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 One actor, two set film. What equipment do I need
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Xeros
New Member

USA
1 Posts

Posted - 07 Jan 2010 :  10:10:05  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I've been working on an idea that was originally going to be a book, but has turned into more of a movie.

The whole thing will take place in a small bedroom and maybe a short minute or two in a car. There will only be one actor who won't talk a lot.


What kind of equipment will I need? I already have editing software and am pretty familiar with it, but Im a novice when it comes to cameras and sound. I have a pretty powerful computer, but only a 500gig harddrive(which my os is on) and a 1tb external.


I'd like to keep it cheaper, but I'm willing to spend a couple thousand on everything. I want to keep the movie kinda quiet and darker. Like this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V1zFeHJzS5E

So what kind of camera, sound equipment, and other materials would you recommend to pull of something similar to the link I provided? I know I probably won't be able to do anywhere near that well, but that is what I'm shooting for.

Thanks

bjdzyak
Senior Member

USA
592 Posts

Posted - 07 Jan 2010 :  10:56:28  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Xeros

I've been working on an idea that was originally going to be a book, but has turned into more of a movie.

The whole thing will take place in a small bedroom and maybe a short minute or two in a car. There will only be one actor who won't talk a lot.


What kind of equipment will I need? I already have editing software and am pretty familiar with it, but Im a novice when it comes to cameras and sound. I have a pretty powerful computer, but only a 500gig harddrive(which my os is on) and a 1tb external.


I'd like to keep it cheaper, but I'm willing to spend a couple thousand on everything. I want to keep the movie kinda quiet and darker. Like this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V1zFeHJzS5E

So what kind of camera, sound equipment, and other materials would you recommend to pull of something similar to the link I provided? I know I probably won't be able to do anywhere near that well, but that is what I'm shooting for.

Thanks



The basics of any film production are a quality camera, high and low tripods with quality head (fluid head, usually), "highhat" (a very low platform to attach the head to for very low shots), dolly, jib, batteries for the camera, possibly additional lenses, filters, lighting equipment (including lights, bulbs, barndoors, diffusion/color correction gels, Chimeras, AC cables, cube taps, groundlift adaptors, light stands, C-stands, flags, "Grip" diffusion, additional light and camera rigging equipment, monitor and cables, sound mixer, sound recorder, "shotgun" mics, boom pole, radio "RF" transmitters/receivers, lav mics, "XLR" or other sound cables, headphones, film/tape/other media to record on, "Gaffers" tape, paper tape, velcro, Sharpie markers, slate, Writeon-Writeoff markers for slate, makeup kit appropriate for all talent, hair tools/brushes, ....

Food/drink for "Craft Services" and for lunch/possible second meal on long days.


The other very important "tools" you should have are qualified and skilled CREW who know how to light the set, operate the camera(s) well, keep the day running efficiently, prepare the set properly, prepare the Talent appropriately. You could buy/rent the very best equipment in the world, but without competent and skilled crew, your production will suffer.

That's just a basic list above. What KINDS of lights and other things you should have will be known by more experienced production personnel as technology and tools change over time.


Looking at the link you provided, the thing that stands out most is the dramatic lighting. It's possible this was a constructed set on a stage and not a practical location, so they had the benefit of no ceiling and wild walls. It was also lit by someone who knew how to control light very well and likely had the proper grip/electric tools to do it with.

Brian Dzyak
Cameraman/Author
IATSE Local 600, SOC
http://www.whatireallywanttodo.com
http://www.realfilmcareer.com
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certified instigator
Moderator

USA
3100 Posts

Posted - 07 Jan 2010 :  12:09:23  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I dont need as much as Brian to make a movie so my basic kit is
much smaller. Especially when I was just starting.

Youll be fine with any camera that has a mic input. You can see
my list of recommended cameras all over this forum. And youll
need a tripod.

Youll need a shotgun mic. Youll need some lights.

The look youre after doesnt come from the equipment used, it
comes from the experience, skill and talent of the people using
the equipment. So to get close to that look you will need to
learn. One way would be to find someone who owns a camera and is
studying to be a director of photography. Learn for that person
instead of buying a camera and shooting it yourself.

But I understand that many first cant (or dont want to) do that.
So you should buy a camera that you can afford, gather some lights
and start learning on your own. It will take a while to get close
to that clip you provided, but if thats your goal, you will take
the time. Right?

=============================================
The aim of an argument or discussion should not be victory, but progress.
Joseph Joubert, essayist (1754-1824)
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bjdzyak
Senior Member

USA
592 Posts

Posted - 08 Jan 2010 :  13:46:23  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by certified instigator

I dont need as much as Brian to make a movie so my basic kit is
much smaller. Especially when I was just starting.

