Friday, June 19, 2009

Why Not Abandon Expensive Film for Affordable Video?

Colin Mulvany, pioneering multimedia producer at Spokane's Spokesman-Review, recently participated in a panel discussion with local documentary filmmakers, and felt like a fish out of water. Why? Because he's a video guy, and his fellow panelists were devoted to 16mm film.

More to the point, they were devoted to spending years writing grants to raise money to pay for film stock, processing, and post-production costs. Mulvany, on the other hand, has to knock out videos on time-crunched newspaper deadlines -- for a tiny fraction of the expense.

As he reports on his "Mastering Multimedia" blog:

I had to wonder why so many filmmakers stick to using film when high-def video is available for next to nothing. When I asked: “Why not chuck expensive film stock and just go video?” the response was almost universally: “It's the look we like, it's the tradition.”

Funny, that’s the same thing I heard when still photographers were transitioning to digital. I can honestly say now that my images look way better than anything I shot in my early years shooting Tri-X black-and-white film or, God forbid, Kodak high-speed 400 iso negative film.

High-definition video is opening up new opportunities for documentary filmmakers that would otherwise be missed if someone were waiting years to get grant funding to produce it on film. I understand there are still costs, but wow, what one person with decent video camera skills, a laptop and Final Cut Pro can do now. When I look at all the credits on a documentary film, I have to wonder if three-fourths of the names are really needed.

One must wonder if a new wave of documentary filmmakers, freed from the legacy of film and film schools, will focus their small video cameras on stories deemed too risky financially for traditional documentary producers to bother with. I think the film festival circuit is about to get a fresh shot of creativity from a growing legion of former newspaper videojournalists.
Mulvany's full commentary here.

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