Shooting a lengthy movie in DV...how much of a nightmare would this be?

Discussion in 'Beginners, General Questions' started by Andrew-V, Oct 8, 2006.

  1. Andrew-V

    Andrew-V Agent

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    So I am thinking about shooting an extremely low budget amateur film but not quite a short film, however I would like the film to look as nice as possible. In the interests of keeping costs down I don't anticipate myself making any film prints in the near future.

    Assuming I have access to a Panasonic DVX100B for filming, would this be the most cost effective approach? As opposed to dealing with 16mm? I'm aware that film ultimately would look better than DV but would probably end up costing much more.

    I guess in the end my question would be...if I were attempting to make a 60 to 90 minute film and edit it myself, what kind of money would I be looking at considering I could borrow the camera? And I don't anticipate myself actually submitting it to any film festivals but I would like it to look on par with those films if I were to transfer it to actual film for viewing. Shot with 24p and hopefully decent audio.

    Thanks in advance.
     
  2. Leo Kerr

    Leo Kerr Screenwriter

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    The DVX-100 cameras are nice units.

    A caveot though - they have a lot of settings that affect image quality. Figure them out; the more "tuning" you can do at the time of capture, before it gets DV compressed for the first time, the better.

    The big liability with DV is the 4:1:1 color space, which will hurt you when it comes to doing any chroma-key or compositing work. If you're not doing any of that, then that won't hurt - as much.

    Particularly if you're not going to film festivals or trying to do any "serious" presentation, I'd stick to DV - there are bigger aspects of the production that'll have longer-lasting implications than the 16mm-vs-DV arguement.

    1. Make sure you have a good tripod. This is absolutely critical. I do location video work all the time; our $20,000 cameras each have $10,000 tripods. They're worth it, no doubt.

    2. Pay attention to lighting and exposure. Clipping video is bad. This is like in Ghostbusters don't cross the beams bad. Clipping anywhere in the frame is a bad thing; overexposing the subject is a total loss. You can recover from some under-exposure - a bit - but really, work to make sure that the exposure is right. A waveform monitor and/or a calibrated monitor you can use in the field for checking the shots is critical. Learn how to do it.

    3. If you have any doubts about the technical quality of a shot, do it again. A do-over is generally easier than yelling at yourself in the edit-bay.

    4. Sound. Here is one area where shooting DV is a massive advantage. However, on-camera microphones generally are junk - unless you're just trying to record on-set activity - say for an effects shot, and you're calling cues that you can use in post later to sync in effects sort of stuff. On-camera mics invariably pick up the sounds of the camera operating - the lens autofocusing, the tape transport, the camera-op's fingers touching the camera, the camera-op breathing, et cetera.

    5. Sound II - Yes, I know you shouldn't need to do this, but recently, for whatever reason, I had troubles with this at work. At the beginning of the shot, include something obvious for sync purposes. Clapper-boards are traditional, almost anything that makes a strong, sharp sound with a clear visual is okay, too.

    6. Shoot properly. The aforementioned shot that I had sound-sync issues had a number of obvious flaws: shots began as the tape began to roll; the camcorder was in the "lp" mode, the tape stopped rolling the instant the action was over... give yourself plenty of lead-in and lead-out, as well as use tape. LP modes cause troubles and removes one of your few "protections."

    7. On dealing with DV. I've worked with DV with PC solutions, and with the Mac (Premiere Pro with the Matrox system, and Final Cut Studio on the Mac.) In my experience, trying to get DV to work with any Windows solution is not worth the trouble it takes. So many fire-wire chip-sets in the PC world don't just talk to the motherboard or to the operating system. I've never had a trouble with a DV camcorder or my DV deck talking with the Mac. And I've heard you can run Final Cut Studio - the full version - on a Mac Mini!

    (Note, I use a PC for just about everything else. I'm very disappointed with firewire implementations on the PC.)

    8. Editing. Make sure the audio chain is clean in the edit bay, or where-ever you're doing audio post. Monitor and sweeten through real speakers and real amps. On my primary audio station at work, I'm running everything through a Mackie VLZ-16x4x2 mixer, through a small Crown D75 amp, and into Alesis Monitor One Mk II speakers. Don't even think about using PC speakers. If you can, take a digital out or a balanced audio out of the PC/Mac, preferably one that isn't being plagued by the operating system. Find out how the sound output works; if and where the unity gain output levels are, and set them there. Don't let any other part of the computer touch the audio output levels. And pay attention to the meters; clipping audio in DV is, like over-exposing the video.

    And good luck.

    Leo
     
  3. Andrew-V

    Andrew-V Agent

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    Leo, thank you very much for the thorough response. It was certainly useful.

    From what you've posted it sounds like my primary concern as of right now is to make sure I know all of the intricacies of the DVX-100. Now, I'm not totally clueless on this but have raised some factors I have not yet considered. I will definitely do some trial and error before I begin any serious filming.

    So I guess the only other thing I'm curious about is if I were to shoot something in 24p and down the line want to invest the money in making a film print for a somewhat serious screening, what should be aware of? Cost? Technical process during filming? I suppose I would want it to look as professional as possible without costing a fortune.
     
  4. Leo Kerr

    Leo Kerr Screenwriter

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    Keep the video as clean as you can; the old adage "Garbage In; Garbage Out" holds true.

    I don't know a lot about laying video back to film; there are others who do more, and the information should be relatively available on the 'net.
     

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