Welcome to the first of many write ups I will be doing addressing the items I have chosen for my projects.  The first of these is why I chose to use a Panasonic G7 for The Estate.

This is the first question you should ask yourself whenever you are looking at buying new equipment.

What do you NEED?

Focus on what you NEED, not what you WANT!

Information

Film Type: Feature
Budget: Micro
Union: Non-Union
Plot: Jenna McCawley inherits her deceased mother’s home only to find that she and her husband may not be the only ones there.
Character Count: 5
Crew: 3
Distribution Plan: Film Festivals, Digital Release (Self or Traditional)

Specialty shots – 4 wheelers, running, and shot in a house that will be cramped inside bedrooms.

Personal Opinion

I will start off with a post that will lose most of you.  Cameras are not the most important too for film production (kill me) as cameras only capture the scene you set.  Don’t blow your budget on camera when the following should be considered:

  • Set Design
  • Lighting
  • Location
  • Cast
  • Crew
  • Food for Cast and Crew
  • Too many more to name

Practicality

Here are some bullet points I always go over when considering cameras.

  • Filming
    • The basics (ISO, Aperature, Shutter Speed) – What still looks good at what level?
    • Dynamic Range – (Can I get a film look)
    • Formats (RAW, ProRes, etc.)
  • Batteries
    • Battery Life
      • Can you get through your shoot with 1 battery or do you need 12 and/or a power hookup.  This can greatly effect your budget.
    • Battery Storage
      • Is it easily accessible or is that another trip to the car while on set?  Remember, TIME = MONEY
  • Video Storage – Similar questions to batteries
    • Media
      • SSD – Solid State Drives
      • SD Card
      • Tape – Yes some still use it
    • How many types of media will you need on set?
      • Three SD Cards?  Two SSDs?
    • Where will you transfer them on set?  How long will that take?
      • Sometimes you will run out of space (especially micro budget).  If you’re limited to using only two SSDs on set and you run out of space on 128GB drives.  Where are you going to transfer them to?  Does your set have a bigger drive that you can transfer them to?  How long will that take?  Again, TIME = MONEY
  • Post Production
    • Ease of use with your current editing rig
      • If you are using a 5 year old computer with an i3 processor don’t even bother trying to shoot 4k content.  Maybe you shouldn’t even try 1080p depending on your situation.
    • Hiring out
      • How much will it cost to have someone with the proper rig to do my work?
        • Editing
        • Color Correction
        • Special FX
        • Also don’t forget, how are you going to get these files to them

What the People Want!

Before Rhonnie and I even started writing The Estate I set a meeting with a distributor representative.  I won’t name the distributor as we do not have a contract.

I asked if the rep had their eyes set on any certain genres in the next year.  Horror was what I primarily work in so I was hoping that would be an option.

Indeed horror was an option, however; it was made clear that it had to be a very well made horror film as there are too many bad horror movies saturating the market.

I responded with what makes a good horror film.

According to the rep, the main things this distributor looks for when deciding to pick up a film are:

  1. Name recognition – Micro budget movies don’t necessarily need name talent actors and actresses.  Yet, you will always get farther if you have a name on your poster.
  2. Audio – If there are over 3 pops or hisses throughout your movie, it is turned off and trashed
  3. Acting – At this budget level no one is expecting Leonardo DiCaprio level acting in your movie but if it so awfully bad then forget it.
  4. Story Structure – The rep stated how they had recently saw a movie very similar in story to mine and were interested in picking it up until the third act.  The movie stops in the middle of the action.  The rep said they need conclusions, this is independent film, not The Matrix.  Ending your climax stating it will conclude in the sequel is distribution suicide.
  5. Shots – No shaky cam, no out of focus shots when people are talking, no abrupt starts and stops when panning

After the rep made their points, I asked, what about cameras?

“What about cameras” was the response.

Baffled, I asked if there were any certain types, DSLRs, Cinema Cameras, etc. that are required.  Do the movies need to be in 4k?