Youll be fine with any camera that has a mic input. You can see
my list of recommended cameras all over this forum. And youll
need a tripod.

Youll need a shotgun mic. Youll need some lights.

The look youre after doesnt come from the equipment used, it
comes from the experience, skill and talent of the people using
the equipment. So to get close to that look you will need to
learn. One way would be to find someone who owns a camera and is
studying to be a director of photography. Learn for that person
instead of buying a camera and shooting it yourself.

But I understand that many first cant (or dont want to) do that.
So you should buy a camera that you can afford, gather some lights
and start learning on your own. It will take a while to get close
to that clip you provided, but if thats your goal, you will take
the time. Right?

=============================================
The aim of an argument or discussion should not be victory, but progress.
Joseph Joubert, essayist (1754-1824)



I have questions regarding the recommendations above. :)

1. "any camera that has a mic input." So, you're suggesting that there is no Sound Mixer who properly adjusts the levels of the audio? This is assuming that the "boom mic" is fed directly into the camera itself. The ramifications of this are 1) no one is "riding" the levels and 2) the camera movement is potentially hampered because of the cabling for sound. Correct?


2. "And youll need a tripod." Most low-budget tripods I've encountered are severely inadequate for the purpose they are intended for. But this actually has more to do with the FLUID HEAD than the tripod itself. No? I understand that a company like BOGEN tends to market "cheap" tripods and heads to aspiring "Filmmakers," but my experience with their products has been far less than satisfactory. When it comes to equipment, you really do get what you pay for.

3. "Youll need a shotgun mic." And a boom pole. And cables to get the audio from the mic to the mixer or camera. And potentially batteries to power the mic (depending on the system that is decided upon). The point here is that while my own list may seem extensive, just suggesting that someone needs "any" camera and a mic and "some lights," doesn't seem accurate enough to truly help the aspiring "filmmaker." Yes, a "filmmaker" needs those things, but there is more to "those things" than just a camera, a mic, and "some lights." There are cables and batteries and hardware to mount those things, like light stands and boom poles and tripods and heads and tripods and "baby sticks" and highhats and all the "peripherals" that most "aspiring filmmakers" don't ever really think about.

The typical question is almost always, "what camera should I buy?" What that singular question misses is EVERYTHING ELSE that is necessary to make A) that camera work and B) everything else that is necessary to make a movie.

Yes, we can just get a camera with a mic input and shoot the Actors who say their lines. But that's just "event coverage." To truly "make a movie," one must (as much as possible) CONTROL the environment so that the intended material makes it to film/tape and the sound recording medium.


4. "Youll need some lights." Again, my list said this PLUS the other things necessary to make them work and to make them useful for film production. Things like stands, extension cables (stingers), cube taps, diffusion, gels, etc. may seem to be "more than I need to make a movie," but they aren't. It's easy to tell someone that they don't need much more than "lights," but there is more to making those lights WORK than just having a bare bulb to illuminate a set. Does someone new NEED a $10,000 ARRI Fresnel lighting kit (which is only about five lights, by the way) to make a movie? No. I just shot an interview over the holiday using natural light and a practical lamp (off camera as a key light). It looked "not bad." But if I'm investing a lot of resources into a making my "calling card short film," do I really want to only rely on whatever cheap lights I have on hand plus the extension cords my dad might have in the garage to make the movie? I guess is you have no choice, then maybe. But suggesting that it can be done "correctly" without the proper gear (as if it is all more than necessary) sends out a message that "Hollywood" is full of unnecessary excess and aspiring filmmakers can DO JUST AS WELL without all the gear and/or skilled people.

5. "So you should buy a camera that you can afford, gather some lights and start learning on your own."
Which camera? Which lights?

I wish I had the benefit of the internet when I was young and struggling to find out answers to questions I had. But more importantly, I wish I had access to answers to questions that I NEVER THOUGHT ABOUT in the first place.

For that reason, whenever someone asks, "what camera should I buy?" I ask, "Well, what do you want to do with it?" The FINAL INTENT should guide the choice of equipment (Camera, Lighting, Sound) that is rented and/or bought... NOT the budget. It does the aspiring filmmaker little to no good to invest time and money into a project only to have it rejected by "distributors/exhibitors" because the "recording format" isn't to specs. If someone wishes to just screw around and post "movies" to YouTube, then ANY camera at all is fine. If the goal is a Festival, then the rules of the Festivals need to guide the technical choices. If the project will go to broadcast TV, then the guidelines of those networks is crucial. And if the aspiring "filmmaker" has aspirations of a theatrical screening, the choice of recording and finishing format is almost non-negotiable.

