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Movie making experiences with your home computer

By theboz in Technology
Mon Jan 15, 2001 at 04:23:30 PM EST
Tags: Movies (all tags)

There are many independent films being released all the time. The process was a long and arduous task that required a lot of time, patience, and money. However, with the relative cheapness of personal computers and video editing software we are now able to give our parents the ability to add special effects to home video. What are your experiences with this, and what would you recommend to someone who is just getting their feet wet in this hobby?

I have already been doing some research and have a tremendous respect for the amount of work that is required to do non-linear editing directly with film. However, there are a lot of computer programs out there to help with this such as AVID's Media Composer and Film Composer and Data Translation's Media 100. Most of these are fairly expensive to a hobbyist though, so I would think you have to be careful with what you purchase.

In addition to the software there are other technical problems that arise. The cameras shoot film at 24 frames per second. However, video is 30 fps (ok, really 29.975 but it is close enough.) You have to somehow convert it from the film to the video. Good software will help you convert it but there are other things to consider such as sound which will normally be converted from like 44100 to 44110 samples per second.

I also would consider special effects. I would want to possible add things digitally (although no Jar-jar type characters) to enhance the movie and perhaps put in gunfire, light reflecting off of things, etc. I do not know if these would require extra software or if there is a package that can be used to do the non-linear editing and the special effects.

And to wrap it all up, cost is very important. The move 'El Mariachi' by Robert Rodriguez was filmed for $7,000. That isn't a bad price for the quality of the movie (for those that haven't seen it, it's sequel was very famous, 'Desperado'.) I have had experience with putting on plays and assume that I have some artistic talent with both live action and still photography. I just need the right tools to do the job for the right price. What would you, kuro5hin readers, suggest I start with for both the hardware and software?


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Would you be interested in making movies?
o Yes, it sounds fun 45%
o No, it's too difficult 14%
o I already make them 7%
o Only if it's porn 32%

Votes: 70
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Kuro5hin
o AVID's Media Composer and Film Composer
o Data Translation's Media 100
o Also by theboz

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Movie making experiences with your home computer | 10 comments (7 topical, 3 editorial, 0 hidden)
Lower on the spectrum, but still fun... (4.25 / 4) (#1)
by Speare on Mon Jan 15, 2001 at 12:13:02 PM EST

Check out LEGO's 2001 series... now that they have a Lego webcam, they bundle it with Steven Spielberg's name to make a movie studio line of products. Great for the stop-action fans who were trying to do this with a camcorder. :)

[ e d @ h a l l e y . c c ]
Are you sure that you want to start with digital? (4.50 / 8) (#3)
by NoNeckJoe on Mon Jan 15, 2001 at 12:56:20 PM EST

I was part of a very small independent film group in college, and have some experience with film making. First of all, what do you plan to shoot with? Video or film? It makes a huge difference, especially in cost. Film is more expensive to shoot, develop, and edit. Video is cheaper, easier to edit, and easier to digitize. The tradeoff is quality. A 16mm projected film is beautiful on a large screen, a SVHS projected video is grainy at best.

A good tradeoff might be to shoot on 8mm film. This is generally what film students use in their first years of graduate school, and it teaches you alot about using film without wasting a ton of money.

As far as digital equipment goes, you _need_ everything to be fast, especially your disks. When you're done with your editing you need to go back to film or video, and this generally needs to be done in real time. If your disk hiccups during playback, this will be seen in the output. You also need a good video card, and not just one that does games well. It needs to be very good at handling digital to analog signals (and vice versa).

Cheap digital equipment shows. I remember one video that was played backwards digitally in some parts. It looked horrible.

Really, I would stay away from the digital world right now. It is not a panacea, and requires expertise in editing to give good results. Remember that the film industry was alive and well for almost a hundred years before digital special effects became the norm.

Have fun, and prepare to become a starving artist. There is a good reason why I went into the tech industry rather than the film industry.

No Neck Joe!

Shooting on film? (5.00 / 5) (#6)
by Potsy on Mon Jan 15, 2001 at 10:01:54 PM EST

Your writeup is a bit unclear, but if you are talking about shooting on film, transferring to video, and then doing all your post-production on video, I'd say that might be a waste of money.

Film, even 16mm, has very, very high resolution compared to home video, along with much greater color and contrast ranges than even the best digital video systems available today. If you shoot on film and then transfer to home video, you will be throwing away all that extra resolution, color, and constrast. It would be more economical to shoot on video.

On the other hand, originating on video makes movies look cheap. Even after images have been transferred to video, one can instantly recognize whether something was originally shot on film or on video. For that reason, much of what we see on prime-time TV is done using film. People have been socialized to think of the film look as professional, and used for fiction, while video is associated with reality shows, such as news, and with home video.

The differences between the film and video "looks" are due to many factors, including the way film and CCDs respond to light, but one of the most important is the frame rate. If you were to shoot on video at 24 fps, you will eliminate much, but not all, of the cheap, video look from your productions, while still keeping the economic advantages of video. There are video cameras, such as Sony and Panasonic's latest HDTV cameras, which can shoot at 24 fps. They are a bit expensive, but worth taking a look at.

As for editing and special effects software, Apple's Final Cut Pro is probably your best bet in terms of price/performance. At $995, it's not cheap, but it's certainly cheaper than some of the really expensive professional packages out there. For 3D animation, I'd suggest something like Electric Image or Lightwave.

