chayse Irvin

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Posted 04 January 2007 - 08:16 PM

F900 or Varicam since you are paying for both a camera and a recording system of almost equal cost.


May have to end up going that way. I mean 3k of DVCPRO HD tape stock is a lot cheaper then a 8k raid or even the HDCAM-SR decks which are would probably come out to more then the RAID. But then again... is the production going to capture the DVCPRO HD or HDCAM Tapes firewire or uncompressed HD during their post? If uncompressed HD why not go straight to disk anyway? To be honest the cost of setting this hardware (with the exception of the RAID) is fairly low and I could afford to purchase it myself. But perhaps a two camera shoot is the only way to accomplish this whole thing in such a short time. Which would completely eat my uncompressed 4:4:4 budget. I've got a meeting with the producer and director soon and I'll run the idea past them.

There is also the option of shooting the two Cannon H1's and record to disk threw their HDSDI output... but would the final product look better with two Varicam's and a far superior 2/3rds chip at 4:2:2 DVCPRO HD? Definatly not interested in shooting HDCAM 3:1:1.

Edited by Chayse Irvin, 04 January 2007 - 08:20 PM.

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#4 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 04 January 2007 - 08:31 PM

But remember that an F900 HDCAM is 1080P, which is double the total pixel resolution of a 720P camera like the Varicam. And 3:1:1 and 4:2:2 are not that far apart. And the compression level and problems of DVCPROHD versus HDCAM are about the same.

So I wouldn't choose the Varicam over the F900 just for the improved color/contrast -- I don't think they are all that different actually -- but I'd chose the Varicam if I needed multiple frame rates regularly or simply wanted a smaller, lighter camera. Otherwise, I'd always go for the F900 for the resolution.

As far as a Varicam versus a Canon XLH1 though, I'd go with a 2/3" CCD pro HD camera anyday.
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#5 Eric Steelberg ASC

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Posted 04 January 2007 - 08:44 PM

I'd say you also have to consider the delivery format. Is this destined for a filmout to theaters or is it most likely going to be a TV/DVD sale? If you don't need to filmout, you definitely don't need to record to disk.

If I were in this situation I'd get as many Varicams as I could to increase coverage and put whatever money was leftover into an extra grip or electric to help you move along as fast as possible.
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#6 Chayse Irvin

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Posted 04 January 2007 - 09:02 PM

Perhaps this idea is for a future project. Production isn't sure what kind of life this film has after festivals circuit. But I think its safe to say it will end up as TV/DVD canadian content. However it probably doesn't hurt to give them all the possible options, eh? I'll post more after my meeting on tuesday.

Edited by Chayse Irvin, 04 January 2007 - 09:03 PM.

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#7 Keith Mottram

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Posted 05 January 2007 - 10:24 AM

direct to disk in this fashion is not that practical and certainly not reliable enough for insurance purposes. if you were to shoot straight to mac using off the shelf software- say FCP, then you'll end up with some pissed people on set as the computer spins when everyone else wants to do a take- i have had similar setups with feeds for on set editing and there are always problems. using a dedicated field recorder is a much better option be it SR or data recorder. its worth remembering that 4:2:2 can also look damn good with current digital grading systems. finally do you really want the responsibility of worrying about digital recording as well as dping?

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#8 Chayse Irvin

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Posted 05 January 2007 - 03:58 PM

direct to disk in this fashion is not that practical and certainly not reliable enough for insurance purposes. if you were to shoot straight to mac using off the shelf software- say FCP, then you'll end up with some pissed people on set as the computer spins when everyone else wants to do a take-


Please elaborate. What would be unreliable? Why would people be pissed off? Is it a sound issue with the cpu? What kind of problems did you experience?
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#9 Chayse Irvin

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Posted 05 January 2007 - 04:09 PM

The workflow isn't something I came up with. I took it from a short that was shot in NY. This was his test results: "And yes capture was done with the Sony F950, dual link (4:4:4). The test was performed with the good people at Plus 8 Digital in NYC, where we just plugged in the dual channels of the camera to my Black magic Pro (dual link) capture card, set the frame rate to 1080p 23.98 fps. , and viola! No second tries, no tri-level sync, just straight, flawless direct capture and playback."

