Chapter 4: The Impossible Technology (Part One)

The question is simple: can we create the same look and feel of big-budgeted feature films using technology that is cheaper?

As of writing this article, the simple and unpopular answer is: No, we can’t.

But this answer does not really tell us anything, because what happens is that filmmakers will attempt to make stories that fall within the limitations of the technology. That is why you have movies like Paranormal Activity.

Big budget films use more than just a good camera – they have fantastic lighting budgets, top-of-the-line camera rigs and production design that make the visuals stand out as masterpieces of art. That does not mean their films are worth watching – most of them don’t have interesting characters or situations. Some of them are simply bad stories.

The most important thing a filmmaker starting out to make that first feature or short film should realize is that he/she doesn’t need the big guns. What he/she needs is a great story, with interesting characters and a fantastic script that will allow for the lack of budget and production design. Ultimately, the film will always be judged and compared with the blockbuster it is pitted against. The only way your film has any chance of succeeding is if it has characters that are more human and complex than the stereotypes you get to see every day. You can shoot it on a mobile phone, and it will still be interesting if your characters are interesting. A quick look at YouTube will suffice – Interesting stories need not look good visually.

Understanding this, and also knowing I had a limited budget for camera work and lighting, I set out to find the best possible camera setup I could afford. This process had begun quite early, even while I was scripting. It took me two years of research and keeping abreast of advances in technology to finally decide which format and camera manufacturer I wanted to go with. I also knew that I’m was not going to rent the equipment because the rental costs for a 25 days’ shoot would be almost 75% of the camera cost itself, so why not buy it? So I decided to buy my camera and sound equipment.

In the next part I will show you how to select a camera for your film.