View Full Version : HD Camcorders?


King Goldfish
12-17-2005, 10:03 PM
How do you guys feel about the new Camcorders with HDD built in? No Tapes to mess with or deck systems. In the next 5 years or so they will be up in the terabytes?

They look pretty cool. Im thinking camcorders are going to become so advance in the next 5 years. Everything will be HD with 3CCD tenology.

jmac5000
12-18-2005, 02:09 AM
Well, I don't think it's 5 years, I think it's 1 year until DV is deemed as unacceptable as BetaSP!

One camera that has caught my eye is the new Panasonic AG-HVX200. It's pretty cool using solid-state media cards plus a simul tape back-up. The cards plug right into your laptop through the PCMIA slot. One 8GB card stores about 20 mintues of 720p or about 4 minutes of 1080p. That's right, it records 1080P! Get this: the camera accepts two media cards, so if you're doing a long take and are about to run out of media space, it automatically switches over to the empty card, and you can hot-swap the spent card, dump it into your laptop, and plug in a fresh one to keep on recording! Genious!

The real sweet deal will be when they come out with a 2/3" 3CCD setup for under 5k. It'll basically kill off a ton of business for the Varicam and the Sony F900 cams, but I bet the other guys are working on it! Don't know when but it's definitely coming soon!

DV is DEAD. DO NOT SHOOT DV, shoot HD or else you won't be able to sell your film when you finish it. Just my opinion from a LOT of research and from attending AFM this year.

The HD revolution is already here, some just don't know it yet! (Or are pissed cause they just bought an XL2, DVX100, etc!!!)

Cheers

-Jim

knightly
12-18-2005, 01:41 PM
I'm getting really good results right now from DV. I would amend your statement to "DV is DEAD...for me". I'm loving DV as a low budget format. I don't see it as dead at all. I have seen DV movies screened in their native resolution and they look phenomenal...as long as they're shot well. People still use 8mm and 16mm for making movies, and those remain viable although they are vastly inferior in quality to 35mm.

Don't get me wrong...I want the new canon when it comes out...but I'm perfectly comfortable with DV. I think DV is as dead as 8mm and 16mm. Probably won't get picked up for big hollywood release (although it has happened), but TV's can't display the full resolution or dynamic range of HD in 90% of the homes anyway...so DV is quite viable until the numbers change. I've also seen VHS video that was done quite well. All has to do with how you use the medium.

There was this crazy artist once who said he could make a full canvas painting with dots...rediculous...the resolution of a dot is tiny. Painting is here (http://images.quizilla.com/1034046655_opS104SEUR.jpg).

The saleability will be based on what a distributor is presented. If you present "I have a DV movie...", you will have problems pushing it. Start with the pitch and ask for a screening... and keep in mind that most films don't get picked up either.

my $.02...mostly because as a DV moviemaker, I felt personally attacked (not your intention of course) by that statement. My past 5 years has been devoted to a DV project that I don't expect to be able to sell, I am learning this movie to learn the trade...but some of the pictures I'm getting are as good as I've seen in major motion pictures (although 1/10000th the expense).

clive
12-18-2005, 03:39 PM
I'm with knightly on this one.

I've been a major advocate of HD for the last four years and I still love it as a format, but I currently looking at dv as a production format for my next movie for all kinds of reasons. Sure money is one of them, but it's not the whole story.

One of the negatives that I've found with HD is the higher resolution. When I looked at some of the chase sequences in the woods from No Place, from our HD masters on a HD studio monitor, you could see every leaf. Personally I found it distracting visually. Too much information. There is more to good cinema than resolution.

I also agree with knightly's view of the pitch. I'm not interested in pitching a dv movie or a hd movie, I'm just pitching a movie.

What makes right now very exciting is that the financial limitiations on production have been demolished, which means that now only creativity, skill and good understanding of the market matter. That's got to be good for everyone regardless of what format you use.

indietalk
12-18-2005, 04:26 PM
One of the negatives that I've found with HD is the higher resolution. When I looked at some of the chase sequences in the woods from No Place, from our HD masters on a HD studio monitor, you could see every leaf. Personally I found it distracting visually. Too much information. There is more to good cinema than resolution.

