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Why video became the illegitamate stepchild of cinema


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#1 Marty Hamrick

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Posted 16 January 2007 - 09:55 AM

My first introduction to video was less than impressive.It was a black and white camera about 3 times the size of my super 8 and a reel to reel half inch deck that went to snow when the tape was rewound or fast forwarded.It was 1973,I was in the 8th grade and an AV nerd.I had enjoyed some success with super 8 film projects for science and history classes as well as sports
and already knew my way around a theater projection booth.I had also been doing internships with local TV stations and production companies.I had served as a PA on such 16mm epics as "The Reason for Medicaid" and "Kaybolt Wrecking Company".

At that time,there was a pretty decent "middle class" film business.16mm industrial films,commercials and corporate presentation films kept local production companies busy.Actors,cameramen,musicians,editors and lab folks all had work and didn't have to make an exodus to Hollywood to earn a living by their craft.

The video revolution of the 80's caused the businesses that hired 16mm film people to reinvent their audio visual needs.Cheaper cameras and decks as well as the sudden liberation from film stock costs and lab work seriously devalued the product.Small,fly by night video production facilities sprung up overnight offering cheap production at cut rates.Quality control became nonexistent.The middle class film market died.

Today,what once needed a full production and post production staff can be done by one person with a camcorder,a laptop and an LCD projector.Progress,I guess.

I'm hopeful though,that what killed middle class filmmaking will someday revive it.Prosumer HDV cameras have finally approached "virtual" film quality,very close to 16mm standards,some say it surpasses it,though I think that's debatable.Still,you factor cost of film stock,processing and telecine and what differences there are between HDV 24P and 16mm become negligible.

I'm even more hopeful that the recent advent of RED camera technology and Silicon Imaging's latest that doors will be open to a new generation of independent filmmakers who otherwise would have only dreams.
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#2 Jim Feldspar

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Posted 16 January 2007 - 10:07 AM

My first introduction to video was less than impressive.It was a black and white camera about 3 times the size of my super 8 and a reel to reel half inch deck that went to snow when the tape was rewound or fast forwarded.It was 1973,I was in the 8th grade and an AV nerd.I had enjoyed some success with super 8 film projects for science and history classes as well as sports
and already knew my way around a theater projection booth.I had also been doing internships with local TV stations and production companies.I had served as a PA on such 16mm epics as "The Reason for Medicaid" and "Kaybolt Wrecking Company".

At that time,there was a pretty decent "middle class" film business.16mm industrial films,commercials and corporate presentation films kept local production companies busy.Actors,cameramen,musicians,editors and lab folks all had work and didn't have to make an exodus to Hollywood to earn a living by their craft.

The video revolution of the 80's caused the businesses that hired 16mm film people to reinvent their audio visual needs.Cheaper cameras and decks as well as the sudden liberation from film stock costs and lab work seriously devalued the product.Small,fly by night video production facilities sprung up overnight offering cheap production at cut rates.Quality control became nonexistent.The middle class film market died.

Today,what once needed a full production and post production staff can be done by one person with a camcorder,a laptop and an LCD projector.Progress,I guess.

I'm hopeful though,that what killed middle class filmmaking will someday revive it.Prosumer HDV cameras have finally approached "virtual" film quality,very close to 16mm standards,some say it surpasses it,though I think that's debatable.Still,you factor cost of film stock,processing and telecine and what differences there are between HDV 24P and 16mm become negligible.

I'm even more hopeful that the recent advent of RED camera technology and Silicon Imaging's latest that doors will be open to a new generation of independent filmmakers who otherwise would have only dreams.


Good thread. It's lamentable about the loss of jobs but often things come around. I can shoot
five 10-12 minute decent looking projects in Mini-DV that look pretty good and give me a lot of
experience and cost less than a three minute 16 mm. production would cost.

There are lots of "films" being made know that never would have been and more people are
able to get started on projects that wouldn't have existed before. It's easier for somebody to
take a chance hiring a D.P. who looks good but is somewhat untested on a 12 minute Mini-DV
short when that production might cost a $1000.00 or less than if it were a 16 mm. project that
would cost ten or twenty times that.

Thus, with more productions, more people can get started and maybe work up to good old
big film productions.
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#3 Nate Downes

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Posted 16 January 2007 - 10:20 AM

I'd not say that Video has gotten to the same level as 16mm, but I will say that Video has gotten to the level of "good enough" which the 16mm of yore used to fill. The problem is perception, video advocates love proclaiming "it's cheap to shoot" which translates, as far as the customer is concerned as "It's cheap results."

