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Simple, elegant screenwriting.

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  • 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)
    Panasonic
  • TASCAM DR-100mkII 2-Channel Portable Digital Recorder
    TASCAM DR-100mkII 2-Channel Portable Digital Recorder
    TASCAM
  • 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
Thursday
Jul082010

Seven Fetishists And Why They Should Relax

Mike Seymour: Bit Depth Fetishist

Mike Seymour of fxguide and fxphd loves his Canon 7D, but on the splendid Red Centre podcast he bemoans one shortcoming of its video mode more than all others combined: 8-bit files. Line-skipping, heavy compression, weird form factor? Mike’s not concerned about that nearly as much as he is the noise, banding, and crunchy chunky nastiness that he knows is lurking within those apparently lovely images, just waiting to pop out and bite him when he’s keying a sky or brightening a face.

Why Mike should relax: It’s just not that bad. It’s the compression more than the 8-bit recording that makes HDSLR video fall apart under stress. Get a good noise removal plug-in and watch your bit-depth magically appear to increase. And not every shot needs to be keyed. More professional photographers than will ever admit it shoot JPEG instead of raw. 8 bits is plenty if they’re the right eight bits.

Vincent Laforet: Gear Fetishist

Have you ever seen a photo of Vincent Laforet without something really, really expensive in the shot with him? Something black-anodized and wireless? Vincent loves the toys. He’s been using them to make awesome images before he fell in love with making moving pictures—he’d use film cranes to place SLRs in precarious positions on New York landmarks, for example. Now Vincent is reliably the guy who will strap a $4,000 camera body to about $300,000 worth of camera support gear.

Why Vincent should relax: More than anyone I know, Vincent could make a beautiful film with nothing more than a camera, a 50mm lens and a tripod.

Philip Bloom: Boke Fetishist

Sorry Philip, there are so many shallow-depth-of-field mavens out there to choose from, but your fanaticism for it combined with your keen eye and willingness to approach complete strangers on the street with a giant Zacuto rig sticking out of your chest like a spinal surgery patient have probably sold more Canons than their own marketing department has. Philip has made focus hunting into an artistic choice rather than a technical failing. And really, on a medium-close shot with one nice, sharp eye, who wants to be distracted by a crisp eyelash?

Why Philip should relax: Most movies are shot on 35mm film (roughly equivalent to the 7D’s sensor size) at about f/4. Some of my favorite shots of Philip’s have literally several things in focus.

Jim Jannard: Resolution Fetishist

Jim Jannard, founder of RED Digital Cinema, recently wrote “If 1080P is really ‘good enough’… then there is no reason for RED.” He’s bet everything that people care a lot about spatial resolution. Not satisfied to make a 4K camera, Jim announced a complete line of cameras for the pixel reductionist ranging up to a 28K monstrosity. To Jim, quality comes from sharpness and detail.

Why Jim should relax: The highest-grossing film of all time was shot in HD and then cropped for projection on screens the size of football fields. If you see a ‘scope movie that was shot in HD, you’re looking at an image only 800 pixels tall. Movies move. They have tons of motion blur, are rarely perfectly in focus, and they are watched by people who don’t have perfect eyesight in theaters that are manned by “projectionists” who focus biannually.

Roger Ebert: Frame-Rate Fetishist

Roger Ebert hates that wagon wheels go backwards. It drives him nuts. Years ago he saw a demo of Maxivision 48, a system that shoots and projects 35mm film at 48 frames per second, and he’s never forgotten how smooth it was. Like many, he decries 24 fps as a technological dinosaur, a holdover from a bygone era.

Why Roger should relax: With the advent of HD, it became easy to create digital moving images of high enough spatial resolution to pass for film (unless you’re Jim Jannard, see above), but at first we could only do so at 50 or 60Hz. HD video at 60 images-per-second inspired no filmmakers and no audiences—in fact, at the very Sundance I met Roger, a 60fps HD test shot by Allen Daviau was booed off the screen. It wasn’t until we hobbled our HD cameras to 24 that we could start making movies digitally. More frames-per-second is indeed smoother and more life-like. Just like video. Who would have imagined that audiences don’t want movies to feel more like daytime soap operas?