With my last short film (on super 16mm) I finished the film on Digibeta. I was advised to transfer to Digibeta rather than HD because it was black and white, and with HD it would/may not look as good (I believe contrast was the issue). I don't know if this is true or not, but it goes along the lines of what you posted. There are reasons to look at all formats, and not just the best technologically. I was also very happy with the finished product.

mdifilm
12-18-2005, 05:52 PM
I'm currently in pre-production for my feature, I have tossed the idea between film, hd, or dv, and I'm right now have to look at the bigger picture: wihch one of these format would give me minimal expenses during shoot and would increase my chance of being pick up immediately (because it's cheap and because it's a genre that is marketable/sellable). The answer is really there, as many had told me, shooting 16mm and HD is very similar in cost (HD more during production, and film is more during 'processing/shooting').

So, what good the movie would do to me if it's just going to go through film festivals, winning a few awards and no one is interested in buying while spent a lot more than need to and now am broke? (that's the perspective I'm looking at my project - what is my end goal).

jmac5000
12-19-2005, 12:04 AM
OK, please let me apologize. Yes, DV is dead for me in terms of creating feature films, but I still love the fact that DV is so inexpensive that anyone can create something immediately, regardless of if anyone else "approves," and that growth and artistic expression is absolutely priceless.

Now, if any of you are creating films for any non-commercial reasons, then my response has very little basis on your scenario. Go shoot it, and be happy. BUT, if you have any intention, no matter how small, of selling this film and seeing it distributed - even direct-to-video - then please allow me to clarify.

Many of you are currently working on features on DV, and if you finish them in the next 2 years, you still MIGHT be able to sell them. My point is one of simple market trend:

Already the market is shifting away from DV. That's not my perspective, that's fact, and that scenario is NOT similar to 8mm and 16mm. Remember that 16mm film came AFTER 35mm film - it was always looked upon as inferior to 35mm. Digital filmmaking has actually expanded the 16mm market, because 16mm still has better resolution and zero compression, creating more potential for a better looking product than HD. Now, it is nearly as easy to sell a film shot on 16 and blown up to 35 as it is to sell a film originating on 35.

The fact is that with HDV entering the marketplace, DV is increasingly being seen as simply not a high enough resolution capture format. Falling back on the standard argument that "scenes shot on HD don't look right," or that "they're too crisp" or "the depth of field is too deep" is not going to change the situation. In my opinion these problems are a case of DPs not knowing how to use this new technology. One can argue all day that their DP is a professional and he knows how to shoot HD, but remember that there ARE HD movies being shot that look great, which means - in my opinion - that it is a question of HOW you use the medium, not the medium itself. There are methods to combat every one of these problems.

I am not trying to be insensitive. I am not trying to anger anyone. I am simply saying that the marketplace will have little-to-no place for DV in 5 years, although I believe it will be more like next year's market that we'll start seeing a serious drop in the number of DV features bought.

Now for the big bummer. These trends have nothing to do with art. They have to do with business. If you're shooting a film and the buyers and exhibitors told you that your chances of selling a film shot on DV today were very slim, would you still shoot on DV? Well, this is what I've been told from everyone from the little un's (Amsell, Shoreline) to the big uns (Lion's Gate). Like I said before, I went to AFM this year and spoke with EVERYONE. They're still buying DV only because there isn't enough HD product out there. As soon as there is, your project had better be the best thing they've ever seen, or else it's going to be almost impossible to sell and distribute through the traditional means.

Now, your DV film might be completely brilliant, and transcend this trend. It does happen, mainly when they play the top 5 festivals. If you don't get into those, you can of course still self-distribute, and the new outlets for VOD might offer you at least some avenue for distribution, but I want my titles sitting on a shelf at every video store on the planet, from BBuster and Hollywood Vid to the mom and pops. So, I'm just passing along the same advice that I am heeding myself:

If you want to create films that have a hope of finding good distribution by the time you're done with it, then you'd better shoot on at least HDV.

