Reflections On Being An Indie Film Producer #8

The Director’s Cut
Choosing your camera, part 2

There are four considerations to be made when purchasing a consumer digital camera for shooting a microbudget feature. They are:

1. System
2. Color model
3. Lenses
4. Resolution

I discussed the first two items in last week’s blog. Today, I’ll expand on the lenses we used. We chose to use the lens provided with the Lumix, which was the equivalent of 50mm SLR. We also purchased a zoom lens, which came in quite handy for extreme close-ups as it had a macro feature. Thus, we completely shot Blood Pledge using two consumer grade lenses.

I would have liked to have purchased a professional F1.4 lens, however the cost was prohibitive at the time. We had about half our shots at night and wanted to use the only artificial candle light for a spooky feel. Unfortunately, both lenses only opened up to an aperture of F2.4 and F3.5, which required extra lighting.

So, if you have a lot of night shots, I would recommend getting the F1.4 lens. However, these lenses start at $700 - the price of our camera system.

1080 or 4K?

4K is all the rage these days, and NASA is already using an 8K camera system on the International Space Station. We decided to go with 1080 or what is also known as “HD”. Two reasons:

1. Cost
2. Intended audience

The Lumix G7 supports 4K shooting, and I considered recording all the shots in this mode. However, during our test runs, the camera would occasionally lock up, especially during complex scenes involving a lot of movement. Although that made me reconsider using 4K, we discussed our viewing audience and knew Blood Pledge was destined for home TVs.  4K makes perfect sense for theatrical releases. Add to that, the HD test runs looked fantastic on a 70 inch 4K TV. Plus, there was the cost.

We needed about 30 64GB SD cards for the entire shoot. HD cards at that time were about $11. Doing the math, that comes out to $330. Not bad considering what film used to cost and process. For a 4K 64GB SD card then, the cost per card started at $70 and the brand that worked best with our system was $90. Yikes! That’s $2,700! And add to that, there was the issue of card i/o speed, or how fast a card could “read” the scene, which, as I mentioned, was not reliable.

So, when choosing a consumer camera, I would recommend taking these 4 aspects into consideration. Unfortunately, the marketing of digital cameras rarely touch on these specs but they’re vital to the shoot.

You can see the results here: Blood Pledge