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#1 Matthew B Clark

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Posted 20 May 2014 - 03:28 PM

I'm about to have the S16 mod done to my Krasnogorsk-3 16mm camera.  When it gets back I'm looking to add a follow focus and matte box.  I feel like these are essentials, especially the ability focus pull.  It would just be so much easier to have someone else pulling focus, so I don't have to keep the camera locked in place (or stress myself out thinking about absolutely nailing 3 things at once for entire days of shooting).

 

Please school me on "no frills", simple but rugged follow focus AND matte box options that would work on a K3.  I will also need rails.  My budget is...well....I have a K3.  That's our indication of ballpark.


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#2 Michael LaVoie

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Posted 20 May 2014 - 06:07 PM

 There's Zacuto.  That might be the cheapest safe option.  It should work on the Zenit 17-69mm if you gear that with a focus ring.  You could call and ask.  The Redrock units are much better now and those tend to be on the more affordable side.  As for their longevity, I can't say cause I've never owned them.   In general good matteboxes and follow focus units will cost the price of a new camera.  Finding either under $1,000 is risky.    Simple and "rugged" will unfortunately cost a fortune.  If you want simple and unreliable, that's easy to get for a few hundred bucks.


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#3 Gregg MacPherson

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Posted 21 May 2014 - 02:10 AM

On the K3 what's the distance from the camera base to the lens axis? You could ask other K3 users to see what cheap rod base they have used to put their rods 85mm below the lens axis (vertical distance from rod center to lens axis). Staying standard at 85mm is a very good idea if you can. Cheap aluminum rods and rod base is fine if the geometry is correct.

I'm guessing you are looking at 4x4, though some MB can take 4x5.65 at the front, or either. A cheap matte box can be fine as long as it works and doesn't scratch your filters. If you are doing any hand held with the matte box on then you need to try and get the weight right down. A lot of the cheap Chinese MB are a bit overbuilt rather than carefully designed, so they can be heavy. I was, partly from an interest in design and engineering, following the development of MB designs in China and India a couple of years ago but now I'm out of touch. There are/were some useful designs in there amongst the chaos. I think you will find fantastic design engineers in those countries. I normally blame the entrepeneurs who employ them if something is wrong. If you explore these designs, it helps if you are a tinkerer or enjoy fixing a design flaw or assembly deficiency.

There are a few used Chrosziel MB coming on eBay at good prices now, but they are mostly older designs. Gota pinch yourself, it's just a brand, you have to look carefully at the design to see if it gives you the useful things you need. If you need really light weight, some used Vocas and Genustech look ok and quite cheap. Petroff make a fantastic light weight 4x4, but seldom on the used market yet.

FF. Bear in mind this is a fast changing design area and market. I'm a couple years out of date. A big problem is that most of the cheap ones have non adjustable gear clearance in the gearbox. There are a couple that do. I think shoot35 and maybe some Cavision, the swingarm design that was originally stolen from Petroff (he says). Maybe some of the Chinese FF have that now?

IMO all the FF designs (incl the big brands) that have the drive gear on one of the gearbox spindles are less usefull. The best designs have swingarms. The only lightweight version of this with good design that I have seen is the Chrosziel single sided one. The original Petroff one looked interesting, and Cinetech also, but they are history.

That Chrosziel design does come up on ebay, normally over $1000, well worth it, but if you don't have the loot you have to do something else.

Sorry if I ramble. It's a big area, populated by some useful and some non useful myths.

The most precarious and ambiguous myth..."you get what you pay for". Nah, it's chaos out there, and ruthless inquiry/examination are rewarded.
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#4 Matthew B Clark

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Posted 21 May 2014 - 10:39 AM

Gregg and Michael, thank you both very much.  Especially Gregg for the detail of your suggestions. 