Jim Cameron: Depth Fetishist

I’m taking the hard road here by picking on a filmmaker I idolize, rather than the studio execs who see “3D” as just a longer way of typing the dollar sign. Jim uses the word I hate—immersive—to describe the effect 3D has on an audience. 3D is more “real” to him, more life-like.

Why Jim should relax: Jim has made some of the most immersive movies I’ve ever seen, and none of them needed an extra way to remind me that some stuff is in front of other stuff. 3D is an imperfect technology that has failed to win the love of moviegoers twice before. Movies work because they are larger than life. If you succeed at making them life-like, you run the risk of faithfully recreating the mundanity of the real world. Who would have imagined that audiences don’t want movies to feel more like plays?

Stu Maschwitz: Accessibility Fetishist

I flatter myself to be in the company of the above luminaries, but fairness demands that I turn the lens on myself. I am biased against expensive things. I’ll talk your ear off about how After Effects runs circles around Flame, and then instantly forget all your scathing rebuttals of all the things Flame can do that AE can’t. I get off on accessibility, even if I don’t actually access it. I bought a Canon HV20 the week it came out, calling it the no-more-excuses camera. Well I must have been wrong, because simply owning the camera didn’t cause a film to get made by me with it. Filmmaking is hard, and I sometimes get too preoccupied with finding ways to make it easier.

Why I should relax: Usually you do get what you pay for. A cheap, crappy follow-focus is just a non-refundable down payment on the good follow-focus you’ll eventually buy. And it’s the fact that filmmaking is difficult that makes it worth doing. Movies capture the efforts of a few and turn them into an experience for the many. Try hard, then try harder, then try harder still—and then look next to you at a filmmaker who’s trying even harder. Chances are you have a favorite director whose work has never been the same since they got famous enough to stop killing themselves making their films.

I kid because I love

In case it’s not abundantly clear: I admire every single one of these fetishists (well, except that last punk). But we can all use a little reminder now and then that movies work. They’ve transported us, fooled us, moved us, terrified us, and turned us on for a hundred years, all without any yet-to-be invented bells and whistles.

Movies aren’t broken. Stop trying to fix them, and go make one.

Reader Comments (93)

Great read Stu!

July 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRob

Best post ever, lol.

July 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRoger

Can always count on you for a good kick in the pants! Thanks, I needed that.

July 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJesse

Really great post Stu.

I think it's all about tech-loving filmmakers' need for experimentation, which is great and very educational. But too much focus on the technical experiment can eventually get in the way of just shooting a film using proven traditional techniques.

July 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMark Rakocy

This was awesome. Laughed out loud all the way through it, but it really did challenge me. This might be the most quotable post in Prolost history.

July 8, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterjason.adams

Like I've been telling my buddies - the tech game is over. At a certain point cheaper, better, faster becomes meaningless. When you can buy a camera for under $2000 that to most human eyes looks like 35mm film, it might as well be $2 - it ceases to be an issue anymore - game over. Now what.

Now it's all about story and storytelling. Writing. Acting. Lighting. Directing. Editing.

Stop drooling over the gear and go tell a story worth telling.

July 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTodd Miro

Don't forget Shane Hurlbut, the biggest Lens Fetishist I can think of.

Every time I see one of those gigantic Panavision lenses strapped to a 2,700 dollar camera body I just snicker in amusement.

Lovely post, it's great to laugh at ourselves.

July 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCasey

What a fantastic post. Thanks for writing

July 8, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterka

Wow Stu, wonderful...and so true...except the part ...about being a punk. It is about the story, settings and characters that makes something work...the rest is problem solving to best create/capture them with

If it takes a 100 camera or 200.000 camera...it is what works best for the production, budget, and time.