And just so that I'm clear, if you can't afford to shoot HD, you haven't really crunched the numbers. HDV cameras are around $4-6k. DV cameras are around $3-5k. The accessories are nearly the same, and in most cases can be used intergangeably or rented. You can digitize from your camera, although I wouldn't advise it even on your DV cams cause it'll wear out the heads. Final Cut HD can be bootlegged or upgraded using an educational discount (cause we're all learning at this stage). The final product can be dumped to a hard drive and blown up to 35mm, or layed down to tape (digibeta, DVCam, HD) however you would have done it had you shot DV. The only real hurdle is that most of us currently own DV cams, or know someone who does, so finding someone who'll let you borrow or rent an HDV cam is going to be tough.

I am choosing to figure out how to bridge that gap, rather than spending the next year or two of my life prepping, shooting, editing and finishing a DV picture, while the market changes under my nose, and I'm left holding a DV movie in a market that doesn't want it.

I am opinionated about this subject because I feel like no one wants to listen to me, and I'm trying to help! You can't believe how many people argue violently about this, but I'm essentially trying to warn you. Sorry if this makes you angry, and you can argue against why this isn't true or why I'm wrong, but it's just my researched opinion; take it at your own risk.

Sincerely,

Jim

clive
12-19-2005, 04:04 AM
Now for the big bummer. These trends have nothing to do with art. They have to do with business. If you're shooting a film and the buyers and exhibitors told you that your chances of selling a film shot on DV today were very slim, would you still shoot on DV? Well, this is what I've been told from everyone from the little un's (Amsell, Shoreline) to the big uns (Lion's Gate). Like I said before, I went to AFM this year and spoke with EVERYONE. They're still buying DV only because there isn't enough HD product out there. As soon as there is, your project had better be the best thing they've ever seen, or else it's going to be almost impossible to sell and distribute through the traditional means.

I'm sure you're right about what you say. I'm sure that that is what the buyers are telling people.

This is hardly news though, buyers have always favored films shot on anything other than dv. Two years ago the buyers were telling everyone that they were only interested in films shot on super 16mm and 35mm, and that they were only buying dv movies because there weren't enough of them.

This is a very difficult time for indie film makers, because the choices about format are ever more complicated. There are a lot of changes taking place in the market place, the business is changing to accomodate the lower production prices and the new formats. The truth is that many people in the industry themselves are unsure about which direction things are going.

Having spent a fortune shooting a feature on HD, a movie that still hasn't sold a year after completion, I'm now cautious about buying into the argument that using expensive formats increases sales potential. Having a film that fits the needs of the market is more important than format. (Actually the non sale of No Place is a much more complicated and tragic story than just formats and markets, but the point is still valid) More importantly than that HDV is still an untested format in the market place, I don't think the buyers have yet seen enough product shot on it to say conclusively that it's the future. By the time they've sat though thirty or forty really bad HDV movies, HDV will be the new "we won't buy this" format. So you may shoot on HDV only to discover that by the time you come to market that the buyers have decided that HDV is not good enough. dv is a format they know and understand, HDV isn't. Either way it's gamble. Film making always is. the other thing to remember is that HDV is an evolving format and many peopel in the production side of the industry aren't convinced that all the bugs have been worked out of it. It could be that in two years time, at the point you come to market you discover that the camera you picked is now persona-non-grata.

What is true is that shooting on professional HD or film increases the chances of your film being taken seriously. But as I said, it's far from a guarantee.

The other issues is, if you shoot a proHD movie you are going to spend $60K plus (providing you defer all cast and crew payments). So that means that you have a more expensive product than say a movie shot on DV that had a budget of $5K ... if the dv movie has a better story, is in an easy to sell genre and looks good the distributors can afford to take a chance on it, because their purchase price isn't that high and both TV and direct to DVD are still huge market places that need product.

