March 8, 2016 at 2:15PM

0

Why shooting on that $50K camera isn't worth it

So about a year ago I finished and released my graduation film; Bonnie and Clyde. As student films go, I had a pretty restrict budget. I wanted to go out and rent a Red or an Arri and shoot it in the biggest numbered "K" button I could see in the menus. And lenses I could do some curls with and impress some make-up chick babes on set with. But after some budget realisations that we are all hit with when trying to make our vision come to life, I decided the sensible option would be to shoot on my school's Canon C100 (Mark one) with the Atomos Ninja recording in ProRes. (So a pretty big step decrease to what I wanted) I mean, the C100 doesn't even shoot in 4K or even 2K! No, it shoots in 1080p. (What's the point, may as well rub dirt in my eyes!)

I did manage to get my hands on a old school Contax Zeiss prime lens, so that Carl Zeiss T* logo had to count for something in order to please me to a small degree after my heartbreaking pass on renting something the big boys were using. (The other lenses acquired were the Canon 28mm f/1.8 and the 85mm f/1.8)

I shot the film, edited, graded - All the fun stuff.

Then it came to screening the film. Which is where all my babbling has lead us to. This very point of my story, and hopefully some helpful insight to people in my situation.

People kept asking me the same question, over and over again... "What was it shot on?"

I didn't want to look like an amateur in front of some of these people, I mean, some of these films were shot on film! Like, actual physical film!

"Oh, Red" I would respond
"Yeah, thought so. Definitely has the Red look" would be there replies.

So some kind of sick, twisted part of me kept the dirty lie up, and the responses would always be the same. "Yep can totally tell" or "knew it"

I gave one 20-something indie filmmaker who thought he was bigger than Steven Spielberg the lie of I shot it with Zeiss CP2's (Didn't want to jump the gun and say Ultra Primes or something) "Yeah I could tell that organic look a mile off..."

So my point of this story is: Don't freak out about the small things like cameras and lenses. Worry about content and story. And also lighting and sound. Which are more important than what camera/lens combo your going to opt for. I know I'm in no way the first to be saying this. This is just my experience of coming to the realisation.

You can see the film I'm referring to here: https://vimeo.com/116116003

47 Comments

Very well done!
Excellent lighting and good framing!
Overall good cuts!

Two minor things I noticed:

1. The wide car shot at 0:40 does not do it for me (it's breaking the 180 "rule").
2. I would have done the backroom shot at 2:21 differently. Different light, perhaps dark blue for contrast and I would have picked a different background than the empty yellow wall, something like a "Poster of Scarface" on the wall would have been fun and definitely I would have used a zoom/sound change when the girl realized the OMG moment!

March 8, 2016 at 7:49PM, Edited March 8, 7:50PM

7
Reply
avatar
Cary Knoop
Member
2521

Thanks for the feedback! Yeah I hated doing the backroom scene. The room was as big as you see it in the frame, was really impractical. But now really wish I had a poster of something on the wall now because that really would have helped define it better.

March 9, 2016 at 10:19AM

1
Reply
avatar
Joe Medlock
Camera Assistant / Focus Puller
182

Hahaha thanks for making my day :'D Loved this story! I'm going to start saying my twixtor footage was shot on Phantom Flex

March 9, 2016 at 3:26PM

4
Reply
avatar
Clark McCauley
Spaceman
1935

Glad you liked it!

March 9, 2016 at 4:26PM

3
Reply
avatar
Joe Medlock
Camera Assistant / Focus Puller
182

It's like the emperor's new clothes :P
Nobody wants to admit they don't see it...

March 10, 2016 at 6:08AM

4
Reply
avatar
WalterBrokx
Director, DOP, Writer, Editor, Producer
8973

So true! Thats the best way to describe it

March 10, 2016 at 8:30AM

10
Reply
avatar
Joe Medlock
Camera Assistant / Focus Puller
182

For my student film I couldn't afford to shoot on film so used VHS.
The best effort got to remake on U-Matic.
That's the reason I became an editor rather than camera-op.

