Jump to content


Photo

Convincing students they can make quality projects with DV


  • Please log in to reply
26 replies to this topic

#1 Cynthia Hill

Cynthia Hill

    New

  • Basic Members
  • Pip
  • 3 posts
  • Cinematographer

Posted 10 March 2007 - 11:40 AM

Hi there,

I am finding it increasingly difficult to convince my students that the DVX100a cameras we use in our MA program in documentary filmmaking will not prevent their film from being broadcast. No matter how much I try to tell them that good storytelling is key to getting their films distributed they always seem convinced that using a camera with more bells and whistles will somehow transport them to Shangri-La. Listen, I don't discount the importance of having professional-caliber gear, but the DVX100 is hardly a substandard camera. In fact, I just completed work on a 60-minute documentary using a DVX-100. Granted it paled in comparison, visually, with the last doc we shot with a Cine-Alta ( a project that aired on Independent Lens), but you go with the tools you have.

Does anyone have any additional words of wisdom I can impart? Thanks!
  • 0

#2 Toby Orzano

Toby Orzano
  • Basic Members
  • PipPip
  • 80 posts
  • Electrician
  • Portland, OR

Posted 10 March 2007 - 12:18 PM

Does anyone have any additional words of wisdom I can impart?


Yes, two of them. Inland Empire.
  • 0

#3 David Auner aac

David Auner aac
  • Sustaining Members
  • 1117 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles

Posted 10 March 2007 - 12:25 PM

Hi Cynthia,
you might be able to convince them by showing them successful films shot on low budget equipment. For example Eric Rohmer's Cambrure was shot on DV and was the worlds first digitally screened film at Cannes.
I'm sure the folks around here can add some films to the list if needed. That might help, IMO.

Best regards, Dave
  • 0

#4 David Mullen ASC

David Mullen ASC
  • Sustaining Members
  • 19759 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles

Posted 10 March 2007 - 12:33 PM

There are many types of documentaries and some types benefit from increased image quality than others, but in general, content is king and trumps technical quality with documentaries. If the subject matter is compelling enough, as long as the material is not incompetently shot to the point of being a distraction (and the sound is decent), people will want to watch it.

There are plenty of DV-shot documentaries to share with your students.
  • 0

#5 Tony Brown

Tony Brown
  • Sustaining Members
  • 689 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • London

Posted 10 March 2007 - 12:41 PM

Story telling is different to documentary. I wouldn't give a DV house space if I were shooting a low budget film, I'd go Super 8 every time (in preference to 16mm probably funnily enough)

So sorry, cant help your argument I'm afraid.
  • 0

#6 Francesco Bonomo

Francesco Bonomo
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 366 posts
  • 1st Assistant Camera
  • currently in Rome, Italy

Posted 10 March 2007 - 12:51 PM

Does anyone have any additional words of wisdom I can impart? Thanks!


I don't have much to add to the other comments, but if they're concerned about the quality of the image, i would screen the short "sweet", beautifully shot on miniDV (with the DVX100) by Allan Daviau, ASC. It's not a documentary but i think it gives a good idea about the possibilities of the format.
  • 0

#7 Cynthia Hill

Cynthia Hill

    New

  • Basic Members
  • Pip
  • 3 posts
  • Cinematographer

Posted 10 March 2007 - 01:48 PM

Thank you everyone for sharing your candid opinions. I do show them plenty of examples of films shot with small format cameras and very limited budgets, but I am always looking for new material so I appreciate everyone sending me specific titles.
  • 0

#8 Hal Smith

Hal Smith
  • Sustaining Members
  • 2280 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • OKC area

Posted 10 March 2007 - 01:51 PM

(and the sound is decent), people will want to watch it.

Not always an understood point. I had friends years ago who shot an incredible documentary on Bruno Bettleheim's work with autistic children, they had full access, etc., etc. But they didn't do their homework on sound and ended up with an unsellable documentary with beautiful, compelling pictures - and a sound track you couldn't understand. There had to be a hundred things they could have done while shooting to help out the sound but they just didn't understand what a very deep hole they were digging for themselves.
  • 0

#9 Daniel Madsen

Daniel Madsen
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 201 posts
  • Student
  • Boston

Posted 10 March 2007 - 02:35 PM

Nancy Schreiber ASC shot a narrative piece with the DVX100. Can't remember the title.
  • 0

#10 Francesco Bonomo

Francesco Bonomo
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 366 posts
  • 1st Assistant Camera
  • currently in Rome, Italy

Posted 10 March 2007 - 02:42 PM

Nancy Schreiber ASC shot a narrative piece with the DVX100. Can't remember the title.