HDV isn't the only solution. You could shoot a movie on a professional SD format, hire the equipment instead of buying. Both DigiBeta and DVCPro50 are both excellent, even DVCPRo25 would do. I also know for a fact that buyers can't tell the difference between HD and DVCPro50 when they see the end product.

The other thing to remember is that video is a fluid format. In the UK TV industry it used to be the case that DigiBeta was the only acceptable format. So production companies would shoot on dvcam, edit and then upconvert the edit master to DigiBeta. Bearing this in mind, it's entirely feasible to have a HD master regardless of what your film originated on.

knightly
12-19-2005, 09:43 AM
I would like to state for the record that I understand you were making statements based on unbiased personal experience. Please don't take my rant as anger, I'm just defensive ;) ... Like everyone else here, by necessity, I believe that my project will be the best thing since sliced cheese. Without this outlook, we'd never complete a project. I'm 4 months over schedule on principal photography and over a year behind on production due to casting issues early on. I'm staying focussed on the goal and would like to save the feeling of pointlessness til after post is complete ;)

I'm getting pictures that look almost as good (amateur here) as mid 80's 35mm films (it's a lighting thing). They do not have as much resolution, but I'd like to think the story will be interesting enough and told well enough that people will forgive technical gaffes. If not, I don't feel right in blaming the format I choose, I'll be blaming my skill level as a story teller in this medium.

clive
12-19-2005, 12:27 PM
I'm 4 months over schedule on principal photography and over a year behind on production due to casting issues early on. I'm staying focussed on the goal and would like to save the feeling of pointlessness til after post is complete

Man, do I know that one. No Place was supposed to be a quick six month turnaround production that got pulled together because we were offered a varicam for free. In the end it took three years and two additional shoots to get the film completed. In truth I only commited to the production because I was assured that we'd spend no more than nine months on it. (I understood the risks involved in trying to sell No Place before we shot it, not a problem on a quickie project, more of problem when the project expands) When you commit to a feature it's hard to walk away from in mid process and it's also difficult not to put you own hands in your pockets when the budget requirements escalate the thing from a sixteen day $3000 shoot into a twenty-one day $600,000 film. If I'd known the time and money commitments I was getting into I never would have made that film; in the business plan the first film was supposed to be a script that I was then developing called "Bloodbath," which at that time was a pacy slasher film that we could have sold anywhere.

In hindsight from a purely business point of view I think achieving a modestly budgeted feature on dv is far more sensible strategy. I created an absolutely beautiful movie on professional HD, with the most stunning soundtrack but the film isn't selling. Like I said there is larger story behind this, one that I can't go into here. However, what I am sure of is that once the film was out there with the buyers, the format and the money we spent was irrlevant. The buyers are not buying because we made an intelligent "drama," with no names in it, that doesn't slot into any traditional genres, that isn't high concept and just to bang the final nail into the coffin also didn't follow any of the rules of either story arc or character development. The bad guy wins in the end, the good guy dies and the bad guy is never punished. No Place is a great film, but a lousy product. I also believe that if I'd made exactly the same film with Tim Roth and Christopher Eccelston it would be in cinemas right now, and I'd be looking at which hotel I wanted to stay in at Cannes this year.

Where jmac5000 is right is in saying that you have to understand the nature of business side of the industry. The problem with getting that level of understanding is that it is a complex industry to understand and what people tell you is not always the best guide to sucess. Everyone is so keen to make the big break that we become obsessed with looking for the new formula for sucess, when in fact the formula has never changed. If you make a film that people will want to see, a film that distributors can see will easily generate sales, then your film will be bought. If you then sell that film for more than it cost to make it, then you're a success.

Of course how you achieve that is a mystery. Filmy seems to be on the right track with his high concept, four act structure and dilemma strategy ; however, I think it has more to do with his sheer determination and focus. He is the hardest working writer in show business.

