The movie '15 Minutes'

20 replies [Last post]
tom hardwick
Offline
Joined: Apr 8 1999

I watched a Robert De Niro film on TV this week - called '15 Minutes'. Two
killers who film all their crimes become media darlings. Pretty so-so
movie, but interestingly the TRV900 was the camera they used, and quite
often the camera's viewpoint was what we were watching.

What I can't understand is why the 900's footage looked so poor when put
into this Hollywood movie. My own 900 footage shown on my TV is hard to
distinguish from Hollywood's 35 mm film by time the latter has come through
the airwaves to my TV.

Maybe the video footage was degraded on purpose. But why bother to do this?
Some of the shots were from the killer's viewpoint, and as we watched the
open 900 sidescreen I was interested to see the battery level and white
balance settings. You can see the movie really gripped me.

tom.

Wisz
Offline
Joined: Jan 30 2001

Probably degraded on purpose.

They have to perpetuate the Hollywood myth of "Black Art", like so many other industries, otherwise everyone would be making movies on their DV camcorders wouldn't we.

Richard
Wisz Media Services

Richard Wisz Media Services

Alan Roberts
Alan Roberts's picture
Offline
Joined: May 3 1999

It's nothing to do with creating or preserving myths. It's to differentiate the story from the inner story. Look at any tv programme that has a character using a camcorder, what do you see? Often reduced frame size, strange indicators that we don't have in viewfinders let alone on the footage, the camera deliberately shaken about, maybe black&white. It's a conceit, a way of switching you, the viewer between the dispassionate view of the programme itself and the passionate view of the character. All that said, I reckon they over-do it in spades.

Get my test cards document, and cards for 625, 525, 720 and 1080. Thanks to Gavin Gration for hosting them.
Camera settings documents are held by Daniel Browning and at the EBU
My book, 'Circles of Confusion' is available here.
Also EBU Tech.3335 tells how to test cameras, and R.118 tells how to use the results.

Mad_mardy
Offline
Joined: Oct 19 2000
Alan Roberts wrote:
It's nothing to do with creating or preserving myths. .

I don't agree, Sorry Alan
but this is happening all over. the same thing is being done with
Time team and Return to river cottage to name but a few.
The audiance see on screen a small camera being used and as soon as we cut to it the picture is suddenly awful (camera's look like PD150/170) quite often accompanied by the fake on screen dispay. Now your eplanation could hold true for river cottage but not for time team when the context in which it is used is not from any charactor's point of view they just needed a disposable camera that was small.
I could understand it from a drama point of view As i am guilty of this myself. but in lifestyle documentary?

System 1: AMD X6 2.8, M4A79 Deluxe, 4GB DDR2, ATI HD4870 1GB DDR 3, 2TB total drive space, Matrox RTX 2, Premiere Pro CS4

System 2: AMD X2 5600, M2NPV-VM, 2GB DDR2, Geforce 8600GT 256 DDR 3, 450GB Total drive space, RTX100 with Premiere Pro 2

Camera's: JVC HD200, JVC HD101, 2X Sony HC62

shellgrip
Offline
Joined: Dec 5 2005

I have to side with Alan on this one - I've had first hand experience of mocking up camcorder displays (many years ago) for a training video and the regular requests on the Pro and AE conferences over at Adobe suggest it's still a requirement.

Regardless of whether the piece is a work of fiction or a 'documentary' there is still a need for the viewer - the average viewer - to know he's now looking through this camera. I wouldn't be at all surprised if some minor tweaking was done to make the change obvious but it's hard to see that it's for myth survival purposes.

Jon

Alan Roberts
Alan Roberts's picture
Offline
Joined: May 3 1999

Well, I don't mind if you disagree, but it's true all the same. They do it to show that "this part isn't shot in the normal way". It's been standard practice since the Lumiere brothers. It would be extremely rare for the camera itself to be tweaked to make it look poor, it's always done in post. I've know many cases where a consumer camera has appeared in a shoot, as a prop, and the footage that we're led to believe came from it has in fact come from a "proper" camera and been grotted up in post to make you believe the character had shot it instead of the professional who actually had. It's an old and trusted trick, the fact that you don't believe it shows just how effective the trick is.

