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Carmeras and Gear for Independent Narrative Work only!


August McCue
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Don't get me wrong, I shoot weddings and I do lot of personal non narrative stuff but the reason I first ever picked up a camera was because of my passion for Narrative work. I believe we have hit a time for narrative filmmakers where there shouldn't anything be holding us back from making a professional looking film with a sub 4,000 budget for gear. I'd love to see this thread stick around for the Narrative filmmakers who don't got the mulah for alexa and c300 ii rentals for each project. BOOM!

I'll kick it off. I'm looking at something that can give me a killer 1080p final product, have the option to watch the dailys without transcoding h.265 or a tough codec (sorry NX1 I will still love you and will keep you around), gradable image, color. I'm looking at scooping up a BMCC 2.5k, D750, c100, Ursa Mini, maybe even an LS300 once I see more.. I obviously won't scoop up anything until NAB is wrapped up but I'm not expecting much honestly that are going to change the game in this range (hope I'm wrong). Once again strictly narrative work, not dirt bikes, or weddings.

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For narrative - no image from any camera under $5,000 will beat the BMCC 2.5K in RAW. The only ones that can match it are the BMPCC Pocket and a 5D mkIII running Magic Lantern in RAW again.
And NO - the BMCC does NOT have "limited dynamic range" like Zack said above. It has 13-stops. Which is incredible at the price point and beats all real competitors. Certainly beat the NX1 by far. (No, the Sony A7s is not a competitor because their extended dynamic range is only available in certain modes, and the end result image quality - especially for narrative - has proven out to be a massive disappointment.)

It's really not even close. The next contender up is the Sony FS7 for 3 times the price.

I have:
Panny GH2 (x2)
Canon 6D, T2i
Sony RX100 mkii
Samsung NX1 (which I got for the slow-mo. it can never equal the BMCC image quality)
BMCC 2.5k
BMPCC Pocket (x2)

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I'm on a film festival committee.  Trust me when I say almost all indy movies look really good these days.  IQ looks on par with just about anything.  Even work that has limited dynamic range still looks pretty impressive.

As for all the other stuff that's actually more important in making a narrative film... well, not so much.

So, if you think what camera you're shooting with is what's holding you back.  IMHO, you're wrong.  So, you pick up and use what you're going to pick up and use.  That's it.  Stop thinking about the limitations of it.  You made the choice, move on.  Now, make smart lighting decisions.  Get a good audio guy (for god's sake please do this), concentrate on telling a good story, and find some actors that can actually do so.

Trust me, no one's going to give two shit(es) if you're dynamic range in 10 stops or 13.  Your skin tone looks a little goofy?  Oh well, I forgive you if you're showing me some interesting characters on screen.

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Single best 1080p image? Easy to edit? Small file sizes? Cheap?   

Sony PMW-F3 (unlocked for RGB and S-Log) shooting internal.   under $1300

Slightly more grading resilient footage? - as above plus a bm video assist. Under $1800

Greenscreen work? - as above but with the Pix-E5 recorder. Under $2200 

 

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22 minutes ago, fuzzynormal said:

I'm on a film festival committee.  Trust me when I say almost all indy movies look really good these days.  IQ looks on par with just about anything.  Even work that has limited dynamic range still looks pretty impressive.

As for all the other stuff that's actually more important in making a narrative film... well, not so much.

So, if you think what camera you're shooting with is what's holding you back.  IMHO, you're wrong.  So, you pick up and use what you're going to pick up and use.  That's it.  Stop thinking about the limitations of it.  You made the choice, move on.  Now, make smart lighting decisions.  Get a good audio guy (for god's sake please do this), concentrate on telling a good story, and find some actors that can actually do so.

Trust me, no one's going to give two shit(es) if you're dynamic range in 10 stops or 13.  Your skin tone looks a little goofy?  Oh well, I forgive you if you're showing me some interesting characters on screen.

But I want a camera that is going to make me look better than Spielberg and a Degree that's going to promise me a Avatar sized budget when I graduate! Kidding... Absolutely agree and I appreciate your sharing your thoughts man. Story is king and there are way more important things that go into making a film. I'v even seen great stuff from the T2i. The heart of this thread isn't  "Hey what gear is going to make me look pro." Because let's be real that doesn't work and even great cameras looks like crap in the wrong hands, this thread is coming from more of the heart of "Hey I'm a independent filmmaker and this worked for me" "I tried that and I got burned, stay away" or whatever it is even random stuff like "Hey I got a 3 man crew for a shoot in the middle of no where and need a dolly, whats portable and affordable". I find getting a little help from others or hearing their thoughts can be important and EOSHD is my favorite place to get info and hear other people out.