And lights. To a "newbie," likely someone who has little to no money, "lights" can mean 100w bulbs from Target. And maybe the cheap consumer camera can get an exposure with that amount of illumination. But I think that the real question for those who want to be "serious" about this is PRECISELY want lighting units AND accessories necessary to CONTROL that light are needed? Lighting is less about the lights themselves and more about A) choosing the correct ligting unit and B) knowing how to control that light. Any hack can throw up some random lighting units to get an exposure. But to truly LIGHT the movie means CONTROLLING the light that is falling on your set. That process begins with choosing the correct lighting units and finishing with the proper accessories (stands, diffusion materials, flags, stingers)to make the lighting units actually work.


Apart from a couple items on my previous list (like RF mics), I don't see how anyone could make a movie withOUT the majority of things on my list. Can someone just grab any old camera and start shooting a movie without real concern for lighting or sound or camera movement or anything else? Of course they could! And more power to them if it works toward success. But in most cases, a "movie" is a unique fictional reality that is created by the use of Actors, wardrobe, sets, props, lighting, camera format, camera movement, sound, and editing. And the details involved in every one of those elements IS important and isn't "more than is necessary" particularly if someone aims to make this a viable career.
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Vasic
Senior Member

USA
501 Posts

Posted - 08 Jan 2010 :  16:42:02  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Brian,

You speak like a veteran professional (that you obviously are). And it is all true. I have to say, though, if someone reads your advice and takes it literally, there would be no amateur filmmakers out there, and nobody would every try to embark on a moviemaking adventure.

When I was in high school, I was intrigued by filmmaking, but back then, the only possible option for me to try doing it was super 8. Today, even sub- $500 consumer HD camcorders provide flexibility and output quality that is far superior than anything from those times. Apparently, the barrier to entry is significantly lower today than ever before.

In order to explore the possibility of filmmaking today, one needs to learn how it is done. To learn, one begins from the beginning. When someone is a "noob", they don't know anything. However, with today's technology, filmmaking is becoming very much like rock music. You don't really have to go through 12 years of music training in order to play in a band (and even make a living doing it). You pick up a guitar, find some friends who also play instruments, you get together in a basement and you try some ideas. If any one of you has talent for writing music, you try playing those songs. At first, the band will suck, but with practice, it will get better. I have a feeling that today, filmmaking can be very similar. You buy a (consumer) camcorder and get some friends. If you have a talent and some ideas, you write them down and you try and shoot those ideas with your friends. At first, it will suck, but as you keep doing it, you'll discover what parts suck and how to make them suck less, or not suck at all. This is generally less efficient method of learning (learning by trial and error), but is much cheaper than taking courses or going to school for it. With the abundance of information about filmmaking, one can easily and quickly discover what kind of things are there that need to be done properly in order to make a good film (which one could likely discover slowly, by making many bad movies and learning from them), but some of them simply cannot be learned by reading. There are many books on cinematography and lighting, some of them great (famous "5 'C's" comes to mind), but skill is most quickly acquired by shooting, shooting, shooting. Same goes for writing, directing, editing, although with some of these, books can help to a great extent.

Either way; if a complete novice is to start making a film, he will be completely lost with the bewildering choices of lighting equipment. And if he were to hire (for fee or for free) someone who actually WOULD know what to do with the equipment, such person(s) would have very little patience with someone who has never seen a movie set, yet is now attempting to direct a movie.

A painless and inexpensive way to figure things out a bit is to:

1. Read a lot about the actual process (Preproduction, principal photography, post), so that he is reasonably familiar with all the details that go into it, as well as the terminology;
2. Write his ideas in the form of a script;
3. Get a $500 camcorder, a $30 tripod and some friends together and try to shoot that script.

Only after having done something like that multiple times (and learning some things along the way), one can appreciate (and properly take advantage of) the expertise one could get from skilled hired help. Not to mention that such help often comes with proper gear. The alternative is spending a lot of money, but much less time, on film school.

There really is a big gap between weekend home movies (of children playing with the dog) and a 30+ cast and crew on the set. And if someone attempts to bridge the gap and learn filmmaking by trying to shoot their script using a cheap consumer camcorder, cheap consumer tripod and some Home Depot work lights, I wouldn't dismiss it as a futile, worthless exercise. Every time someone yells "Action!", valuable experience is gained by all involved, even if the action is unfolding in front of a Flip Mino, and those performing it are illuminated by a couple of $30 halogen work lights.