Is the test practical in the sense that onset problems like crashes can occur? What would make this more volatile then say a S2 recorder?
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#10 Chayse Irvin

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Posted 09 January 2007 - 04:55 AM

Meetings tomorrow and I'm going with two F900's. After some research and Davids argument for the F900 over the Varicam, it seam clear. Here is some of the research info i found.

Panasonic Varicam has a 1 million pixel imager. Sony has 2.1 million pixel imager (both cameras do not use all of the pixels) Varicam records 960x720 pixels of luminence detail Sony 1440x1080 pixels of lumence. On playback vtrs convert the image up to 1920x1080 pixels. HDCAM samples the original 1920x1080 to 1440x1080 whereas the Varicam samples 1220x720 to 960x720. So comparing the two is a apple and oranges comparison.

The often quoted compression figures of 3:1:1 and 4:2:2 when used as a direct comparison are misleading.

Both manufacturers can be blamed for this.

As the f900 starts out with more pixels, it is fair to say that a HDCAM recording has greater colour and luminance detail of that scene than the Varicam (when both are uprezzed back to 1920x1080) The 4:2:2 recording is easier to pull a key from but the picture is lower resolution.

Sure a key is going to be easier from a low res 4:2:2 image than a higher res 3:1:1 image. But what happens to the picture when it is bumped up to 1920x1080? Colour detail in the original image of the scene is 480 x1080 on HDCAM and 480x720 on Varicam, luminance 1440x1080 on HDCAM and 960x720 on Varicam.

So when both cameras are pointed at a scene the HDCAM records more actual detail in luminence and colour than Varicam.


I just hope a 3:1:1 color correction doesn't add a lot of artifacts like I think it will, it's something i'll have to test during prep. Thanks again for the help guys.
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#11 Daniel Carruthers

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Posted 09 January 2007 - 08:37 AM

Well good luck chayse, I hope you get the camera and package you need.
I recently completed a feature length film in believe it or not 6 days! (IS THIS A RECORD??)
I dident think it could be done, but we did it, although we where puttung in 18-20 hour days
we had virtually no budget, most of it was shot in 2 apartments,and 1 night club,which I had to make it look like was 4 different clubs,it was shot on the 1 dvx100a, And we had a very small crew.
Just dont sweat aboat the short time limit,you can do it.
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#12 Chayse Irvin

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Posted 09 January 2007 - 02:58 PM

Well good luck chayse, I hope you get the camera and package you need.
I recently completed a feature length film in believe it or not 6 days! (IS THIS A RECORD??)


Heh. Sounds like a record to me.

Does anyone know a good HDCAM workflow?
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#13 Chayse Irvin

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Posted 09 January 2007 - 07:17 PM

Posted Image

Is that a typical HDCAM workflow? Does HDCAM SR 4:2:2 have a lesser compression ratio then D5-HD? I remember reading that D5-HD is around 4:1 and HDCAM SR 4:2:2 is 3.3:1 or something. Can anyone confirm this?

Edited by Chayse Irvin, 09 January 2007 - 07:20 PM.

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#14 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 10 January 2007 - 12:46 AM

I thought HDCAM-SR was about 2:1 compression in 4:4:4 but no compression at 4:2:2, but someone told me that when the format was announced -- I believe the actual figures are a little higher for compression. But it is less compression than HD-D5. However, if you shot in HDCAM, then it won't really make much difference if the final master is output to HD-D5 or HDCAM-SR in terms of additional compression artifacts on top of the original ones.

There are a number of post pathways for an HDCAM shoot. Since many editing bays don't have HDCAM decks, a common method is to get downconversions to Digital Betacam or DVCAM made and use these to input into the NLE system. Then later the original HDCAM material is digitized at full-rez and conformed to the EDL, or a tape-to-tape online is done.

Doesn't your editor have an opinion on the post path?
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#15 Chayse Irvin

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Posted 10 January 2007 - 01:29 AM

No editor yet. I just read this from a source who claimed to be sony:
In 4:2:2 recording the compression ratio 2.7/1
In 4:4:4 recording the compression ratio is 4.2/1

I think rainmaker post here has the ability to do the workflow suggested above. Still have lots of research to do. I wont need the firewire back up drives since were going to tape tho.

Edited by Chayse Irvin, 10 January 2007 - 01:31 AM.