Oh yeah, and I love the NX1 gonna hold on to that bad boy for along time until it crashes and burns but h.265 transcoding takes awhile with my set up when I'm in the field and I would love to do some on set editing quickly during down time to see what we're getting. I'm in a place financially where I could scoop something else so just checking out my options :) 

Maybe there is no point to this thread and it won't stick, but I thought it would be cool to have something with the focus on Narrative filmmaking without tons of searching the forum.

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29 minutes ago, August McCue said:

Oh yeah, and I love the NX1 gonna hold on to that bad boy for along time until it crashes and burns but h.265 transcoding takes awhile with my set up when I'm in the field and I would love to do some on set editing quickly during down time to see what we're getting. I'm in a place financially where I could scoop something else so just checking out my options :) 

There's a lot of options because everyone's needs are different.  For instance, having something that delivers on set editing with relative ease makes the decision a bit more narrow.  I love camera gear and I love using the latest and greatest, but if you only have a small budget you make the decision and then move on.  Whatever you choose will have limitations.

The cool thing is, those limitations push your other skills.  And those other skills are the things that actually matter the most.  I look at using low-end gear as a kind of win-win situation.  Cheap, good IQ these days, and forces one to be much more considerate when shooting to eek out better shots.

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My friends had good luck with a C300 on their micro-budget feature. It was a compromise (the DP/director was used to Alexas) but they found the ease of use kept costs down and allowed them to get better practical effects. Their grade was very good, I think they spent money on that. It's nice because you can use it with no crew for pick ups and set it up very quickly and the ergonomics are great.

It's different for everyone, but I can't say enough good things about the C300 for very low budget (under $500k) productions. Past that point you should rent an Alexa. 

I wouldn't consider anything without timecode sync for a feature unless you figure something out with a comtek providing a reliable guide track. The C100 Mk II is good for weddings but I wouldn't use it for a feature unless I already owned one.

"Narrative" sort of implies a full team of camera assistants and a G&E crew, but I'm assuming you don't have one all the time. If you do, definitely Alexa or even Dragon is nice.

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3 hours ago, Policar said:

"Narrative" sort of implies a full team of camera assistants and a G&E crew, but I'm assuming you don't have one all the time. If you do, definitely Alexa or even Dragon is nice.

No, no it doesn't. It simply means something along the lines of an actor based film as opposed to a doc or paid commercial work. 

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6 hours ago, richg101 said:

Single best 1080p image? Easy to edit? Small file sizes? Cheap?   

Sony PMW-F3 (unlocked for RGB and S-Log) shooting internal.   under $1300

Slightly more grading resilient footage? - as above plus a bm video assist. Under $1800

Greenscreen work? - as above but with the Pix-E5 recorder. Under $2200 

 

This. Best bang-for-buck on the market right now. 

Alternately, spend a bit more and get a used RED One, but it will be much more frustrating than an F3.

Plenty of movies and television have been shot on F3. Plenty more feature films and television have used the F3 as an A-cam versus the BMCC. 

Unless you desperately want 4k or something..

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3 minutes ago, jax_rox said:

This. Best bang-for-buck on the market right now. 

Plenty of movies and television have been shot on F3. Plenty more feature films and television have used the F3 as an A-cam versus the BMCC. 

 

But that's not because of image quality.
It's because Sony is SONY. And the F3 has a bit more of a traditional form factor.
But I agree it is an outstanding image.

But once you've shot RAW...... man, it's night and day... All my other cameras are just little toys of convenience compared to the BMCC and BMPCC RAW image.
 

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46 minutes ago, DPStewart said:

But that's not because of image quality.
It's because Sony is SONY. And the F3 has a bit more of a traditional form factor.
But I agree it is an outstanding image.

But once you've shot RAW...... man, it's night and day... All my other cameras are just little toys of convenience compared to the BMCC and BMPCC RAW image.
 

RGB 444 is essentially raw anyway. 

The F3 is better in low light, and behaves much more like a 'real' camera than the Blackmagics. Good form factor, and many of the cheap deals include partial or full handheld rigs to boot. 

Personally I like the image out of the F3 better than that out of a Blackmagic - and considering it's cheaper than a BMCC, I wouldn't hesitate to get one.

Plus you get SxS recording in addition to external SSD recording - you can have proxies and full res if you want, quite easily. 

