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Improvised Mini-DV Features

Published : 26th September 2003

I am working with a "cooperative" of young filmmakers and actors who are making their first in a series of semi-improvised narrative features. Our first effort is to be shot, over several long weekends, entirely in a house or apartment and the story occurs during the course of a single early-to-late evening party.

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style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">Two issues for now :

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style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">1 . We have our choice of Panasonic DVX 100's or SDX 900's (2 or 3 each). One wants to assume that these efforts will immediately be lauded, lasered to 35mm and released in 10,000 theatres, but this is an unlikely scenario. More likely they will show at festivals and on TV. Are there any reasons not to use the 900's? I am assuming we will shoot mostly hand-held and that the lighting will have to be suitable for simultaneous reverse angles and thus not too specific.

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style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">Any more suggestions?

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style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">2 . Sound. I am assuming one boom operator riding gain from the boom and feeding all cameras simultaneously, either by wire, which might be clumsy, or radio. Most sequences will probably be fairly static; i.e., 2-4 actors sitting on a sofa or standing around the doorway to the kitchen. Our improvisational method makes me think that more than a few repeatable complex stagings may be beyond us, at least initially.

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style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">What do you recommend?

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style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">Thanks,

style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">Jerry Cotts

style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">DP/LA

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style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">>Two issues for now :

style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">>1. We have our choice of Panasonic DVX 100's or SDX 900's

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style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">Hands down choice for me would be the 900s. I wouldn't even consider the 100s given the choice between the two.

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style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">> 2. Sound.

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style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">Always hardwire is my first choice. Locked in a room I'd use one boom with distribution to all cameras. Why make something complex with many mics wireless, etc. The more you have the more that can go wrong?

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style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">Walter Graff

style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">Producer, Director, Creative Director, Cinematographer

style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">HellGate Pictures, Inc.

style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">www.film-and-video.com

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style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">>1. We have our choice of Panasonic DVX 100's or SDX 900's (2 or 3 >each).

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style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">I've shot with both cameras, and there's far more to the 900. There's a lot more sharpness, a lot more latitude, much better color rendition (especially skin tones), and the 900 affords far more control over the look. If you do, eventually do a film out, the 900 will look far better.

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style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">The 100's are great within the realm of mini-DV, but mini-DV isn't very great in the realm of professional video, and I'd say the 900 is a shining star within the realm of professional NTSC video.

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style="margin-top:0;">Good luck!

Frazer Bradshaw

style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">Director of Photography San Francisco

style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">www.seaworthy-cine.net

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Jerry C. wrote :

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style="margin-top:0; margin-bottom: 0;">>1. We have our choice of Panasonic DVX 100's or SDX 900's (2 or 3 >each).

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style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">My first instinct is that DVX100's and SDX900's aren't even in the same league - ie. if you have the opportunity to use the 900's why even consider the 100's unless size and portability are paramount.

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style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">Roderick

style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">Az. D.P.

style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">www.restevens.com

style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">12 On / 12 Off

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Walter sez :

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style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">>Hands down choice for me would be the 900s. I wouldn't even consider >the 100s given the choice between the two.

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style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">If it's going to be a largely handheld shoot, that alone would prescribe the 900s. The image stabilization on the 100s might help - but even so, arm fatigue will set in at a certain point. Narrative shooting is so much more of a "hurry-up-and-wait" process than doc shooting -- you want your shooters to be able to make it through rehearsals and X number of takes before they have to start taking serious breaks at inappropriate moments.

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style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">If this is an amateur group it would be good to have someone on set who really knows the camera cold and can keep its settings where they need to be as the scenes and conditions change. Without auto focus, stabilization or AGC you might need some "engineering" on set, in part to maintain consistency among the cameras.

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style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">>Always hardwire is my first choice. Locked in a room I'd use one boom with >distribution to all cameras. Why make something complex with many mics >wireless, etc. The more you have the more that can go wrong?

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style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">I'll second that, too. If you're soft-lit for multi-camera coverage you should have minimal boom-shadow concerns. Ideally the boom operator should acquire a sense of the rhythm of the exchanges so s/he can start to anticipate their boom movements. Mic MUST have a shock mount and windscreen.

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style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">Chop your bass sharply below 100-150 Hz, too. And get that room as cushy as possible. Sound blankets, pillows, carpeting, etc.,

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style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">Dan Drasin

style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">Producer/DP

style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">Marin County, CA

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I would only use the AG-DVX100 if you were planning on doggie-cam type mounts with the actors or some other type of unusual rigging where size was important.

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style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">Jessica Gallant

style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">Los Angeles based Director of Photography

style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">West Coast Systems Administrator, Cinematography Mailing List

style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">http://www.cinematography.net

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You mentioned possible film out to 35mm. I guess that was partly in jest but if so would shooting PAL not be a safer option? I know that creates all sorts of problems in other ways but would pay dividends if/when you ever transfer your gems to film.

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style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">Tom Townend,

style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">Cinematographer/London.

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