Making A High Quality Film On The Cheap With A Digital SLR

from the and-it-looks-pretty-good dept

A few years back at a Cato Institute conference on copyright, a guy from NBC Universal challenged me with the question of "how will we make $200 million movies?" if content is freely shared. As I noted at the time, that's really the wrong question. No one watching a movie cares about how much the movie costs. They just want to see a good movie. The question for a good filmmaker or producer or a studio should be "how do I make the best movie I can that will still be profitable?" Starting out with a "cost" means that you don't focus on ways to save money or contain costs. You focus on ways to spend up to those costs. That's backwards, and it's how you fail as a business.

Imagine if Dell or IBM or HP went around saying "but how can we profitably make $5,000 computers?" It's a silly question, and it doesn't get you to focus on things like reducing costs. And, it's important to note that technology keeps making the cost of making, distributing and promoting content cheaper. No, it's still not cheap to make movies, but you can make better and better films for less and less money these days.

Jim Harper (who, it should be noted, was the guy who invited me to that Cato event in the first place), reminds us of this with a blog post jokingly entitled How to Make a $200 Million Movie, but which actually shows how it's getting cheaper and cheaper to make a film these days. Specifically, he shows an amusing new short film from Futuristic Films, which looks pretty good and notes in the opening that the whole damn thing was shot with a Pentax K-7 DSLR, which you can find these days for around $800 or so:
After that he shows the following "making of" video that highlights how the fillmmakers were able to make such a film for very little money:
Now, no one will claim that the quality is equivalent to a $200 million movie. But it keeps getting better and better and better... at the same time that it's getting cheaper and cheaper and cheaper. Oh, and you might recognize the filmmakers in question. They're the same folks who made the movie Ink and then celebrated when a copy was leaked via BitTorrent, helping the film become incredibly popular, shooting way up IMDB's movie meter, making it (for a time) one of the 20 most popular films on the site, despite being a small indie production.

I would bet these guys aren't going around whining, "but how can we make a $200 million movie?"


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  1.  
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    Rob (profile), Aug 6th, 2010 @ 7:23pm

    Even $200 million movies don't need to cost anywhere near $200 million. They cost that much because the whole system of traditional Hollywood moviemaking is bloated and archaic, weighed down by ridiculous union rules, stars who demand huge paychecks, and an industry that's been doing things the exact same way for decades, despite incredible advancements in technology. It's sad to see them constantly blaming the specter of piracy for whatever losses they may or may not have, when they should be looking at the way they make movies and realizing it's an absurd waste of money.

     

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    Robert Ring (profile), Aug 6th, 2010 @ 7:41pm

    Re:

    You're totally right. Even as expensive as some of these movies are, so much of the money is needlessly wasted.

     

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    Lawrence D'Oliveiro, Aug 6th, 2010 @ 8:05pm

    Camera EULAs & Codec Patents

    Just a note that these cameras using patented video compression algorithms like H.264 tend to come with an EULA that restricts your use of them to things like “personal” and “non-commercial” purposes.

    In other words, if you look like you might be making money, MPEG-LA wants a cut.

     

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    vrob (profile), Aug 6th, 2010 @ 8:18pm

    Re:

    Agreed. Additionally, people have been making memorable and successful films for far less than $200 million for many many years. I Don't think it is wrong to say that the primary reason Hollywood has become a huge presence at "independent" film festivals is to buy up any low budget films that appear to have the potential for turning a profit upon wider distribution. Nothing wrong with a first-time, independent and/or low-budget filmmaker gaining some success through Hollywood...but it does beg the question of why Hollywood can't or won't make these movies on their own.

     

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    Jon Lawrence (profile), Aug 6th, 2010 @ 8:45pm

    Context

    I've been having this discussion a lot lately, and one of the biggest commercial obstacles to films made this cheaply, are the deliverables required by commercial distributors.

    This is not a reason *not* to make your own films - but something to be aware of.

    If you want to release your film only online, on your own site, by all means, shoot what you want, ignore takedowns, and have a good time.

    If you want to release your videos or movies in any professional place, you'll have to make lots of pieces of media, and even more pieces of paper in order to satisfy the Errors & Omissions insurance requirements of the distributor (network or studio).

    It can be done, and done well, for not a lot of money, but it's not $800. A small indie delivery easily runs $20-30k in materials alone (extra masters in different formats, QC's, mix stems, etc), plus the amount of time you're going to put in making no $$ while you work on all this:)

    Anyway - studios will never do things this way - because there are too many people who A) if things get efficient, they'll lose their jobs, and B) they're populated by lots of people, and whenever lots of people work together, there is inefficiency just because we're human.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 6th, 2010 @ 8:53pm

    "House" is shot entirely using DSRL, from what I hear.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 6th, 2010 @ 8:57pm

    DSRL, is great to get 35mm look and feel for under $3000.
    There is and entire industry created just to sell accessories to address their short comings in some mechanical aspects.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 6th, 2010 @ 9:14pm

    Movie studios have, and always have had, strong motivation to keep costs down in order to secure as much profit as possible. I believe this is basic economics, though I am certainly not an economist. I am just a consumer who tries to buy products at as low a price as possible in order to have more change in my pocket to spend on something else.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 6th, 2010 @ 10:15pm

    Re:

    Hmmm...I think what you see as bloated others would see as "creative accounting" schemes working their magic.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 6th, 2010 @ 10:18pm

    Re: Re:

    2 words "creative accounting" if they can't hide the costs they will not be able to keep dodging the government and actually pay some taxes.

    And I think the reason they go to the independents and get them onboard of the scheme is to not let another different eco-system thrive that could expose their little schemes.