 

At this point I'm very leary of what I see on eBay or B&H for instance, because I am essentially seeing all this stuff geared toward DSLR shooters.  And I have no idea if this stuff (rods, baseplates, FF, matte box) are all fairly interchangeable, or if they are designed very "proprietarily" let's say....meant in other words for use with a special system.  Right now I am just mounting my K3 on a very basic tripod, the base of which is just a total consumer "stick it on" flat base.  Very simple but decent for basic shooting.  My issue now is, I want to acquire a solid base-plate, with rails, and at least a FF all together...so that my camera stays much more steady and focus becomes more fluid.  The issue is, I see all this stuff for sale...some of it total junk....and most of it is always shown with Blackmagic cameras or DSLRs or just really, very very "digital age" stuff I don't care at all about.  And this throws me my biggest question...what will "hold" the weight and size of say, a Bolex, a K3, an Arri.  I guess I do not mind springing for the set-up if it's going to connect me to a tripod correctly - base-plate, rods, FF.  It's just scary seeing all these small cameras on this stuff for sale.  Makes me feel like it's all going to not fit or break when I place a K3 on it.


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#5 Matthew B Clark

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Posted 21 May 2014 - 04:02 PM

Thinking about getting a simple Cavision bellows 4X4 with two filter slots.  It's only $300 and seems like it cuts the mustard and takes filters and flags.  One thing...am I going to have issues with S16 vignetting using that matte box on S16?  Bear in mind one of my main lenses will be the Peleng 8mm.  That sucker sees a lot.  But maybe not that much.  And also....how "crucial" are flags for this?  If I just massage the Cavision box on its own into place, can I cut out the majority of light in most situations, or are flags "critical" many times (basically stated, would you regret not purchasing flags with it yourself)?

 

I'm excited to move into these square filters too...because right now I'm screwing on circular filters and it gets really annoying and always leaves me with a shaky and nervous disposition from trying not to ding any glass when it pops off. 

 

FF probably will be the $500 Tilta.  It has two hard stops and a big wheel to write on...sounds silly, but the price is right and the functions appear to be "well-reviewed" by ye olde committe of online reveiwers.  For the price I think it's worth a gamble if it nets a solid FF.

 

I feel bad saying this, or admitting this, but I was really tempted by the entire Tilta DSLR kit....that's not what makes me feel guilty admitting though!  What makes me feel guilty is that I totally shy'd away from it because it looks like a villain from a Marvel movie when it's all set up.  That's just not my thing.  As much as I hate to admit it, I want my set-up to inspire the aesthetic I'm ultimately after too.  And in all honesty, maybe I'm a little shallow, but I'm sort of equating this to say....whether or not you like Suzuki bikes or a nice classic Triumph.  So keeps your specs...the Cavision and a simple white wheel that feels tight and clean works on my heart as well as my camera.


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#6 Gregg MacPherson

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Posted 21 May 2014 - 04:57 PM

Bit short of time, so briefly.
The strength issue from the previus post. The base plate is just a medium of connection between your camera and the tripod or a quick release plate that snaps into it's mate on the tripod. If the baseplate thickness is say 9mm then even if the alloy grade is average the threads will be well OK. No strength issues there. The rock solid feeling will come from the camera base having enough flat area. Don't know K-3, but the photos look fine for that.

I don't think you will have strength issues with the cheap rod and base systems available. The issue may be stiffness. Alloy rod stiffness will be OK, it's the stiffness in the clamp and the clamp to base connection. But my guess is that stiffness will be OK.

I wouldn't attach handles to the lightweight rods. DSLRs may get away with that, because the camera is so light.

The Cavision 4x4, make sure it can fit Tiffen glass (about 4.1mm thick). Two slots, one rotating is bare minimum, three slots better.

I have a Proaim MB-900 here, an indian made clone of a Chrosziel swing away MB with 2x4x5.65, 4x4 rotatable and 138mm round in the rubber bellows at the rear, but it's heavy and needs some mods to be usefull. Got it dirt cheap used on eBay. ACs who always use the best rented gear may laugh.

