Guess what! Your movie can look like bat shit and it won’t make a difference. It’s time to capitalize on that while you still can. Here’s the deal, regardless of what ads or trends might suggest, we consumers have learned to settle for less. Sure 3-D, the Red, and nicer/newer TV sets suggest we’re increasing the standard of quality – but what about YouTube, cell phones cameras, online TV content? None of that looks as fresh and as clean as something you can get at home on your TV, but apparently it doesn’t matter.
If you’re watching YouTube and you see some rascal get hit in the jeebies, you’ll laugh if that’s your thing. Sure you might not see his face really clearly, but you can get the gist of it. And that’s what counts for most. It’s true that people dish out more cash to buy IMAX tickets and to wear goofy glasses, but those same people are liable to watch those same movies online in horrendous quality because it’s free. This is an example of compensating quality for money.
Please note that the standard setting on YouTube for a video is 360p. I’d be willing to bet most people watch it at that quality too. As a viewer, you’re required to go out of your way to watch it at any other quality. Watch a TV show on a network website or third party site such as Hulu (sorry Brits, I know you don’t quite have the luxury) and compare it to what is broadcasted on TV. There’s a significant difference in quality. But people will watch it anyway – I know I do. This is an example of compensating quality for convenience.
This sounds like the end of the world, especially if you’ve been to film school. After all, film is a visual medium. But I guarantee you that as a blossoming (or well-established, yet lo-to-no budget) filmmaker, the quality of your image is not of highest importance. People will look past it if the content is good. So what does this really mean?
Don’t spend your money on a fancy camera.
Most people don’t know what depth of field even means; so don’t waste your time and money on it. I know a part of you just died inside, but hopefully this will remind you to keep your film story-oriented. Rather than wasting time setting up lights, use available light… you know, “intentionally.” You’re an indie filmmaker – most people on set, including yourself, are doing this work for free. Don’t waste your time and theirs. Especially if the product is going online. Tell people you meant to shoot it without lighting for artistic puposes and they’ll believe you.
At Raindance, we’ve always been ecstatic about the Flip Video camera. Despite Cisco murdering its production about a month ago, it’s still worth investing in. You can work miracles with just that camera alone. Check out this vid that my roommates and I made in just 2 hours. Obscure subject, yes. But efficient. Any lighting discprencies were fixed later on Final Cut Express. That was HD, but was then down-converted for easy streaming. Its fullest quality can only be seen on my computer. Remember that when you’re filming something. You, and only you, will own the best quality version.
Plain and simple. People will not watch your film if they can’t hear it. If you’re investing money in anything during your production, invest in that. Every movie starts as words on a page. Regardless of how many pretty pictures support those words, if they’re not heard, your foundation is gone. You’ve lost the viewer – oops, listener.
Your homework for the weekend is to prove me wrong. Prove that we need Hi-def TVs and expensive cameras. Leave your comments below. This deserves a conversation. Video is having an identity crisis and I think that if we all work together, we can help our old friend figure himself out again.