March 10, 2016 at 8:10AM

0
Reply
avatar
Stelrad Two Machine Doulton
Editor by choice, film maker by necessity.
326

I'm so glad to read your post and see your film. I want to get back to do some narrative filmmaking, it's been awhile since the last time. Back in the day we accomplished great things with very little resources. Now I'm writing a short which story is really growing into me and started to have weird ideas like my C100 isn't gonna make for it, we need a Red, 8k (well, that's not true, but I was thinking in 4k actually), optics, etc. and now I'm confident that I will go with my camera and put the money somewhere else. I got so much relief. Thank you very much. ¡Congratulations!

March 10, 2016 at 5:24PM, Edited March 10, 5:34PM

0
Reply
Ulises Bravo
Filmmaker, DP
38

Really glad to hear it! Always way worth it putting the money into talent, locations etc. Even things like better catering to keep crew and cast in high spirits rather than better camera gear.

Can't wait to see what you make!

March 10, 2016 at 6:43PM

0
Reply
avatar
Joe Medlock
Camera Assistant / Focus Puller
182

I plan to have it finished by autumn in a worst case scenario, but I really hope to make it by summer. All those things you said sound like great ideas!!!

March 10, 2016 at 10:45PM

0
Reply
Ulises Bravo
Filmmaker, DP
38

Did you pay for the royalties to rip the theme from Hotline: Miami for your credits music?

March 22, 2016 at 9:33AM

0
Reply
george
74

Funny story, well maybe not funny. But a true story, when I finished this, a lecturer asked if it was a reference to the game. I had never actually heard of it before. Weird I know because there are a lot of similarities. But they didn't make the music, its by an artist who allows it for non profit use.

March 22, 2016 at 7:37PM, Edited March 22, 7:37PM

0
Reply
avatar
Joe Medlock
Camera Assistant / Focus Puller
182

Great post. I agree with you 100% and nice film!

March 11, 2016 at 1:01AM

0
Reply
avatar
C-10
Sound + Vision
81

Thank you very much!

March 11, 2016 at 6:45AM

3
Reply
avatar
Joe Medlock
Camera Assistant / Focus Puller
182

Well done on your project, funny and looked great!

I will admit I get caught up in the gear as I love editing and cinematography the most, but as it's been repeated everything ultimately comes down to the story.

March 11, 2016 at 8:41AM

0
Reply
Alex Everingham
Video Editor
540

Love the droning guitar in the background. good work!

March 11, 2016 at 9:09AM

0
Reply
The LazyCat
CEO
13

Thanks! that was something i was really concerned about if people were going to find it too annoying. Glad you liked it

March 11, 2016 at 9:46PM

0
Reply
avatar
Joe Medlock
Camera Assistant / Focus Puller
182

I always say iPhone

March 11, 2016 at 7:31PM

0
Reply
avatar
Zack Wallnau
Cinematographer & Tinkerer
486

Just like you shouldn't listen to the indie filmmakers at the festival you shouldn't listen to the praise here. The cinematography made this story weaker, its not a great example of your point. There was no sense of geography in the store, the framing was too tight on several shots, the hammer guys coverage was incomplete, the male character in the car was far more underexposed than the girl, nothing in the story really motivated that, why was the back room so brightly and flatly light for a convenience store in a gritty narrative where a clerk was beaten, you had one foot in and one foot out on the sodium vapor look for the exteriors sometimes it was there sometimes it wasn't so stylistically it was vague. What I'm saying is you got a lot of work to do before you can make the point on story over gear through your work, another filmmaker would have had a cleaner narrative with the same gear.

March 12, 2016 at 8:03AM

0
Reply
Indie Guy
551

Appreciate the constructive feedback. It's by no means the perfect film. It's riddled with flaws, and thats just to be expected with student filmmakers and crew who are still learning.

My post wasn't denying any of that, but to enlighten people who were in the situation I was at the time where I felt like I *needed* the high production equipment to achieve my film and to tell the story visually better, when in reality, the film looks exactly the same as if it were shot on say a RED Dragon and Zeiss CP2's that I wanted to shell out for, which what was effectively 120% of the films budget. And still your comment brings home my point of being able to walk before I can run.

March 12, 2016 at 9:03AM, Edited March 12, 9:16AM

8
Reply
avatar
Joe Medlock
Camera Assistant / Focus Puller
182

Loving this guys humility ^ I'd hire him...