I had a good look at one of the Tilta FF recently. It's quite a big heavy beast. If the engineer was told it had to fly, much of the bulk and weight could go, but the engineer was told to make it look big, strong, heavy because this would improve the "perceived value".
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#7 Lance Soltys

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Posted 21 May 2014 - 05:23 PM

I have the CAVISION bellows matte box and their mini follow focus, and I'm very happy with them. The only thing I'm thinking about upgrading might be getting steel rods. I think the rods are ABS plastic, and there is a tiny bit of twist in it I think. It does fit with Tiffen filters, as I have one and it fits fine. Also, I didn't get the CAVISION lens rings, I got the Redrock ones instead because they were wider which covers the focus travel on still lens, that may not be an issue with the lenses you're using. Follow focus itself works fine, though I guess I would whine a little about the way it mounts to the rods, it's a little difficult loosening if you have to make adjustments to change lenses.
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#8 Michael LaVoie

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Posted 21 May 2014 - 08:57 PM

Cavision is the worst.  I had a follow focus that I had to rebuild multiple times and there was always horrible play in it.  Had a mattebox that had horrible light leaks and paint came off it.  It's just ridiculously bad build quality all around.  My Chrosziel mattebox has lasted me 8 years and it's in great shape. No way a Cavision would ever make it that long.  One tumble to the ground and that thing will shatter.

 

For follow focus units you want something like an Arri FF4 with the swing arm and gear in the center of the rods support bracket so that you can reverse it to the other side without placement of anything else on your rods being affected like the mattebox or handgrips.  Unless you go for a dualsided which will cost a lot.  But seriously, it doesn't get worse than Cavision.  At least, I hope.


Edited by Michael LaVoie, 21 May 2014 - 09:00 PM.

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#9 Matthew W. Phillips

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Posted 21 May 2014 - 10:19 PM

The consensus in the industry, as far as gear goes, seems to be "buy gear that is so tough and strong that an idiot who is trying to destroy your gear on set will not be able to do so despite their greatest efforts (or perhaps their hapless witlessness.)"


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#10 Matthew B Clark

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Posted 22 May 2014 - 06:40 AM

Thanks Matthew/Michael/Lance for the input.  Hey Michael, are you referring to the bellows (accordion fold) style Cavision MB?  How could that have light leaks in it (unless there are holes in the creases?)  Isn't that essentially a solid trapezoid of cloth?  Maybe you're referring to their plastic one?

 

As for FF, Gregg, that Tilta has hard stops.  Did you find it to feel smooth when you handled it?  It's hovering in the $500 range and seems solid. 

 

PS, the feature I'm writing now (shooting late summer) involves a LOT of amateur talent (for a very good reason)...but this will be a really interesting learning experience for me since I have Chinese arri clone lights to worry about already on set, am skating by on cheap MB / FF / tripod and will be serving a lot of beer on set (for good reason again). 


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#11 Gregg MacPherson

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Posted 22 May 2014 - 07:34 AM

Re whether Tiffen etc glass fits the available depth in the trays, I explicitly asked Cavision about this and they said some of their designs do, some don't. So one could ask them if buying new re the specific design. Similar askings if buying used I guess.

The Tilta I looked at, at a sales booth here a couple years ago....felt OK. But you can't take much from that. It may not be the same design now, with the exact same parts. Like I said before, it's chaos out there, hard to figure ot what's actually usefull. Without gearbox gear clearance adjustment, all the cheap designs will develope backlash. Then again, if you mark on the lens rather than the white ring it doesn't matter so much does it.....

What tripod/head are you going to use. If you need steady shots it needs to be big, stiff (legs), heavy. Some older design fluid heads floating around that are cheap.

If you're writing a project now, the idea and the way it gives itself to form can determine the gear you need. I know it's a sort of chicken and egg thing, where you may need to explore what the available tools are, can do, before you can imagine the form, determine the tools you need...Hand holding for example, the K3 you can't add weight (my guess). You can't balance it, you'll end up with some kind of shoulder rig trying to make it work....But maybe everything is shot on sticks?

