Tuesday, September 29, 2009

SHADOW HUNTER: Vorsprung durch Technik

Location: The Confluence

Achtung, Filmmakers,

Thank you very much for joining the Facebook groups and we hope to help experienced filmmakers as well as emerging filmmakers get their projects off the ground. Do not hesitate to e-mail us directly or via Facebook for any help, technical or administrative, to complete forms or applications to attain funding from around the world.

The income achieved in Malaysia from broadcasters have not changed for the last 20 years and inflation has escalated beyond recognition. In order to make a product of substantial content it needs to have many cuts which requires numerous camera set ups (and lighting adjustments) and editing execution.

Watch any American film today and you see a cut every 2 seconds. Long takes should not exceed 5 seconds though you may revert back to the continuation of the subject after a 2 second cut.

This is the cheap skate way to save money Eg. You interview a talking head which is all you see and you must cut to something else after 5 seconds even if the the cut is only 2 seconds and then you can revert back to the talking head for another 5 seconds at the maximum. It looks better if your reversion is trimmed down to 3 seconds. Then you cut to another visual of 2 seconds so in 10 seconds it will appear that you have 3 separate pictures.

Most emerging filmmakers attend exhibitions of hard ware in various trade shows or shopping centers and drool at the new equipment. RED CAMERA is dead and is often too costly for most young filmmakers to use. The playing field has been leveled. The new Nikon and Canon 7D will make our filmmakers have facilities as affordable as Hollywood. For further information, we suggest you subscribe to HD Video Pro Magazine and American Cinematographer.

If you want to be professional you have to keep up with what the pros do and look at their solutions which maybe affordable to emerging filmmakers today where your funding is below the required sum, you have to beg steal and borrow to get the minimum requirement.

At the beginning of 2009 this was the situation and the report I got from my old camera man and musician, David Knight was:

'Everyone over here is going mad over the Letus adaptors - they enable you to fit SLR lenses onto fixed lens video cameras - so you have control over depth of focus. The holy grail of 'filmic look' on a budget.

They screw on to the
camera's filter thread, the SLR image is projected onto a ground glass screen internally within the adaptor which the video camera is fix-focussed on. Stick one on a Sony PMW-EX1 and it looks pretty darn good.

Of course, the side effect has been the price of old Nikon AIS SLR prime lenses has rocketed - they all love the Nikon 85mm f1.4 lens especially - the lower the F-stop the better, so that rules-out old zooms - it has to be a prime lens.

I love that mix of old and new tech!'

David Knight, New Day Pictures, London.

So this was the report. Though the enthusiasts in Low Yat Plaza were complaining of the workflow required in many digital camera memory downloads, the older enthusiasts were mourning the death of DV tape. Given my limited budget, I had to replace my Canon HV20 and managed to get a good deal of RM 3K for the upgrade, HV30 (this is because the HV40 came out which is no different from the HV30.) I took out my 43mm to 52mm ring adapter, screwed it on to the HV30, pulled out the Letus35 mini

which is effectively longer and heavier than the camera, and screwed it on to the conversion ring. Then I took out a Letus/Nikon converter (USD 199 including postage) and screwed it on.

The shop manager looked at me as if I came from outer space and playing with equipment from a sex shop. He edged his way closer to scrutinize the equipment. Then I pulled out a 52mm 1.4 Nikon Prime Lens (old manual focus lens are available second hand in Pudu etc for about RM 1K) and popped it into the converter.

This extensively added another foot to the length to the camera itself. Effectively, the HV30 is only the recording device and the Nikon and the Letus film look converter is the optics. He then asked me if I used Mini DV tape or memory stick.

I explained that the HDMI facility will output 1920 x 1080 pixels into a separate recording device and that the problem is in the power supply as the camera batteries are too small to operate. The HDMI recording device is:


He started to lean over the counter and I could see he was scratching his crotch and he said,

"Like this can win award, ah!"

Since then the technology had changed within 6 months and the playing field leveled again. This was David Knight's report:

"Look out for the new Canon EOS 7 DSLR - 1080 24p, 25p, 30p - out this month (July 2009)!"

