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EphraimP

Making the jump to the big screen

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I've been shooting social media videos for nonprofits for a few years and graduated to micro-docs for online distribution. Now, it looks like I'll be able to bundle enough funds from donors (my *real* job is development, aka fundraising) to shoot an ~15-25 minute documentary for online distro plus entering into environmental film festivals and for our main sponsor to play at conferences around the country. 

In real-world cinema terms, it will still be a no-budget production (sub 20k). I'm mainly getting funds for my salary and traveling expenses, plus a tiny bit for gear. I shoot run and gun with my own gear, currently an X-T3/Ninja V rig. I suspect/hope that image quality will be just enough to get by with. I don't expect to get a anamorphic setup going anytime soon, so the question becomes what ratio to shoot in. I was thinking I would film in DCI 4k on the Ninja and drop the footage into a FLAT (1.85:1) timeline and export in either 2 or 4k. However, this Filmmaker article says that unless I'm creating a DCP, festivals that accept digital files do so in 1080. Probably not a big deal, because that means if I shoot in DCI I have more wiggle room in post to compose. I'd love wise words of advice here.

Audio wise, I've just ordered a Mixpre 3 ii and have Deity S-mic 2 and Samson C02 mics to boom for main sound. I hope to pick up a Sennheiser G4 lav for backup sound. If budget allows I'll get a local pro to do post for the sound.

For drone footage, I've been using my M2P with the 4k HQ setting, never the mushy wide angle. I'd skip drone footage entirely, because I don't anticipate being able to shoot on anything better, but it will be a film about forestry, so drone shots are pretty impactful. Plus, my boss goes crazy for drone shots. I have friend with Phantom 4, but I'm not sure the iq is really noticeably better than the HQ setting of the M2P. My best bet is probably to be very, very judicial with drone footage in the final cut and only try to shoot with perfect golden hour light, yeah?

What kinds of things should I be thinking about that I wouldn't necessarily have been shooting shorts for Facebook/YouTube? I should switch from 23.976 to real 24p right? I've shot a few interviews already that might end up in the project, but it's not a deal killer to stretch them in post by a frame a second, right?

I'm currently editing in, and cursing Premiere. I've downloaded the free DaVinci but haven't had time to learn it. I've been shooting in ProRes 422 HQ, even though I edit on a PC. Not sure if I should switch to DNxHD because its been the Windows standard, even though ProRes in now pretty supported by Premiere. 

It's not a sealed deal yet (I've only secured enough funds to shoot a series of 4 social media shorts so far, but I'm pretty sure I'll get enough to move forward with the whole project) yet I'm pretty excited about it. It could be a major step towards moving into videography/cinematography full time. Thanks in advance for the help.

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EOSHD Pro Color for Sony cameras EOSHD Pro LOG for Sony CamerasEOSHD C-LOG and Film Profiles for All Canon DSLRs

I did the film festival / film competition circuit for a while and my takeaway was this.

Content is the only thing that matters.

I've seen barely acceptable videos with out-of-focus shots, shots where the camera got bumped, clipped dialogue, noisy dialogue, car sounds making it difficult to hear people, overexposed shots, and various other problems win competitions outright because they interviewed old people and got them to talk about sex and it was hilarious.  I've seen films win best edit when the editing was clunky because the story was good, etc.

Content is the only thing that matters.

Content is the only thing that matters, content is the only thing that matters...  content is the only thing that matters.

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I've done a few things that ended in both theaters and online. 1.85:1 is a good ratio to go for if you are targeting both online and festivals, and you can always crop a 1920x1080 video from a 1998x1080 flat DCP, if you happen to need to send a video file somewhere. Going much wider may compromise the online version; contrary to popular belief a cinemascope ratio on a tablet or computer display is not particularly cinematic, what with those huge black strips.

Is there a reason you'd want to avoid making a DCP for festivals, or am I misunderstanding? Don't bother with a 4K release, unless you are really going to benefit from the resolution. Many festivals don't like 4K anyway. Master and grade in a common color gamut (rec709/sRGB). DCP creation software will fix gamma for the DCP, if you grade to an sRGB gamma for online. Also, most (all?) media servers in current cinemas do 23.976 (and other frame rates like 25, 29.97, 30) fine, but if you can shoot 24 fps you might just as well do.

