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fuzzynormal

Filmmaking is Dead, Long Live FIlmmaking

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I love NAB, been more than a few times, but maybe it's my age and where I am in life, but the more stuff I see the more I'm starting to believe that the tech has maxed out for me.  So I ask myself, when any semi-affluent middle-school kid has access to comparable IQ that I have, what's the point of chasing the best IQ?

12 stops of DR vs. 14 stops of DR.  This color science vs. that color science.  If not applied to a good story and a foundation of compelling shots, using the best isn't really much of an advantge.  Love great new capabilities.  It's exciting, but rarely do I leverage it in any similar exciting storytelling way. 

For far too long I've focused on playing with the cool toys in the sandbox.  Ultimately, I'm thinking I would have been better off learning how to build a superior sandcastle.

All one has to do is wander around Vimeo to see a bunch of decent looking IQ and lousy filmmaking.  

And god forbid you're on a film festival selection committee.  So much stuff looks great these days, you're forced to sit through feeble storytelling until you realize the narrative isn;t going to say anything remotely interesting, is just a bunch of hoary tropes, and the story doesn't come close to matching the imaging.

Dang near everybody has great IQ devices...and if they don't they will soon...even if they're not actively searching it out to acquire it.  It will come with their phone, watch, eyeglasses, pocket drone, or whatever.

For me it's time to ignore the camera and go back to the concentrating on ideas and story.  That skill is truly where any advantage in this career will allow advancement.

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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 think we have reached saturation point, for sure.

I have always maintained that after all the searching for "what makes something cinematic" .... The penny will drop that light, sound and camera movement are and have always been the all important factors.

Doesn't hurt to have 4K, 15 stops DR, 12800ISO etc though! But If I were offered a choice of an Alexa with natural light and handheld only, or a GH2 with lights, gimbal/stedicam etc.... I'd always choose the latter. (For narrative, that is).

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It was something like this that led me to getting a D16 last week. Just started thinking what camera do "I" really want. No focus on which is "best" or at least concidered best nor the latest and greatest.

I thought to hell with 4k, 14 stops, super slowo. Instead How do I want my memories to look. When I picture the dog I had before the one in my avatar,  what does the memory look like? Is it crisp,  saturated, orange teal 4K? Or is it more like an old film? What look would I like my first feature to have and do on.

Basically ignoring everything and just look to my self and what I like, not clients or the Internet. 

One thing lead to another and I now have a used Bolex. Ever since it came out I have re watched Blooms review as well as others footage atleast once a month. Ive always loved it but thought about price, built in ND, lowlight, 4k, slowmotion and so on. Not this time. 

I have atleast one paid gig where it will be used together with my other camera ahead. But for narative, more personal videos and story telling it will definitely be the A-Cam,. Despite not having the latest specs and party tricks. 

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To be sure a lot of imaging is needed where creative artistic storytelling isn't required, just getting the shot in a pragmatic way. "ENG" style if you will.  So I do think there will always be a market for improving IQ cameras that handle extreme situation with impressive resolution and low-light capabilities.  Plus, the upper echelon of the motion picture industry will continue to be cutting edge, and I'll always be curious about that gear.

For my career arc, such as it is, chasing ownership of that stuff just isn't going to yield me much reward and, if one is not on a specialized industry track, I don't really see how it's going to benefit most future imaging careerists either.

Everything is gear-related is getting highly democratized.  I know for a fact that I have 5 consumer cameras on my shelf right now that far exceeds the image quality technology Kurosawa had.  I also know for a fact that I'll never do anything remotely as impressive in motion pictures that he did.  The best I can hope for is to be derivative in a creative way.  

So ultimately, yes, one camera or lens package will be better for a particular shoot, but is it "better-enough," if you knowatimean?

My personal "ah-ha" moment really hit home recently as I slogged through my documentary film edit.  Shot on a GM1 and a GX7 with Olympus primes, the IQ just kept exceeding my expectations and was beyond good enough for that project.  Keep in mind it's just 8 bit h.264.  Even so, I feel like I can push and pull it enough in the grade to keep me happy and maintain a nice high IQ standard.    

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This thread themes comes up once a month at least on all the filmmaking forums around. But it is true.

It's not too difficult though, you can still chase tech and have a passion for it provided you are honest about how important it is. Just don't put too much time/energy there at the expense of expanding your skills.

