Green Screen Cinema Filmmaking for the 21st century

Free Film School: Affordable HD Workflow

Sunday, June 15 2008 @ 06:06 AM UTC
Contributed by: Jimbo
Views: 3,456
Free Film School

Today's column is being written for the filmmaker that does not have $10,000 laying around to spend on their cinematic debut. If you have a big chunk of change you'll find no end to the people that'll help you spend it (whenever I want to put a huge hole in my budget I call Snader and Associates ). But I don't want to see you spend that kind of money. HD technology is moving so fast that whatever you buy today is going to be gathering dust in a couple years. That's why an affordable HD workflow is so important. It's a great way to try out the format and learn the pitfalls without parting with your hard-earned cash.

I'm going to review a workflow that employs a $200 to $700 HDV camera, a $600 software suite and a $1500 PC. What kind of results can you expect for $2800? Take a look at the clip I'm running at the top of this article. The filmmaker, Solomon Chase, garnered almost 300,000 views on YouTube with this clip (which exemplifies affordability). And just look at the thing. It's gorgeous. It's dripping with gorgeous. They'll have to mop the gorgeous off the floor once the clip leaves the building. And the whole thing was shot with a cheap, consumer videocamera (the Canon Vixia HV20).

The first place you can save money in an HD workflow is with that camera purchase. There are a number of HD formats out there right now but only one offers both affordability and incredible quality. That format is HDV. HDV gear skews heavily toward the consumer market, which keeps the prices low. If you've read my technology posts you know I am madly in love with the Canon Vixia camera line. A used Vixia HV20 can be purchased these days at Amazon for $200. How can you go wrong at that price? The image is comparable to the hallowed Canon XH G1 and the HV20 is about 1/10th the price. Frankly, I recommend any camera in the Canon Vixia family. If you want to spend just a bit more the Canon EOS 60D runs about $700 with lens and is a phenomenal camera (you will want to pick up a Rode VideoMic and use it as your external microphone, since the EOS 60D only records mono sound).

The next big ticket decision you have to make is which editing software suite to buy. I know, I know, the Earth won't continue to revolve unless you can use Final Cut Pro on your Mac. But have you seen how much you spent on your Mac? The turnkey price for a Final Cut Pro seat (G5 included) is $23,000. That's just nuts. In an earlier article I showed that you can make a decent HDV edit with Window Movie Maker HD, and that product is absolutely free (with the purchase of Windows Ultimate Edition). For this affordable workflow I am recommending you enroll in a community college class of your choice so that you can quality to buy the student version of Adobe Creative Suite. It's the best $600 you'll ever spend (it was briefly selling for as low as $299 if you happened to be enrolled at an Adobe partner school, but this page now tells you to sign up for the Creative Cloud and pay $30 a month instead).

Finally you'll need something to power your NLE environment and for this workflow I am recommending the HP Pavilion Elite. It's the cheapest way to get your hands on a terabyte of RAID 0 disk and you get a great computer to boot. And believe me you'll need it. The Adobe Creative Suite system requirements are as follows:
    IntelŪ PentiumŪ 4 (3.4GHz processor for HDV)
    2GB of RAM for HDV
    Dedicated 7,200 RPM hard drive for DV and HDV editing; striped disk array storage (RAID 0) for HD
If you happen to have a machine with these specs sitting around then you're ahead of the game. But as they say at Disneyland, you must be at least this tall to ride the rollercoaster.

Good luck putting your system together. In my next post I'll walk you step-by-step through an HDV shoot, post and edit workflow using these tools.