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I think the Mavic 2 pro is fine for professional work. Probably depends on the shot of course but I think you get away with a lot with drones as you don't have to worry about skintones or anything like that. I've seen stuff shot on the Mavic Pro 1 that look good. 

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Figure out how to tell a story. 

Build a tale of high-stakes, conflict, resolution, redemption.  Use whatever toys you have to accomplish that.  Your gear is adequate, but I see that you're fretting so much about the technical.  I can't stress this enough, it really doesn't matter.  Your. Gear. Is. Good. Enough.  That part is done.

Figure out how to tell a story. 

Concentrate ALL your efforts on that.  Don't worry about ProRes vs. DNxHD.  Don't worry about this drone vs. that drone.  Premiere vs. Resolve?  Not really going to matter.  Don't even worry about frame rate.  Pick one you like.  There, you're done with that.  Anymore consideration into these things is a waste of time.  A lot of new filmmakers fall into the trap of putting the majority of their efforts into equipment and specs because it's a somewhat non-creative aspect of the craft and results are objective and easy to understand and control.  Avoid this.  However, do accept that story telling is difficult and messy and highly subjective.  Understand you'll make storytelling decisions that are flawed.  It's part of the challenge.  But you absolutely gotta do it as your main focus.

Figure out how to tell a story. 

Does your protagonist have an antagonist?  Can you frame what they're doing as a "hero's journey?"  What sort of set-backs will they have to struggle through?  Can they overcome those road blocks?  Will you be able to film those moments to tell such a story?  Is there a bit with a dog in it?  These are the things that really matter. 

Also, making bad movies is depressing.  I can't tell you all the corporate projects I've unfortunately done over the years where the singular goal was to put a camera on someone, have them talk to a dry boring interviewer, snag a few b-roll shots on the way out the door, and call it good.  Bah.  That's a recipe for mediocrity.  You could shoot that crap on an ARRI and no one would give two shits except the people that got to play with the ARRI.  And unless your subject is someone like Robin Williams on one of his cocaine benders, it's not going to be interesting.

You want to make a film?  A real film?

Figure out how to tell a story. 

Okay, that rant over.  You asked about DCP.  So, I do a film festival every winter.  We screen 8-bit .mp4's off a laptop at 1080 and they look fricking awesome.  Why?  Because we care about our projection system and have dialed it in with high-end equipment that's well-considered for the theater we use.  Not everyone does this. Properly encoded .mp4's can look beautiful.  Well shot movies made into DCP's can look like crap.  Depends.  It's not the file, it's the system that screens it.  

Here's another anecdote:  I toured my doc around the country this year with an .mp4 exhibition screener as well as a DCP.  The best screening experience I had was with the .mp4 running off a laptop into a consumer projector.  It just so happened the particular auditorium was gorgeous AND had a new projector AND the image it put out looked lovely.  OTOH, I had a screening of my DCP at a well known multi-plex chain that looked awful, even though my DCP looked absolutely fine elsewhere.  Your film is often at the mercy of teenagers running the projection system...and who knows what state that projection system is in. 

Now, the bad thing about .mp4's is that it's such a generic format that inevitably some Boomer will be running a $400 laptop and a cheap-ass projector in a rinky dink film festival that's been set up in the town's abandoned bank lobby...with no window black outs and a complete lack of understanding how to operate the sound system.  BTW, it's a sound systems that's a low-end PA in a room made out of marble.   That sounds oddly specific, right?  It's happened to me twice.  None of your technical stuff matters one bit in that situation.  When you're out in the wild with your screeners, shit happens. 

Finally, you absolutely do not need 4K for exhibition screening. People are too far away from the screen to notice that level of resolution.  4K is great for editing and then downscaling to 1080 for exhibition screening, but 4K for screening?  Only in very specific situations.  I get 4k ProRes screeners for our festival.  I get DCP's as screeners for our festival.  Take a wild guess what I transcode them into for playback on our system... Don't worry so much about the technical.

Figure out how to tell a story

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9 hours ago, kye said:

I did the film festival / film competition circuit for a while and my takeaway was this.

Content is the only thing that matters.