It kind of surprises me that people are negative on the tech nowadays... I think it's an amazing time. I figure that it's kind of like back in the day when DOPs could choose different film stocks depending on the look and feel they wanted. There's so many cameras and they each have their own signature look, subtle as it might be. A lot of them are so cheap that it's possible to own multiple low end ones.

Plus, there's a liberating feeling that no matter how good today's tech is...yesterday's (to a point) is still good enough. Until 1080p is dead and buried (if it ever is), then I firmly believe my GH2 will be sufficient to do high quality work, provided you work within it's limitations. Even though there is newer and better, I don't feel left out of the party so to speak. In essence, a really good DOP With a GH2 will still smoke an amateur with a C300/Red/Alexa etc... 

It's nice. Great times these days.

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Great OP and also great reply Fuzzynormal.

I agree fully with your points. It will not take long before everyone will have a 4k FF camera in their pocket and everything will look amazing. But still, there is something about a well made shot that makes it stand out. It will always be talent which is the main contributor to great looking shots. And then there is storytelling. Not just putting decent looking shots after each other accompanied with some instrumental song. That will always be the hardest and takes the most talent, time and effort to accomplish.

It's easy to get involved in the 'I need a better camera' race so that you will have 'an edge' over your competitors. But it doesn't matter if you shoot on a BM, Panasonic, Canon or NIkon camera. It doesn't matter to anyone but us technical camera snobs. My clients have never asked me which camera I shoot on and they don't really care. Sure, one of these years people will 'demand' 4K and you better get on the wagon once the time is there. But personally, I have no interest in 4K. 

I shoot a lot of weddings with the GH3 and that camera is more than sharp enough to get people to say 'wow what a sharp looking footage'. Also, don't forget most people watch our productions on a 50 inch TV from a far distance, or on their 22 inch computer monitor (1080p). It looks GREAT on those. 

And there is also something as 'too sharp' in my eyes. 4K often looks great on nature shots, panoramics and architecture. Not my favourite format for a narrative or weddings to be honest. The GH3 already reveals too many hairs coming out of the brides birthmarks. :)

Conclusion: Yes of course new things are nice. Improvements are great. We all want a 15 stop DR 4K camera with great colors, easy to edit and a battery that lasts 6 hours. But at the end of the day it is about storytelling. I like Fuzzynormal's point also. How do you want your memories to look? In my business (weddings) that is really important. Too sharp and digitall harshness kills the mood IMO and makes stuff less believable. 

As tempting as new gear can be, it will not make you a better filmmaker nor a better cameraman. If you can't consistenly make great looking shots with a 7D, then there is no need for you to make the same crappy shots in 4K. :D

 

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...talent which is the main contributor to great looking shots. And then there is storytelling...

​Absolutely!  And my concentration has strayed from or ignored those two absolute fundamentals.  For me, I feel like I haven't developed this enough to be satisfied or proud enough in my abilities.

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I'm not against tech and I don't see threads like this as being against it at all. Like said above, you can go both routes. 

But it's good to be reminded in a thread like this once a month when there is threads about the next camera started a hundred times a day.

I rewatch the Revenge of the shootout video from Zacuto every now and then for the same reasons.

One part in there I like is when one of them says something like, not even three hotshots in Hollywood knows what camera is being used and most of them don't care.

A recent example is the guy I bought the Bolex from. Im pretty sure it's the first copy sold used in Sweden ever but still he lowballed it. And he was totally unaware of how rare it was here and that before today it wasn't even in stores this side of the Atlantic. 

And then it struck me. The guy is an awaward-winning director with an impressive portfolio on imdb, and he doesn't give a crap about which camera does what. 

Again, I'm not an Anti GAS crusader, on the contrary, I run a tech review youtube channel for God's sake.

It's just good imo to be reminded of this topic every now and then. Once a month sounds good imo :)

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I used to be GAS adventurer, until I got shoot arrow in the knee.

 

Well the I work more I find that I am more of shooter than director, and gears is more than adequate atm. My friend is a lot more talented than me when it comes to shooting, his stuff was shown on many film festival, and he can think a lot of idea for shooting that I didn't think of, so while he was filming them on paltry 550D/60D still kick some people's work with more expensive gears (me included lol), but he did upgrade to GH4 at end with anamorphic lens to step up even further.

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And god forbid you're on a film festival selection committee.  So much stuff looks great these days, you're forced to sit through feeble storytelling until you realize the narrative isn;t going to say anything remotely interesting, is just a bunch of hoary tropes, and the story doesn't come close to matching the imaging.

​Holy crap, yes! 

