Monday, 7 April 2014

SELECT YOUR WEAPON : What To Shoot Your Indie Movie On

I think its fair to say, that technology has moved on quite rapidly in the last half decade, a positive of this? We now have access to amazing filmmaking technology and that technology is becoming less and less expensive every month. However, the downside? Choosing a camera can be a bit of minefield if you don't know anything about them, and that can lead to worrying about making the right choice. I'm here to tell you that it might not be that important.  

When I was a teenager, back in 90's the simple fact was that you just shot on what you could, because not every family could afford the expense of a video camera. So it was either shoot on your Uncle's VHS-C camera, with its blurry viewfinder ( LCD screens were a dream of the future) or nothing. So I learned not to picky early on, and just work with what I had. 

I just wanted to make movies and it wasn't important to me that I couldn't get hold of the best cameras on offer, I just wanted to make movies and that was that, I would jump any technical hurdle to do it. For me, things have not changed, although they have become much, much easier. 


First of all let me start by saying that, it IS important to choose the right camera for your project. The approach now for newbies is just to grab a DSLR with a kit lens and think that it will solve all your problems, but the fact is that SLR's aren't suited for everything, although I do agree that they are at least a pretty well rounded camera for a beginner or those on a low budget when it comes to imagery alone, they do come with 'hurdles' that must be jumped. But I'll talk about that another time. 

My point is that choosing the right camera for your project is important. To a degree. Depending on if you're shooting a documentary, a promo, a music video or a narrative will most likely dicatate what kind of camera your going to use. If you have a budget then your choices will grow and if not chances are you'll have to work with what you've got, but none of that should ever stop you from shooting something, because a camera does not dictate how good of a filmmaker you are, how you solve problems does. 


Camera's are more accessible than ever now, you can pick up a DSLR that shoots Hd footage brand new for £200 right now and start shoot nice looking footage. You can get an HD (Shooting in 1080!) camera with Ninja Turtles stickers on for £30 right now and just start shooting. It's just about knowing your limits, jumping the hurdles and working with them to solve the problems they present to you. You can shoot a movie on you phone now with relative ease, ON YOUR PHONE!!! (Note : this blog was written in 2014)

We shot a little practical joke Trailer for April 1st in 2014, and we decided to try and utilise stuff we had to hand, which was an iPhone and an old rowing machine that we dismantled and used as a slider. It had a few draw backs, but it came out ok for a first crack at using a phone to shoot a movie. 


I went to University with people who wouldn't shoot on anything but film, they refused. They we're waiting till they could afford to shot thier 35mm feature and as a result a lot of them are now married with kids or have full time jobs at a supermarket or a call centre and, of course, never made their movie. The same goes for a lot of filmmakers I meet now, the are waiting for their budget so they can shoot on a 'Red' but of course that budget doesn't come because they won't budge or compromise and so haven't proven they can make anything and probably never will. By the time they can afford to shoot on a Red it will be dead tech and we'll have moved onto 17K or whatever is the future of film format happens to be.

In 2009 I planned to shoot my first feature Creepsville on a £300 Panasonic 3ccd Camcorder (man was 3ccd important back then), about a month before shooting, the Univeristy stores guys told us they had some Sony V1 cam's and that we could borrow them after hours outside of term time when no one was using them. We jumped at it, because although it's important to get by with what you've got, it's also important to shoot on the best possible equipment that you can, as long as it's not harmful to your movie. 

On Slasher House I looked at renting a Red, however the rental for 2 weeks in 2010 was about £5000, that was our entire budget, so that would have left us no money for location, costume, travel, resources, food etc. I decided that it wasn't worth struggling through the rest of the movie with no more resources and so we shot on a Canon 550d (back then with 2 lenses and an SD card cost me £1000) which I bought rather than rented, which meant that we had it permanently for the rest of the films shoot.

The fact is that, you should of course use the very best equipment that is available to you (but that is completely relative)  if you can use a Red or a Black Magic or a GH4 or whatever and can afford the extra cash for storage, then by all means do it. As long as it not detrimental to your project. Ultimately though the truth is this, you can shoot on whatever you want as long as you have a great story (and decent sound!). As long as its engaging your general audience doesn't care if shot on a £40,000 Red setup, a DSLR, A phone or a £30 quid HD camera with Ninja Turtles stickers on it. There really is no excuse. 

Now go shoot something :)

Just remember that what you shoot on is not a substitute for talent or skill and no camera is going to make you a better cinematographer or filmmaker the same way that no camera will make you a worse one. 


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