I've seen barely acceptable videos with out-of-focus shots, shots where the camera got bumped, clipped dialogue, noisy dialogue, car sounds making it difficult to hear people, overexposed shots, and various other problems win competitions outright because they interviewed old people and got them to talk about sex and it was hilarious.  I've seen films win best edit when the editing was clunky because the story was good, etc.

Content is the only thing that matters.

Content is the only thing that matters, content is the only thing that matters...  content is the only thing that matters.


I agree... Unless it's porn, and then the story kinda gets in the way.  I see a lot of porn directors trying to inject story into their production, and I'm like, forgitabuttit.. Like, why would Big Mike put his swong in the pizza box?  It just doesn't make narrative sense....  So yeah, story is king UNLESS it's porn..

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14 hours ago, EphraimP said:

Audio wise, I've just ordered a Mixpre 3 ii and have Deity S-mic 2 and Samson C02 mics to boom for main sound. I hope to pick up a Sennheiser G4 lav for backup sound. If budget allows I'll get a local pro to do post for the sound.


No real benefit of getting the new entry level G4 over a G3, so you might as well save your pennies and get a secondhand G3 instead. 

Except... I reckon the Sonys are better value than Sennheiser, for around the same price. So go for that instead. (either the latest UWP-D21, or the older UWP-D11)

2 hours ago, eleison said:


I agree... Unless it's porn, and then the story kinda gets in the way.  I see a lot of porn directors trying to inject story into their production, and I'm like, forgitabuttit.. Like, why would Big Mike put his swong in the pizza box?  It just doesn't make narrative sense....  So yeah, story is king UNLESS it's porn..

Story matters to porn too! Just the "story" is not the plot.

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10 hours ago, fuzzynormal said:

Figure out how to tell a story. 

Build a tale of high-stakes, conflict, resolution, redemption.  Use whatever toys you have to accomplish that.  Your gear is adequate, but I see that you're fretting so much about the technical.  I can't stress this enough, it really doesn't matter.  Your. Gear. Is. Good. Enough.  That part is done.

Figure out how to tell a story. 

Concentrate ALL your efforts on that.  Don't worry about ProRes vs. DNxHD.  Don't worry about this drone vs. that drone.  Premiere vs. Resolve?  Not really going to matter.  Don't even worry about frame rate.  Pick one you like.  There, you're done with that.  Anymore consideration into these things is a waste of time.  A lot of new filmmakers fall into the trap of putting the majority of their efforts into equipment and specs because it's a somewhat non-creative aspect of the craft and results are objective and easy to understand and control.  Avoid this.  However, do accept that story telling is difficult and messy and highly subjective.  Understand you'll make storytelling decisions that are flawed.  It's part of the challenge.  But you absolutely gotta do it as your main focus.

Figure out how to tell a story. 

Does your protagonist have an antagonist?  Can you frame what they're doing as a "hero's journey?"  What sort of set-backs will they have to struggle through?  Can they overcome those road blocks?  Will you be able to film those moments to tell such a story?  Is there a bit with a dog in it?  These are the things that really matter. 

Also, making bad movies is depressing.  I can't tell you all the corporate projects I've unfortunately done over the years where the singular goal was to put a camera on someone, have them talk to a dry boring interviewer, snag a few b-roll shots on the way out the door, and call it good.  Bah.  That's a recipe for mediocrity.  You could shoot that crap on an ARRI and no one would give two shits except the people that got to play with the ARRI.  And unless your subject is someone like Robin Williams on one of his cocaine benders, it's not going to be interesting.

You want to make a film?  A real film?

Figure out how to tell a story. 

Okay, that rant over.  You asked about DCP.  So, I do a film festival every winter.  We screen 8-bit .mp4's off a laptop at 1080 and they look fricking awesome.  Why?  Because we care about our projection system and have dialed it in with high-end equipment that's well-considered for the theater we use.  Not everyone does this. Properly encoded .mp4's can look beautiful.  Well shot movies made into DCP's can look like crap.  Depends.  It's not the file, it's the system that screens it.  