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#16 Matt Workman

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Posted 11 January 2007 - 01:10 AM

Congrats Mr. Irvin on the project.

Are you making those post-production workflow graphics? That is a good idea for explaining/selling a certain workflow to producers.

Why do you have a G5 w/ RAID as the center of the workflow? Wouldn't the editor just capture from the deck to his/her NLE system? Are you personally storing all of the digitized 3:1:1 footage?

The explanation of the Cine-Alta vs. Varicam was very illuminating.

Are you working with a familiar crew? I'm sure having a reliable gaffer/keygrip would be required for this kind of schedule.

I hope you can keep us updated during the production also. Do you have a set photographer?

Cheers,

Matt
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#17 Chayse Irvin

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Posted 11 January 2007 - 06:18 PM

Congrats Mr. Irvin on the project.

Are you making those post-production workflow graphics? That is a good idea for explaining/selling a certain workflow to producers.

Why do you have a G5 w/ RAID as the center of the workflow? Wouldn't the editor just capture from the deck to his/her NLE system? Are you personally storing all of the digitized 3:1:1 footage?

The explanation of the Cine-Alta vs. Varicam was very illuminating.

Are you working with a familiar crew? I'm sure having a reliable gaffer/keygrip would be required for this kind of schedule.

I hope you can keep us updated during the production also. Do you have a set photographer?

Cheers,

Matt


Thanks Matt. I did do the graphics to explain to the director and producer what would give us the best final image. Whether they go with that is up to their budget. Since we don't have an editor yet I built the workflow to more to help them visualize how it would work. If our editor has a system like this with a capture card and everything, that would be great. Otherwise we would have to rent an online suite at the post house here in Van which would have its own RAID and everything. Unless I buy a system like that... which I might do because I love the idea of being able to capture uncompressed HDSDI 4:4:4 even if it?s an S16mm telecine transfer is awesome to me. It would ensure the highest quality workflow for my projects, which at this point is very important to me.

I'm going and try and get a familiar crew to work with on this project. Its going to be very hard getting the people I want due to the fact that we are shooting during pilot season here in Vancouver and who ever comes aboard would be taking a massive hit to their pay checks working on this film. I have a big reshoot going on for another feature right before love money and I'm hoping to have the camera jump over to this one. I'm getting Dave McClung to Gaff the project, he's a very close friend from film school and I worked with him on smallville. Chad Skinner may serve as Key Grip; he is a childhood friend and has keyed all my projects.

I'm planning on writing about everything I do on this project; I'm still learning a lot about the job and it helps when I can be scrutinized and advised on certain decisions. No onset still photographer yet, I'm not sure there will be one. If not I'll take some 35mm stills.
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#18 Matthew Bennett

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Posted 09 February 2007 - 11:04 AM

Director Matthew Bennett


Ha! Now's there is going to be two directors named Matthew Bennett. Matthew Bennett has to be the worst name in the world, there's a million of them and there are no big plosive sounds in it until the very end. If you like slow beginnings, long middles and big explosions at the end, choose Matthew Bennett. I'm glad to see that Matthew Bennett is directing... let the best Matthew Bennett win!
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#19 Evan Winter

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Posted 10 February 2007 - 03:03 PM

This is likely coming way too late to be of any use but why not use the music video/commercial route?

Shoot Super 16 --> Colour Correct to D5 tapes & mini-dv with timecode burn-in --> Offline on Mac G5 using mini-dv tapes to bring in the footage --> EDL spit out --> Online session with D5 tapes.

This seems easier. I'll bet it's more cost effective and your end result is still a D5 master so you're no worse off than if you did the whole hdcam sr, 4:4:4, 3:1:1, capture deck, teraraid byte, hardrive spinning, uprezzing pixels method...

Seems like you're going through a whole wack of trouble and you're getting slightly different answers from everyone because no one is yet totally comfortable with an entirely digital workflow. Why not used the tried, tested, and true? Commercials and music videos do it every day and it has been done tens of thousands of times...

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#20 sam phibbs

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Posted 10 February 2007 - 05:01 PM

Hey good luck with the feature,
A whole lot of films have been shot with just HDCAM latley and have looked great blown up to 35 have you seen Me, You and Everyone We Know or Wolf Creek they looked great. I guess it depends what you need to do to the footage in terms of effects, grading etc.
Sam
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