Back to FF. All the cheap FF get reviewed a lot. Unfortunately some of the reviewers are not too smart. But you can find out a good comparative picture. Good chance of finding something usefull, used, cheap on eBay.
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#12 Matthew B Clark

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Posted 22 May 2014 - 01:02 PM

Thanks Gregg.  The Zenit 17-69 zoom that comes on the K3 is one of those of the type that actually extend and retract in size when focus changes.  Before I get into bed with a specific FF, does this prohibit me from using any certain designs, or require me to get a certain design?  I imagine the grips...the lens rings will glide off the actual FF wheel when it goes too far...is that a known issue for zooms like this?


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#13 Matthew B Clark

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Posted 22 May 2014 - 01:03 PM

and apologies for the continual questions.  I have to ask or I won't learn as effectively.  Some lessons need experience....but pitfalls...those are best avoided by asking the guy way up the road, "hey, is there a f*cking CLIFF up there?"


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#14 Gregg MacPherson

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Posted 22 May 2014 - 05:02 PM

I don't know that lens, but that's an old generic problem and the solution can be easy, just having wider gears on the lens and or FF drive. If you measure the axial shift in the focus barrel you will see what width gears will make it work. The cheap FF probably won't have a wide drive gear option, so you will have to find a wider lens gear.

A narrow path, with a cliff face on either side..?

Speaking with some candor on your intention to shoot your own feature in a few months from now. If this is remotely similar in production methods to a small dramatic narrative then one could argue against aquiring all the tools yourself and learning enough to shoot it all yourself. Developing a great concept, writing, visualising rich, achievable environments, perhaps creating them, finding and working with inexperienced actors....all these would be achievement enough. If you can make connection with a cinematographer, maybe someone talented but with less experience, undervalued, then you will be much less at risk. You may still get to shoot some 2nd unit etc. You will learn a lot from the cinematographer.

But if your feature is an introspective on the spiritual life of crickets, all shot macro by a crew of one, then yes you can narrow the focus of the learning and reduce the risks, so go for it.
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#15 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 22 May 2014 - 05:47 PM

I'm of Greggs mind that it may be wiser to find a dop. Hell I have a S16mm package and were you in La and I could work it in i'd be delighted to speak with you about pulling the thing out.

It all depends, really on what you want to be. If that's a director, then I think while it's admirable that one has a basis in all the jobs on set, it becomes hubris quickly when one thinks they can adequately do them all (and that's not really a directors job anyway). If it's more towards being a DoP or the technical sides, or you just honestly don't know, then I say, hell knock it on- do it. Learn.


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#16 Lance Soltys

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Posted 22 May 2014 - 06:02 PM

The point about the focus barrel moving is why I went with the Redrock focus rings. They appeared to be the widest I could find. However, they are only a half inch, so if the barrel moves more than that you could have problems. I suppose you might be able to stack them, but I would guess that the transition between the two rings wouldn't be too smooth even if you lined them up carefully. By the way, I notice you're in Chicago, so am I, if you wanted to look at any of this stuff, (cavision stuff), let me know.
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#17 Matthew W. Phillips

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Posted 22 May 2014 - 06:45 PM

It all depends, really on what you want to be. If that's a director, then I think while it's admirable that one has a basis in all the jobs on set, it becomes hubris quickly when one thinks they can adequately do them all (and that's not really a directors job anyway). If it's more towards being a DoP or the technical sides, or you just honestly don't know, then I say, hell knock it on- do it. Learn.

Hell, my actors are volunteering to do grip work when they aren't busy. They are an awesome group. I realize this isn't typical but sometimes you just have to shoot the thing and stop fantasizing about having enough this or that.


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#18 Michael LaVoie

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Posted 22 May 2014 - 07:16 PM

The light leaks on the cavision mb were in the filter trays. Not where you want light leaks.  You go for strong gear for a variety of reasons.  I've seen cameras tumble over on large Hollywood films.  Mistakes happen even with professionals.  There's also the element of age and weather.  Extremely cold or hot weather can make cheaply made gear easier to break.   