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1 hour ago, jax_rox said:

Personally I like the image out of the F3 better than that out of a Blackmagic - and considering it's cheaper than a BMCC, I wouldn't hesitate to get one.

I can get a F3 with media included for less than $1000?
I know they are cheap but I have never seen them that cheap. $1500-2500 is the cheapest I've seen.

What gets me down with the F3 is that I only know two pros that have bought the F3 for their productions. They don't know each other. And when I asked them about it before getting the BMPC4K, both said they regretted buying it. One because of form factor and the other for IQ. 
It was one of them that later sold it for $1500.
I remember that, plus seeing a side by side of the F3 and BMPC4K that made me go completely cold over it.

Today it might be different, if I could find one for $1000 I would get it instantly to at least try out and see what the fuss is about :)

 

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3 hours ago, Jonesy Jones said:

 

3 hours ago, Zach Goodwin said:

Listen to Jonesy. This is the guy that got the Super 35mm film look.

Policar do you work for B and H Photo/video and Adorama or Lens Pro to Go? My client and producer is only myself. And in all honesty having expensive gear to show off is just for aristocrats wanting to blow your money and need to find the best way to blow it. Usually the companies that put gear at their priority don't do so well, especially if they put video gear. Hence the Sy-Fy channel short films and feature films and the actors that put equipment at the top of the list and not their performance, also bad news, because they end up becoming lazy shits who can't do anything and are looking for ways to show off, and really I know that sounded rude to actors, but if their focus is on what equipment you have. You should not even hire them.

I work for myself. So I'm actually a real cheapskate.

Don't worry about Syfy channel. If that's not what you want to do, then you'll be lucky enough to never have to work with Syfy channel. Just ignore what they're doing if you don't like it and you'll be better off.

A C300 is not that expensive–$4500 used, maybe? If you save even a week of work in post from having timecode sync or raise your wet hire rate $100/day over the competition, or book more work because producers like it, you will quickly be in the black. My friends who bought C300s made a lot of money very quickly because it's a popular rental item and a lot of places wanted to hire them really quickly ($30,000/month is a normal rate for a camera op on tv even without owning a camera). I bought a C100, I'm very happy with it and paid it back within a few months and still rent it from time to time, but I can't rent it for nearly as much as if I had spent more. In the long run, the cheaper option costs more. I wouldn't advise spending money on anything unless you have disposable income and enjoy your hobby or know you can make it back in full within six months of purchase. But if you can... go for it. Ever played Monopoly? The conservative players are always the first to go bankrupt. 

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1 hour ago, jax_rox said:

RGB 444 is essentially raw anyway. 

The F3 is better in low light, and behaves much more like a 'real' camera than the Blackmagics. Good form factor, and many of the cheap deals include partial or full handheld rigs to boot. 

Personally I like the image out of the F3 better than that out of a Blackmagic - and considering it's cheaper than a BMCC, I wouldn't hesitate to get one.

Plus you get SxS recording in addition to external SSD recording - you can have proxies and full res if you want, quite easily. 

The current average price for the F3 with the RGB 444 upgrade is $3,000 on eBay.
Add an external recorder that will record that RGB 444 signal and it's another $1,000. 
That's at least $4,000
The BMCC is $1,995.
At $4,000 it's time to look at an URSA mini which will blow ALL of it away...$5,000.
Or the Rock Solid Sony FS7 which is worth it's weight in gold. Could maybe be had used for $4,000...maybe.
The OP did say "sub $4,000".

Not that I don't dig the look out of the Sony F3...I most certainly do.. When recorded out to an external recorder. It's just sort of like getting an F23 or F35...you get yourself committed to a whole lot more MANDATORY rigging. That always equals costs that seem to creep...and creep...and creep. And the rig gets bigger and bigger and bigger.
Now just try to get an F3 with the external recorder on a Gimbal or Steadycam - now you need to spend bigger bucks on a greater capacity system...it all just adds up and up and up.

I have found that if someone says "sub $4,000" and they don't already have every other conceivable piece of rigging and lighting...that it's really best to not come near that max price if at all possible.
 

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1 minute ago, SR said:

To be honest, any camera should do the job. Worry about your lights more, if you really want to spend some cash. That's where your production value will go up a notch.

Well...sort of. Yeah.

