Tom Ramcigam (magicmarmot) wrote,
Tom Ramcigam

Way to spend money

[The following post is pretty much filled with info on expensive toys
and technology for filmmaking. Probably boring if you're not into that
kind of thing.]

[Note: I'm using the term movie here to represent something that
is created independently of the medium. When I talk of an "indie film",
I consider shot-on-DV to be a perfectly legitimate meaning of that
phrase. If you demand that a film be shot on "film", you're in
the wrong place.]

I have a camera. It's a pretty decent one, a Panasonic AJ-D200. It's
several years old now, but still in rather excellent condition. I think
it was manufactured in 1997, and it's been on a few shoots. I also have
a DVCPRO deck, an AJ-D655 editing deck, and my capture card is a DPS
Perception Video Recorder.

It's a nice system, truly professional level. But it's showing its age a
little bit, especially considering that my goal is to shoot movies. And
I should probably clarify that goal into short-term and long-term goals:

Short-term: to shoot movies for limited release on DVD and the
Long-term: to shoot movies for theatrical release.

Most indie production is now done with an NLE system on DV using
IEEE-1394 (Firewire) to bring it in to the computer. Although I really
like this concept, I'm still behind the curve a bit, capturing analog
component from my deck. It's still very functional and the quality is
indistinguishable. And because my camera is a nice 3CCD camera with a
real glass lens, the image quality is a lot nicer than your basic little
camcorder. It also has the capability of shooting in 16:9 anamorphic and
"field" mode (the equivalent of 30P), so I can create some very close to
film-like images.

However, the camera is missing some features that are now quite common
on "DV Cinema" cameras like the DVX-100A, like true 24p mode, cine
gamma, ND filters, and adjustable audio gain.

There are basically three levels of electronic cinema cameras
available today. These are pretty much earmarked by Panasonic:

1.) Low-end: DVX-100A (around $4000)
2.) Mid-range: SDX-900 ($25,000 plus lens and accessories)
3.) High-end: HD27C (Varicam) ($65,000 plus lens and accessories)

There are some hidden costs associated with these as well. For instance,
the Varicam is a true high-def camera, and the deck runs another
$65,000; plus the editing system and capture card need to be capable of
the high-def operation. True cost of the system is probably closer to
$250,000. I don't see that as likely in the forseeable future. However,
it is directly transferrable to film, and looks beautiful-- as well as
being able to capture in varying frame rates for things like slow-motion
effects. Lenses are expensive, too: an HD cine lens runs another
$15,000, and a set of primes is $ouchie.

The SDX-900 is a standard-definition (SD) camera, but it is excellent
within that capability. It is equivalent to digital betacam (which has
prices that are in the same range as the varicam above), and it can use
high-def accessories like lenses. One of the nicer things is that a deck
is available from Panasonic that can play the DVCPRO50 tapes through
Firewire so it can be brought into an editing system like Final Cut Pro
without the hugely expensive SDI capture cards. And the output quality
is able to be blown up to 35mm without too much of a problem. It's about
the equivalent of a 16mm to 35mm transfer. The lenses are expensive
Still, it's do-able.

The DVX-100A is the baby of the bunch. It's still a good camera. It's
small and lightweight, true 24p, cinegamma adjustments, audio gain
controls. However, it only has 1/3" CCDs (which are the same size as my
camera), and a blowup to 35mm is not very pretty.

So with an eye for the goals, I'm looking at some possible scenarios:

1.) Sell the existing camera, deck, capture card and use the money to
buy a DVX-100A.
2.) Keep the existing camera, deck, capture card and save up to buy a
3.) Keep the existing camera, deck, capture card and consider getting an
SDX-900 sometime later.

Now whether I decide to keep or sell the existing camera, there are a
couple of things that I would really like to do.

1.) Add a matte box. This allows the use of multiple filters easily (and
real glass filters!), which is something I've been sorely missing.

2.) Add a follow focus system. This is an attachment that allows for
either a separate "focus puller" to handle the focus on complex shots,
or for a single shooter makes accurate focusing a lot easier.

If I keep the existing camera and decide to get an SDX-900 later, the
whole follow focus/matte box system is pretty much interchangeable.
There are a few different parts, but not many.

With the DVX-100A, pretty much none of the parts would be transferrable.

Really, the cheapest solution for me right now would be for me to get
the matte box and follow focus for my existing camera, and continue
using it in 30P mode until I get to the point where I can actually
afford the SDX-900 (or the varicam, should the ghods rain down money
upon my noggin).

Really, it's all just wishful thinking at this point. But it is
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