     

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    AdamR (profile), Aug 6th, 2010 @ 10:27pm

    Re: Re:

    "I Don't think it is wrong to say that the primary reason Hollywood has become a huge presence at "independent" film festivals is to buy up any low budget films that appear to have the potential for turning a profit upon wider distribution."

    Not entirely true in most cases they go to these festivals to buy those properties to shelve them, so at a later date they could try and turn into big budget movies. District 9 is a perfect example of a low budget film Hollywood bought in hopes to turn into 100+ million big budget action movie with A+ stars. I believe it was Peter Jackson that to release the movie as-is.

     

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    jojo, Aug 6th, 2010 @ 10:54pm

    storytelling

    How much does it cost to tell stories around a camp fire? The rest is just rococo decoration (and usually in bad taste).

     

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    AdamR (profile), Aug 6th, 2010 @ 11:37pm

    Re:

    "Movie studios have, and always have had, strong motivation to keep costs down in order to secure as much profit as possible."

    Almost spilled my soda reading that. Whatever rock you have been living under get out more often. One word Water World, oops that's two words.

     

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    vrob (profile), Aug 7th, 2010 @ 1:23am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Ok, fair enough. I almost didn't include "upon wider distribution" in my initial comment.

    Perhaps these days they want to have the right to remake the film as well, but my understanding is that at least initially it started because there was a trend in which independent/low budget movies grossed more money than anyone thought possible after gaining a wider release through festival success and Hollywood wanted a piece of the action.

    We aren't really disagreeing here. I am just thinking back to the late 80's early 90's rather than a recent film like District 9 - which was a great movie and I am glad they didn't remake it.

     

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    lfroen (profile), Aug 7th, 2010 @ 1:46am

    You never been in actual buisness before, Mike?

    I'm usually agree with points you make, but sometime I just being ridiculous. You see, Dell and IBM (and similar) are actually _do_ asking (in internal meetings, of cause) "how can we profitably make $5,000 computers?". That's how productive cycle works. Yes, you _start_ with cost (i.e. how many you've got to spend) and only _then_ figure out what you can build for this money.
    Sometimes you start with "let's build computer with X,Y and Z properties, how match will this cost", and then quickly going back to "it will be $x but we have only $y".
    Same logic apply to movies. Do you actually think that movie cost $200M just because? No, that's what it cost to make. Nobody burning money (literally) there. You may say that we don't need that expansive movies, like we don't need $200M diamonds, but that is another question completely.

    So, you didn't answered the question. Using old politician's trick "this is wrong question" is not an answer. The question IS real. The answer is not.

     

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    Richard (profile), Aug 7th, 2010 @ 2:10am

    Re: Camera EULAs & Codec Patents

    I don't think those EULA's are enforceable. The camcorder I bought in 2006 mentioned "non-commercial use only" in the instructions. The HD one I bought a month ago didn't. I suspect that they have given up on this - since the purchaser hasn't agreed to anything I don't see how these conditions are can be imposed on him. Patents do not constrain the used of patented equipment.

    Plus - of course - you could always go shoot your film in Antigua.

     

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    IronM@sk, Aug 7th, 2010 @ 2:16am

    Re: House, M.D.

    Slightly incorrect. In fact it was the only the final episode of season 6 that was filmed entirely on a Canon EOS 5D Mark II DSLR.

     

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    Richard (profile), Aug 7th, 2010 @ 2:22am

    Re: You never been in actual buisness before, Mike?

    OK - here is the answer. If you want to make a $200 million movie then I suggest you go to the public with your proposition. It is not unheard of for such a proposition to be successful. Eurotunnel raised £750 million back in 1987 (equivalent to $3 Billion today) this way - and those shareholders (I am one) have never seen any financial return other than some subsidised travel on the system. I am quite happy with this because I put the money in because I wanted the tunnel to exist.
    This is exactly the same proposition you would be putting to the public. If the public don't support you then you can only conclude that the pubic don't want your $200 Million movie to exist.

     

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    Richard (profile), Aug 7th, 2010 @ 2:29am

    Re: Context

    The real reason why the studios don't want to go back to low budgets...

    Well if you make a $200 Million movie it's easy to lose your own $200,000 salary and $50,000 "expenses" and the $350,000 contracts to your own personal company in the financial "noise". Much harder to do that on a $20,000 budget.

     

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    Richard (profile), Aug 7th, 2010 @ 2:36am

    Re: Re:

    If you've ever watched a film set at "work" you'll realize how false this is. Most of the time on any set large numbers of highly paid people are standing around doing nothing waiting for some small problem to be fixed - before embarking on the next 30 second bout of actual productive work.


    They maximise profits by screwing as much as possible out of everyone else down the line.

     

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    Richard (profile), Aug 7th, 2010 @ 2:38am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Sorry Adam - the words "how false this is" were of course directed at the AC above - not at you - forgot to include the quote...

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 7th, 2010 @ 3:38am

    Re: Re: House, M.D.

     

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    PaulT (profile), Aug 7th, 2010 @ 5:31am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Same thing with Paranormal Activity - it was originally meant to be shelved and remade before someone saw sense. Which just shows how wasteful Hollywood is...

     

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    PaulT (profile), Aug 7th, 2010 @ 5:53am

    Re: You never been in actual buisness before, Mike?

    "Do you actually think that movie cost $200M just because? No, that's what it cost to make."

    Wrong. Go out and read about movie production some time. There's a lot of waste, and most $200 million movies could have been made for $150 million or lower were it not for egos and extravagances. That's also assuming that the footage on screen was necessary in the first place (e.g. one of the biggest complaints about Transformers 2 was the unnecessary subplots that ate up screen time - no way that movie needed to be 2 1/2 hours long).

    Some stories take $200 million to tell. The list of ones that actually *need* to cost that much is very small.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 7th, 2010 @ 6:58am

    Re: Re: You never been in actual buisness before, Mike?

