Slugline. Simple, elegant screenwriting.

Red Giant Color Suite, with Magic Bullet Looks 2.5 and Colorista II

  • Sony Alpha a7S Compact Interchangeable Lens Digital Camera
    Sony Alpha a7S Compact Interchangeable Lens Digital Camera
  • Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GH4KBODY 16.05MP Digital Single Lens Mirrorless Camera with 4K Cinematic Video (Body Only)
    Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GH4KBODY 16.05MP Digital Single Lens Mirrorless Camera with 4K Cinematic Video (Body Only)
  • TASCAM DR-100mkII 2-Channel Portable Digital Recorder
    TASCAM DR-100mkII 2-Channel Portable Digital Recorder
  • The DV Rebel's Guide: An All-Digital Approach to Making Killer Action Movies on the Cheap (Peachpit)
    The DV Rebel's Guide: An All-Digital Approach to Making Killer Action Movies on the Cheap (Peachpit)
    by Stu Maschwitz

Two Days, Two Rigs

Eric Escobar hit me up to DP his latest short, Sex Positive, last weekend. It was a two-day shoot, the first of which was a standard-def affair using my venerable DVX100a. The second day we shot with the prototype M2 rig seen here earlier.

Having the back-to-back experiences of using the DVX100a, with its ample manual control, familiar ergonomics, and dual XLR input; followed by the Canon HV20 with its barely-adequate controls but oh-so-lovely 1080p24 images, was a great education in what's terrific and what's still sorely needed in the DV Rebel's arsenal.

The M2 rig is experimental, so I won't review it except to say that both Eric and I would jump at the chance to use it again. He wants to shoot a feature on it, and I can't blame him. It worked well and we are channeling our feedback on its finer points directly to Redrock.

Enough typing—how about some pics? Here are two color corrected frames from day 2. In the second, that's day 1's footage playing on the TV in the background. Both of these frames happen to be made with that amazing Nikon 50mm f1.4 prime.

More later on the experience, the rig, the cameras, and our post path!

Reader Comments (12)

HDMI to computer via?
or just tape?

August 3, 2007 | Unregistered Commentersalatar

Hi Stu,

Do you think it's possible to use this little HV20 for a feature as an A cam without having too much to struggle with the controls ? Is the focus ring (without an adapter) and the exposure usuable in the field ? Or is it too stressful ?

August 4, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterKristin

Nikon 50mm f1.4 Lens Non Ai mount Nikkor prime 1:1.4 EX

Stu i found one of these is this the same less you have been using?
trying to firgue out if this is similar

August 4, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJim Geduldick

That sounds like the lens I have Jim.

August 4, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterStu

So buying a HV20 + M2 + old camera lens (specifically a Nikon 50mm f1.4?) > HVX200?

Keeping in mind that the HV20 is recording in HDV, where as the HVX200 has DVCPRO HD, giving 4:2:2 colour space?

One thing I can't understand when you mention limited control with the HV20 is, is this with regards to the aperture? Or with regards to adjusting the levels, gamma, etc in camera? Because my understanding atm is that you would change the iris on the lens attached the to M2?

One last thing, would it be possible to see what the shots looked like before the colour correction? :D They look fantastic btw. Interested to see what in camera settings you had too.

August 4, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMat

Hi Everyone,

Thanks for taking the time to look at images from the short, and being as interested in this new workflow as I am. It really was exciting getting to be the first to shoot with the Proto M2 rig. The specific camera setting questions Stu can answer better than me, but I wanted to lay out the larger methodology on this project. Let me say also that I am really lucky that I have Stu as a friend and collaborator, and I am pleased that we got to test this new rig on my latest no budget short film.

First off, I don't think this is one of those things that you can reduce down to a Greater Than or Less Than statement, with regards to comparing the proto M2 rig with any other camera. Its a different paradigm, one that is way more modular and less expensive than any of the other digital cinema packages I've used in the past.

The whole point of the shoot was to see how inexpensive we could shoot the short for, while preserving the cinematic quality of the image. We shot on to HDV tape (one I'd had laying around, so the cost was nil). We used lenses that Stu has acquired over time, the kind that can be snagged from attics and Craigslist. And I wrote a script using only locations and props that I already had access to, or could scrounge together for less than 10 bucks.

An HVX with P2 cards is edging up towards US$6500 or so. The HV20 is $US9000. The beauty of the prototype M2 is that it's modular, in a year there will be something even better and probably cheaper than the HV20. The sensor and the recording medium change so much, so fast, that it doesn't make sense, to me, to lock up hard earned cash in a device that will be obsolete in a year, so cheaper is better.

I love this model of investing in things like decent glass for the limited DoF. A device with rails, follow focus and monitor, and an adapter for an inexpensive camcorder. It really lets us DVRs keep our gear around longer, tossing just the components that become obsolete, while getting to really invest in longer lasting components. Want to buy a used GYDV500? I didn't think so.

Distribution and exhibition is also an important factor to me. Maybe this film will be in a festival where it will be on a big screen twice, more than likely it will be on YouTube where it will be watched on computer screens and iPhones. 4:2:0 vs. 4:2:2 vs. 4:1:1 is kind of moot. No one will know the difference, honestly. Its like the difference between HDNet and YouTube, one has vastly superior image quality, but which one would you rather own stock in? Where are people getting their work seen?

Rather than sinking endless thousands of dollars into gear. It makes more sense, to me, to use cheaper, used gear, then I don't have to hustle as many freelance gigs. I have more time to hang out in cafés in San Francisco writing scripts and working with actors, which is way more fun and creatively satisfying to me.

And writing a good, simple story and then putting beautiful actors like Collen Foy and Eric Callero in front of Stu's camera seems to be more effective at getting and audience to watch my movie than bit depth and color space. The money I save from not buying P2 cards, and not renting an HVX200, goes to really, really good food for my volunteer cast and crew which makes them very happy, and the filmmaking process more fun.

That's it.

August 4, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterEric Escobar

Thanks Stu and Eric for the input and update. Eric I think you meant to say that the HV20 is $900 not $9000 dollars. :-)

August 5, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterTaj

Looks great guys. What did you use for lighting indoors?

August 5, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterTaj

Errr. Right, US$900, not the blinged out, iced-out, gold plated edition US$9000 version. Thanks for catching the error Taj.

August 5, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterEric Escobar

Thanks for the reply, Eric. I didn't realise that with the HVX200 you had to shoot on P2, I actually thought it would record to DVCPRO tapes. I guess I made the comparison, because here in NZ it would seem that the prices for the two options equal about the same. $5600NZ for a ntsc HVX or $6500NZ for the pal ( - they seem to be set up in NZ, I don't know if they're real?). $1800NZ (retail) for the HV20 + about $1000NZ to get an M2 down here? or $2000NZ for an m2 kit?

I guess I cant really argue about the colour space when Stu's put those screen up :P

After reading the latest post I am a little interested in the HDMI output option.

Where do you intend to publish this film btw?

August 5, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMat

Looks Beta....

WHOA! Coooool. Nice work, it's fantastic

August 9, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterDale McCready

1080p MP4/AVC in a pistol grip to an SDHC card.

not bad for 1k. gotta wait to see images from it though.


August 30, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJason
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