Edited by - Vasic on 08 Jan 2010 17:36:18
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Vasic
Senior Member

USA
501 Posts

Posted - 08 Jan 2010 :  17:39:13  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Obviously, one should not expect that a result of such an effort would be accepted into any festivals...
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bjdzyak
Senior Member

USA
592 Posts

Posted - 08 Jan 2010 :  18:39:04  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Vasic,

I agree, and everything you're saying is completely true. However, as you state, there is a big gap between goofing off with whatever camcorder happens to be lying around and wanting to make a movie that is worthwhile.

Like so many who come to this site and others like it, Xeros likely wouldn't have posted his question if all that mattered to him having just most basic material to shoot with. I assume that he knows where to buy adequate consumer camcorders without having to ask anyone on the internet about it. He even went as far as to have a decent looking example that he wishes to emulate to the best of his ability. My advice picked up from there, on that assumption that he wishes to accomplish more than he could get by just grabbing the first camera within his reach and shooting with his friends.

To emulate that YouTube example, he WILL need most of the items I recommended. This isn't meant to dissuade anyone at all. The point is to encourage the aspiring filmmakers in a way that focuses their efforts in more productive ways. He has a couple thousand dollars he is ready to invest in this. That's not a small amount of money for anyone, really, particularly at this level. I'd hate to offer advice that leads him to just start shooting without adequate knowledge or preparation so that the end result would be disappointing. Yes, we all have to learn and we learn by doing, but there isn't anything wrong with trying to learn with direction and focus. Too many people just go out and "do it" and in the process, waste a lot of time and a lot of money when just a little bit of guidance might have helped them achieve their true goals more efficiently and successfully.

People like Xeros SHOULD go and push the limits of their resources and abilities to see what they can accomplish. As they say, necessity is the mother of invention. So having the blueprint for how it SHOULD be done can provide the jumping off point for them to say, "Okay, we can't do it exactly that way, but here's a way we can accomplish it with what we do have." The alternative is offering no guidance at all, letting them flounder around on their own, only to learn (after a significant investment of time and money), everything that they could have found out by simply asking the questions beforehand and receiving the right answers. Aspiring filmmakers don't have to take the advice, but at least they'll have the information up front before dollar one is spent so that hopefully they'll make wiser decisions regarding their current projects and their careers as a whole.

Brian Dzyak
Cameraman/Author
IATSE Local 600, SOC
http://www.whatireallywanttodo.com
http://www.realfilmcareer.com
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certified instigator
Moderator

USA
3100 Posts

Posted - 08 Jan 2010 :  21:37:29  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
1. Thats what Im suggesting. When I was just starting out I
didnt have a full crew to do all the necessary jobs a
professionally produced production needs. I made over a dozen
films (on super 8) without having a sound mixer.

2. Yes. An excellent, professional set of legs (both baby and
standard) with an OConnor 30 is the more professional choice. Im
coming from the point of view that Xeros is a beginner, just
starting out and not a professional or even semi-professional who
needs the best equipment right away.

3. I understand the way you feel and Im not contradicting your
advice. Im offering a different approach based on my experiences
as a teenage aspiring filmmaker. I make the assumption that if an
aspiring filmmaker like Xeros wants more info, he will ask. And he
will read your posts. I did quite well for several years without a
full, pro compliment of gear. I make the assumption other
beginners can start a bit smaller, with less gear and equipment.

You call just getting a camera with a mic input and shooting the
actors who say their lines "event coverage". I made about 20 films
using that method and learned a lot about making a movie. Those
movie to me were movies as important (to me) as anything being
made by professionals.

4 and 5. Again, your list was very professional and thorough. I
figured if Xeros was interested in more info he would ask. I have
several posts right here with a detailed DIY light kit.

You and I have both been posting here for a while - you for just
over a year. I think we have fallen nicely into roles that benefit
this community. You are the pro who recommends that a teenager or
first timer use professional equipment and skilled crews to make a
movie. I remember starting out and recommend options that may be
less daunting and perhaps more realistic for a beginner like I was
once.

quote:
Originally posted by bjdzyak
Apart from a couple items on my previous list (like RF mics), I don't see how anyone could make a movie withOUT the majority of things on my list.


I know you cant. But I did it for years. You are approaching this
from the standpoint of a dedicated semi-professional whos primary
goal is to do everything in the most professional way possible. I
approach it from the perspective of a teenager with limited
resources who want to begin the process of becoming a
professional.

I hope you never stop advising the new filmmakers to have
everything the pro needs to complete a movie. Im going to keep
advising the same new filmmakers to go for it even with as little
as a camera, a mic, a tripod and a few household lights.

And I managed to have a viable career without starting with all
the necessary gear.

=============================================
The aim of an argument or discussion should not be victory, but progress.
Joseph Joubert, essayist (1754-1824)
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