    I've worked on a number of movie production budgets....and you are completely right. There is A LOT of waste and bloated fees, charges and costs. But even things like insurance, rentals and crew costs can add up quickly.

     

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    lfroen (profile), Aug 7th, 2010 @ 7:10am

    Re: Re: You never been in actual buisness before, Mike?

    You have no idea how _anything_ is produced, do you? Go ahead and start a business. You will discover that movies are not special, "egos and extravagances" exists in every single industry.

    >> That's also assuming that the footage on screen was necessary in the first place
    So you're a director now? How about doing your own movie? Everything on screen will be necessary and you will hire Tom Cruise for $20 per hour.

    You see, movie industry _is_ quite a competitive, so there's no reasons for costs to be artificially high.

     

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    btrussell (profile), Aug 7th, 2010 @ 7:34am

    "Everything on screen will be necessary and you will hire Tom Cruise for $20 per hour."

    Is he the only actor in the world who can play that role?

     

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    lfroen (profile), Aug 7th, 2010 @ 8:18am

    Re:

    Of cause not, I wonder why they don't hire YOU instead, isn't it cheaper?

     

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    McC (profile), Aug 7th, 2010 @ 8:41am

    Stir

    [Oh, and you might recognize the filmmakers in question. They're the same folks who made the movie Ink and then celebrated when a copy was leaked via BitTorrent, helping the film become incredibly popular... I would bet these guys aren't going around whining, "but how can we make a $200 million movie?"]

    As far as I could tell from one of the filmmaker's own comments, sure, Ink became incredibly popular but this didn't pay the bills. 400,000 downloads led to about $400 in donations. And distribution through Hulu and Netflix would cover production costs in about 50 years. That's worth celebrating? The filmmakers knew better to whine -- probably because it would just inflame piracy advocates and reduce their online reputation.

    And when I tried to log onto Double Edge Films' site to buy Ink on Blu-Ray (and thus support the artists) Google tells me that site's infected with malware and is unsafe. Regardless how good and cheap your films are and no matter how many t-shirts you manufacture, there will ALWAYS be someone online somewhere to leech off of your efforts. It's just too easy.

    This is not to say that more sustainable business models won't be developed for the digital world, but let's not be so gung-ho on current models that do not work.

     

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    Brigitta (profile), Aug 7th, 2010 @ 8:45am

    Re: Re: Re: You never been in actual buisness before, Mike?

    The difference between a movie that is interesting and one isn't has a lot to do with how good the story is, but it also has a little bit to do with how well it is told. If all it took was a great story in order to get a large audience, then the 60's and 70's Doctor Who episodes would have more than just a cult fandom. The production values in a film still count for something, and there's a cost for a certain level of professionalism.

    I just happened to re-watch the recent Sherlock Holmes movie last night (the one directed by Guy Ritchie), and while watching the end credits roll by, I noticed that there was a veritable phalanx of crew members (over and above the large number of faces appearing on the screen as cast and extras).

    In fact, if you took just the raw number of crew names from the credit list, which had to average on the order of 100 people, and just did a rough $25/hour cost and a sixty hour work week (which is 40 hours straight time, and 10 hours of overtime at double rates - so just make it 20 hours) for let's say half a year, then on wages alone the makers spent close to $15,000,000. And what do you want to bet that each of the two leads got on the order of $10,000,000 (and very probably more)? So, you could safely say that a quarter of the $200MM was spent on wages for cast and crew.

    Then there's location shooting costs. The credits say that movie was shot in London, New York (huh?), Manchester, and Liverpool. You don't shoot in those cities for free. There's licensing, fees, and inspection costs. Other miscellaneous costs, such as the cost for the city to manage traffic also need to be paid. And of course, each specific location will charge you rental for use of their buildings, and it's part of your contract with them that whatever mess you make in their rooms, you have to put back the way you found it. Was the production overcharged for these things? Maybe or maybe not. (If someone came to you and said they wanted to shoot a scene in your house, what would you charge them? Exactly my point.)

    What do you suppose all those period costumes for the leads and the extras all cost? Or all those props? What do you think renting horses and carriages costs, especially nowadays when they're pretty rare. Lights, portable generators for power (and these are honking big ones, the size of semi trailers, not the little ones you might have in your garage for when you lose power in your house), fuel to run those generators, cables (hey, copper costs beaucoup bucks nowadays and it takes a LOT of copper to supply the power to juice those lights), sound equipment, cameras, lenses, dollies, rails for dollies (don't want the camera to go bump as you're filming a rolling shot), and of course raw film, which itself costs a LOT. (Let's not get into the argument of the merits of film vs. digital, eh? Each has its place.)

    All this just gets raw footage on film and "in the can", as they say. Then you start the post production work, which involves a second phalanx of visual effects people, editors, and sound mixers. For a movie with a hefty amount of special visual effects, this work can go on for another half a year. So, just for discussion purposes, add another $15MM to the wages tab. (Again, an average of 100 people working on various aspects of post production, for about half a year.)

    You can certainly tell a Sherlock Holmes story without all these huge costs. Consider that the BBC churns out 1 hour episodes (which air in the US on PBS) for much less money. There are no "name" stars, most of the filming takes place in a studio, not on location, and there's virtually no "action" per se, only a lot of people standing around and saying things like "I say, Lord Percy." I would argue, however, that far fewer people in this country are entertained by this version of Sherlock Holmes, than were by the Guy Ritchie, big studio version. (I happen to find each version entertaining in its own way.) Even so, I would bet that both versions made their respective production houses money.