Get my test cards document, and cards for 625, 525, 720 and 1080. Thanks to Gavin Gration for hosting them.
Camera settings documents are held by Daniel Browning and at the EBU
My book, 'Circles of Confusion' is available here.
Also EBU Tech.3335 tells how to test cameras, and R.118 tells how to use the results.

Mad_mardy
Offline
Joined: Oct 19 2000

Alan i think we may be on crossed wires
I know the footage is deliberatly degraded what i am saying is (which is why i quoted that paticular sentence))
It IS done to uphold the myth not to differentiate between story and inner story.
The Time team for instance a small camera was used to go to somewhere where the crew couldn't get to easily but they still degraded the footage even though technically it was shot in the same style. But as it was a small camera they needed to show that it wasn't as good as those big boys you see roaming around with them (Ok in fairness it isn't as good but you know what i mean) but in this case there is no story and inner story its just one

River cottege on reflection maybe pointing out that it story from inner story.

The point being even where there is no cause to differentiate or indeed thay are definatly not different they still do it.

System 1: AMD X6 2.8, M4A79 Deluxe, 4GB DDR2, ATI HD4870 1GB DDR 3, 2TB total drive space, Matrox RTX 2, Premiere Pro CS4

System 2: AMD X2 5600, M2NPV-VM, 2GB DDR2, Geforce 8600GT 256 DDR 3, 450GB Total drive space, RTX100 with Premiere Pro 2

Camera's: JVC HD200, JVC HD101, 2X Sony HC62

Mad_mardy
Offline
Joined: Oct 19 2000
shellgrip wrote:
it's hard to see that it's for myth survival purposes.

Jon

Well the way i was looking at it is maybe they don't want people to see that such good images
come from such a small camera they can buy themselves, to make out that if you want really good looking images you need a brute of a camera.

i mean sometimes size does matter

System 1: AMD X6 2.8, M4A79 Deluxe, 4GB DDR2, ATI HD4870 1GB DDR 3, 2TB total drive space, Matrox RTX 2, Premiere Pro CS4

System 2: AMD X2 5600, M2NPV-VM, 2GB DDR2, Geforce 8600GT 256 DDR 3, 450GB Total drive space, RTX100 with Premiere Pro 2

Camera's: JVC HD200, JVC HD101, 2X Sony HC62

shellgrip
Offline
Joined: Dec 5 2005

Mardy, I just can't see that as a reason - or at least I can't see it as such strong a reason as the requirement to identify the footage as coming from a particular camera.

I can't recall the particular Time Team you're describing so unfortunately I can't make an educated comment on that example.

I would have expected a professional team to be pleased with good footage acquired in extreme or unusual circumstances and quite apart from anything else, the whole idea that this deception conceals the quality of consumer cameras kinda falls down as their quality is available to evaluate by anyone that owns one.

Jon

Alan Roberts
Alan Roberts's picture
Offline
Joined: May 3 1999

I smell a conspiracy story here. And there isn't one. There's no myth being protected. Pictures are deliberately degraded for artistic and production reasons, to tell the story better. That's it, there's nothing more to it.

Get my test cards document, and cards for 625, 525, 720 and 1080. Thanks to Gavin Gration for hosting them.
Camera settings documents are held by Daniel Browning and at the EBU
My book, 'Circles of Confusion' is available here.
Also EBU Tech.3335 tells how to test cameras, and R.118 tells how to use the results.

Mad_mardy
Offline
Joined: Oct 19 2000

The time team episode was the one they investigated an old mine railway viaduct in wales and ended up digging down about 12 metres and then shoved a PD150 through a small hole in the top of it
I just can't think what artistic reasons were going on that would make a need for degrading the camera picture.
I can see it in drama or films but for documentary of this type.

System 1: AMD X6 2.8, M4A79 Deluxe, 4GB DDR2, ATI HD4870 1GB DDR 3, 2TB total drive space, Matrox RTX 2, Premiere Pro CS4

System 2: AMD X2 5600, M2NPV-VM, 2GB DDR2, Geforce 8600GT 256 DDR 3, 450GB Total drive space, RTX100 with Premiere Pro 2

Camera's: JVC HD200, JVC HD101, 2X Sony HC62

Chrome
Offline
Joined: May 26 1999

I'd have to agree with Alan on this one, I'm sure there is no conspiracy between camera ops. DPs etc.