"November", it won the Cinematography Award at Sundance three years ago.
  • 0

#11 Lindsay Mann

Lindsay Mann
  • Sustaining Members
  • 81 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Brooklyn, New York

Posted 10 March 2007 - 03:33 PM

The DVX100 is, in my opinion, THE best miniDV prosumer camera that ever existed.

Beautiful (and successful) stories shot in SD:

1. Hoop Dreams
2. Iraq in Fragments (Best cinematography, editing, directing at Sundance)
3. Festen ("The Celebration")

I don't know about Born into Brothels, but that and War Photographer (about James Nachtwey) should knock their socks off. Although I think War Photographer was HD.. whatever.

There are plenty of amazing movies shot in SD. And Panny's 24p is simply incredible. If your students are worried about resolution, make them shoot on film for christ sake.
  • 0

#12 M Joel W

M Joel W
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 268 posts
  • Student

Posted 10 March 2007 - 03:57 PM

I made this on minidv. The only "professional" lights used were a lowel tota and a lowel 500w open face:

http://homepage.mac....onen/scenes.mov

Only the first shots are effects.
  • 0

#13 Jim Feldspar

Jim Feldspar
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 288 posts
  • Student

Posted 10 March 2007 - 08:33 PM

"November", it won the Cinematography Award at Sundance three years ago.



Nancy Screiber discusses shooting "November" on the DVD commentary track. Quite interesting.
  • 0

#14 Jonathan Bowerbank

Jonathan Bowerbank
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 2815 posts
  • 1st Assistant Camera
  • San Francisco, CA

Posted 10 March 2007 - 08:45 PM

I just had this discussion with a colleague the other day. If you're shooting a documentary, a personal piece or a narrative independently without the intent of simply selling footage to a large network, than shooting SD with a DVX for example, is perfectly fine.

However, if you're shooting stock footage, or if you're contracted to shoot a doc for Discovery or PBS, they may require that you shoot HD using a camera that records at a higher bit-rate, sometimes the lowest they'll accept is 50mbs. So, it just depends on the origins of your production and where it's intended venue is.

My colleague shot on the XDCAM HD at I think 32mbs and a different big name network turned his footage down simply because they didn't have confidence in the stats of what he shot, for fears that it wouldn't match with any other footage they had for their related documentaries.

Again, it just depends on the circumstances one's under.
  • 0

#15 David Bradley

David Bradley
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 159 posts
  • Other
  • London UK

Posted 10 March 2007 - 09:40 PM

Yes, two of them. Inland Empire.


Inland empire! watched it at a theatre last night, I thought I had passed out, hallucinated and then been punched in the face several times. It doesnt get any more david lynch than that.

In all serious I want my 3 hours back, I'm just not 'high art' enough for that movie.
  • 0

#16 David Auner aac

David Auner aac
  • Sustaining Members
  • 1117 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles

Posted 11 March 2007 - 10:16 AM

IIRC a number of Dogma films were made on MiniDV, not just Festen. Among these was Dancers in the Dark if memory serves right.

Cheers, Dave
  • 0

#17 Walter Graff

Walter Graff
  • Sustaining Members
  • 1334 posts
  • Other
  • New York City

Posted 11 March 2007 - 11:24 AM

I'm sorry to say that there is really nothing you can do about it. The camera manufactures have marketed a fantasy and most people have bitten into it and can not let go. There was a day where most people interested in the field spent a lot of time watching what is out there in the way of movies, reading books on the subject, and trying to get involved in making their own visions come to life. Today there are ten thousand wannabe filmmakers running around all talking about the 'best' specs, the 'best' camera, and the 'best' set up, but few who need any of what they discuss, or actually do much more than spend most days testing and testing and testing to make sure the camera they have or want is going to be the one that will allow them to become Spielberg or the Maysles brothers. None of them know who the Maysles brothers are either.

If you look at the reality of how many first time filmmakers projects make it beyond their parents DVD player, you'd see that all this desire and 'need' to have their project on formats and with cameras they simply don't need, is pure dreaming, and a waste of time. Today many amateurs think that it's the equipment that makes you a race car driver, not the person behind the wheel. But don't fret, even some professionals have been suckered by marketing and are spending a lot of money on products they simply don't need.