 

When it comes to this stuff, you can throw money away, or you can invest in the gear.  There's resale value to every purchase you make, which, in effect, makes the purchase more like putting money in savings.  If you buy reputable brands that cost more, you'll get more of your money back when you resell it down the road because that brand has a name and value to it.  Like Sachtler, Chrosziel, Arri, Matthews, Mole Richardson, Desisti, Kino.   These products will resell at a much higher rate if they're kept in good clean working order.   Names that won't are Bogen, Manfrotto, Smith Victor, Cavision, Impact, Dynatran because they may start out acceptable new but with time, their products tend to get much worse than their higher end competitors.


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#19 Matthew B Clark

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Posted 23 May 2014 - 09:02 AM

I don't know that lens, but that's an old generic problem and the solution can be easy, just having wider gears on the lens and or FF drive. If you measure the axial shift in the focus barrel you will see what width gears will make it work. The cheap FF probably won't have a wide drive gear option, so you will have to find a wider lens gear.

A narrow path, with a cliff face on either side..?

Speaking with some candor on your intention to shoot your own feature in a few months from now. If this is remotely similar in production methods to a small dramatic narrative then one could argue against aquiring all the tools yourself and learning enough to shoot it all yourself. Developing a great concept, writing, visualising rich, achievable environments, perhaps creating them, finding and working with inexperienced actors....all these would be achievement enough. If you can make connection with a cinematographer, maybe someone talented but with less experience, undervalued, then you will be much less at risk. You may still get to shoot some 2nd unit etc. You will learn a lot from the cinematographer.

But if your feature is an introspective on the spiritual life of crickets, all shot macro by a crew of one, then yes you can narrow the focus of the learning and reduce the risks, so go for it.

 

I love the spiritual life of crickets in macro description!  Thanks for the info on the FF rings, and candid advice too.  I never will shy away from candid advice.  That's the nut under the shell.  Hard to get to sometimes. 

 

I'm of Greggs mind that it may be wiser to find a dop. Hell I have a S16mm package and were you in La and I could work it in i'd be delighted to speak with you about pulling the thing out.

It all depends, really on what you want to be. If that's a director, then I think while it's admirable that one has a basis in all the jobs on set, it becomes hubris quickly when one thinks they can adequately do them all (and that's not really a directors job anyway). If it's more towards being a DoP or the technical sides, or you just honestly don't know, then I say, hell knock it on- do it. Learn.

 

Adrian, I really appreciate that offer frankly.  I'll PM you to discuss this a little...

 

In a nutshell, I have two reasons why I am trying to do the auteur deal on this one (not that it's set in stone yet)...but long story short it isn;t hubris, that's for sure.  My lack of budget (me buying film stock, paying for a nice data scan and grading) is all I have.  So really, it's all amateurs and volunteers on a collision course with destiny.  This makes em embarassed to ask professionals to work on it frankly.  All I can offer is well-catered actual tasty food every day.  And obviously, you know, some stipend or minor pay for major roles (DoP etc) if they come into the fold.  But it's basically self-funded.  You're talking to mr. money bags (har har)!  Fortunately, that works for it too.  The upside is, nobody can tell us what to do, what to cut, etc., and it will still get scanned and released.  I already plan to self-release the thing and do a DCP or a film out eventually (depending on the results).  So I am not in one way concerned at all about the fact it is going to "get done", but I feel a definite sense of "amateur" desire...which I know I can glide into this project and make it work (this is kind of the story of my f*cking life so far - do poop.  Make it happen.  Forget the rest.)...but you know...the issue is...other people may bring their "experience" to the table and scoff at what I'm trying to do and that's just sort of something I don't want poisoning the camp.  I love nice peopel though, of which I am already pretty fairly sure you are one.  So if you're willing to talk, maybe plane tickets and a place to crash may be in the cards (your schedule permitting).  But again, PM coming on that jazz...but you get my jist?  I respect professionals a GREAT deal, and trust me, I'd let them do "their" thing, but I also just don't want my idea to be batted back completely either.  I mean you have to understand the dynamic on a production like this will not exactly be one where a DoP has to "fear" being "fired" or something!  Hahaha!  I am just "the guy trying to make it work".  And I will.  But anyway, I've talked this to death.  Onward!