I collect Film Festival short film collection DVDs and I was wowed by how the older ones were shot on film and had amazing stories. Then it got a little crappier looking with the invent of DV. Then it got a little bit better with the DSLR.

Now I feel like I've seen everything before and it just seems like to make it in a film festival and get attention requires not only a great story, but A list talent now ontop of the latest 4K camera technology. Either that or the reverse 16mm b/w. Dammit! Seriously, look at the Oscar and Bafta winning shorts over the past few years... even more exclusive now...

 

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Actually, if you look at some of the top YouTube and Snapchat stars...you could argue great IQ has become completely irrelevant to the under-20s kids...its PURELY about ideas and concepts now. As for the phenomenon you're describing..its not new...Hollywood has never pumped out a badly-lit film...but how much of it has actually been great storytelling? That hasn't killed filmmaking, so don't worry about it, just focus on better writing... :)

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My earlier essay on this topic.

We live in strange age. We are being overloaded by images of different kinds every minute or even seconds. We live in a world which is being mediated or put in Baudrillard term - the world is being simulated. The capitalist' democracy made all gear (cameras, recorders, cellphones with cameras) available to the great number of people. It might sound like a dream for all those artist they struggled to get their gear only a dacade ago. Thus, it is not suprising at all that so many people try their hand at film-making these days. But this great number of people engaging in moving images can be in some ways counter-productive as well.

The recent digital revolution changed the film industry on all levels. You do not need to buy a filmstock and pay for its developement anymore! You just buy a memorycard and you can record as long as your memorycard is capable of. You do not have to be worried about unaccurate exposition and unprecise framing. You can easily fix it during editing or simply reshoot the scene again and again until you are satisfied with it. You can change the sensitivity of your "film" by pressing a button. You have immediate preview of your footage. And so on. It is clear that all these new improvements help film-makers to cut down a budget of their film. The same regards the distribution circles. That means film-makers today do not have to fight for their place on silver screen at cinema. In the age of internet we can easily distribute our films on-line and share them with friends and new audiencies. We can say that since digital revolution to produce and distribute a movie has never been easier and cheaper. And one would expect that these new conditions will have wholesome influence on young amateur cinema. But unfortunately instead of more progression on the field of moving images we can encounter doldrums and seal off form of young cinema.

These problems are not new and unknown to filmmakers' community. In 1959 Jonas Mekas complained about young cinema of his age. He argued that those films are made with money, cameras and splicers instead of with enthusiasm, passion, and imagination. Even though film cameras and splicers are not being used anymore as they have been replaced by digital cameras and computing video editors, the lack of creativity and enthusiasm is still(!) striking. As in 1959 we can encounter that young aspiring film-makers are only preoccupied with gear instead of with a creativity and search for new ways of expression. I do not dismiss the importance of technique and its aesthetical influence and importance on film’s image. But the shorts of today’s young film-makers could be described as over-technical and over-professionalized. One of the cause of this problem is wrong inspiration. All these young film-makers try to imitate the “big” cinema. This imitation of hollywoodian aesthetic is wrong because it blends two absolutely different approaches to cinema. The most powerful weapon which amateur film-maker posses is its freedom because he is outside of traditional circles of production and distribution. Unfortunately most of them do not realize this fact and try to break in or imitate these circles. And so they are raping theirs own film roots and independency. This whole approach is not only wrong but idiotic as well. In a case of “big” cinema the following words of Guy Debord are relevant more than for any other human activity: "The spectacle is capital to such a degree of accumulation that it becomes an image.” Put it in another words the capital is the main source of hollywood aesthetic and intersection of the whole process of making a movie. Money is primary concern of Hollywood, not the creativity and search for new ways of expression. It is well known that Hollywood has traditionally been mediocre in its form. While so-called Off-Hollywood cinema, avant-gard, independent and amateur film-makers were experimenting with film forms. One of the reason is "because we can” and they do not give in the dictate of capital and public acceptance. Freedom and need to create must be the primary motivation of independent film-makers. But all the camera panning, over-stable shots, sliding, flawlessly pure image and seamless editing which are being used so often by young film-makers create polish and slick films and this aesthetics has nothing to do with freedom. It is based on false and artificial aesthetic of Hollywood cinema. Such a form adopted by young independent filmmaker is imprisioning him in corrupt world. It is smoothing the edges of his very unique way of seeing a life. From a free and independent film-maker he has become just a worker of cinema who is not fulfilling his true inner vision but the expectation. One does not have to be Stan Brakhage or be in pursuit of destruction of every possible convention to call himself an author. This approach would not be good either. The most important attribute of film-maker is to be aware and genuine. Thus it is crucial to avoid “making”. The only right way is to film.

