Saturday, April 23, 2005

Film vs. video vs. camera vs. camera

There are so many things I want to write about here and having a 3-year-old daughter in the middle of potty training seems to leave very little time.

But - I'm going to write today about cameras and their lack of importance in the filmmaking process.

Really? Is he serious?

Think about it this way: Does someone who wants to start a radio station spend all his time worrying about what kind of microphones he's going to use, or does he worry about what he's going to put on the radio?

So often in the indie film magazines and the websites and the chat rooms I see filmmakers obsessing over the question of film or video or which camera to use (these days it's mostly the DVX100a or the XL2.) My answer is that it doesn't really matter because a camera isn't what you should focus on. True, the advent of video has made it that much easier to go out and make the film you want to make, and the acceptance of films on video is growing in certain circles. But all that means is that your options for making your film are increasing.

The reason you shouldn't worry about what you shoot with is because you should spend your time and energy worry about what you're going to shoot. I know this gets said time and time again, but spend the time on your script, spend the time working with actors - fine tune your craft. That goes for being the producer as well as the director because the truly great producers were often extremely creative people - people who worried about things like story and cast. Before you even begin to freak out about what camera to use - storyboard the whole damn thing (there's a good chance that will cause you to freak out in a totally different way.) But storyboarding, even if it's stick figures, is a hugely useful tool that will help you get the pacing of a film into your head and may actually lead you to re-write it. As a great example of this, once they have the whole film storyboarded, Pixar actaully then does a rough animation of the storyboard so they can start seeing the film as it will be. (This isn't a novel idea by they way, they got it from Disney who started doing it around the time of Snow White.) It's a lot easier to re-write a story board than a shot film. And then and only then, when you have the script nailed and the cast you want and maybe a little cash, just use the best damn camera you can afford. Your DP will probably be able to tell you what that is.

And the truth is - these days - by the time you're all done with that, the camera you were all worried about will probably be replaced by the next hottest thing. Did you know the boys in Japan are working hard on eliminating video tape?

1 comment:

Mookie Dugway said...

As a former Camera Assistant I can honestly say - "WHAT" the camera is everything. For instance if you shoot in film you will probably need a full camera truck which is necessary to have a place to sleep during the long shooting day. When you are the "B" camera operator and camera assistant, you need a place to go to unwind and get paid while you catch up on sleep. This can only be accomplished with the use of a film camera because there is so much crap associated with the format that you will need a large truck - hence a place to sleep. This cannot be accomplished with video especially in DV format where all the equipment can fit in the trunk of VW. Impossible.

For the director, the format means little or not as important as say the actors but to the camera dept. it is a holy experience and fundamental to the well-being and self preservation. What would George Eastman say? What will happen to all that Kodak negative waiting to be shot? What will happen to my Kodak stock? Ever think of those things? I think not.

To preserve the history and visual experience, any producer will tell you that the camera is THE most single important piece of equipment on a film set. As a camera assistant it is paramount to exercising your right to sleep and get paid at the same time. Believe me, I know this first hand.

Ever see a director sleep on set? I think not!