Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Lessons of a One Woman Crew #2 -- "Shooting to Edit"

Or- How to Stop Worrying and Love your SD Camera

Ladies and Gentlemen, meet the Panasonic DVX100B. This was my graduation gift in May of 2008.
It made me super, incredibly happy.

Alas-- 24 months later, DSLRs that shoot incredible HD are now running the same price as the lovely little SD Camera above... or well... ok. Some of them are cheaper.

What, do you ask, is the difference?
Let me show you:

 Panasonic - SD

Canon - HD

The differences are many. They include not only the fact that my SD doesn't shoot in native widescreen. In terms of picture, in strictly non-technical language: The light bleeds a lot more. The colors are not as crisp. The pixels in the image are not as defined, so you can't zoom, etc. 
What isn't apparent here--is that the movement actually looks different. With multiple compressions, you loose some of the smoothness- I've found.

Anyway- quite simply- the quality, in terms of "life-likeness" in SD is not as striking as HD. 

So, why-- do you ask-- have I not switched? 

Well, first of all. It's expensive. I simply can't afford to buy an HD camera in the way that I would like. I want to do it right-- buy the right lenses, arm myself with the right tools. It takes some savings. 

But-- there's also certain advantages that I'm beginning to understand about the use of SD. Primarily:


In HD, if I need a close up to cover a dialogue edit or slip, I can zoom in and crop and create fake movement that you can [mostly] not tell that it was changed in post -- See Above. 

In SD-- not really possible. You can't zoom into the image without significantly degrading the quality, thus you can't cover your ass by adjusting your shots in post-- what I call "faking" above.

In SD- you are forced to shoot like a storyteller. 

By "shooting like a storyteller" -- I mean-- you have to force yourself to make the picture constantly interesting and think like an editor in terms of your composition. You must  give yourself options between close up shots, wide shots, different angles in wide, smooth  movements. With HD, you don't have to shoot this way- because all of these things (save a wide shot from a close up) you can really, honestly, fake. So, SD makes you accountable for what you shoot in a more immediate way. And you are forced to act like a storyteller as you are capturing the image, as opposed to leaving it to whoever is doing post. I call this "shooting to edit" because, in a way, you are creating an assembly as you shoot. You are limiting your edit to what you capture, and thus you are essentially "storyboarding" even during doc shooting. 

I recently finally read the amazing book "Hitchock" by Francois Truffaut in its entirety.

 (If you look closely - you can see that the book above has a picture from Notorious. I like to accompany my education with margaritas. It makes the knowledge go down easier...)

In it (I warn that this is broad paraphrasing), Hitch talks about how he used to shoot sequences in such a specific way so that only he was able to assemble them. In this way- not only was he economic in his shooting, but he also prevented the studio from recutting his footage, and occrance that would likely destroy his vision for presenting the story. 

I like to think that using my SD forces me to act the same way. If I have to shoot with the edit in mind, it is likely that I will be the only one to put it together. Thus- the piece is always "my" way of seeing-- and it forces me to be more aware of the story I want to tell from the outset. 


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