Thursday, July 22, 2004

The Artist in HD

The Artist In HD
Randall Dark’s Award-Winning Portrait of an Artist Demonstrates the Benefits of HD to Documentary Filmmaking

The goal of the documentary is to document reality. This premise, however, runs contrary to the forcibly controlled medium of the motion picture. Because of cost, and the limitations within the aesthetic itself, creating a situation in which reality can simply “happen” is nearly impossible. With the introduction of High Definition (HD) video, these parameters have been greatly relaxed. Lower costs associated with HD production, and the added flexibility that comes along with it, has eased these restrictions, allowing the filmmaker to get closer to truth than would ever be possible with film. Writer and Director Randall Dark’s Telly Award-winning documentary, Artist in the Round: Shayne Dark is the perfect illustration of the unique benefits of HD production and Maxell’s HDCAM Media. With the freedom allowed by his HD camera, and the high quality of Maxell’s recording media, Dark captures the richly nuanced story of an artist who triumphs daily over dyslexia.

The subject of the documentary is Dark’s older brother, Shayne, who is a prominent Canadian sculptor. Raised in a time when little was known about dyslexia, Shayne was simply categorized as a “slow learner.” Consequently, as an adult, Shayne reads and writes at a second grade level. The documentary explores his battle to overcome this life-long learning disability, while becoming a contemporary artist with international renown.

Artist in the Round: Shayne Dark, which was shot on Maxell HDCAM and Sony HDCAM, and was edited exclusively on Maxell HDCAM, is the perfect example of how HD production and technology help to overcome many of the obstacles inherent to documentary production. Because HD costs less to shoot on than film, and because the logistics of shooting HD are simpler, Dark had greater flexibility as a director, which enabled him to capture moments that wouldn’t have been possible with a more stringent shooting schedule.

“HD allowed me to roll the camera all day long while conducting the interview and it allowed me to try new things as I saw fit,” said Dark. “This method helped Shayne achieve a greater level of comfort and helped us to capture the spontaneous moments that provide a true, unique glimpse into his identity and character. It enabled us to better capture real life, which would have been limited with the more rigid techniques that are intrinsic to shooting film.”

Another advantage of HD is the time saved with camera set-ups. When shooting on HD, the director, by looking through the viewfinder and glancing at the monitor, can see exactly what they’re shooting. The sound is also fed directly into the camera. As a result, preparation time—especially with lighting and sound set-up—is significantly decreased. This allows for more flexibility when moving from location to location.

“Sometimes I’d just set up the camera and not let Shayne know that I was shooting,” added Dark. “We’d run through the shoot as though it were a rehearsal, which made him more relaxed and natural. This technique yielded priceless moments. When shooting on film, I’m not allowed that luxury; film is too expensive to risk wasting, and the subject always knows when you’re shooting. Also, with the durability and reliability of Maxell’s HDCAM product, worries about tape performance are not part of the equation.”

What bolster’s Dark’s confidence in Maxell’s HDCAM is the media’s ultra-high performance binder systems that make the tape exceptionally durable – an essential asset to working volatile environments. The HDCAM videocassette also features a recording density 1.4 times greater than Digital Betacam for superior digital and video performance.

Artist in the Round: Shayne Dark is the first of a 13-part series. The In the Round series will feature accomplished artists and the major handicap or obstacle each of them has overcome, or continues to battle, in order to achieve success. The artists to be profiled include sculptors, painters, musicians and photographers. Artist in the Round: Shayne Dark was produced by Kristen Cox and edited by Jayme Wing.

click on image to enlarge

Monday, July 19, 2004

The vision thing

HD beats film and SD in cost, look.

When it comes to HD production, few can match the expertise of Randall Paris Dark. The founder and president of production company HD Vision was shooting in HD when reality TV was barely a gleam in the networks' eye. He spoke with B&C's Ken Kerschbaumer about growth of HD from fledgling upstart to embraced standard.

You moved your business from Dallas to Los Angeles. What was that like?

The big thing, with all due respect to Dallas, is the talent pool in Los Angeles. It's incredible. The quality of the work we've been able to do, in terms of look and feel, has improved dramatically. Also, in the past 2% years, there are more bells and whistles on the gear, and the cameras are better. The other thing that's important is the workflow. HD has become commonplace.

What are you seeing in terms of SD versus HD work?

My world is all HD. But I'm finding that some clients who would never consider doing HD are looking at their budgets. The price point of HD versus SD is marginal because the cost of the director and lighting are the same. The marginal cost is just the technology.

Is that marginal cost getting smaller?

Now HD is so mainstream, price points of rental gear have come down. Having equipment in every major city is making it affordable to any producer who wants to go out and do it.

What is that cost premium today?

Depending on the type of project, it's cheaper than 16mm or 35mm. But it's about a 50% hit compared to something like Digital Betacam tape.

Given that HD is cheaper than 16mm or 35mm, what is the future of film?

Film is an art form and art forms don't get replaced. That being said, HD is a cost-effective way to duplicate the look and feel of film, although there are differences. To be brutally frank, film is going to look like when The Elephant Man was shot in black-and-white: Certain people use it because it's a great art form.

But I can't see people writing checks [for work] that is more expensive because of the technology. The young independent filmmaker will look at the price difference and the end result and say, "Why should I spend more money for a product when the consumer can't tell what it originated on?"

Does that mean no more TV shows shot on film?

In a few years, it's all over. No one will be shooting 35mm for what I call disposable or time-stamped programming. It just doesn't make sense. With HD, you can shoot 50-minute loads, aerial and underwater shots. It's insane to use any other technology.

from Broadcasting & Cable