I have been involved in such de-grading in post for two reasons... the first for artistic reasons when developing games (to better 'explain' what is going on in the story), and the second in order to 'clearly' differentiate between footage from the main cameras and that coming from what is supposed to be a handycam. Without making the difference absolutely obvious to the viewer it is possible they may be confused as to which camera they are looking at images from...

However for the program I work on, we are currently using a tiny single chip consumer unit for live broadcast almost daily. We deliberately use the wrong white balance (daylight under tungsten) to accentuate the idea of a live hand-held unit interacting with the program. The colour is poor anyway and the lens distorts badly, but it is perfect for the effect we want.

Alan Roberts
Alan Roberts's picture
Offline
Joined: May 3 1999

Quite so, it's not a consipracy, and there's no myth. It's people making programmes and using production tricks to generate the effects they want.

Get my test cards document, and cards for 625, 525, 720 and 1080. Thanks to Gavin Gration for hosting them.
Camera settings documents are held by Daniel Browning and at the EBU
My book, 'Circles of Confusion' is available here.
Also EBU Tech.3335 tells how to test cameras, and R.118 tells how to use the results.

StevenBagley
Offline
Joined: Aug 14 2000
Mad_mardy wrote:
I just can't think what artistic reasons were going on that would make a need for degrading the camera picture.
I can see it in drama or films but for documentary of this type.

Because it reinforces the danger of it by saying this is too dangerous/hard/unwidely to use our normal cameras so we are having to use a consumer camera instead.

Steven

infocus
Offline
Joined: Jul 18 2003
Mad_mardy wrote:
Well the way i was looking at it is maybe they don't want people to see that such good images
come from such a small camera they can buy themselves, to make out that if you want really good looking images you need a brute of a camera.

I've never heard of that being a reason. By and large I've heard the opposite more than that - accountants wanting to preserve a myth that a small camera can do everything a big one can, and ooooh, that improves the bottom line!

Images may well be downgraded deliberately for other reasons though. Artistic obviously, the "distancing" effect, to make it ABSOLUTELY clear to the audience what they're watching.

Less obviously is when the small camera footage is noticeably but not massively inferior to that from the main camera. Intercut, that can be very jarring to watch, and I know of one example where further degradation of the second camera (making the differences much larger and obvious) actually made for a more satisfactory end product. The differences look deliberate, rather than an error.

Finally, I've had to use small cameras on occasions to intercut with a main camera, and have had very mixed experiences. Off the top of my head the most successful I can think of was on a fairground ride, where the desirability of a small camera is obvious. The worst problem was lack of proper 16:9, but generally it intercut very well. The least successful was on a train in the early morning with the sun just above the horizon. The results were truly abysmal - the PD150 just couldn't cope with the contrast range anything like as well as my main camera, "automatic" was prone to giving silhouettes, and trying to do big manual iris adjustments whilst following a presenter from carriage to carriage was a nightmare compared to a camera with a proper manual iris, as opposed to an indirect system. (One reason why I think the HD100 is a quantum leap forward at this price range. Being told to use a small camera, oh for one of those then!)

Alan Roberts
Alan Roberts's picture
Offline
Joined: May 3 1999

Mad Mardy, given that we're all saying exactly the same, are you convinced yet? If you aren't, I suggest we give up on this because there's little else we can say that might convince you, except to recommend you get a job in the industry (like we have done) and find out for your self what it's like.

Get my test cards document, and cards for 625, 525, 720 and 1080. Thanks to Gavin Gration for hosting them.
Camera settings documents are held by Daniel Browning and at the EBU
My book, 'Circles of Confusion' is available here.
Also EBU Tech.3335 tells how to test cameras, and R.118 tells how to use the results.

Mad_mardy
Offline
Joined: Oct 19 2000

I am in the Industry Alan, and i resent remark i wasn't
I have never come accross this line of thought regarding the degredation
of camera material. I have on many of occasions degraded camera footage
and also included the fake displays, just never for the reasons you have given
hence my suspicion.