Here's another anecdote:  I toured my doc around the country this year with an .mp4 exhibition screener as well as a DCP.  The best screening experience I had was with the .mp4 running off a laptop into a consumer projector.  It just so happened the particular auditorium was gorgeous AND had a new projector AND the image it put out looked lovely.  OTOH, I had a screening of my DCP at a well known multi-plex chain that looked awful, even though my DCP looked absolutely fine elsewhere.  Your film is often at the mercy of teenagers running the projection system...and who knows what state that projection system is in. 

Now, the bad thing about .mp4's is that it's such a generic format that inevitably some Boomer will be running a $400 laptop and a cheap-ass projector in a rinky dink film festival that's been set up in the town's abandoned bank lobby...with no window black outs and a complete lack of understanding how to operate the sound system.  BTW, it's a sound systems that's a low-end PA in a room made out of marble.   That sounds oddly specific, right?  It's happened to me twice.  None of your technical stuff matters one bit in that situation.  When you're out in the wild with your screeners, shit happens. 

Finally, you absolutely do not need 4K for exhibition screening. People are too far away from the screen to notice that level of resolution.  4K is great for editing and then downscaling to 1080 for exhibition screening, but 4K for screening?  Only in very specific situations.  I get 4k ProRes screeners for our festival.  I get DCP's as screeners for our festival.  Take a wild guess what I transcode them into for playback on our system... Don't worry so much about the technical.

Figure out how to tell a story

 

17 hours ago, kye said:

I did the film festival / film competition circuit for a while and my takeaway was this.

Content is the only thing that matters.

I've seen barely acceptable videos with out-of-focus shots, shots where the camera got bumped, clipped dialogue, noisy dialogue, car sounds making it difficult to hear people, overexposed shots, and various other problems win competitions outright because they interviewed old people and got them to talk about sex and it was hilarious.  I've seen films win best edit when the editing was clunky because the story was good, etc.

Content is the only thing that matters.

Content is the only thing that matters, content is the only thing that matters...  content is the only thing that matters.

I get the importance of story. I'm a former magazine writer and newspaper editor. At the same time, if I'm going to do something professionally, I want it to look professional. There's nothing like being prepared for something when you go to do it. That's why I asked about the technical aspects of shooting/editing for big screen. ?

15 hours ago, cpc said:

Is there a reason you'd want to avoid making a DCP for festivals, or am I misunderstanding? Don't bother with a 4K release, unless you are really going to benefit from the resolution. Many festivals don't like 4K anyway. Master and grade in a common color gamut (rec709/sRGB). DCP creation software will fix gamma for the DCP, if you grade to an sRGB gamma for online. Also, most (all?) media servers in current cinemas do 23.976 (and other frame rates like 25, 29.97, 30) fine, but if you can shoot 24 fps you might just as well do.

I don't necessarily want to avoid a DCP. I haven't exported this way before, and it sounded like it might be either a bit of a hassle with third party plug-ins or stand alone software or expensive. 

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33 minutes ago, EphraimP said:

I don't necessarily want to avoid a DCP. I haven't exported this way before, and it sounded like it might be either a bit of a hassle with third party plug-ins or stand alone software or expensive. 

It's built into Premiere.  There's a few solid YT tutorials.

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2 hours ago, fuzzynormal said:

It's built into Premiere.  There's a few solid YT tutorials.

What I read about it said that the Premiere versions doesn't work well. Maybe that's bad info.

9 hours ago, IronFilm said:

Except... I reckon the Sonys are better value than Sennheiser, for around the same price. So go for that instead. (either the latest UWP-D21, or the older UWP-D11)

 

Better sound quality? Better features?

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3 hours ago, EphraimP said:

 

I get the importance of story. I'm a former magazine writer and newspaper editor. At the same time, if I'm going to do something professionally, I want it to look professional. There's nothing like being prepared for something when you go to do it. That's why I asked about the technical aspects of shooting/editing for big screen. ?

I don't necessarily want to avoid a DCP. I haven't exported this way before, and it sounded like it might be either a bit of a hassle with third party plug-ins or stand alone software or expensive. 

Cool.

I know it goes without saying, but it's hard to tell between situations when it goes without saying and situations that went without anyone saying it, if you know what I mean!!

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1 hour ago, EphraimP said:

Better sound quality? Better features?

