TILT: The Cameras

Posted: Thursday, March 4, 2010
By Jeremy Doyle

What an exciting time to be a filmmaker!  Sure, it's a tough time as far as funding and distribution go, but, as a cinematographer, I can't help but be excited by all of the great toys, all of the great options for shooting.  Equipment prices continue to fall, and it's easier and easier to obtain the tools of the trade.

I have a confession to make: I am a geek.  A tech geek, to be exact.  As a result, I'm always trying to figure out the latest trends and what's coming around the corner.  I scour the rumor pages, I follow the NAB (National Association of Broadcasters) announcements, I look to see what's new at CES (Consumer Electronic Show), and I even check out Reduser from time to time.  If you follow the Red phenomenon, then you understand how rumors and speculation can create a market all of its own.

Before we talk equipment for TILT, I have one more confession: I've never worked with film.  All of my experience is with video or digital acquisition.  Certainly, in the overall scheme of things, film is far from dead, but I personally don't believe it has much of a place in indie film.  Unless you have a thorough storyboard with no plans of ever straying, for me it's too cost prohibitive.  In my humble opinion, because digital acquisition is so good now, if you have a budget that would include film costs, the money would be better spent on practical FX, post, casting, or personnel...even catering.  Like I said, I've never worked with film before so maybe I'm way off base.  Have an opinion? Please share it.

So - TILT equipment. Let's take a quick look at equipment options past, shall we? 
    •    Had we begun shooting in the early 2000's, we would have gone with the Panasonic DVX100;
    •    5 years ago, we would have used HDCAM. (I only say this because I have access to cameras; otherwise it's a relatively expensive acquisition format for this discussion and could blow a budget fast, especially when you have no budget);
    •    Four years ago, probably some sort of HDV camera;
    •    Three years ago, a P2 or a XDCAM camera ;
    •    Two years ago, ANY of those options coupled with a DOF adapter;
    •    Last year (ooo, we're getting closer), the dream camera would have been the RED ONE; 
    •    And now, in 2010, we have ALL OF THESE OPTIONS, plus HD-DSLR.  Nice.


So how do we start? 
The acquisition is the first step in the workflow, but to figure out the workflow we need to know the final destination.  What is our final output going to be?  DVD? The net? Film out?  Blu-Ray?  These are all questions that need to be answered before we begin shooting.

The next part we'll need to figure out is what were are going to use for post tools. 
AVID?  Final Cut?  Premiere?  Media 100?  Again, each offers a different workflow and treat each of the acquisition formats differently.

OK, so I'm bringing up a lot of questions and not many answers.  Guess we still have a lot to discuss, and we could use your help.
    1.    If you were (or are) shooting a movie right now, what would you use? 
    2.    What do you prefer to use in post? 
    3.    Good experiences?
    4.    Bad ones? 

Thanks in advance.  We're all ears…


  1. Philontilt March 4, 2010 at 11:44 AM

    I fully agree that "if you have a budget that would include film costs, the money would be better spent on... catering". More cake!

    I also want to say that I am all for HD-DSLR filmmaking, especially if we can have a rig like this... http://bit.ly/d0FpYB

  2. CourtneeCee March 4, 2010 at 2:11 PM

    Great post! While I can't really offer much in the way of production or tech talk, I'm a fix it in post kinda post girl, with the options out there now, planning the process from beginning to end could not be more important.

    I just finished up post on a short film. The producer came to us long after the film had been shot and it was a total nightmare. Converting FCP projects to Avid, retaining original media file information, converting frame rates, file types, tracking down different codecs, etc. And to top it all off, the festivals she wants to enter it in all require HDCam submission...and she shot at 720p.

    She totally coulda used this blog post about six months ago.

  3. Mattson Tomlin March 7, 2010 at 9:35 PM

    would definitely stay away from the Red- it's just sort of a hassle and really makes mobility (both in shooting, and in editing) extremely hard to manage. I'm all about the PMW-EX1 and EX2, they can do pretty much anything. Or the Canon XH-A1. Neveldine/Taylor really pushed that one with Crank 2, and did a great, great looking film for a $3000 camera.

    I'm working on films with the HDR-FX1 and the EX1 and occasionally the Z5U- mostly a sony hound.

    Avid is great, Final cut is great. If you're going to have 300 hours of footage, go for the Avid, it's just a little bit better at handling the raw data.

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