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Shooting on a consumer cam


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#1 Evan Cox

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Posted 08 January 2007 - 08:32 PM

Is it absolutely ridiculous to attempt to make an entire indenpendent film with a consumer digital comcorder? If I were to blow it up to the big screen (festival size) would the 680k pixels be enough, or do I need to seriously upgrade? Please help me; I really don't have any money, just a good script and some "actor" friends.
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#2 Nicholas Jenkins

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Posted 08 January 2007 - 09:59 PM

Is it absolutely ridiculous to attempt to make an entire indenpendent film with a consumer digital comcorder? If I were to blow it up to the big screen (festival size) would the 680k pixels be enough, or do I need to seriously upgrade? Please help me; I really don't have any money, just a good script and some "actor" friends.


Well, it depends on allot of things, one of them being what projector the festival is using, but generally I'd say that you might have quality issues. I've seen some projectors that do a fine job of interpolating and doing a decent blow up, others... not so much.
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#3 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 08 January 2007 - 11:19 PM

"Good enough" is a highly subjective concept and only you can really answer that, so if you are serious, shoot a test with your camera and find a way to project it on a large screen.

Otherwise, you basically try and work with the best camera that you can practically arrange to use. If your camera is the best you can afford and still make your project, then make the most of it. Doesn't sound like you really have many options anyway.

The Dogma-95 movie "The Celebration" (Festen) was shot on a cheap single-chip Sony camera and got worldwide distribution. No, the look wasn't particularly high-quality, but it suited the story.
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#4 Giles Sherwood

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Posted 09 January 2007 - 12:58 AM

Is it absolutely ridiculous to attempt to make an entire indenpendent film with a consumer digital comcorder? If I were to blow it up to the big screen (festival size) would the 680k pixels be enough, or do I need to seriously upgrade? Please help me; I really don't have any money, just a good script and some "actor" friends.



If you can make compelling images with it, definitely. I'd recommend looking into an add-on so you can use a higher quality microphone than the one on the consumer camera, though. I'm not sure what these products are called, but they let you hook up pro mics with XLR cable and adjust levels. As much as I'm not a sound guy, I have to admit that while I will accept "crummy" visuals as a style (if they're still aesthetic), crummy sound is just crummy sound, and a distraction.

If your consumer camera has some sort of manually controlled focus and exposure, its likely to rival a prosumer camera like the PD150, imo. I once decided to shoot an animation with my crappy Sony Handycam over a PD150 because I could focus closer to the lens with the consumer camera--I was animating puppets as they touched the UV filter over my lens at one point!

I still don't really like the look of 60i, but I'll definitely accept it in certain situations. Gordy Hoffman's A Coat of Snow makes great use of the "consumer camera" look, even though it was shoot with a PD150. If you put as much effort into the film as if you were shooting 35mm, you're just as likely to make a compelling product on consumer video.
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#5 Matthew Bennett

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Posted 09 January 2007 - 12:59 AM

The strange thing about film is that you can have a degraded, confusing, unlit and uncomposed image and it's still 'valid' somehow.
But if you have anything less than a 100 percent clear, professional audio track the audience will never forgive you!

Meaning, as long as all the other factors of film storytelling are alive and well, you can actually not worry too much about the pixel area or 'quality' of your camera. But don't screw up the audio! They are many many many more ear people than there are eye people.
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#6 Alessandro Machi

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Posted 09 January 2007 - 03:36 AM

But if you have anything less than a 100 percent clear, professional audio track the audience will never forgive you!


I agree with this point, I was going to say the exact same thing. So another way to proceed is to look for a video camera with XLR inputs on it and then figure out if you can create an image that works for your project. If you can go the black and white route the bigger 3-chip E.N.G. cameras can sometimes be found selling for next to nothing on Ebay. If they are actually working, and you treated the signal as black white, the camera might produce a surprisingingly good result, and with the added benefit of XLR inputs plus additional added resolution of 50 lines because you are working with black and white only.

Even S-VHS 3-chip camcorders, if one goes with just the luminence signal on the S-VHS cable and disconnects the chroma channel looks pretty intriguing. Then when one introduces different levels of gain, fine black and white grain can be immediately added in several different amounts.
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#7 Hal Smith

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Posted 09 January 2007 - 08:10 AM

A hint for the XLR deprived. The older Shure M267 mixer is available used for around $50-100. It's got 6 XLR mike or line inputs, metering, a basic compressor, and can be run off 9 volt batteries. Most notably its output is switch selectable for mike or line output, it'll drive the inputs on just about any camera. It's a bit large at roughly 10X8X2 but otherwise makes a really nice XLR based field mixer. A simple XLR female to 1/8" plug output cable is all you need to patch it to most any camcorder.
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#8 Matthew Buick

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Posted 09 January 2007 - 05:52 PM

I'm basically in the same situation, except I wish to intercut Super 8.

One thing I would do is to put lots of heart into the film in every way you can, the audience will sense that, and it may give your film a bit of a boost.
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