Thursday, August 19, 2010

Format Considerations for Acquisition

Now that's a boring topic, huh? I thought it would be a good one to lead off with. What I want to take a minute and discuss is how I approach what camera and format to shoot on going into production and how that effects the end deliverable. There's a ton of this info out there already but I figure it's worth my chiming in. I'll keep it short and make it a little more like a checklist.

This is the first question that comes to mind to me. You need to understand what kind of expectations already exist for who you're working for. They may have an end deliverable. For instance, Sony Music requires a 1080p high quality (422 color or higher) deliverable. Other clients might not have a master deliverable requirement but they may have been working with productions for years. If this is that case, seeing productions suddenly scale back to tiny cameras and crews might be scary. A new client, in need of eduction can at times be one of the easiest to work with if you start out the conversation correctly and coach them through how you're giving them a high quality for very little footprint.

Are you shooting slow-mo? Is your deliverable that high quality 1080p master? Then don't shoot that slow-mo off a 7D, EX3 or something that shoots 720p. You need to to acquire higher res, most likely RED or now Alexa or if you can afford it, Phantom. do you need to hang off a crane? What weight requirements do you have? Do you have shots that require unique views (i.e. worms eye view from inside a hole) - might go 5D on a remote.

Style is similar to shots but for me includes the overall look of the production. Are you going for more of a reality feel? You can shoot with something like a HVX or EX1 with its native zoom and feel good about it. Shooting for a more filmic look? Shoot as high quality as you can and in that case, take into consideration what kind of glass you can work with. One example might be RED with a good set of Cookes is a whole different look than shooting 5D with a set of L-series glass on the front.

Are you doing a lot of VFX work in post? How about a couple DO NOTS... DO NOT shoot with a camera with bad rolling shutter and cause it to show up (5D and 7D users). Do not shoot with high contrast shots that blow out or underexpose. Shoot with a camera with more latitude (RED, Alexa). Shooting for motion tracking? Use a camera with a clean codec that doesn't block easily.


Where do you have to shoot? What time of the day? If you're shooting at night and have a somewhat limited budget, pick a more sensitive camera like a 5D or 1D. Pick a RED MX over the original RED for night, you'll drop your lighting package considerably.

Who are you shooting? If it's a celebrity, put together a good package. You''ll be spending on everything else around them anyway. Acquire in as high a quality as you can.

One of the most important. How much time do you have on the shoot? RED is not fast, XDCAM is very fast. Do you have a limited window? Maybe you need to shoot multiple cameras with a limited budget, picking something like XDCAMs will drop your need for needing ACs for each camera.

What kind of time do you have in post? It's amazing what you can really do with the 5D's codec and especially the XDCAM codex as limited of a color space they have. But with enough time and layering, you can get a really filmic look out of them with color correction. RED will get you there faster and better in post. Time and deliverable are important here. If you have a really tight deadline, shooting 5D rather than EX1 would be an issue as you have a ton of sync sound to process. What are your storage requirements? Think post through before you shoot. Its very important.

Those are a few of the questions I go through on each production and finding the proper balance. No single camera is going to be ideal in every circumstance. Think it through, weigh your budget requirements, get creative.

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