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Shooting Strategies for Micro-budget Feature

Peter Gilabert

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Hi All,

Im directing/producing a super low budget feature next month. First time in my life., here I So. Cal. One location, minimal cast. Im very happy with the script, cast and location, better than I ever dreamed.

The question is, is my gear up to the task.? I planned to shoot on film, that option went out the window due to time and budget.

Even if its an amazing story, great performances, etc., the idea that I might shoot it on my Canon 60d is a bit embarrassing. My Co-Producer has a bmpcc, (but not the new 4K one).

Should we be using that?If so, guess I better ask now. All things being equal, assuming we/he use it to its full capability, will it give us a more professional/better look?

I understand they have more dynamic range,etc.


I think this film will live or die by the dialogue and performances, and Im not worried about sound (though I think lavs in addition to my boom will help against outside noises) or lighting too much, but I dont want to shortchange myself either.


Heres the storyboard for those curious:


6 shooting Days, 14 pages or so a day, may have to go hand held

a lot, building some false walls right now, will do table read, have a month to test stuff, its the back of an art gallery and its mine to use, has many elements already in place luckily.

If I have my tunnel special effect worked out, I think I can stay on pace with the script.

But, a 60d? Is that just plain not good enough, or?

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Good luck - feature in 6 days is going to be hectic. I shot one in 12 days and that was pretty crazy enough.


I have a 60D its a perfectly fine camera and will result in acceptable images. However I would choose the Blackmagic pocket if you have wide enough lenses. The lenses you have available for both cameras would also be a factor in the choice as well.


The three reasons, I would pick the BM:


1: It has a more robust codec, that will stand up more to grading. The 60D can look good but you have to nail the look in camera because you don't has as much room to move on the grade. On your schedule - your probably not always going to be able to nail the lighting. So the ability to have a bit of room "to fix it in post" is a good thing


2: Deeper depth of field. Its harder to get that pretty shallow depth of field look on the BM pocket. In your case thats a good thing. 14 pages a day is going to mean fewer rehearsals and takes - in this case deep depth of field is your friend. If everything is in focus, complex focus pulling is one less thing to worry about. Sure its less pretty: but I would take a film thats in focus over under rehearsed large sensor SDOF focus buzzing any day. Its still possible to get a shallow shot on the BM pocket but you have to work for it.


3: Dynamic range - the pocket has a bit more. That speeds up and simipfies lighting, sure you can deal with less dynamic range through controlled lighting, ND gel on window etc... But on a 14 pages a day you won't have time to finesse the lighting and will have to make do with what can be achieved quickly - again a camera that captures more and gives you options in post is a good thing..


1080p is fine and will hold up on a big screen.


If you did have a 4k camera - I would propose you compose the frame at 3K - with look around. That would allow you to reframe in post and fix mistakes. 4k shooting for 1080p delivery give maximum options in post.


Of course it is better the nail the lighting and composition on set and then the camera choice matters slightly less. But on a 6 day schedule your priority has to be getting great performances, all the coverage you need and decent sound - the aesthetics may have to play second fiddle to them.

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and Im not worried about sound (though I think lavs in addition to my boom will help against outside noises) or lighting too much, but I dont want to shortchange myself either.



Every time I read things like this, my spidey scent gone off. Spoiler alert, this is where your short is going to failed. Sound is 51% of your short, nobody is going to care if you film with the 60d, if you lighting properly, but if the sound is unbearable, it's doesn't matter if you use the newest Alexa, nobody is going to even finish your short.


Please, don't neglect sound or lighting, because, along with the story and performance, are the most fundamental things in cinema.

Edited by Giacomo Girolamo
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Don't know about the camera, but GD it sounds like a great feature film! Don't F it up if you can't do it justice.


Maybe make your micro film as a selling promo to promote making a big budget film. (But don't just go by me...I'm underground.)


Lots of hatred with the millennials vs boomers. Read some millennials wanted to torture boomers in the rest home. Lots to work with in generational clashes.


From GAB...


GBC_Dude @GBC_Dude
23 minutes ago · in Politics

"I hope 1 day us millennials will be in charge of everything in America so we can do what Hitler did to the Jews unto you boomers! We need another holocaust! A boomer holocaust!"



Edit...why can you other filmmakers send in something interesting like this instead of those boring things you want us to critique??

Edited by Daniel D. Teoli Jr.
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Thanks Phil and Daniel too! Good food for thought re: priorities with this type of pressured schedule.

Trying to think of lighting one size-fits-most thing for most scenes. Ill experiment this month as much as I can first.


