Post with Canon 5d Mark II

I did some tests yesterday with footage shot with Canon’s fancy DSLR, the 5D Mark II. It records 1080p30 video, compressed with H.264. The look of it is incredible. Using a real, expensive lens makes a big difference. There are some minor compression artifacts, and some small, but ugly noise in very low light, but I generally can’t fault the quality of the image. Of course, there are some major drawbacks for anyone who wants to shoot a movie with it, and not just upload pretty shots to their Vimeo account.

The basic workflow is this: Copy the H.264 mov files from your CF card, then convert them to an editable codec. If you’re mixing footage with other cameras, convert it to that format. I’m going to be working in ProRes HQ, so that’s what I converted to. I used Compressor, and it went pretty quickly.

The big problem I ran into is the framerate. It shoots only at 30.0 frames per second, which is incompatible with every other video format I work with. If you’re going to finish in regular old NTSC 29.97, you can easily use Cinema Tools to batch conform the 30.0 files to 29.97 files. It’ll take no time at all. If you use onboard audio, everything will stay in sync. But if you’re shooting double system (which I would recommend) then you’ll have to slow the audio down .1% before you sync it up. You can read up on that process in another post. If you’re shooting the rest of your film at 23.98 like we are, then you’ll have to do some serious frame-rate conversion. Right now I’m planning to cut it with G Film Converter turned on for preview purposes, then we’ll pay to run the final cut of the un-effected 29.97 video through an Alchemist to get a sharper conversion.

This is Bolex Stereo

filter50_1When I graduated from college, my dad and his wife gave me a 16mm Bolex camera from the 1950s. It was a neat gift, but the really unique thing about it was the Stereo Kit that came with it. It was a complete set of stereo lens, projector lens with polarizing filters, and a small silver projection screen. The system works by putting two tall, skinny images side by side on each frame of film. Then when it’s projected, they are offset and overlapped with each one polarized differently, just like a fancy new 3-D movie. Rather than being widescreen though, the image is tall and skinny. Unfortunately in the past I haven’t had the time and money available to get the system going.

The major thing missing right now is a 16mm projector that will take the 3-D lens. I can’t quite figure out what kind of projector it even needs to be. And despite being completely obsolete, they’re not always free. In the research I’ve done over the years I’ve heard that the polarizing filters in the projection lens tend to degrade over time. The projection lens definitely looks a little wonky. If that’s the case, then I’m going to have to figure out how to replace the filters. I’ll have to figure out what orientation they go in since they have to match the orientation of the glasses. I have brand-new 3D glasses provided by Coraline, which I’m pretty sure works on the same principle as the Bolex system.

And of course I’ll need to get a 100′ load of 16mm film and run it through the camera. That’s not exactly free either. Being a wind-up Bolex, sync sound isn’t an option (I also don’t have a dual-system projector lying around, or a way to sync it up in the first place) so I’m thinking a series of silent sight-gags involving things flying at the camera. To save money I’m going to shoot reversal, which I haven’t shot since way back in the year 1999. Apparently Kodak stopped making the higher speed color reversal stock, so I’m considering shooting Tri-X 200D B&W reversal. I’m not entirely sure the system will work with color film anyway. That will be an additional experiment I’m sure. A 100 foot roll costs $25. Processing will probably run another $25. Oh, and I guess I’ll need a light meter. It’s also not clear that the camera will run well without repairs. Last time I looked into it I was told it needed about $200 worth of work on it.

Making Money With Short Films

About two years ago I wrote a post entitled Why Make Short Films? which has become one of the more popular posts on my blog. A lot has changed in those two years, and I want to write some more about what the average young filmmaker can expect when setting out to make films.

First off, unless you live in Europe, don’t expect anyone to give you money to make a short film. You and your friends will have to do this on your own. And yes, you need friends. You need talented people who will work for less than they’re worth, because you can’t afford to pay strangers the amount of money they deserve.

Keep the costs down as low as you can. Learn all you can about the camera options available. These days you can do amazing stuff with some cheap HD camcorders. Definitely shoot HD. DV is not acceptable. 720p is fine. It’s the default resolution of HD on the web. I used to be able to recommend cameras, but I just can’t keep up with it anymore. A very good Hollywood DP is planning to shoot a portion of a film I’m editing on the Canon EOS 5D Mark II; a DSLR still camera that also shoots HD. You probably can’t afford to pay your crew, but you must buy them meals. Having bagels and coffee on the set in the morning really raises morale, and lunch is essential. If you’re shooting late, order some pizza.

Edit the film yourself. It sounds strange coming from a professional editor, but anyone can edit a movie these days. The only cost should be your time. Again, do your research. If you shot 24p, learn everything about what that means for your workflow before you start shooting, and for God’s sake at least before you start editing. Cut it with whatever you feel comfortable using. I hear iMovie is incredibly full-featured these days, although I can barely make the thing work.

Once you’ve finished the movie, put it out every way you can. Don’t be a dope and hold back your premiere for fancy film festivals. Film festivals are 20th Century relics. Sundance isn’t going to show your short, and even if it is, nobody watches the shorts there unless a famous person is in one of them or was seen near the venue at the time of the screening. Apply to some local festivals, and some bigger names, but applying to every festival you can will cost you way too much money. I spent about $1000 sending Kalesius and Clotho to film festivals. It got me a few awards to put on the DVD box, but never any money.

Put it on YouTube. Get yourself enrolled in their Partner Program. I’m pulling in a few bucks a day with that. Put it on Vuze. It was a strange and unique set of events, but I made over $2000 from Vuze’s pre-roll ads in a single quarter last year. Since then I’ve made about a dollar a day. Try Revver. I made a few bucks from them a year ago, but haven’t seen any since then. supposedly has revenue sharing, but I haven’t seen any hits or cash from them at all. Make a DVD and sell it on your website. You can burn them yourself and print full-color discs with an awesome Epson R280. Or if you want to make less money but spend less time, use Createspace to get them on Amazon. I’ve sold one DVD of my collected short films. Try merchandising. T-shirts are the true heart of our economy. I have sold exactly no t-shirts of my own logo, but other films might lend themselves to catchphrases or funny graphics that fans would like to own.

At this point I have made back the cost of producing Two Night Stand, which I shot 4.5 years ago. Most of the cast and crew didn’t get any money, and I haven’t been paid for all the time I spent writing, directing, and editing the movie. That doesn’t exactly qualify as a raging success, but it’s more than I ever hoped for. The problem I’m having is that there is an insatiable desire out there for more and more content. I could make a lot more money if I continued to put out videos. Unfortunately I just can’t keep up the pace. If you can be prolific you are much more likely to build a steady fanbase who talk about and anticiapte your new films.