July 2006 - That's a Wrap!

Flip-Flops or Prada?

By Ava Seavey

In my early days of shooting high-end infomercials, I was a strong advocate for shooting on film, typically 16mm, as it is more affordable than 35mm. However, technology has advanced dramatically. Today, anyone considering a film shoot even for a high-end DR product may be throwing your money away.

Don’t get me wrong. I love film as a format. I also love clams and pork chops, but I would not mix them into a salad. So, why would you mix expensive ingredients into your DR platter?

Let’s talk videotape. There are as many different varieties of video as there are varieties of roses. Some are covered with thorns and some are magnificent.
Beta. Well, it’s just plain yesterday’s newspaper. Many DR companies invested heavily in this format and still push it on clients. While this workhorse has been useful, it has a low-end look. If you like and want that “live” look, it’s effective. If not, step out of analog and into digital.

Small digital formats. The mini-DV, originally developed for the consumer market, has advanced and become a staple of the professional market. Mini-DV cameras record remarkable images, especially when in the hands of a talented cinematographer. But a key here is the new twist in recording that is known as 24p. Simply put, this is the method of recording video images at the same frame rate that film is shot at 24 frames per second. The aesthetic of that frame rate is what we are all used to when we see movies and it imparts a more “film like” feel.

Beyond mini-DV, there are DVC pro, DVC pro 50 and DV-cam, which can also be recorded in 24p. The beauty is the tape stock is cheap (the same or less than beta) and it is up to 10 times less than the cost of film.

High-definition video. If you have the bucks, it is worth it to shoot HD. Wow! Incredible detail in steaming food shots, water shots, beauty shots, everything looks superb. HD also has high-speed capabilities to capture gorgeous slow-motion shots. There are even methods for shooting HD tape-less, whereby you are recording directly onto a hard drive, then moving the material right onto an HD edit system and voilá. No logging and loading, folks. Anyone who has shot dozens of hours of footage for an infomercial knows the days of logging and loading footage. But those are gone. Goodbye! If HD was good enough for George Lucas in Star Wars, it’s good enough to launch your beauty product! And it’s still less than 16mm film.

So the next time you are going into production, slip on a pair of flip-flops and enjoy the options that modern technology has provided in a wide array of videotape products. You will have enough money left over after the production to pour into that media test. And test. And test. But that is a whole other article.

Ava Seavey, Queen Bee, is president of Avalanche Creative Services Inc., a production company based in New York. She can be reached at (212) 206-9335, or via e-mail at [email protected].


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