    The point of this long diatribe is to show that most of the cost of a movie are there to be seen on the screen. Are some of those costs padded? Undoubtedly, although the extent of that depends a lot on how carefully the production accountants kept an eye on spending. I work on large construction projects, and the larger the budget it, the more there is a tendency to let the small stuff fly. But in this respect, Hollywood productions are no different than large projects in any other industry.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 7th, 2010 @ 9:18am

    Re: Re:

    I never really understood the process by which movies and theatrical productions wend their way to the public until my daughter spent time working with a production company dealing with Broadway shows.

    I was quite surprised to learn that in many regards such movies and theatrical productions are financed and executed almost identically to startups and venture capital.

    Like startups, many fall flat on their face. But there is hope based upon experience that one will hit a home run, making a speculative investment worthwhile.

     

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    McC (profile), Aug 7th, 2010 @ 9:20am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Which will inevitably lead to "Springtime for Hitler" schemes.

     

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    MissingFrame, Aug 7th, 2010 @ 10:25am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: You never been in actual buisness before, Mike?

    Americans want to see expensive things blown up with cutting edge graphics and will pay what it takes to get it done! As long as the big-budget movies can make billions from us, they will put good money into it. If they ever figure out how to consistently make good movies, they will be spending even more than they do now. The costs will just shift to higher-paid actors or more expensive things to blow up or more expensive sets or marketing, etc.

    What this really does is enable the lower-budget enterprises to create more. Those of us who will avoid Transformers 3 are very appreciative of that.

     

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    AdamR (profile), Aug 7th, 2010 @ 10:43am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Nope not disagreeing with you either, the one principal thing that drives Hollywood almost above all else is ego. They don't care that new technology could drive down cost they just wanna beat their chest and say hey we just spent 200 million making a movie so you better see it.

     

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    AdamR (profile), Aug 7th, 2010 @ 10:47am

    Re: Re: Camera EULAs & Codec Patents

    I was under the the impression that the wording of Eula's allow it to change the terms at any time with little notice or none at all and that it's up to the consumer to verify that they are still in line with the Eula terms?

     

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    Richard (profile), Aug 7th, 2010 @ 11:58am

    Re: Re: Re: Camera EULAs & Codec Patents

    Maybe - but the point is that I've never agreed to any of these EULAS on any camcorder that I've bought. I've never clicked a box and there hasn't been a seal to break or anything - so I reckon they're not valid.

     

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    sam, Aug 7th, 2010 @ 12:37pm

    these guys make great movies on the cheap

     

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    Richard (profile), Aug 7th, 2010 @ 12:56pm

    Re: these guys make great movies on the cheap

    Yes - noting the plot of that one, I'm waiting for the one about the film director who spends a lot of his time and effort pursuing "pirates" but then is converted to Christianity, reads Matthew 10:8 (freely you have received, freely give) and changes to "free" business models.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 7th, 2010 @ 4:04pm

    Re: Re: Re: Camera EULAs & Codec Patents

    You can't blame them for trying. It's easy to toss unenforceable crap in the fine print. That's all it is.

     

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    "Steve" Ross Nicholson, Aug 7th, 2010 @ 5:51pm

    Studio productions

    People whose valuable images we see in movies should be out shooting every day with these competent cameras while they wait for their next studio opportunity. The portfolios so created will enable a computer-generated body of work that will last for the ages.
    But, I'm just the guy who came up with Inception, Avatar, Titanic, Forrest Gump, Star Wars, Braveheart, ID4, the Matrix, 6th Sense, Juno ...

     

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    andrew, Aug 7th, 2010 @ 5:58pm

    Re: house

    A single episode of house was shot with a Canon DSLR. I think the idea was just to prove that it could be done. I don't have any idea how much more or less money is involved in the production but I understand it is considerably more difficult to film with a handheld digital camera.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 7th, 2010 @ 8:24pm

    Re:

    Actually, it was just last season's finale that was shot with a Canon 5D Mark II DSLR. Not sure if they're going to continue using it for next season though.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 7th, 2010 @ 9:45pm

    Re: Re: house

    http://www.youtube.com/user/filmriot

    Check out the DSRL episodes showing how to do it.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 7th, 2010 @ 9:56pm

    100 people getting paid $50 000 for a year of work = 5 million.

     

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    Mike Masnick (profile), Aug 7th, 2010 @ 11:05pm

    Re: You never been in actual buisness before, Mike?

    You never been in actual buisness before, Mike?


    Um, yes, actually. I've worked for a few (including some companies you might recognize) and now I run my own business.

    You see, Dell and IBM (and similar) are actually _do_ asking (in internal meetings, of cause) "how can we profitably make $5,000 computers?". That's how productive cycle works. Yes, you _start_ with cost (i.e. how many you've got to spend) and only _then_ figure out what you can build for this money.

    I don't know who you work for, but I've *NEVER* been in such a meeting, and I would fire anyone who had such a meeting. That's not how business should ever be done. You do NOT start with a cost. You focus on *what can we build profitably*. I've been involved in lots of planning efforts for big companies and small companies and we have NEVER -- not ONCE -- started with the budget and then figured out how to spend it. Instead, we figured out what needed to be done and *then* you figure out the budget. Doing it the way you suggest is a really, really bad business idea.

    Sometimes you start with "let's build computer with X,Y and Z properties, how match will this cost", and then quickly going back to "it will be $x but we have only $y".

    That's a different conversation, and NOT what is happening in the movie business. It's one thing to say "well, we want to do x which will cost $y, but we only have $z, so how do we compromise?" It's something TOTALLY different to start from scratch and say "I want to make a product that costs $y" That's what the movie business does, and that's dumb.

    Same logic apply to movies. Do you actually think that movie cost $200M just because?

    No, I didn't say that it's "just because." I have NO PROBLEM with a movie that costs $200 million to make if that's what it costs to make. My problem is with the question of "how do I make a $200 million movie" because that's a dumb question. Why not answer this question: "How do I make a $5 billion movie?" Or "But how do I make a $10 movie?"