Hit enter to soon, let me finish:
if you want to change this perception, to bring video to the same production level, you have to flash the cash, period. That means, you need to use higher end gear like the Varicam and Cinealta, and you have to demonstrate to the customer what this equipment gives you, and will thereby give them. They need to see more people on-set, not the "one guy, his camera, and his girlfriend" that one of my customers was complaining about the other day.
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#4 Marty Hamrick

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Posted 16 January 2007 - 10:38 AM

That means, you need to use higher end gear like the Varicam and Cinealta, and you have to demonstrate to the customer what this equipment gives you, and will thereby give them. They need to see more people on-set, not the "one guy, his camera, and his girlfriend" that one of my customers was complaining about the other day.


I' glad you brought that up,though I'm not sure that the gear(cameras) will be what makes the difference,but rather the know how and technique.They need to see dollies instead of pans,crane shots instead of tilts,decent lighting instead of just having enough lighting.

I'm glad that you have clients that appreciate the difference and are willing to pay for it.Usually once the business world knows that they can get away with crap for little or no money,seldom do they turn back,at least not in my neck of the woods anyway.Many of the clients who once hired full crews on a film or higher end video production,found out that their training and AV needs could be filled with an interactive website with video clips.I doubt that my market will ever see the return of 10 to 20 minute industrials with 5 and 6 figure budgets.

What I am hopeful about is the growing number of independent features that have been made that otherwise wouldn't have gotten made.Films that are of decent quality and not the "Open Water" level of DV junk.
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#5 Francesco Bonomo

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Posted 16 January 2007 - 11:49 AM

I'm even more hopeful that the recent advent of RED camera technology and Silicon Imaging's latest that doors will be open to a new generation of independent filmmakers who otherwise would have only dreams.


I don't think digital consumer cameras (even prosumer) are close to the quality of 16mm film, but I guess it's just a matter of time before they get there.

I don't share your hopes about more indie filmmakers entering the business because of technology: better technology doesn't mean better filmmaking or better stories, and we all know that it takes more than a brand new cheap hd camera to tell a good story cinematically. There are a lot of people who think their stuff is not even considered because of the technology involved (i.e. shooting miniDv and not film), and even more people thinking that they're out of the industry because they use cheap cameras, and that a new technology will somehow allow everyone a chance to "make it". They blame the cameras and the "system" when 99% of the stuff they do is crap, regardless of the technology they use.

Will Red and Silicon Imaging be used by indie filmmakers? Most likely. Will they change the indie filmmaking "scene"? I strongly doubt it.
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#6 Marty Hamrick

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Posted 16 January 2007 - 02:13 PM

: better technology doesn't mean better filmmaking or better stories, and we all know that it takes more than a brand new cheap hd camera to tell a good story cinematically.
Will Red and Silicon Imaging be used by indie filmmakers? Most likely. Will they change the indie filmmaking "scene"? I strongly doubt it.



We'll see.While I don't expect a renassaince,I already have seen independent movies made that otherwise wouldn't have been done.True, technology doesn't make people better but it can open a few doors.I remember in the 80's and 90's you had a lot of folks attempting cinematic work with video and it didn't measure up because of the "soap opera" or "reality TV look" that you just can't completely escape with interlace video no matter what you do in post or with filters and lighting.

The images I've seen from many of these new cameras is what I call "virtual film".Close enough,given the fact that the you've been freed from 6 and 7 figure film stock and lab costs.

In the final analysis it all boils down to technique and skill anyway.The consumer renting the video or going to the theater could care less what the movie was made with (many people are suprised to find out that film is still being used at all),he just wants to see a good movie.

I'm just sorry so many jobs have been lost as they became obsolete.But that's been happening to every industry.Why should the movies be any different?After all it is show BUSINESS.
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#7 Francesco Bonomo

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Posted 16 January 2007 - 02:29 PM

While I don't expect a renassaince,I already have seen independent movies made that otherwise wouldn't have been done.


Me too, but I don't think the growth of indipendent movies being made and distributed has a lot to do with the technology used.

I'm just sorry so many jobs have been lost as they became obsolete.But that's been happening to every industry.Why should the movies be any different?After all it is show BUSINESS.


What jobs?
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#8 Marty Hamrick

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Posted 16 January 2007 - 04:52 PM

Me too, but I don't think the growth of indipendent movies being made and distributed has a lot to do with the technology used.
What jobs?


Well my first legit job in the industry was editorial/creative services at a local 16mm lab.I did conforming,editing,title and animation photography as well as optical printing and sound dubbing and mixing.All jobs no longer needed in the video world.In my original post here,I mentioned the film production and post production houses that went belly up between about 1980 and the present.

There are still neg cutters and video editors I know,but the demand has dropped considerably.The industrial market I worked in died completely.The jobs done by a production crew and a lab were replaced with a company's employee,a camcorder,a laptop and LCD projector.
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