I have noticed something interesting in my lectures at universities, clubs, and groups, etc. Those that have talent and will probably end up actually working in the business in some form or fashion are not as hung up on the illusion as are those that will probably never really work for pay in this industry. Rather the talented people are out shooting and making shorts, docs, and anything else they can, using whatever they have or can get there hands on. The 95% remaining are all running around spewing specs and creating arguments about the technical aspects of making movies, etc. based on web sites they visit and yet even though they really have no experience with what they discuss or much knowledge beyond what they acquire from a few websites, they act as if it's first person knowledge.

I just had a very talented friend write and direct his first feature film. It's low budget. He was so concerned with the story, the talent, and everything else that is what filmmaking is really about that in the end when I asked him what he was shooting on, up until he had everything in order he said he didn't know yet. Then after all the important parts were done he said he was shooting on Digibeta because that is what he could afford to use. Tell that to these wannabe students and they'd tell you you were a dinosaur. My favorite line that always distinguishes an amateur is "Sink or swim, are you interested in the future or a dinosaur from the past- you need to shoot HD or you'll be left out." BTW My friends film is being highly praised and may land him a substantial deal. And there is not a dinosaur in it, nor a credit at the end telling what camera he used, what color sampling rate it is, or what DoF lens adapter he used. And it's still a success, go figure!! !

In the mean time a bunch of people confused about the importance of what we do are all running around trying to prove once and for all that DVCPro is better than HDV and that P2 will take over the world. Visit some of the mostly amateur websites like DVXUSER and you'll find a lot of noise from people who have been mostly misdirected by marketing, whose daily routine is to compare, contrast, compare, contrast, compare, contrast, numbers and specs as if it really has much to do with making a successful idea come to life.

I can always tell those that have potential in this business because they don't spend all their waking hours trolling the web trying to find others to validate that the camera they own is the best because it can reproduce the copyright trademark from the side of a Coke can at ten feet. No, talented people are out setting a path for themselves by forming alliances with others, finding projects to work on, and spending their days shooting, writing and editing, not spewing numbers and worrying about nothing but what camera they are going to use for a project they haven't imagined yet, yet one they know will be distributed in theaters around the world, so they better have the best camera they can have, and a Panavision hat too!

It sounds like you have a misdirected class and if they are stuck in the marketing vortex, there isn't much hope.
  • 0

#18 Sam Kim

Sam Kim
  • Basic Members
  • PipPip
  • 97 posts
  • Student

Posted 11 March 2007 - 12:58 PM

"November", it won the Cinematography Award at Sundance three years ago.


where would you find these titles you've mentioned?
  • 0

#19 Francesco Bonomo

Francesco Bonomo
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 366 posts
  • 1st Assistant Camera
  • currently in Rome, Italy

Posted 11 March 2007 - 01:11 PM

where would you find these titles you've mentioned?


"November" is available on Dvd, "Sweet" is on the "Digital Cinema Solutions" dvd.
  • 0

#20 George Lekovic

George Lekovic
  • Basic Members
  • PipPip
  • 69 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • New York

Posted 11 March 2007 - 01:33 PM

David Lynch's "Inland Empire" was shot entirely on a Sony PD-150. Have your students go and watch it. Lynch, if anybody, is known for his compelling visuals, but he is also a master of sound. And the two work great together even when shot w/ a PD150. So it's not about the camera (entirely) - it's about the story, framing, production design, actors, costume, lighting, sound design, etc... - a very many factors that determine the final outcome. Good direction means putting it all together in the best possible manner.

Hope this helps.
  • 0


Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

Aerial Filmworks

Willys Widgets

Tai Audio

Abel Cine

CineLab

Broadcast Solutions Inc

rebotnix Technologies

The Slider

CineTape

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

Technodolly

Glidecam

Wooden Camera

Paralinx LLC

Opal

Visual Products

Ritter Battery

FJS International, LLC

Rig Wheels Passport

Metropolis Post

Opal

CineTape

Rig Wheels Passport

Broadcast Solutions Inc

Glidecam

The Slider

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

Ritter Battery

Tai Audio

Visual Products

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

Willys Widgets

Aerial Filmworks

CineLab

rebotnix Technologies

Paralinx LLC

Wooden Camera

Abel Cine

FJS International, LLC

Metropolis Post

Technodolly