The one thing that I'm completely sure of is: If you make the right film, format is irrelevant. OK it has to be watchable, but providing that it's technically competent enough for an audience to sit through, then all that matters is your story and what the thing looks like. In fact I'll go further than that. In many respects it doesn't matter how rank your film is, in many respects the key question is "Based on this cover, will people pick my film off the shelves at Blockbuster and give it a shot, even though it doesn't have any names." You see as far as the industry is concerned once joe public has rented or bought your turkey they already have the money. If they don't like the film, so what. When you look hard at the industry the only thing that really matters is the concept and the cover artwork.

In a sense every indie film need to be tested with these questions:

1) Is my film's central concept so simple that Joe Public can get it from my DVD cover?
2) Is my film's central concept so appealing to my target market that they'll risk renting it?
3) Is my film in a genre that makes mass sales without having names attached?
4) How much will a distributor pay me for this film?
5) Who are those distributors?
6) With all the above questions answered how much can I afford to spend making this production?
7) Can the film be made for that amount of money without it looking like a student camcorder movie?

WideShot
12-19-2005, 12:29 PM
To answer the original question, I think the HDD built in is great for filmmakers, awful for amatuers and hobbyists. Imagine being able to hook up a 1TB drive to your HD camera.. thats a lot of shooting. But for soccer dads, they dont have much interest in editing their movies for the most part. They shoot it, take out the tape, and put it in a drawer.

As for this HD vs DV debate that has spawned from the second question, I have posted several passionate posts on this here and elsewhere about why we should be shooting HD now. I'm not saying dont shoot that last short you were planning on with the minidv camera you already own, you just need to consider moving to HD soon. I deeply agree with most of jmac's contentions on the near future of the business, and I would also add that aesthtically, cinema is better with more resolution. Otherwise why is and has IMAX been the ultimate for film? We as artists should be striving to capture more and overlook less, to give our audience a feast for their eyes. We should strive for bigger better, otherwise where are we going?

And unfortunately I really have to disagree with you Clive on the more resolution is too much information and is not as good. While I agree a deep DOF has its place and can be distracting when used incorrectly, hence why shallow DOF has become synonymous with rich cinema, selectively drawing the viewers eyes to whatever plane we wish. As DP, this is something you and all DP's need to consider when deciding on equipment and camera distance on a shot. In the end, if you don't like the shot, its not the camera's fault. I can achieve shallow DOF with a DV camera and 16mm, I just have to try really hard, and it wouldnt hurt to have some moonlight or backlight to draw the viewers eye.

To further enhance to HDV image, I would look into mini35 or one of its cheaper competitors.

Regarding this paragraph, jmac:

"And just so that I'm clear, if you can't afford to shoot HD, you haven't really crunched the numbers. HDV cameras are around $4-6k. DV cameras are around $3-5k. The accessories are nearly the same, and in most cases can be used intergangeably or rented. You can digitize from your camera, although I wouldn't advise it even on your DV cams cause it'll wear out the heads. Final Cut HD can be bootlegged or upgraded using an educational discount (cause we're all learning at this stage). The final product can be dumped to a hard drive and blown up to 35mm, or layed down to tape (digibeta, DVCam, HD) however you would have done it had you shot DV. The only real hurdle is that most of us currently own DV cams, or know someone who does, so finding someone who'll let you borrow or rent an HDV cam is going to be tough."

I think there is some misinformation going on here. You need substantially more storage space and computing power to do your own post on HDV. That costs money, not a ton in the grand scheme of things but a lot more than we needed for DV. I strongly disagree with bootlegging software. This is a very bad idea. Also, you make it sound as though recording out to 35mm is cheap. It is not. You'd be looking at LEAST 20k to go out to film.

But realistically businesswise speaking, 35mm is still king to cinematic distributors. Bar none.