The rep laughed and said  “Yes, cameras do count for a lot but if it’s shot well it doesn’t matter.”  They’ve accepted and distributed films shot on Sony Mini-DV cameras and Arri Alexa ALL IN THE PAST YEAR!  The rep also confided that for horror, camera type is almost never a consideration because it’s a style.  There is a huge audience for Grindhouse horror right now.

4k was important if I plan on releasing to other countries.  Foreign countries have adopted 4k faster than America has.  If a distributor can slap a 4K label on a Chinese release it will sell better.  Consider that still doesn’t mean you need it.  If you are shooting a comedy or a slow burn horror, those do not play well in other countries as they do America.  If you movie shows constant action and is low on dialogue, then shoot 4k and market everywhere!

Why the Panasonic G7

As you can tell, cameras are not my priority.  I started on a 1980s VHS camera that I would shoot concerts in my hometown with.  Sounds normal when reminiscing until you realize that this was 2008.  Not even 10 years ago.  This was because I could shoot better low light than what I saw from Mini-DVD cameras.  My friends always teased me about it.  I called it the dinosaur!

I actually had a Mini-DVD camera too (2007).  It did a great job and was a great starter camera.  That’s about all I can say as I didn’t make many notable things with it other than running around with my friends.

When I finally made some money I bought a canon fs200 in 2009 that shot on SD CARDS!  That was the highlight of my life!  I shot commercials for local businesses and actually paid it off!  I could also plug in a microphone to it for interviews which I hadn’t been able to do up to that point.

When I was in college I used the money I made from commercials to invest in a DSLR.  I bought an entry level Nikon D3200 in 2012 which looked amazing compared to my previous work.  Finally having changeable lenses and manual adjustments made a huge difference!

This year I decided that almost five years with the same camera was a bad decision.  I looked at various cameras including black magic pocket cinema cameras, black magic production cameras, and the higher end DSLRs.  Let’s revisit practicality for the intent of making The Estate.

I read about the G7 when it topped a top 10 list for professional level cameras (on there with Canon 5D Mark IV, Sony a7s II, and it’s brother the Panasonic GH4).  A 4k camera for less than $1,000 is unheard of with the capabilities.

The culture for the G7 is amazing!  There is an active subreddit, lots of youtube videos, and many forums to read about.  This gave me confidence in the product.

I did want something that would perform in lowlight.  We all know the a7s II is king, but again.  What do I NEED.  I watched the following videos and quickly decided it was perfect for me.

  • Filming
    • The basics (ISO, Aperature, Shutter Speed) – Easily changeable on the fly and makes a great picture
    • Dynamic Range – (Can I get a film look) – Yes!  It looks amazing!
    • Formats (RAW, ProRes, etc.) – This is where it lacks.  4k is shot in MP4 which is not ideal.  But it still meets my needs
  • Batteries
    • Battery Life – I can get about 1 1/2 hours from a battery.  I bought 4 additional batteries for $40
    • Battery Storage – All five batteries fit in my case with lenses
  • Video Storage – Similar questions to batteries
    • Media – SD card
    • How many types of media will you need on set?  I will be using 2 SD Cards 64GB
    • Where will you transfer them on set?  How long will that take?
      • Transfer takes about 5-10 minutes.  We will transfer them on a computer at the cabin that contains a 4TB drive.
  • Post Production
    • Ease of use with your current editing rig
      • The G7 footage easily integrates with my desktop editing rig, but not my laptop so I can’t edit while traveling.  This hurts as I could easily edit Nikon footage wherever I was
    • Hiring out – Not needed

Some other practical notes

  • We have a 4 wheeler shoot and I can easily ride around with this rig on 4 wheelers.  Also, if it breaks, I’m not out as much as I would be with a cinema camera
  • The cramped rooms will fit nicely with this camera and a wide lens

So as you can see I am very happy with my purchase.  I will post some videos in my spare time of me testing it out.  Below are videos that encouraged me to buy it.

 

 

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