Who cares if it was a flip, cannon, sony, or panavision...if the shot works for what you need.

July 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRaymond Adams

About that AE vs Flame...that's another topic for another time...but AE better than Flame...not ;) for realtime complex FX and production paint...

July 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRaymond Adams

Brilliant post. I couldn't agree more. We often find excuses to stop us from making films (I may very well be the king of that). But in the end, a compelling story, well told, will be a great movie whether it was shot on a Panavision or an iPhone.

July 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBoz

Great post, Stu. More power instilled in me to shut-up & shoot :)

July 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterVinay

It all comes down to the interview of the house director "who cares" just tell a story. Ps is the redrock follow focus good enough?

July 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCd

This was a great read! Love it!

July 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterColin

Inspirational post and now I cant wait to get out and shoot. Just need to order a slider, follow focus, steadicam, fluid head, 11-16 tokina, ND Grad filter...

July 8, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermunts

Cd, the Redrock Micro follow-focus is terrific.

July 9, 2010 | Registered CommenterStu

Awesome post - great idea, fun and absolutely spot on.

July 9, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterstephen v2

Especially the stuff you said about the "last punk" is the reason why I really really really enjoy your blog.

July 9, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterrene

loved it, really, made my day :)

anyway, hope it was worth the fact that several of those people will put a price on your head now...

but don't worry, something similar surely happened to Philip because of his RAW april's fool post, and he somehow managed to survive (I wouldn't count on him giving you tips on how to do that anymore, though)

July 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNormanBates

AMEN!

Thanks a bunch, Stu.

July 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterManué

Great great read! absolutely agree on everything.

July 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGhostDog

Excellent post - very entertaining. I love this website!

July 9, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterilld

Stu, man, it is all right to love oneself, even if you are a self proclaimed punk.

Thanks for this nice read!

Joost

July 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJoost van der Hoeven

I agree totally with Stu in all the points. I'm shooting a personal project with my 7D, a webseries without any special gadget nor shot 1.4. I've got a couple of lenses, a tripod, and the viewfinder. That's all. I think the result is in the story and how you write for what you have. This is an example: http://vimeo.com/12567391

July 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJose Prada

Well done Stu. This post will go in my anti procrastination toolbox along with Robert Rodriguez' 10min film school.

July 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBordez

Very "focused" post Stu!

Love.
mark

July 9, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermark

Amazing :)
Especially the last phrase :)

July 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAlexander F

Stu,

You need a standing ovation. I am serious. As a "Rebel film maker" I don't care about those punks.

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication - Leonardo Da Vinci

Canon has just done it, and your insight of "keep it Simple" puts you way above all those money sucking punks. I salute you man.

Cheers,
Solomon.

July 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSolomon

I think Cameron is also into the 24 frames is not enough. 48 is fluid and more lifelike. 24 is old tech.

Too bad.

Btw, After Effects cant import 3d geometry...
:)

July 9, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermark2

Speaking about the accesibility fetish. Did you get Phillip Bloom's $4 egg timer from Walmart?

http://philipbloom.net/2010/06/30/eggtimer/

July 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterStrypes

One of your best posts ever, Stu. Thought provoking, but in a laugh out loud sorta way :-)

July 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterHywel Phillips

Very genuine post, loved it.

July 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRob Imbs

This is a great post. There is time to stick to your principles and demand better from manufacturers, software companies, etc, and then there is a time to just make something. I know a lot of people who obsess about doing things the "Right Way", even when it's an hour to delivery and it'd be quicker just to find a hacky workaround. The ability to compromise in the face of creation is an important one.

I think despite your post, all of your fetishists have proven they know how to shut up and make something when they need to. It's the guys yammering on in forums about resolution, or frame rate, or whatever, and who never end up making anything that should pay attention.

