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Misconceptions about the Zacuto shootout - the obvious and the not so obvious

Andrew Reid

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Reading a lot of the reaction to the Shootout Part 2 is making me cry a little inside.

I want to offer my view of it and rebuff what I think are the misconceptions out there. I am sure Steve can chip in as well to correct me if I'm wrong.

[b]Misconception - "Coppola did not pick "the GH2" as having the best technical performance, he picked the way it was used as being more appealing than the way some of the others were."[/b]

This is only half true. Any shot is a marriage of 'the way the tool was used' and 'the technical performance'. The resulting shot is the sum of all parts. You cannot give the camera no credit or say the camera doesn't matter, even if the lighting was a bigger factor, the camera still plays a critical role in delivering the image.

[b]Misconception - "Gear does not matter. It's you."[/b]

"It's you" is the correct part of this statement and the part I think Steve is getting across. "Gear doesn't matter" is often used as shorthand for saying "talent matters most" which is fine but unsurprisingly the way people are interpreting it is often very literal, very black and white. Of course gear matters. Filmmaking is a marriage of man and machine, of the technical and the artistic. Both aspects matter [i]greatly[/i]. "It's you... And a thousand other things". Let's not over simplify it.

[b]Misconception - "Clean images look too plastic"[/b]

I've seen grungy stuff that is so out of place. Sometimes I cry out for that highly saturated HD look. A silky smooth image with no noise. Grungy images are just one of the paints in the filmmaking palette, they are not automatically more cinematic than a clean image. I personally like putting the life back in with old lenses, film grain overlays, etc. But it doesn't mean I will shoot everything like that. Just the stuff that needs it.

[b]Misconception - "Content is king"[/b]

This is shorthand for saying that unless you have a narrative script which goes from A to B, you have no content. For me, a beautiful shot or a small unspoken moment can have as much content as 10 pages of dialogue. For these kinds of shot, how you shoot it visually is more important than the literal interpretation of the script. It actually transcends the content and the words on the paper.

If we count everything in front of the camera as 'content' and crown it king, that also is wrong - because you can have a complete dummy behind the camera with no feel for the language of cinema and piss that content right up the wall.

[b]Misconception - "Grading is cheating / Grading doesn't matter / Grading is essential"[/b]

Again extreme arguments when the truth is never that black and white or one trick suits all. Overheard a quote elsewhere about the Shootout and think it is worth drawing attention too... "This is crazy that people are basically implying that the lighting and coloring was a form of cheating. Guess what camera looks good with no regard to lighting/post work? None of them." Whilst I don't agree that footage automatically looks rubbish if you don't grade it I do agree that to imply that grading and post work to lift the lower end cameras in the Shootout was a form of cheating is ridiculous. It is a viable and established technique in filmmaking and all the cameras were touched by the colourist even the F65.

[b]Misconception - "Lighting is king"[/b]

Lighting is very important but sadly there are many many many people who have a very boxed in view of what lighting is. A key light, a fill light, a man literally moving an electronic light source into position. 'That is how you control lighting'. No it isn't! Your key light could be the sun. Your key light could even be the god damned moon. Your fill light could be a rear window, it could be the end of a tunnel or even a cloudy London sky. Woody Allen likes Europe because of our shit weather. Our shit weather is his fill light. Go and square that with your Arri Fresnel set!

[b]Misconception - "It is bad to be more interested in camera gear than everything else"[/b]

Filmmaking is a collaborative effort that brings a range of people together. They are focussed on what they're most interested in, only the director, writer and producer have a very broad overview of the whole thing. If I hire a DP I'd be worried if he was NOT interested in the camera technology. I wouldn't want him as a writer that is for sure :) Some of these obsessives who talk about cameras and pixel peeping are future cinematographers. They are not merely hobbyists.
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Andrew, don't cry too much dude. You don't have to justify anything. Stand up for reasoning by all means, as you have done again with passion and eloquency above, however don't fret too much about the goaders, that's what they want. It's so easy to see who has the dilligence and is being pro-active with their probing assessments and deconstructions, however, it is even easier to see who is just wanting to wind people up but trying to be clever but not really... and of course you need to know what your technology is capable of, in order to match what you wish to do with it creatively, but as you have already stated, it's only some and the direction of their questions and to what points they raise, enlightens us all as to who is a goader and who is probing to gain the best tool for the job. :)
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Hello Mr Rao :) I'm not really crying, it was a figure of speech :) The only time I cried was when Spike snuffed it. That was far worse than some misconceptions ;)

Remember the above is just my opinion - others may disagree. But I hope to have balanced my subjectivity with enough facts to make it useful to read.
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Well hello dear sir right back at ya ;) , it's nice to be back in the welcome embrace of your throes! And I know it was a figure of speech and that you are indeed balanced, albeit with a gruff and growl here and there, but that's good :) One thing I always respect about you Andrew is that you, unlike others with similar lines of thought online, are not afraid to intertwine in their opinions an aspect of a better way, to push for greatness, that's what makes you stand out for me. I want to know that someone gives a shit about this and not just tells me about the obvious, and only one kind of person delivers that pro-quo and that is a creative person and no one else. I am very sorry to hear about Spike, but if you loved him as you do your artistry, then he had a great life.

Best always and continue to lead the charge :)
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Everyone has opinions but the worst are the trolls. Only interested in working up a furor over nothing. Same stupid arguments - film is best, digital is plastic, lighting is crap, blah blah blah. I want to hear real constructive criticism, that's why I come here. I like your viewpoint Andrew, not all of us have unlimited budgets, or even dream of that. I like to have constraints, it fosters creativity. If you had everything, where's the challenge in that? And there's so much cynicism out there - screw the trolls. Keep on talking, your viewpoint is sharp and witty. Forget the 5D-whatever-sponsored-sellouts - I stopped looking there a long long time ago!
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