Jonas Mekas was calling for new generation of film-makers, and I’m calling the new generation to stop “making" and begin to film. To pursue their inner and sublet feelings and visions.

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My earlier essay on this topic.

We live in strange age. We are being overloaded by images of different kinds every minute or even seconds. We live in a world which is being mediated or put in Baudrillard term - the world is being simulated. The capitalist' democracy made all gear (cameras, recorders, cellphones with cameras) available to the great number of people. It might sound like a dream for all those artist they struggled to get their gear only a dacade ago. Thus, it is not suprising at all that so many people try their hand at film-making these days. But this great number of people engaging in moving images can be in some ways counter-productive as well.

The recent digital revolution changed the film industry on all levels. You do not need to buy a filmstock and pay for its developement anymore! You just buy a memorycard and you can record as long as your memorycard is capable of. You do not have to be worried about unaccurate exposition and unprecise framing. You can easily fix it during editing or simply reshoot the scene again and again until you are satisfied with it. You can change the sensitivity of your "film" by pressing a button. You have immediate preview of your footage. And so on. It is clear that all these new improvements help film-makers to cut down a budget of their film. The same regards the distribution circles. That means film-makers today do not have to fight for their place on silver screen at cinema. In the age of internet we can easily distribute our films on-line and share them with friends and new audiencies. We can say that since digital revolution to produce and distribute a movie has never been easier and cheaper. And one would expect that these new conditions will have wholesome influence on young amateur cinema. But unfortunately instead of more progression on the field of moving images we can encounter doldrums and seal off form of young cinema.

These problems are not new and unknown to filmmakers' community. In 1959 Jonas Mekas complained about young cinema of his age. He argued that those films are made with money, cameras and splicers instead of with enthusiasm, passion, and imagination. Even though film cameras and splicers are not being used anymore as they have been replaced by digital cameras and computing video editors, the lack of creativity and enthusiasm is still(!) striking. As in 1959 we can encounter that young aspiring film-makers are only preoccupied with gear instead of with a creativity and search for new ways of expression. I do not dismiss the importance of technique and its aesthetical influence and importance on film’s image. But the shorts of today’s young film-makers could be described as over-technical and over-professionalized. One of the cause of this problem is wrong inspiration. All these young film-makers try to imitate the “big” cinema. This imitation of hollywoodian aesthetic is wrong because it blends two absolutely different approaches to cinema. The most powerful weapon which amateur film-maker posses is its freedom because he is outside of traditional circles of production and distribution. Unfortunately most of them do not realize this fact and try to break in or imitate these circles. And so they are raping theirs own film roots and independency. This whole approach is not only wrong but idiotic as well. In a case of “big” cinema the following words of Guy Debord are relevant more than for any other human activity: "The spectacle is capital to such a degree of accumulation that it becomes an image.” Put it in another words the capital is the main source of hollywood aesthetic and intersection of the whole process of making a movie. Money is primary concern of Hollywood, not the creativity and search for new ways of expression. It is well known that Hollywood has traditionally been mediocre in its form. While so-called Off-Hollywood cinema, avant-gard, independent and amateur film-makers were experimenting with film forms. One of the reason is "because we can” and they do not give in the dictate of capital and public acceptance. Freedom and need to create must be the primary motivation of independent film-makers. But all the camera panning, over-stable shots, sliding, flawlessly pure image and seamless editing which are being used so often by young film-makers create polish and slick films and this aesthetics has nothing to do with freedom. It is based on false and artificial aesthetic of Hollywood cinema. Such a form adopted by young independent filmmaker is imprisioning him in corrupt world. It is smoothing the edges of his very unique way of seeing a life. From a free and independent film-maker he has become just a worker of cinema who is not fulfilling his true inner vision but the expectation. One does not have to be Stan Brakhage or be in pursuit of destruction of every possible convention to call himself an author. This approach would not be good either. The most important attribute of film-maker is to be aware and genuine. Thus it is crucial to avoid “making”. The only right way is to film.

Jonas Mekas was calling for new generation of film-makers, and I’m calling the new generation to stop “making" and begin to film. To pursue their inner and sublet feelings and visions.