    I'm saying that's not the question. That question presupposes that there needs to be a way to make a movie that costs $x.

    No, that's what it cost to make

    Except, time and time again people have shown that's NOT the case. The cost of creating content has gone down in pretty much every industry. The cost of promotion and distribution have gone down. But the cost to make a movie has gone up? Why?

    So, you didn't answered the question. Using old politician's trick "this is wrong question" is not an answer. The question IS real. The answer is not.

    The question is real, it's just a dumb question that has no bearing on anyone who's really worked in business.

     

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  46.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 8th, 2010 @ 9:35am

    "You focus on *what can we build profitably*."

    In my experience this question typically follows the creation of a spec for a potential product.

    Costs are racked up, people around the table are almost invariably shocked, and then the real work begins prioritizing the various items in the spec to begin working on cost reduction to reduce them to a level lower than the orbit of the International Space Station.

     

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  47.  
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    Dirk Belligerent (profile), Aug 8th, 2010 @ 11:45am

    What was the real budget for Uncle Jack?

    Everyone seems to be thinking, "Look at what you can make for $800 with a Pentax camera," but within 10 seconds of watching the making-of, it's clear that the cheapest item in the production was the camera itself. Putting a SUV on a dolly to simulate motion in front of a green screen; rigging a guy 10 feet above a green screen; compositing an explosion; the cost of all the lenses (which can be more than a camera body) and so on requires more than a MacBook Pro and iMovie to go with the $800 camera. Did they get free stuff from Pentax since the first thing you see in the film is that it was shot on their stuff. Seems sponsored to me.

    I agree that the tech costs are plunging, but while it's getting cheaper and easier to produce and distribute films online, as other have mentioned there still isn't much return on investment for these projects. I know it's considered wrong for artists to want money for their works on the "everything wants to be free like beer" Intarwebz, but unless they can cover their expenses (much less make enough to quit their day jobs so they can focus on their art) then it matters little how cheap the cameras are.

     

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  48.  
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    btrussell (profile), Aug 8th, 2010 @ 3:28pm

    Re: Re:

    I don't act, but there are many who do!

     

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  49.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 8th, 2010 @ 3:40pm

    Re: Re:

    Unions.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  50.  
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    lfroen (profile), Aug 8th, 2010 @ 10:59pm

    Re: Re: You never been in actual buisness before, Mike?

    >> No, that's what it cost to make

    >> Except, time and time again people have shown that's NOT >> the case. The cost .. (skipped)... down ...
    >> But the cost to make a movie has gone up? Why?

    You repeatedly making same error again and again. Nobody shown that "that's not the case". What people in your examples shown is that you can shoot low-cost film with average quality. So what? Does it surprise anyone?

    Yes, technology jumped forward, but how about paying "special guest star" $5M? No technology in the world will bring this cost down.

    Back to the technology side, movies in your examples are hardly meeting average level. There will be no "Matrix" there. And no "Lord Of The Rings" either. Yes, you can shoot better-than-before with $1000 camera and edit on your $2000 computer at home, but if you want result to be enjoyable on cinema-size screen, you will need to start adding zeros to equipment cost. Professional grade stuff is still very expansive (as in every single industry).

    >> I've been involved in lots of planning efforts for big companies and small companies and we have NEVER -- not ONCE -- started with the budget and then figured out how to spend it
    Have to call bullshit on this. Do you ever planned your own vacation? "I have saved $X, where can I go for this kind of money?" - does that sound familiar to you? Your explanation about _why_ this is "oh so bad idea" is missing, and there's reason for that. The reason is - you can't actually explain it. And you can't explain it because such explanation will look and feel stupid.
    In whole lot of cases you start with budget. From government where "budget for year $X is $Y, how do we divide it" down to your vacation (see example above), budget comes before features. Tell us, what kind of industry works otherwise, maybe I will consider career move?

     

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  51.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Aug 9th, 2010 @ 12:40am

    Re: Re: Re: You never been in actual buisness before, Mike?

    You repeatedly making same error again and again. Nobody shown that "that's not the case". What people in your examples shown is that you can shoot low-cost film with average quality. So what? Does it surprise anyone?

    It seems to surprise anyone who thinks that there needs to be a way to support $200 million movies.

    Yes, technology jumped forward, but how about paying "special guest star" $5M? No technology in the world will bring this cost down.


    Really? As we've pointed to in the past, studies have shown that having stars in a movie do not actually help with the profitability, and often harm the profitability. You can do better by not paying a star $5 million.

    Back to the technology side, movies in your examples are hardly meeting average level. There will be no "Matrix" there. And no "Lord Of The Rings" either.

    Yet. Give it time. Some of these are really quite amazing, and you should recognize how much better they're getting over time.

    Yes, you can shoot better-than-before with $1000 camera and edit on your $2000 computer at home, but if you want result to be enjoyable on cinema-size screen, you will need to start adding zeros to equipment cost. Professional grade stuff is still very expansive (as in every single industry).

    I'm not saying it's cheap. I'm saying there's no reason why anyone needs to defend a $200 million production. I'm also not saying there can't be such productions. I'm just saying there's no reason anyone has to defend how to make one profitable.

    I note that you totally skipped over my questions:

    Why not answer this question: "How do I make a $5 billion movie?" Or "But how do I make a $10 movie?"

    That's the crux of the problem.

    Have to call bullshit on this. Do you ever planned your own vacation?

    Um, a family vacation is not a business. Sorry. Totally different situations. Totally.

    No business says "we have $x, what can we build." They say "what does the market want, and what can we build -- for how much." Then they look at their resources, and afterwards they decide if they need to scale back, or raise money, or what.

    But none start with "we have $200 million, now what do we do?" Because it's easy to spend money.