 

The point about the focus barrel moving is why I went with the Redrock focus rings. They appeared to be the widest I could find. However, they are only a half inch, so if the barrel moves more than that you could have problems. I suppose you might be able to stack them, but I would guess that the transition between the two rings wouldn't be too smooth even if you lined them up carefully. By the way, I notice you're in Chicago, so am I, if you wanted to look at any of this stuff, (cavision stuff), let me know.

 

Thanks Lance!  The Redrock focus ring idea sounds good.  I'll check around to see if there are any wider ones out there since the time you made your buy, but I think that's a fair assessment; the 1/2" jutting out of the lens.  It sounds about right.  I know it's not like 1.5 inches or anything insane.  Tell me...how long have you had your FF, and how often do you use it?  I'm curious if you've noticed any real breakdowns in the gear mechanism or the alignment over whatever time you've had it.  Hey...as for Chicago, that makes two of us so far!  I think I'll either take the plunge on the Cavision MB or not, so don't worry much about that, BUT, it's always good to meet folks in the area.  Thanks.

 

The light leaks on the cavision mb were in the filter trays. Not where you want light leaks.  You go for strong gear for a variety of reasons.  I've seen cameras tumble over on large Hollywood films.  Mistakes happen even with professionals.  There's also the element of age and weather.  Extremely cold or hot weather can make cheaply made gear easier to break.   

 

When it comes to this stuff, you can throw money away, or you can invest in the gear.  There's resale value to every purchase you make, which, in effect, makes the purchase more like putting money in savings.  If you buy reputable brands that cost more, you'll get more of your money back when you resell it down the road because that brand has a name and value to it.  Like Sachtler, Chrosziel, Arri, Matthews, Mole Richardson, Desisti, Kino.   These products will resell at a much higher rate if they're kept in good clean working order.   Names that won't are Bogen, Manfrotto, Smith Victor, Cavision, Impact, Dynatran because they may start out acceptable new but with time, their products tend to get much worse than their higher end competitors.

 

Michael, thanks again for the detail (really, especially the specific brands - which helps me with some very basic questions about reputation etc. for brands).  For my purposes, which are more about "trying my hand at DoP", and doing a couple of productions over the next year, well...in my budget, I am really ok with trying a low-rent FF, as long as it holds up for a feature or two.  You know what I'm saying?  I feel like I need to watch my cash - do a little robbing of Peter to pay Paul or whatever you call that idea - where a cheap FF for now that "breaks down in 2 years" is only $300 vs. $1,000 - leaving me $700 to spend on scanning and grading later.  Etc etc.  So don't get me wrong, I am not even close to disputing your point here on quality - not at all.  I just need less now...

 

As for the light leaks - a nice strip of gaffer tape across the top of the filter trays?  $700 savings? 


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#20 Matthew B Clark

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Posted 23 May 2014 - 09:10 AM

Hell, my actors are volunteering to do grip work when they aren't busy. They are an awesome group. I realize this isn't typical but sometimes you just have to shoot the thing and stop fantasizing about having enough this or that.

 

 

Matthew - This is exactly how I operate, and will continue to!  I'm totally of the mindset of (for lack of a better, maybe less loaded word) "punk rock" school of approaching things.  I feel like if someone is standing around, they are a person like me, or anyone else.  They can do something.  If they don't know how to do something, they can probably be quickly taught to do at least something useful.  Job titles comes after.  Getting things happening in reality is the first goal, right?  Sweat the knowledge, but don't ever sweat the rules.  All they do is cause problems, whereas knowledge and will cause results.


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