HD Video Pro August Issue started a new feature, "HD Independents." In America Independent film are privately funded and distribution is not controlled by the oligopoly of conglomerates and have the luxury of final edit but suffer from limited funding and limited distribution. Many young filmmakers insist on the creative freedom and sacrifice the rewards of Hollywood. John Sayles is a prime example and had many big hits expressing great artistic integrity with big stars and constantly achieve funding to make his next personal project. His producer gave a talk in KL last year at the KLIFF and expressed that the most effective facility he has in marketing given that his budget is less than 1% of most Hollywood movies was the Internet.

He quoted online communities was the most useful and Friendster was his main facility.

I had a big problem defining independent film in Britain for the British Independent Film Awards and my boss, Sandy Lieberson (previous Chairman of 20th Century Fox London) expressed Independent as without restriction from the people controlling the money invested in making and distributing the film. This can only be achieved when the directors in charge of the project have been professionally trained in the technical aspects and the financial implications of production, distribution and marketing.

Unfortunately, many film schools are aware that students are mainly interested in production and effort has been made to drill into students that the cost of marketing and distribution is more than the cost of production.

The new landscape of film products being distributed is in multi platforms on the Internet. It will be a great benefit for many proponents of filmmaking to go to film school and attend a degree course. The great American Independent film productions have exploded and this year Sundance Film Festival had 3,661 feature film submissions compared to 850 a decade ago.

Of the 3,661, only 118 feature films were excepted and the odds of those films finding a world wide audience are slim. Much of it can be attributed to the emergence of digital video or, more recently, HD. The Accolade Film Competition had more than a 1000 entries for the feature film section and we were extremely lucky to win the Award of Merit.

Please avoid using DV definition and let me remind filmmakers that the broadcast submissions requirement aspect ratio in Europe has been 16:9 since the year 2000. Never shoot 4:3 aspect ratio. The aspect ratio is the shape of the screen of the height in proportion to the base of the screen. It is common that TV sets in Malaysia are 4:3 but you can no longer buy a new 4:3 TV set in Europe. At the least 4:3 sets are CRT (Cathode Ray Tubes screens, not LCD.)

HD Independent featured Joe Swanberg who said:

"I think it is going to be very interesting and a natural change (to HD). As a viewer, I still prefer to see a movie in a theatre and experience it with an audience in an environment where I can really focus, but I think that is changing, and as a filmmaker it doesn't bother me if people see the work in a different way.

Younger viewers have grown up with the Internet and have been used to watching video on a small screen and are comfortable with the idea of downloading a movie. I don't think the theatrical experience is going to go away because there is still going to be this sense of community and the bigger films are still going to be an event for audiences.

With Independent films, what is nice is there are a lot of different options now. I know a lot of filmmakers who have come from the festival circuit and gone straight to DVD. I lot of people do self distribution theatrically, TV sales have continued to be a way for smaller films to make money. I don't think anybody is holding their breath anymore for a big purchase out of a festival and a major theatrical release because that's becoming more and more rare with small films that don't have movie stars in them. So I see VOD (Video On Demand) as a very realistic delivery method for small films. With IFC and their relationship with cable companies, that is anywhere between 30 and 45 million homes in the US.

For people who don't live in a major city with a big film festival or an Art-House theatre, it is allowing them to be able to still engage with film culture as it's happening."

Joe Swanberg
HD Independent Features
HD Video Pro August 2009 Issue.
The situation in America is that there are so many graduates coming out of film school and the competition for jobs is a thousand times more than in the Confluence. Film School students are required to make a short film a month which works out to be about 9 short films a year and the good students make one every weekend and have the advantage of a portfolio of 50 a year. Over the period of 3 years on a degree course the top students would have made 150 short films. This is possibly the amount of experience our local filmmakers get in a life time. For us to compete, we need as much practice.

So called creativity is effectively 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. Unfortunately, we have inspiration as well as perspiration, but sadly many students need the energy for the 98% perspiration to compete with the rest of the world.

We look forward to any questions and feed back and hope to see you all on

Wednesday at 8.30pm

at Lot 10, The Actor's Studio

for Juliane Block's screening of her short films.

Vorsprung durch Technik

Ike Ong DGGB.

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