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Film or HD cam purchase


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#1 Adam Thompson

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Posted 14 March 2007 - 08:05 PM

(In the context of indie feature film cinematography only)

If you were a DP, with most of your experience in shooting 24p features (4 so far), but could have had a couple of jobs shooting S16 if you had a basic cam package, would you now consider buying a camera such as the Aaton Prod, or will cams like RED negate the probable investment benefits over the next two or three years.

I know things will go digital someday, of course, but right now it seems 90% of legitimate indie features (meaning to me, films with professional actors, pro crew members, experienced producer, etc) still stick with 35 or 16 no matter what. In recently talking to one successful producer and another producer rep. (who often works with a major distributor) both have stated that movies shot on film get first look and sometimes are the only ones that even get looked at, at all! The fact is that this will remain the case, for a long time, no matter how good dig. cams record light.

Does any (working/ex pro) in here have an opinion they might like to share with me on this? Is it unwise to invest $25k in a used Aaton when I could get a new RED for close to the same?

I honestly haven't enjoyed my digital experiences at all. Everything becomes so rushed and the American "push-button" mentality seems to rear it's ugly head quickly and any "craft" turns into soggy work instead. Not to mention that thus far, the images are never anything that excites me. The most satisfying experiences to date have been on the film based shorts, even the Super8 ones! RED doesn't excite me one bit for some reason, I don't know why, but if that's the smartest way to go in the next couple of years to come, then I might learn to like it. Or ideally, Aaton or Arri will make a competitor and build something more conventional in shape and thus, probably a lot more comfortable. (at least it won't look like a gun... who would want to use the RED in Iraq?!) The only new cam that really got me going was the Arri 416 that I got to mess with at NAB, but I who has $85k for a body.
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#2 Robert Houllahan

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Posted 14 March 2007 - 08:43 PM

[Would you now consider buying a camera such as the Aaton Prod, or will cams like RED negate the probable investment benefits over the next two or three years.

I bought my LTR54 6 years ago and probably have 10-12K (lenses, support,blah, blah) into it which seems relatively cheap to me, I have gotten tons of use out of it and I am not saddled with a big monthly payment to own it. Film's film and I do not think a video camera no matter how much talk is made about it will negate that look and methodology, and there are major issues with all of the types of imagers be it a bayer or prism block.

I know things will go digital someday, of course

This is, of course, the prevailing wisdom but I do not necessarily see it as having to be true, the digital phenomena is still fairly new and most people seem to be resigned to digital representations replacing everything from sex to toast in the coming years. Many digital systems are vastly more complex, power hungry, short lived and not ultimately as good as what they have replaced just throw the digital moniker on and accept the dulling effect.... :D

Does any (working/ex pro) in here have an opinion they might like to share with me on this? Is it unwise to invest $25k in a used Aaton when I could get a new RED for close to the same?

I think a used aaton or sr will set you back allot less than 25k and a complete red will set you back more like 75k after glass and accessories, etc. unless you want to use a plastic follow focus with a nikkor prime with a 1/4 barrel turn for focus.

I honestly haven't enjoyed my digital experiences at all. Everything becomes so rushed and the American "push-button" mentality seems to rear it's ugly head quickly and any "craft" turns into soggy work instead. Not to mention that thus far, the images are never anything that excites me.

There are allot of lazy slobs (directing) working at the hi-end of American cinema pushing the "new" button history will not have anything to say about the early 2000's all blue screen digital "film" because it will be quickly forgotten and almost as quickly the "originals" will be eaten by entropy. Entropy loves a highly ordered complex system, yummy tasty.

These are my opinions as a Jerk...... :D

-Rob-
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#3 Robert Houllahan

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Posted 14 March 2007 - 09:17 PM

And please for heavens sake don't anyone go and start thinking I am saying anything bad about the red I am sure it is going to be a very fine example of it's type of camera, similar to the Dalsa I would think in many ways.

I am afraid to even say red it's so like pissing on the third rail around here.

-Rob-
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#4 Brian Wells

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Posted 14 March 2007 - 11:08 PM

ideally, Aaton or Arri will make a competitor and build something more conventional in shape and thus, probably a lot more comfortable.

I fully anticipate once Arri is done "testing" the D-20 as a rental only item, they will introduce some digital backs for their film cameras. If they don't, someone else will. Super16 is awesome, tho. I recently saw a demonstration of Super16 and D-20 on a Cinetal HD monitor... Let's just say digital cameras are a hard sell as far as image quality is concerned... Where speed is the #1 priority, digital is clearly the winner, obviously.
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#5 Robert Houllahan

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Posted 15 March 2007 - 01:02 AM

I fully anticipate once Arri is done "testing" the D-20 as a rental only item, they will introduce some digital backs for their film cameras. If they don't, someone else will. Super16 is awesome, tho. I recently saw a demonstration of Super16 and D-20 on a Cinetal HD monitor... Let's just say digital cameras are a hard sell as far as image quality is concerned... Where speed is the #1 priority, digital is clearly the winner, obviously.




It will be nice to snap a Digiback on your Sr or Ltr/Xtr seems rather logical.

I would also say that making jobs pay for kit is a great way to get more kit. I have taken the approach of a bit older or specialized cameras. I have 2 brand new (2002 manufacture) Hycam's because a customer had a instrumentation need and I got them at the right price. I just finished putting together the rest of my Eyemo kit with a few more Nikkors (18mm, 28mm, the 1/4 turn for focus :) ) and I am picking up my NCS Timelapse motor this weekend in Queens. I am sure I can sell some nice long shutter duration (stars flyingby, etc.) shots in 35mm probably pay for the motor in a few weeks.


I had thought about buying a nice XTR about a year ago but finding 10K (plus my ltr) to stretch to get it just did not make sense for me. Having some kit and then going to the rental house is a good way to go, let the rental house pay for the high ticket camera system and maintain it. If I had a job where the client wanted a fancy looking spot and was willing to pay going to Boscam and getting a 435 and support, etc. is what I would do in a flash might bring the eyemo package but as a specialty rig only. Owning the 435 would only make sense if I were in a market and climate where it would give me great leverage or be run almost every day.

-Rob-
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#6 Max Jacoby

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Posted 15 March 2007 - 03:30 AM

Yeah, the thing to keep in mind with the Red is that a professional package costs a lot more than the price of the camera alone. Especially good PL-mount lenses are very expensive and the demand is huge all of a sudden. You can very likely get cheaper Super 16 prime lenses (Zeiss Superspeeds, Elites) than 35mm lenses.
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