    In whole lot of cases you start with budget

    Never in any business I've been involved in. What the hell business do you work in that starts with cash and says "how do we get rid of it?" Please tell me so I can short your stock.

    From government where "budget for year $X is $Y, how do we divide it" down to your vacation (see example above), budget comes before features.

    Again, family vacations are totally different. Government is also somewhat different, but you're still totally and completely wrong (laughably, ridiculously so).

    Budgets to do not magically appear where someone comes down from on high and says "here's $200 million, figure out what to do with it." I'm guessing you've never been involved in budgeting, and it shows. You first have to justify your budget to get it. No company in the world that I know of has ever just handed a group $200 million and said "go play." Instead, people put together a big project plan explaining what they wanted to do -- what product category they were targeting, what market they wanted to go after, etc. -- and justified why they needed $x.

    I'm sorry. You claimed that I've never been in a business, but I have been in many, and none resembles the ridiculous situation you explain here. You are wrong. Very, very wrong.

     

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  52.  
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    Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Aug 9th, 2010 @ 6:16am

    Re: What was the real budget for Uncle Jack?

    Why would you put an SUV on a dolly to simulate motion? Why not just use the Star Trek trick and move the camera? Green screens are just that and the rigging is just rope and a harness, nether are that expensive. The large costs come from the camera and the lenses as you say, but the cameras aren't $80,000 any more nor are the lenses.

     

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  53.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 9th, 2010 @ 7:09am

    Re: Re: Re: You never been in actual buisness before, Mike?

    http://www.youtube.com/user/PatrickBoivin#p/c/22201739CD623706

    Check out the "Iron Baby" and the "Making of AT-AT afternoon".

    The even made a commercial for Google Japan(Ninjas Unpacking).

    I'm fairly sure what he did didn't cost $200m.

     

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  54.  
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    PaulT (profile), Aug 9th, 2010 @ 7:26am

    Re: Re: Re: You never been in actual buisness before, Mike?

    "You have no idea how _anything_ is produced, do you?"

    You have no idea what my experiences are, do you? Stop making assumptions and making them the basis of your arguments, you might find they are more accepted by the people you're attacking (such as the business owner you attacked at the start of this thread for never having started a business).

    ""egos and extravagances" exists in every single industry."

    That doesn't make them necessary, nor excusable if profits are down.

    "hire Tom Cruise for $20 per hour"

    What a moronic statement. If I don't pay Tom Cruise $20 million or whatever his going rate is, I can only pay him $20/hour. No middle ground, no alternative (better) actors? At least argue reality.

    By the way it's not uncommon for actors - even big stars - to take a greatly reduced or deferred salary for projects they believe in. Sometimes, they pay off big (e.g. Bruce Willis in The Sixth Sense) for projects that may not otherwise have been made. Nobody *needs* $20 million per movie, and it's not surprising that movies with that much waste often turn out to be bloated messes (and therefore lose out on DVD sales, etc. - few buy additional copies for movies they hated).

     

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  55.  
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    nasch (profile), Aug 9th, 2010 @ 11:31am

    Re: Re:

    Is there some other way to waste something? ;-)

     

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  56.  
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    nasch (profile), Aug 9th, 2010 @ 11:34am

    Re: Re:

    it does beg the question of why Hollywood can't or won't make these movies on their own.

    I assume they want the indies to take all the risk, while still being able to get the biggest profits.

     

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  57.  
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    nasch (profile), Aug 9th, 2010 @ 11:46am

    Re: What was the real budget for Uncle Jack?

    Besides which, I don't see anyone saying they made the movie for $800. They're saying they made the movie with an $800 camera, which pretty much makes the rest of your comment irrelevant.

     

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  58.  
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    RobShaver (profile), Aug 9th, 2010 @ 12:58pm

    Shane Hurlbut, Cinematographer on "Terminator Salvation"

    Shane Hurlbut, Cinematographer on "Terminator Salvation" is a big advicate for using these new HDLSRs on movies of any cost.

    Here's a link to his blog which shows how beautiful the images can be.
    http://www.hurlbutvisuals.com/blog/2010/04/07/the-last-3-minutes-canon-5d-24p-firmware-shines/? utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+HurlbutVisuals+(Hurlbut+Visuals+Blo g:+Hurlblog)

    Following posts show how it was shot and he reveals that it cost about $40K.

    However, if you take all the camera/image-capture-equipment costs out of a $200K movie, you'll find it still cost $200K. The camera/film costs are not what drives the final cost. It's really the labor cost plus the above-the-line costs.

    A quality high-budget film takes the combined effort of hundreds of people and years of time. Quality never comes cheap.

     

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  59.  
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    RobShaver (profile), Aug 9th, 2010 @ 1:38pm

    Re: Re: What was the real budget for Uncle Jack?

    "The large costs come from the camera and the lenses as you say, but the cameras aren't $80,000 any more nor are the lenses."

    You are so right ... just released, ARRI Digital AXELA:

     

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  60.  
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    RobShaver (profile), Aug 9th, 2010 @ 2:31pm

    House final episode of season 6: The full story.

    This post is an interview with Director of Photography Gale Tattersal who shot “Help Me”, the season 6 finale of “House”, was shot with Canon 5D Mk II HDSLRs using off-the-shelf Canon still lenses.

    "According to posts on Cinematography Mailing List not subsequently corrected or contradicted, the Canon footage underwent considerable post-processing, presumably to suppress the residual color moiré and aliasing to which the Canons are rather prone yet which were notable by their absence in the finished show."

    http://provideocoalition.com/index.php/awilt/story/tattersal_talks/

     

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  61.  
    identicon
    darryl, Aug 9th, 2010 @ 8:06pm

    Quality Movie !!!! we do care about quality, and quality costs.