I STRONGLY urge anyone who has never shot a BMCC in RAW and then seen how far you can push the grade around in post to rent, borrow, whatever...TRY it. Just once or twice.
It's a whole 'nuther world.
Like I said - my NX1 with the same lenses can NEVER match it. I can get them close usually...bot NOT if it requires a lot of creative work on the grade. The NX1 image - even being 4k - WILL break apart much faster.

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24 minutes ago, DPStewart said:

Now just try to get an F3 with the external recorder on a Gimbal or Steadycam - now you need to spend bigger bucks on a greater capacity system...it all just adds up and up and up.

Yep. Hate to be the one to break it to ya fellas, but size really does matter. :fearful: If you're not built like a brick shithouse and don't have a pot to piss in, small is the new big.

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1 hour ago, Mattias Burling said:

I can get a F3 with media included for less than $1000?
I know they are cheap but I have never seen them that cheap. $1500-2500 is the cheapest I've seen.

I did? It may not be super common, but if you look hard enough...

1 hour ago, Mattias Burling said:

What gets me down with the F3 is that I only know two pros that have bought the F3 for their productions. They don't know each other. And when I asked them about it before getting the BMPC4K, both said they regretted buying it. One because of form factor and the other for IQ. 
It was one of them that later sold it for $1500.
I remember that, plus seeing a side by side of the F3 and BMPC4K that made me go completely cold over it.

Today it might be different, if I could find one for $1000 I would get it instantly to at least try out and see what the fuss is about :) 

I dunno, all I know is what I've seen and used. I know that I struggled to get footage out of any Blackmagic camera that I really loved. Sure, it was okay.. acceptable.. But I never loved it. And I, honestly, am yet to see any footage from the BMPCC, BMCC, BMPC that I love. That my just be me.

I've seen some amazing footage from the F3. And I'm continually surprised at what you can get out of it for the price I paid for it..

Personally, I loathe the form factor of the BMPC, but to each their own.

48 minutes ago, DPStewart said:

The current average price for the F3 with the RGB 444 upgrade is $3,000 on eBay.
Add an external recorder that will record that RGB 444 signal and it's another $1,000. 
That's at least $4,000
The BMCC is $1,995.
At $4,000 it's time to look at an URSA mini which will blow ALL of it away...$5,000.
Or the Rock Solid Sony FS7 which is worth it's weight in gold. Could maybe be had used for $4,000...maybe.
The OP did say "sub $4,000".

Not that I don't dig the look out of the Sony F3...I most certainly do.. When recorded out to an external recorder. It's just sort of like getting an F23 or F35...you get yourself committed to a whole lot more MANDATORY rigging. That always equals costs that seem to creep...and creep...and creep. And the rig gets bigger and bigger and bigger.
Now just try to get an F3 with the external recorder on a Gimbal or Steadycam - now you need to spend bigger bucks on a greater capacity system...it all just adds up and up and up.

I have found that if someone says "sub $4,000" and they don't already have every other conceivable piece of rigging and lighting...that it's really best to not come near that max price if at all possible.
 

I dunno man, as I say I got mine for $1500 with media and 444 upgrade. I already had my Shogun. Realistically, you're only looking at an HD recorder, and you can get a Ninja Star or similar for anywhere from $250-500 if you look hard enough. So, really about on-par with that BMCC price.

If you could buy a Sony FS7 for $4,000 we wouldn't even be having this conversation as I would have already bought it :mrgreen: 

You might get a used FS5 for around that price, but it would be a struggle..

I also disagree about mandatory rigging. Most F3 packages for sale tend to come with the ET shoulderplate that was made for it - or similar. Realistically, it's no different to any other camera. The F3 actually takes considerably less rigging to get it to sit comfortably on your shoulder. And because most/all of the specific rigs are discontinued/second hand - you can get one significantly cheaper.
I bought a top plate for my F3 that used to retail for close to $300. My local camera shop simply had it as excess stock and wanted to get rid of it. I bought it for $9.

Realistically, an F3 is no less difficult to put on a gimbal or steadicam than an URSA mini or FS7. Maybe more difficult than a BMCC, but it would only be in terms of balance (it's longer).

Any of the other cameras mentioned need at least as much, if not more rigging to be able to operate comfortably, and generally the rigging is more expensive. The only ones that may not are an FS7 and URSA mini, both of which are out of the price range.

All that said - I agree that lighting is more important, and honestly I'd probably keep the NX1 and spend more on lighting than getting a new camera. Depends what you want. I like having a hybrid so I can take photos when I want - but if you're not fussed, I would only sell it for something that costs similar (say an F3 ;) ) and spend the rest on lighting and grip.

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