Secondly, well done HD or 16 is light years ahead of miniDV (with the exception being the Doc and rare brilliant DV film), when blown up to 35. But dont think that distributors aren't hesitant to buy a film that has to be blown up. They must pay that cost, they dont want to.

clive
12-19-2005, 03:32 PM
And unfortunately I really have to disagree with you Clive on the more resolution is too much information and is not as good. While I agree a deep DOF has its place and can be distracting when used incorrectly, hence why shallow DOF has become synonymous with rich cinema, selectively drawing the viewers eyes to whatever plane we wish. As DP, this is something you and all DP's need to consider when deciding on equipment and camera distance on a shot

Sorry guys, I don't think I explained clearly what I was seeing. I was talking the experience of seeing full HD footage on a huge HD studio monitor whilst we were onlining No Place. It wasn't a depth of field issue. Seeing HD in this way is a bit like the first time you hear a CD. It's different. The depth of field was perfect in that shot. You can't discount my experience by merely implying that my DOP didn't know how to use the camera, especially when I was there looking at the footage and you weren't. I know I'm not the most technical director on the boards, but give me credit for being competent. I didn't win a Royal Television Award by not knowing how to control DOF.

I've also seen the same footage projected in a cinema via a HD projector, where it looked fine. The resolution issue varies depending on where you intend the primary viewing to take place. HD is good for cinema.

I'm not anti HD. I've championed HD for years. It's not the only answer though.

jmac5000
12-19-2005, 04:33 PM
Wow, this is a helluva conversation here! I do agree that every filmmaker must think their film is hot shit when they're starting up, or else why start it? (Although, there is definitely a point where I've realized that it's not... and that's a bit of a bummer.) Now onto this:


I think there is some misinformation going on here. You need substantially more storage space and computing power to do your own post on HDV. That costs money, not a ton in the grand scheme of things but a lot more than we needed for DV. I strongly disagree with bootlegging software. This is a very bad idea. Also, you make it sound as though recording out to 35mm is cheap. It is not. You'd be looking at LEAST 20k to go out to film.


1. HD editing should always be offlined first, which can be done at least at the level of DV25, which would not be any more disk space as shooting on DV. Once you online, it would probably be best to purchase another firewire drive to hold your final online edit. But that's at the end of your post-process, so hopefully you've been able to scrounge up a few hundred bucks for that - not a whole lot more money than it would cost to post DV.

2. About bootlegging, I guess that's a moral issue. I'm already going to hell in a handbasket...

3. And finally, I didn't mean to imply that going to 35mm is cheap. Sorry for that. To do a really high-quality print to 35mm, with scene-by-scene color correction and 2 screener prints with optical track, is going to run you around $30k. (www.alphacinelabs.com) Not a small number, but doable if you have a FANTASTIC cut of your film and can get someone to invest just that little bit more to make your film 10 times more marketable, not to mention much more desirable to the big fests.

And also, Clive, I feel your pain. We shot a DV feature called Deadroom that has festivalled well in the states, but hasn't been doing so well business-wise. Not knowing the situation, I guess I would say that had you had the option to shoot HDV instead of HD, you probably wouldn't have spent so much money. (More than shooting on DV, but not much more.) I guess my only answer is that there is definitely a difference in costs between HD and HDV.

I appreciate all of your opinions. This is really great!

Sincerely,

Jim

mdifilm
12-20-2005, 10:01 AM
yes, this is really a good thread to follow up, it would help to understand the business pov, and what and how much you should spent to get the quick result and such. My thing with this is to shoot in a format, that have the genre that most interest to the distributors so they would spend money on, and then figure out how much these people would spend for a film as a basis to decide what would be my budget, and then from there to decide what format can be upgrade or downgrade to fit within the format.

The goal is to get it out there for distribution (DVD distribution at several territories) and think of how much as 'minimal' these territories would be interested in spending and work backward to decide the rest, perhaps then, you at least covered your minimal risk factor and then can slowly expand from there (like knowing that the minimal you would sell, how much upgrading you can do to the budget without killing your sales agent, etc).

I'm curious, who else here was at the recent AFM that would like to shed some light of what is the most sought format/film and at what $ range?


Johnny

clive
12-20-2005, 12:07 PM
Cyan is a good member to talk to about anything connected to AFM.