    No one watching a movie cares about how much the movie costs.

    Ya Think ???

    Really,, I did not know that you are also an armchair expert on the movie industry !

    I can see how you have the expertise and the experience to comment on industries you seem to have little or no knowledge about.

    Again you make false claims and base you opinion upon those claims.

    Even your heading on this one is misleading at best..

    Making A High Quality Film On The Cheap With A Digital SLR

    Um,, "high quality" ?? Ya Think ???

    A few years back at a Cato Institute conference on copyright, a guy from NBC Universal challenged me with the question of "how will we make $200 million movies?" if content is freely shared.

    For a start, if the producers or creators of the 'content' do not want it illegally file shared.. then it is **NOT** 'freely shared'.

    Its stolen, its something taken against someone elses will, and in breach of the law.

    So because you want cheap or free files, we have to put up with cheap or free movies ? NO thanks...

    As for 'business models' I do not see you developing anything even close to a viable business model, you just seem to make random claims, and aggrigate those claims to compose a 'story'.. You also rely heavily on others content, I sometimes wonder if you had to think of these things all by yourself how would you go?

    What you seem to constantly miss, is that people will PAY for what they want, YOU WILL, if you want a certain computer or car or boat or whatever, you will pay for it, you will also pay more for better.

    More for better, keep that in mind, that is what **YOU** do, that is what everyone does.

    People are not going to watch a movie because its cheap, they are going to watch it because they want too experience that movie.

    Have you noticed that the 'cheap' things are most often the lest popular, and the expensive ones are the one that people want.

    It does not matter about the supply and demand, what matter is DEMAND, you can have infinite supply of some crap and no one will want it at any price.

    By trying to make something expensive cheap by essentually stealing it, or copying it, does not increase its value or decrease its value to the consumer.

    You can have a billion copyies of a cheap crappy movie, and at zero price no one will bother taking the hour or so to watch it.

    That means the persons (consumers) time is more valuable to them then the loss of time in watching something they do not want to watch.

    A parallel can be drawn to linux and open source, linux users dont mind spending the time fooling with their system and tinkering to get it right, after all its free.

    Whereas most users, are happy to leave the grunt work to a responsible company, and just get on with what they want to do for a living.

    Its more efficient for a ceo, to enter data on a spreadsheet than it is to screw with linux and apps for days trying to get it going.

    Its more efficient and more productive,

    Just like employing 'name' actors for a movie, sure they are expensive, by they have their own fan base, and the cost of hiring them for the movie, is a commercial decision to get more people viewing that movie.

    That is a business model, a business model does not entale just trying to make everyone as cheap or free as possible.

    A business model is about creating a structure that provides products or services that clients want and are willing to pay a fair price for.

    Trying to claim your an expert in these fields, and breaking everything down to just cost shows you do not have a strong grasp on how,,,, well the world works..

    Certainly not how finance, and commerce works..

    If you devalue the content, then that content will not be created as its will have no value.

    That appears to be what you are pushing for, you would like to see the music industry die, but you do not see past your own greed, you seem to think that hit songs and blockbuster movies will still be created even if it is not possible to pay for the production of such movies.

    This is a major flaw in what you call a 'business model'.

    but it does appear your most talked about 'business model' for the movie and music industry, is "Do something else".

    (something like the reverse of "dont give up your day job").

    You seem to say if you cant make money from selling music (because of file theft), then do something else..

    What type of advice is that ?? do something else !!

    Sell some crap with your free music, or get fans to donate.

    Is that the best you can do to justify your desire to take content that you did not create, that cost alot of money to create and use it for free...

    Nice one..

     

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  62.  
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    McC (profile), Aug 10th, 2010 @ 8:12pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: You never been in actual buisness before, Mike?

    Who cares about a $200 million movie? All this talk about whether Mike M's REALLY been in business for himself or whether artists SHOULD keep making art for free or if organization ACTUALLY start with a budget or a need just noise.

    The folks at Double Edge Films wanted to make a contemporary fantasy film called Ink. They calculated that it would cost $250,000, got investors, mortgaged their house and produced it. It got posted on BitTorrent and became one of the most popular downloads at the time. 400,000 downloads at one point. Lots of people LOVING their film! Yea! The Techdirt method seemed to be working! Double Edge politely celebrated their popularity. But from what I can gather in an on-line Q&A but the Ink producer, of the 400,000 downloads, they only received about $400 in donations -- much of that generated from the Q&A itself. Distribution deals with Hulu and Netflix represented a trickle of money which, the producer said, would pay for production costs in about 50 years. I still don't see how Mike M's business model works for filmmakers -- even for less than modest films like Ink. I can see how musicians might make it workable, but a song doesn't cost $250,000 to produce. Nor does a song doesn't cost $40k, which apparently is what Double Edge's next film, Uncle Jack, cost. How long can Double Edge survive?

    Is it really possible to recoup a $250,000 investment (or a $40K investment or even a $1K investment) using the Techdirt business model? Yeah, yeah, we can sell T-shirts and auction off lunches and give away our Volvo station wagons all in good, profitable fun. But who wants to do that when copyright gives you some defensible claim in court? Is it perfect? No. Is it abused by undeserving fat cats? All the time. But it's better than 400,000 free(down)loaders averaging .0001 cent per view.

     

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  63.  
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    McC (profile), Aug 10th, 2010 @ 8:14pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: You never been in actual buisness before, Mike?

    Sorry. Should have previewed:

    "All this talk about whether Mike M's REALLY been in business for himself or whether artists SHOULD keep making art for free or if organizations ACTUALLY start with a budget or with a market need is just nonsense."

     

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  64.  
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    nasch (profile), Aug 10th, 2010 @ 9:59pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: You never been in actual buisness before, Mike?