TLDR;  Personally, I like new cameras because I want to help the economy... Buying expensive cameras brings cash into the global economy.  Not only that, but it takes a lot of my time.  That's a good thing because if I didn't have camera's to salivate to, I would be abusing my wife.. kids... pets.. and ultimately, myself...  Its a health care issue for me..  Hell, if can can put camera's into cellophane sheets like baseball cards, pulling them out of the binder every now just admire them, I would.....

:-) stories, lighting, etc.. etc.. all take a backseat....

 

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Jonas Mekas was calling for new generation of film-makers, and I’m calling the new generation to stop “making" and begin to film. To pursue their inner and sublet feelings and visions.

I'm not so sure, if the young people nowadays can afford visions with all the time they need for telling others about things like parties, sex, drugs, food, school, gadgets, equal rights and domestic abuse. And when they do have time, they might be morbidly obsessed with 'having a great time' (whatever that is), so they can tell some more later. :D

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For me it's time to ignore the camera and go back to the concentrating on ideas and story.

​I don't agree, surprise.

I've always said it's both.

Take musicians. The moment you press a key on a piano it's about feel, mood, the sound. The melody is just one part of it.

Similarly in filmmaking, you press that key - the camera - it has a certain feel, mood, the image. The story is just one part of it.

It's important for a musician to evoke an interesting sound and mood. My friend recently bought a really old pipe organ from a flea market. You can't get that feel or mood or way of playing, with a M-Audio USB keyboard.

Same goes for cameras and lenses... choose carefully.

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The moment you press a key on a piano it's about feel, mood, the sound. The melody is just one part of it.

Similarly in filmmaking

​I still gotta learn how to play my scales by rote, memorize some melodies, and then understand how to artistically improvise.  I feel I can learn that on a cheap upright; don't need a Steinway.

Nor, I think, should I really attempt to acquire one if I can't even play effectively.  Put one of those in front of me and I might be able to scratch out a rendition of Chopsticks on it, but that's about it.

Sure it would be nice to have a grand concert piano, but I feel like I should concentrate on other things.  Once those are taken care of, then I'll consider a superior instrument.  

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I'm just talking from my own POV, obviously.  You don't have to apply this to your own reality.  Everything I'm writing is conditional to my anecdotal experience, but I'll add this:  

In my opinion there's nothing special about great IQ.  

You may like it.  You may want it.  You may value it... but it's become something of a commodity now.  Great IQ is now everywhere and only getting better.  Being part of film fests on and off for 15 years illustrates this to me all the time; wandering the inter webs even more. 

I just think if you're running on the IQ track, you're in a race that everybody is going to win.  You, the guy doing this for decades --and you, the middle-school school newbie.  You're all pretty much at the same pace with a huge crowd.  The guy with a T2i is really only a few paces behind the guy with a Black Magic cam who's only a step or two behind Alexa dude.  And more people join that crowd of racers everyday.

Now, if you chase composition, cinematography, editing... motion picture storytelling --and learn how to do it better than most, you might be able to put some distance between yourself and the competition.  You're by yourself, ahead of the pack.  People are more likely to pay attention to you; if, for no other reason, it's because they can see you better. 

None of that means you shouldn't pursue an awesome new imaging tool.  Heck no, having great gear is awesome!  But (if you're in this career at a non-specialized level) covet gear above skill at your own peril.  And it's so easy to focus on gear.  It's tangible, factual, logical.  No problem.  1+1=2.  Easy math.  Easy is fun too.  

Difficult and rewarding artistic endeavors are typically not.  They're ethereal, metaphorical, ideological, messy, frustrating.

Again, just my perspective/experience.  And I'm not terribly artistic, honestly...just wish I would have had the sense to try and develop that skill/craft/art earlier in my career rather than concentrating on acquiring cameras.

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In my opinion there's nothing special about great IQ.  

You may like it.  You may want it.  You may value it... but it's become something of a commodity now.  Great IQ is now everywhere and only getting better.  Being part of film fests on and off for 15 years illustrates this to me all the time; wandering the inter webs even more. 

 

​Is it though? There's a lot great image quality from a fundamental standpoint. Meaning the image is clean, sharp, vibrant, etc... but really good, imaginative cinematography is still a rare commodity. Most of the stuff I see online is competent, but hardly mind blowing. 

It's like that with still photography too. Still quality has been great for a long time, and lord knows I can take a decent picture...but really good photographers still capture that certain something that I cannot and the non-technical quality really stands out. 

So I think mid-level quality is being saturated but the truly magical stuff is still rare and probably always will be no matter how good the camera is, because there's such a strong human element of knowing what/when/how to film something.

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