July 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterOwen Williams

Phew...I was worried which of my fetishes you were going to pick up on...glad it was not my 3rd weekend of each month one!! :)

July 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPhilip Bloom

What a refreshing post, a great read.

July 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKevin

Right on. And all due respect to everyone out there making stuff happen with gear and technology. On our feature drama TRIUMPH67 (coming soon) we shot on a Sony EX3 with old Canon FD lenses for a softer, more organic look. We also shot a few dozen rolls of color Super8 film for some memory sequences. Get it made, no matter what!

July 9, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterjeremy wilker

I've been feeling like my head's about to explode with all of these gear sluts peppered across the internet. I personally think that ultra-shallow focus can look totally cheesy and that the rush to 3D is a sign of creative bankruptcy. Great to hear you feel somewhat the same way, Stu.

July 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJim Billings

Fantastic post, Stu! And spot on! Shoot a fantastic story with the tools at hand, and no one will care.

July 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKarl Soule

i don't usually post responses -- but I have to say, this was my favorite read of the day. Thanks for the blog Stu.

Jam

July 9, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterjames kwon

Bravo! For putting into words what so many people think, I applaud you Stu.

Filmmaking is a series of compromises. Stop resisting compromise and looking for perfection, and just get a film made.

July 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Zadie

Is so good to read a new post, I was kind of missing them!

July 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRicardo

You mean I don't need a helicopter mount for my 7D to tell a good story? I've had it all wrong! I love this post Stu, it reminds me that now anyone can make a movie as long as they have the story, the pieces, the skill, and the time.

All we need is time, which in today's age of cell phones that do everything except cook your breakfast (probably a Dennys app that i don't know about) and our society obsessed with always being busy, it's hard to find the time anymore. Anything can be done as long as you have the time to do it.

July 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPaul H.

So I bought my 7D and my bag of lenses and my tripod and built my dolly and my shoulder rig so why isn't it all automatically making films for me now? Having all the tools seemed like the unobtainable goal for so long and therefore the goal worth aiming for. Now that we all have the tools in our hands and the ability to shoot with a shallow DOF and a high enough resolution ( since most of what we're creating hits the web well before it hits tv's or projectors) are we creating more compelling content? I don't think so. Is it prettier and cheaper to produce? Probably.

Basically I'm saying you're right Stu. More right than most of us would care to admit. I have a 50mm f1.2 lens but I don't need it. The 1.8 is more than adequate to tell a compelling story. The money saved could pay a decent actor for a day. So here's to shutting up and making films.

July 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Lewis

Couldn't agree more. At the end of the day, the most important part of a movie is story; and story is free.

July 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRich

Story is king. Hollywood always learns the wrong lessons - that audiences want more explosions, more fx, more 3D, more of the same, more more more...

Audience always want a good story told well.

That's it.

Stu, I admire you tremendously, and my greatest hope is that you stop worrying about accessibility and worry more about your own story ability.

When you have the right story, and you are ready to tell it well, all the gear and bit depth and bokeh and resolution issues will be solved for you.

Story is king.

July 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCy

totally agree- in fact I am going to focus my efforts on story and not technology. I've just canceled my order for Magic Bullet Suite over at RG.

July 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterEd Kishel

just kidding- great article though. I am teaching beginning film next semester and would like to print it out and show my class.

July 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterEd Kishel

I love the one on LaForet! The first time I saw his BTS, I was like "Holy crap - does this guy have all that gear at his house?" The stuff should look good with tens of thousands of $ wrapped around it. And it does. Actually LaForet kinda made me realize that pro gear is built by people who actually make films, and that is why it works... and also why it's so expensive. Sometimes you just have to pay to play.

Bottom line is I skip through a lot of beautiful stuff I am watching... until I hit Story or really compelling visuals. Story is the king. Hail to the King , Baby.

July 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMatt Moses

Great post.

July 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterChristian Mazza

Great Read. Couldn't agree more. Especially about stereo films.

July 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterShervin Shoghian
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