    Is it really possible to recoup a $250,000 investment (or a $40K investment or even a $1K investment) using the Techdirt business model?

    That's impossible to answer unless you can specify "the Techdirt business model". I don't think you'll be able to in any coherent fashion, because TD doesn't espouse any single business model, rather general principles about recognizing economic realities.

    Believe it or not, doing things in a way that doesn't rely on copyright doesn't guarantee success. Just like with every other business in existence.

     

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  65.  
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    McC (profile), Aug 11th, 2010 @ 10:36am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: You never been in actual buisness before, Mike?

    Thanks the for reply, nasch.

    "That's impossible to answer unless you can specify "the Techdirt business model". I don't think you'll be able to in any coherent fashion, because TD doesn't espouse any single business model, rather general principles about recognizing economic realities."

    That's probably the biggest problem with Techdirt. It vehemently decries protections like copyright and patents but offers few practical models in return.

    When people question Mike Masnick's very blustery and single-minded declarations, he points to examples of artists selling t-shirts or giving away their Volvos as examples to earn a living. Are these approaches REALLY better than the copyright model?

    Or he points to himself and says that Techdirt is free to copy and distribute yet he's able to run a successful business using the general principles he espouses. But Mike relies on other people's journalistic efforts to deliver the raw material on which he comments. And as far as I can tell, he's never produced anything artistic and/or original, like a movie or an album or a novel. So it strikes me that he's never really walked the walk.

    The economic realities you mentioned aren't going to go away; most people recognize that. Hanging on to the old models won't work: We get it, already. But without something more solid to stand on than general principles and snarky rhetoric (which really don't answer very basic concerns like those mentioned above) Techdirt shouldn't be so quick to judge and condemn.

     

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  66.  
    identicon
    Patrik, Aug 11th, 2010 @ 2:15pm

    Re: House final episode of season 6: The full story.

    Meh... it's the same deal with lo-fi albums. Everyone will tout that they recorded their album at home, but if it's coming out on a label of any kind, then chances are very high that the album passed through the hands of a professional mastering engineer before being released. Nothing wrong with that, I'm sure using low-cost cameras and springing for the post-production was cheaper than buying (renting/leasing?) the more expensive cameras.

    I record 'lo-fi' albums and have them professionally mastered by an engineer that basically keeps himself in business by mastering 'low quality' work done by amateurs. This touches on one of those things that bugs me about recording engineers and composers bemoaning the current state of the industry. Rather than being threatened by the huge increase in home recording--which eliminated his typical day job in a big studio--the engineer I've mentioned decided to cater to 'bedroom producers' by offering relatively low cost mastering services with his pro-grade equipment (and most importantly: his professional experience and knowledge); in order give amateurs that little bit of polish that allows their 'inadequate' recordings to compete with the big boys. He does very well. I think if I were at all knowledgeable about post-pro in film, I'd be thinking about ways to cater to the wave of amateurs that is inevitably coming up.

     

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  67.  
    identicon
    Patrik, Aug 11th, 2010 @ 2:23pm

    Re: Re: House final episode of season 6: The full story.

    In fact, I think there's a lesson for the entire music industry here: the money is in catering *to musicians* now, not in producing music and selling it to the public. With the prominence of sampling, cheap recording gear, and open access to musical influence, there is no longer much of a distinction between the musicians and the public.

    It's very popular for people on the production side of music to point out that the fastest way to make the most money in the music industry these days is by opening a school that TEACHES production techniques.

     

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  68.  
    identicon
    Jose_X, Dec 21st, 2010 @ 3:56am

    Re: Re:

    >> Even as expensive as some of these movies are, so much of the money is needlessly wasted.

    When a major fraction of demand is willing to spend a bunch of money, it drives prices upwards.

    If they weren't there willing or able to spend that much, prices would come down as expected. Cameras would cost less, actors would not demand millions per flic, etc.

     

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  69.  
    identicon
    Bri Lee, Feb 12th, 2011 @ 10:13am

    Which DSLR

    There are a lot of DSLR camera's out there. Which should one buy ot make a movie. Would an entry level DSLR be sufficient, or should we go for a more expensive DSLR?

     

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  70.  
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    nasch (profile), Feb 12th, 2011 @ 1:34pm

    Re: Which DSLR

    You'll probably get better information on a photography web site / forum.

     

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  71.  
    identicon
    Ani Godswill, Jul 19th, 2012 @ 8:30am

    How much

    Nobody has or the producer mention how much exactloy he actually spent to make this movie. He said small amount, but to prove his professionalism we have to hear the amount in figure. Thanks

     

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  72.  
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    nasch (profile), Apr 13th, 2013 @ 11:57am

    Re: Using SLR camera for short film?

    can i use SLR camera for short film? is it feasible? will it be useful for me to get good quality film?

    No, you cannot use a film SLR camera for video. Second, you'd be better off taking your camera and film questions to a camera forum.

     

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  73.  
    identicon
    Achim, Sep 7th, 2013 @ 5:24am

    Quick tip?

    Great article! I still daydream for the day when you can make a movie with lunch money. To save money on the technical equipment, the best thing to do is drop the dialogue and just go for one forever silent character. Wrote an article about making a movie by yourself a while ago http://thevrincent.blogspot.ro/2013/09/why-silent-film-works-best.html

     

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  74.  
    identicon
    daklgg, Mar 2nd, 2014 @ 8:59pm

    budget movie making

    if you want to make a movie you are going to need a lot more than just a great idea and a head full of great screen shots. its a mine field!

    it seems like you need a ton of money to get going but it must be possible to do it for free.

    this helpful package could really help you get your movie off the ground:

    click link or paste into your browser!

    http://6629bbggydhz3zbef5o7w4mf2a.hop.clickbank.net/?tid=NOBUDGETFILMDAKLGG

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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