March 14, 2016 at 11:54AM

0
Reply
avatar
Clark McCauley
Spaceman
1935

Much obliged Clark :)

March 14, 2016 at 3:36PM

3
Reply
avatar
Joe Medlock
Camera Assistant / Focus Puller
182

Even though the "gears doesn't matter" philosophy is too often pushed beyond the limits of common sense by some indie filmmakers, I disagree with the most part of that "constructive feedback" right above. For example, it was no problem reconstructing in my mind the geography of the store. Like, at all. It is a nice short movie and in your post you perfectly conveyed the concept you wanted to express about expensive gear. And I firmly believe a lot of people commenting on this site would be very very happy if they shot a short movie like yours. I'm one of them.

March 18, 2016 at 9:26AM

2
Reply
avatar
David R. Falzarano
Director / Writer / Editor
1296

Thank you for the kind words!

March 18, 2016 at 10:11PM

0
Reply
avatar
Joe Medlock
Camera Assistant / Focus Puller
182

You construct geography in your mind from a novel not from a film, unless it is intentional for the story or suspense. We are in a visual medium, so we only have what we see. In this case the lack of what we see doesn't support anything in the story or add significant suspense. Watch Pickpocket if you want to develop suspense by what we don't see. Knowing what kind of convenience store they were in would have helped the story. Don't listen to guys that will fluff your ego, they will only do so because they want others to fluff theirs.

March 19, 2016 at 8:14AM

0
Reply
Indie Guy
551

Everything you say makes perfectly sense, I just fail to see how this short movie lacks *so badly* the visual information you're talking about. To me it was ok, that's all.

March 19, 2016 at 10:32AM, Edited March 19, 10:32AM

5
Reply
avatar
David R. Falzarano
Director / Writer / Editor
1296

"Just like you shouldn't listen to the indie filmmakers at the festival" you shouldn't listen to this Ryan guy either. Your work was pretty good. I followed the link you shared and realized I had already watched, and had already given your video a like/heart on vimeo some time ago. Anywho, Ryan Emanuel you should share some of your "perfect" work so others can learn by example instead of learning by your criticism.

March 12, 2016 at 12:53PM

0
Reply
Reggie Brown
Cinematographer
317

Thanks a lot! Glad you enjoyed it

March 12, 2016 at 3:34PM

0
Reply
avatar
Joe Medlock
Camera Assistant / Focus Puller
182

She is in that netflix original, "Love", no?

March 12, 2016 at 9:18AM

5
Reply

The C100 is a highly underrated camera. I'm excited to watch your film!

March 13, 2016 at 1:10AM

3
Reply
Kenneth Merrill
Director
1146

This applies only to projects where the customer is not on set.
I would say.... 5% of the time.

In most cases the customer is on set, so saying "shooted on RED" while a DSLR or a C100 is mounted won't do the trick.

March 13, 2016 at 10:39AM, Edited March 13, 10:39AM

0
Reply
avatar
JeffreyWalther
Steadicam Operator
953

Yea I completely agree. I'm just talking personal projects

March 13, 2016 at 9:40PM

2
Reply
avatar
Joe Medlock
Camera Assistant / Focus Puller
182

Jeffrey, I think you are referring to paid commercial work where the camera rental is part of the gig and the cost is covered. If a client wants to shoot Red and pays for it then of course that's what you'd shoot on -what does that have to do with this scenario?

March 16, 2016 at 12:15AM

5
Reply
avatar
Stephen Herron
Writer/Director
1429

Very true, that's why I would rather rent.

March 14, 2016 at 7:59PM

0
Reply

Get the best you can get your hands on, but don't sweat it if the best you can get your hands on is only a "sub par" choice

March 15, 2016 at 10:19PM, Edited March 15, 10:20PM

0
Reply
avatar
Joe Medlock
Camera Assistant / Focus Puller
182

Love this article, this is just too true. We've gotten to a point where film-making has become so democratized that any average Joe can make something look good. Perhaps this has been for the worst, maybe we've become too spoiled. When there is such an overabundance of gear we forget the true essence of film-making - to tell a story. Now you can just film stuff on a Iphone, as many takes as you want, delete the ones you don't like - just like that, nothing like Super 8, where oops, you didn't like that footage? Well sorry but you're going to have to buy a new roll of film. We've forgotten how unique and compelling this art form is. There are people with lives - children and busy adults alike who are willing to surrender their undivided attention to us for a couple of minutes, or even a couple of hours, how awesome is that!? In a world where everyone is so self-absorbed, people don't realize how important attention like that is. With that in mind - we should realize that the imperative is not on that piece of technology, but on the story it's being used to tell.