Sound quality is six of one, half a dozen of the other when comparing Sony vs Sennheiser. If you want an improvement in how the audio sounds then upgrade the lav mic used

But in terms of design / features / ergonomics then the Sony is streets ahead of the entry level Sennheiser G3/G4

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5 hours ago, IronFilm said:

Sound quality is six of one, half a dozen of the other when comparing Sony vs Sennheiser. If you want an improvement in how the audio sounds then upgrade the lav mic used

But in terms of design / features / ergonomics then the Sony is streets ahead of the entry level Sennheiser G3/G4

Good to know. 

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9 hours ago, EphraimP said:

What I read about it said that the Premiere versions doesn't work well. Maybe that's bad info.

I read the same myself online, but it was in there Premiere so I tried it.  What the heck, it's "free," right?  Worked fine in my experience.  Never had an issue and I ran the DCP through about 13 different cinemas.

I did buy software called extFS for Mac.  It gives you a simple GUI to format disks in LINUX (makes DCP systems happy) but it was only something like $30.

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1 minute ago, fuzzynormal said:

I read the same myself online, but it was in there Premiere so I tried it.  What the heck, it's "free," right?  Worked fine in my experience.  Never had an issue and I ran the DCP through about 13 different cinemas.

I did buy software called extFS for Mac.  It gives you a simple GUI to format disks in LINUX (makes DCP systems happy) but it was only something like $30.

I use a Windows machine, so sounds like the extFS app isn't necessary. What medium did you use to deliver your DCPs to cinemas?

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23 hours ago, fuzzynormal said:

You want to make a film?  A real film?

Figure out how to tell a story.

Yep.

 

Below is a 98-year-old film story told with a lot less than what we have today .  They didn't even have sound, and it is still entertaining!:

 

Sorry to the pixel peepers for the YouTube compression!  /s

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1 hour ago, EphraimP said:

I use a Windows machine, so sounds like the extFS app isn't necessary. What medium did you use to deliver your DCPs to cinemas?

There are many way to do LINUX formatted disks.  extFS also works on Windows.  I believe you can do command line level LINUX formatting with some other software.  I didn't want to bother, so I just got extFS.  BTW, the trial software works for...10 days (?), if I remember.  The first DCP-saved-to-a-disk I made, I made for free in about an hour.   FWIW, I did get extFS when the trial expired because I just wanted to make sure if anything happened and I need to create new DCP's quickly, I could do so. 

So, I basically just put my DCP's on a few random USB thumb drives I had laying about.  The first cinema I gave it to complained that the thumb drive worked, but was super slow (it was), so I got a few newer ones with acceptable read/write speeds, no complaints after that.

Before I did all this, just by bumping around the internet, I was imagining that making DCP's was some esoteric wizard level computer stuff.  And 15 years ago it kind of was in a way....but now, it's literally just hitting "export" on Premiere, clicking a few parameters to set up, and then saving the DCP folder on a LINUX drive.  Easy.

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If you have an X86 based computer (Mac or PC), you can also just boot a free Linux live OS and use that to make ext4 partitions on a separate USB thumb drive.  With the live OS still running, you can then copy the DCP file from your hard drive onto the new ext4 partition on the USB thumb drive.

 

Here is Gparted Live, a Linux live distro configured expressly to run  the Gparted partition editor

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2 hours ago, tupp said:

Yep.

 

Below is a 98-year-old film story told with a lot less than what we have today .  They didn't even have sound, and it is still entertaining!:

 

Sorry to the pixel peepers for the YouTube compression!  /s

Actually, according to my younger sister, my nieces, and nephews; this film would be unwatchable.  They all tell me they are allergic to black and white "old" movies.  So yeah, for some people even if the story is good, they just aren't going to watch.  I wish I could cram these movies up their bloody, prejudicial mouths because this is ART god darn it!!!  but nope, they aren't even going to try.  This is the same of bride of Frankenstein, Dracula, the invisible man, etc.  I'm sitting at the couch with pop-corn excitedly telling them for the next few hours we are going to have fun watching the great horror movies of the golden age.  They ditched me once they found out it was black and white.

 

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1 minute ago, eleison said:

They ditched me once they found out it was black and white.

As you may have noticed, the film making industry makes plenty of movies specifically for dumb people.  It's the larger market, so why not?  

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