Reflections After the First Video Production

My first foray into video production has been harrowing. When I bounced the idea around in June I was quite confident that I could produce a short film without having to make too many changes in my workflow. I was certain that I could produce a simple video using the hdslr [Canon Rebel T2i] and sound tools [ProTools 9 and a Blue Bluebird microphone]. How wrong could I be?

My initial problems came around from not being able to record professional sound into the camera. I solved this by running ProTools off my MacPro as my sound recorder, and that gave me two microphones to record stereo sound with. I thought about using more microphones [my 002 Rack has four inputs], but that seemed cumbersome. Great. It worked very well, despite the hum from my refrigerator and Mingus’ walking on the laminate floor. Now I just had to sync the sound to the video…errr. [Time – 2 hours]

Fortunately, Singular Software make a program to do just that. After demo’ing both versions, I went with DualEyes because I did not have to use it within Final Cut Pro. I also figured out that I needed to replace the audio if I wanted to be able to use it without tearing my hair out [Time – 2 hours]

Let’s get down to editing shall we? Ohh wait…I need to actually record footage. Fortunately, V. agreed to become the videographer for this project. While I thought I might be able to do this by myself, it would have been impossible; being in front of and behind a camera is just stupid, and she did a better job than I would have. Did I mention that I hate being in front of the camera? This project played out as an instructional cooking video on one of my favourite recipes [it involves bananas, rum, brown sugar and butter] and how to cook it using a Paderno 12″ Classic Series Saute Pan. The flames were so pretty! [Time – 3 1/2 hours]

Time to edit. I am an efficient editor, but I had 3 hours worth of footage to compress into 5 minutes. The very best that I could do without losing key ideas and footage was about 12 minutes in total. The time it takes to render sequences, transitions and fades was brutal. I spent another 4 hours doing that before I came close to the final product. Oh, and the white balance was off on my close-ups, so I was redder than usual. I figured out how to use the Color Corrector. [Time – 5 hours]

Now I just need to get the project out of Final Cut Pro 6 so the world can view our baby monster…how do I do that? Exporting a 12 minute video clip is brutal. The settings are written in secret society codes for engineers, so I had to spend time just imagining what they might do and trying them. Each time I render the sequence it takes a minimum of an hour. I still have been unable to achieve a decent Quicktime version through Compressor, which is okay because I am not ready for that yet anyway, as the client has not seen any version yet. But still…my H264 version seems to be taking 3 hours to render into an MPEG 4 that may or may not be good enough for the client.  [Time – infinite]

So. What do I think about film-making with a dslr? Here is what I have learned over the course of the past week:

1) It takes a lot of time.

2) It requires a tonne of equipment.

3) It demands more than one person to complete a project.

4) I do not know how to match up the fees to what my costs would be for an extended project, because the cost of video in time, people and gear is so high.

5) The final product is really, really good. There I have said it. The process sucks donkeys, but the product is far better than I had hoped for visually and sonically. Despite the time, technology and cost issues, the end product is so far beyond what could have been done even 5 years ago that I am astounded.

Do I think that being a photographer helps or hinders the process? It definitely helps. Photographers see things differently, and that creates a new vision on film that might not have been there with film school graduates who have been taught to see on film. It is not a better vision; just different, I think. If I had not already spent years learning how to record and edit in ProTools, then this would be a different story, as the sound is half the equation in video.

Do I think I would do this again? I am not sure. Time and money are the major deterrents here. The only reason I was able to take on the project was because I am on vacation, V. is living here, and I happen to have enough gear to pull it off under stress. Still, to do this properly as a full-time addition to the business we would need a new tripod and head [$1000] for smooth shots, we would need a dedicated video camera to solve the sound issue [$7500] and we would need at least one video light [$1000] to keep the colour consistent and out of the tungsten range.

Do the math. If you have the time, then you can do without the gear. If you have the gear, then you cut down your time exponentially. Gear costs money, time costs money, and money is what you are trying to make to put food on your table. In other words, to do the work we would need to be able to justify the costs, and be able to tweak the cashflow to pay for the gear before we even can begin the projects to pay for it. Sounds like a Catch-22 to me.

Regardless, Spain happens in less than a week and then Morocco and then Spain again. I am not ready at all, because I spent an entire week planning the video project instead of planning my adventure. Get me off of this ride…and onto another one!

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