Side note: if you are talking about transferring some old home movies that were shot on 8mm or 16mm, I'd say most definitely, do NOT throw away the film when you're done, for reasons stated above. If you're worried about scratches or dirt, try using FilmGuard (click on the link, then click on the word "Cleaning" in the bottom frame). It's amazing what a little cleaning fluid can do to keep film looking like brand new. Store it in the proverbial "cool, dry place", and it will last a long time -- longer than most digital media. (Remeber those stories on /. about how CDs, hard disks, backup tapes, and other media probably won't last more than 20 years?)

There are TONS of books, magazines, and websites out there with information on home movie making. Do a little reading and find out more.

what about DV??? (none / 0) (#8)
by mutagen on Tue Jan 16, 2001 at 10:45:06 PM EST

Now I'm no expert and don't take this as an attack, but your post seems to ignore DV. Its not 'video' as we know it from the home camcorder miniVHS school of shooting kids and family events. While it doesn't compare to the resolution of film, it does look very good and it lets people with a few thousand dollars get everything they need to create amazing visual treats, subject to only their own creativity and of course, taste.

And I flat out disagree with you about the framerate. Video is broadcast at a higher framerate than movies. Even DV is at a higher frame rate. While the relatively slow 24 fps may provide that sought after 'movie' look, high dynamic scenes show noticeable flicker to me.

Do some searching on DV or tell me I'm wrong and why I'm wrong. But everything I've read tells me that I'm not. For starters, this FAQ might provide an interesting counterpoint to your comment: http://www.dvfilm.com/faq.htm
[ Parent ]

Actually, I agree with you (5.00 / 1) (#10)
by Potsy on Wed Jan 17, 2001 at 12:17:54 AM EST

First of all, I was actually trying to suggest that he shoot on video. I said it would be uneconomical to shoot on film if he was just going to throw away all the extra resolution when transferring to video. Sorry if I wasn't clear about that.

Secondly, I purposely avoided the issue of analog video vs. digital video because they both achieve virtually the same look. They both have the same framerate, and both sample light (nowadays) using CCDs. Those two factors are the main reason why video has its characteristic look. The only difference between digital and analog video is in the way the information is stored, and it really doesn't make that big a difference. But when it comes down to it, I actually prefer a good analog video source like Betacam, mainly because it avoids compression artifacts. You can then use a high-quality capture card to get the data into your computer at a much lower compression ratio than the in-camera compression done by the MiniDV format. However, for people who can't afford Betacam and a high-quality capture card, they can always get a MiniDV camera and a FireWire-capable computer and achieve results that are almost as good. I'm not sure how Hi-8 stacks up against MiniDV, but I suspect MiniDV wins, despite its comrpession artifacts.

Third, what do you mean you "flat-out disagree" about the framerate? I realize video has a higher framerate -- did I say otherwise? All I'm saying is that audiences have been trained to think of 24 fps as the expensive, "movie look", while 29.97 fps (59.94 fields per sec.) is thought of as the "home video" or "reality TV" look. I understand that higher framerates are better for action scenes, I didn't say they weren't. It's just that if you want your stuff to look like a "movie" and not a "home video", you need to use 24 fps. Unfortunately, at this time, the only way to get a digital (or analog) video camera that captures at 24 fps is to use an HDTV camera. It would be nice if someone made a MiniDV camera that had an option of capturing at 24 fps, but unfortunately, no one does. (The closest you can get is a Canon camera that captures at PAL 25 fps progressive scan.)

Side note: back in the 1950s there were some attempts at making a movie format with a higher framerate, such as Todd-AO (70mm at 30fps) and Cinerama (3-strip 35mm at 26fps). For various economic and technical reasons, those formats died off, and movies have been stuck at 24 fps ever since.

Lastly: no you're not wrong, but I don't believe I said anything in my previous post that contradicted what you're saying. True, I didn't specifically mention MiniDV, but I actually agree with you that MiniDV is probably this guy's best bet. I was just thowing out some info to warn him that the video look is not necessarily the most movie-like look out there, which is what it sounds like he is after.

[ Parent ]

yaaaay (4.33 / 3) (#7)
by jbridge21 on Tue Jan 16, 2001 at 01:34:33 AM EST

I recently made a home movie using Broadcast 2000, a great, open source and free nonlinear video editor from Heroine Virtual. (Links are not working lately; search google for "heroine virtual" to get several possibilities.) Once I learned how it worked, which took part of one day, I found it very easy to use, and it worked very well for the purpose.

No, you don't get to see the movie. The main issue is that the star character is a domesticated cat, and he can't exactly talk.....

Check out DV (5.00 / 2) (#9)
by mutagen on Tue Jan 16, 2001 at 10:51:39 PM EST

I replied to someone's comment before reading everything but now that no one has mentioned it I'm going to mention DV. Its not SVHS home camcorder movies or cheesy 'multimedia' off the web.

Throw a random combination of 'DV Digital Video Raptor Canon XL-1' and a few other words at Google and do some reading. You'll find that for a few thousand dollars you can do some really high quality (subject to your skills and taste) stuff. Thats what this guy needs, not a SVHS camcorder and a ATI-All-in-One Capture card.

Movie making experiences with your home computer | 10 comments (7 topical, 3 editorial, 0 hidden)
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