March 15, 2016 at 11:49PM

4
Reply
avatar
Matt Nunn
Amateur
224

Short looks great, nice job man!

March 16, 2016 at 12:17AM, Edited March 16, 12:17AM

4
Reply
avatar
Stephen Herron
Writer/Director
1429

Thanks a lot!

March 16, 2016 at 10:49AM

1
Reply
avatar
Joe Medlock
Camera Assistant / Focus Puller
182

Really great read, I love your blunt points! And I enjoyed the short, job well done!

March 16, 2016 at 12:41AM, Edited March 16, 12:41AM

0
Reply
avatar
Maxwell Ridgeway
Director, Producer, & Youtuber
80

Really enjoyed the film. There's nothing wrong with a C100. It's more than capable of getting a great image, especially with nice glass in front.

Of course there'll be people wanting to point out flaws in your films, but there's people that do that to every film, and isn't that kind of the point? Tell a story, start a discussion.
It's easy for people to criticise, but hey, you created something. I bet it was great fun to do it. I bet you learned a lot too. I look forward to seeing your next piece, that's for sure!

March 16, 2016 at 6:14PM, Edited March 16, 6:14PM

3
Reply

Couldn't agree more! Glad you enjoyed it

March 17, 2016 at 7:32PM

4
Reply
avatar
Joe Medlock
Camera Assistant / Focus Puller
182

Gear Does Matter... but not the way we allow it to matter sometimes... nice Short Man! (would have worked some more on the blood) really good... All the Best and get a Blackmagic Camera LOL.

March 18, 2016 at 4:20AM, Edited March 18, 4:21AM

3
Reply
avatar
Wentworth Kelly
Director/DP/Colorist/Drone Op
2108

Thanks! Yea the blood was very water'd down to make sure it would be easy to clean. Have since learnt a bit of DaVinci to darken it in post. Glad you enjoyed it

March 29, 2016 at 3:07PM

2
Reply
avatar
Joe Medlock
Camera Assistant / Focus Puller
182

You're off to a good start. Keep at it. Story and creativity are more important that what camera you shot with. I see too many wannabe's sitting on their rear debating which camera is best and end up doing very little or producing crap. If anyone is worried about the camera I recommend checking this out (if you haven't already done so):

http://nofilmschool.com/2012/06/zacutos-revenge-great-camera-shootout

It's a three part series where 10 DP's are chosen and work with everything from an iPhone on up to a Sony F65 and everything else in between. It's a real eye-opener.
--------------------------------
My three Ps: passion, patience, perseverance. You have to do this if you’ve got to be a filmmaker.
- Robert Wise

What I always tell people is… Unless you are so passionate about filmmaking that you would rather live out of your car than not do it, find something else to do as a career and do filmmaking as a hobby. This industry is one of the hardest to break into and be successful. It takes a lot of passion and dedication for it to get anywhere…
- Ryan Connolly

March 18, 2016 at 10:54PM, Edited March 18, 10:56PM

5
Reply
Ron Marvin
Director of Photography
145

Thanks a lot. Loved the article you shared

March 22, 2016 at 7:35PM

0
Reply
avatar
Joe Medlock
Camera Assistant / Focus Puller
182

You wrote: "Why shooting on that $50K camera isn't worth it"

I think most of the time it is not but when the moment you capture is expensive business or a one-time event you cannot take any chances. For instance a 50K camera is far more forgiving when it comes to exposure problems that cannot always be avoided.

March 20, 2016 at 5:31PM, Edited March 20, 5:31PM

0
Reply
avatar
Cary Knoop
Member
2521

I completely agree. This is just in the instance when you're on a sub £1K budget

March 21, 2016 at 9:10PM

0
Reply
avatar
Joe Medlock
Camera Assistant / Focus Puller
182

Your Comment