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Smoke and mirrors and the emporers new clothes

Just had cause again to think about the ways in which we make films with regards to the tools of production. It seems to me that the law of diminishing returns, in the manner of Moores Law, is increasingly impacting upon us.

The notion that in order to achieve high production values, that can at least meet with internationally recognised broadcast standards and perhaps even big screen theatrical ones, we need to use the most costly technologies in both production and post, is no longer true.

And then there's the issue of the technical craft skills required to exploit those technologies. The quality of the people designing, creating and constructing any type of film is more important than the tools used. Now we need rely less on the old school one trick articifers, who used to be indelibly commensurate with high end aspirations. The evolving user friendliness of those tools is now much less technically demanding than it was and has allowed a parallel evolution in the crafts sub culture. Multiskilled creatives know that it's cheaper, quicker and easier to take risks, to try things out, to break moulds and conventions.

Some excellent tools that cost a fraction of the price of the much vaunted megabuck stuff are now available to almost anyone, if they know how to use them. The skills required can and are being learned in just weeks and even days in some cases. The cutting edge of quality is much more intellectual than technical. There's a reason for the tumble weeds blowing through the old facility houses and media districts. Post production in even some of what used to be the most demanding sectors is being achieved in back bedrooms by entirely self taught youngsters on less than five grands worth of kit sometimes much less. It's a fact. Some folk enjoy the percieved grandeur that operating megabuck kit can generate. Entities with big corporate investments, whose well being is entrenched in that culture, have no desire to have their diminishing margins of grandeur revealed.

We're not discussing the future here; it's very much the reality of the now.

  • As always I agree with John.

    The following software and free website tools below are just a few filmmaking money-saving examples that have drastically reduced my outgoings for delivering and making my indie feature films:

    AuroraHDR2018 - A free comparable alternative to Photoshop. Now using to create all my new posters and promotional artwork.

    Aegisub - Generate fully editable subtitles yourself.

    Wix - Build using easy to use intuitive templates to create free websites that look professionally created, with lots of stunning free visual fx's.

    FilmHub.com - Instead of delivering huge bundles of varying deliverables to distributors simply load up once to FilmHub and they then provide everything to hundreds of national and international distribution outlets.

    Any others wishing to add to this list please feel free to contribute and recommend.

    Regards Ray
    www.imdb.com/name/nm0002916/

    3 months ago
  • Absolutely! We really should be in a golden age of movies where technology is democratising everything, but I'm not sure we are. The bar is so low that I'm not sure that many more people are aiming high :-/

    3 months ago
  • There is of course two parts to this. There's what can be achieved with the production and post production tools and then there's what can be achieved with the narrative content.

    Quite often we see the trite and banal shot, lit and crafted so well that a low bar is significantly mitigated in terms of viewer enjoyment (sometimes described as polishing a turd). Other times the narrative content is so compelling that a simple craft structure is actually better without over embellishment. To my taste, content is always king.

    My own perspective comes from factual more than fiction movies. There is however a growing cross genre for feature documentaries with significant dramatic reconstructions.

    It's surprising what can done with some of the sub £6,000 fixed lens 4K cameras available these days and some 'Heath Robinson' lights, grips and audio with Adobe Creative Suite for post.

    3 months ago
  • Yes, totally agree. I will watch any format for content, but a bad 4k film is as bad as a bad SD film... ;-)

    3 months ago
  • John has just described the music industry since 1998, and why most of the heritage recording studios in London have closed.

    Another major point John makes is that although the kit is accessible to almost anyone, is the talent there to exploit it to its fullest. In my experience sometimes yes, most of the time no.

    Certainly in the music business this paradigm has caused a ton of white noise, which is not a particularly good thing. Without a gatekeeper of some sort there are literally millions of bad songs being put out by acts that would never see the light of day at a record label.

    As far as technology, I'll cite a much used example of mine...The Beatles did not have access to state of the art technology or instruments before they became "The Beatles".

    This could readily be an analogue to a rising filmmaker in 2019.

    The cream will most always rise to the top, regardless.

    3 months ago
  • A well founded observation from George.

    Before I got wholly into TV and film I also worked in the music industry between the early 70's and 1984, mostly as a logistics and transport company for bands that needed big rig trucks, sometimes fleets of them. The millions of pounds it cost to put on those tours were nearly always loss leaders. Breaking even was concidered a success. They made their money from records, tapes and CD's. Now they have to charge huge ticket fees and rely on live performances to get a fraction as rich as they did before streaming and piracy.

    Things change all the time. New ideas, new technologies and business models are required for new paradigms.

    The industry was so rich during that mega buck rock'n'roll period that we 'roadies' used to think that anything less than five star hotels on tours was roughing it. I'm not exaggerating. We made ten times the average wage.

    Although what makes for success in music these days is still partially dominated by the backing of glitz, it's a fading genre. The entirely subjective perception of what characterizes quality with musicians and performers has to increasingly strike a sociopolitical chord with its audiences. That's why the arcane pleasures of rap, to an old guy like me, have produced the new wave of 'super rich stars'.

    It's the same in TV and Film. The inertia of gargantuanism is still keeping some sectors in clover. For aspirants struggling to get in though, other exciting realities are available.

    3 months ago