Just want to make sure a potential distributor would even take me seriously, tech wise, assuming the actual content is great.

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60D's compression is blown away by the BMPCC, but to me the pocket camera's sensor is too small for a narrative feature. ALSO THE BUTTONS ARE A NIGHTMARE WHEN ON SHORT TIME Personally not big on the general look.


Try the Sony F3, they are less than $1000 now and can use EF glass with a $100 adapter.

Edited by Macks Fiiod
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Just want to make sure a potential distributor would even take me seriously, tech wise, assuming the actual content is great.


The BM shoots to a proper broadcast approved codec - there are plenty of moves screened on TV and Streaming shot with lessor camera/sensors.


The BM pocket probably out performs the 1st gen HD cameras (like the MK1 Varicam, F900 etc) - so its capable of better images then the earlier small sensor digital films including: 28 Days Later, Attack of the Clones, Dogville, Speed Racer, Zodiac, Collateral, Bowling for Columbine, Sin City, ... all those movies are taken seriously.


We are at a point where you can by a camera for $1000 that will meet HD broadcast spec and look fine on the big screen.


Audiences will have a bigger problem with poor audio and acting. 28 Days Later looked like complete pants on the big screen, but audiences still engaged with it, because its was an interesting film.


I can't comment on the BM pockets ergonomics, it would probably benefit from a rig, but if shot carefully the image quality would be fine.

On a 6 day schedule hollywood polished visuals are unlikely. If you look at other micro budget films shot on similar scheduales eg: Creep, Prevenge, Blair Witch and maybe check out Coherence (2013) - they don't look pretty. But work because the ideas are good.


I would def check out Coherence since it was shot in about a week in a single location. The photography was not great, but the idea was strong and it got Netflix distribution and found an audience.


Ultimately, use the best tools you can and make the film as good a possible. Don't second guess what the audience or distributor may or may not accept - because to be honest its going to be an uphill struggle regardless of the quality of the camera work. Because ultimately you don't know. There is of course an argument of not selling yourself short and trying to raise more money for gear + time. But I've seen plenty of people paralysed by that and never make anything.


One thing to note is a 1 week shoot is pretty short so you might be able to borrow other cameras cheaply/free because its a short time. E.g get something thats easier to hand hold.

Or maybe it could be found footage. Have the actors operate handycams - because they are documenting their progress. Then any technical issues with the coverage has a clear reason. People forgive the bad photography in Blair Witch because its "found footage" solves lots of problems. Also you could mix it up with CCTV type footage

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Computer Chess, super low fi video (intentionally) but found an audience:


Bronchos House - grungy home developed 16mm did well on the festival circuit


Wheres the Money Ronny - Launched several careers - shot on SVHS



Too much snobbery around kit. Use the camera that makes the images you like

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Coincidently, last night I saw a 35mm print of "Computer Chess" with Andrew Bujalski and almost all of the crew in attendance. Very excellent film.


Also, if this is just snark, then please forgive me, but I wonder if audiences would be more likely to expect to find 60's and 70's rock stars on the stage of "reunion tour" or "revival tour" rather than in a retirement home.

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If the 60D and the Pocket Camera are your only options, then I'd strongly suggest you go with the pocket camera - because it records in a high-enough quality codec, with good dynamic range.

Realistically though; 14-pages-a-day, with a single camera (especially a camera that needs to be frankenrigged to become workable on-set for shooting at that kind of pace) is asking for trouble.

If you can swing two cameras for the shoot (get ones that match) that will make a massive difference for acquiring enough basic coverage to have something you can actually cut together cohesively.

Given that you're only talking about a single week of shooting, the rental cost of a more conventional camera is going to be a paltry outlay for what it will gain you in shooting speed.

Depending on what you have available in terms of crew, you might even want to consider renting something like a couple of the new Fujifilm X-T3 cameras. They will record 10-bit 4k footage (which would be very useful for cropping in to 2k for additional coverage options), and it has a genuinely usable autofocus system (with eye-detection) which could possibly help you make your days by keeping your actors in focus for you.

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To be more specific, those 6 days I have are three consecutive weekends, not one week. At least that gives me a little breathing room to tweak things I figure.

If I have to, I think I can get another day out of everyone if needed.

Im starting to think I should use the 60D cause I know it intimately, its mine and thats one less thing thatll slow me down. I really wont have time to screw around on the set when Im worrying about performances and capturing it the best way I can.

However, Ill at least investigate the idea of using the bmpcc, I wont rule it out. If I can test and practice with it, Im sure its better overall.

Thanks everyone, especially Phil.

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