System 1: AMD X6 2.8, M4A79 Deluxe, 4GB DDR2, ATI HD4870 1GB DDR 3, 2TB total drive space, Matrox RTX 2, Premiere Pro CS4

System 2: AMD X2 5600, M2NPV-VM, 2GB DDR2, Geforce 8600GT 256 DDR 3, 450GB Total drive space, RTX100 with Premiere Pro 2

Camera's: JVC HD200, JVC HD101, 2X Sony HC62

Alan Roberts
Alan Roberts's picture
Offline
Joined: May 3 1999

I apologise unreservedly for any insult that I might have inadvertantly given. I was just trying to make the point that you seem to be the only one holding your opinion. All the rest of us believe that the industry is too busy making programmes to consider it worthwhile upholding any myths, whether there are any or not. I've been involved with programme-making people for a long time, and no-one's ever even remotely hinted at any snobbery over image quality, they all make the programmes as well as they can, within budget, and use their artistic judgement in deciding whether pictures should be "improved" or "degraded" (neither of those words can be used objectively, they are both subjective terms). They aren't in the business of maintaining myths, they're in the business of getting the prodcut delvered on time and on budget and returning a working profit.

However, I still think it's time drop this; if you aren't convinced yet, you never will be, and only the experience of a career in the business could convince you.

Get my test cards document, and cards for 625, 525, 720 and 1080. Thanks to Gavin Gration for hosting them.
Camera settings documents are held by Daniel Browning and at the EBU
My book, 'Circles of Confusion' is available here.
Also EBU Tech.3335 tells how to test cameras, and R.118 tells how to use the results.

mediaed
Offline
Joined: Dec 4 2001

Back to the movie.
Actually 15 Minutes may be an average sort of feature, but it does attempt to discuss some key media issues, especially regarding TV News. - buying stories, the need for news to rate, if it bleeds it leads, portrayal of violence on the screen, getting the exclusive story.
Principles vs practice, perhaps even a comment on reality tv? Covers the construction of news, performing news so that the cameras get the coverage and so on. If you think about issues like this then it is worth watching in my humble opinion.
But I do agree that it is interesting watching the criminal being a news reporter and in the end getting his 15 minutes of fame.

Gordon

cstv
Offline
Joined: Jul 26 2002

I don't really think there's any conspiricy going on with this sort of thing, but it certainly annoys me when they do it!!! And i don't agree that there's ever an artistic excuse for overlaying a fake viewfinder display onto video suposedly shot on a cheap camcorder by an amature operator. If anything it's distracting. I quite like Chrome's suggestion of playing with the white balance settings though - much more realistic and believable but still differentiates the footage from the viewers' "eye". Any director with half a brain and the slightest disire to remain credible will almost always prefer subtle effects.

My favourite use of a "handycam" in a film was the wedding video in Love Actually... We see the video being shot handheld, on a palm-sized MiniDV camcorder yet when we get to see said video it appears to have a shallow depth of field, soft focus, and tight closeups of Miss Kinghtly's face from about 30 metres away with no more camera shake that the gentle bobbing of the boat on the water - Andrew Lincoln is clearly one of the best camera ops in the world, and i'd love to know what happened to that footage in post to make it look so good! ;)

Oh, and i agree with Mardy about timeteam - anyone responsible for doing this in documentary should be shot! the whole point of documentary is to tell it how it is! You can't go around dressing things up and being "arty". Talk about dumbing down...

mark.

Alan Roberts
Alan Roberts's picture
Offline
Joined: May 3 1999

Couldn't agree more, that's exactly what I've been trying to explain. There's no industry-wide conspiracy, the people making programmes are far too interested in getting the product out on time and in budget. Certainly there's snobbery, and lots of it, but decisions on doctoring of footage are taken by the director and editor for artistic/story-telling purposes alone, especially when they're stupid purposes.

Get my test cards document, and cards for 625, 525, 720 and 1080. Thanks to Gavin Gration for hosting them.
Camera settings documents are held by Daniel Browning and at the EBU
My book, 'Circles of Confusion' is available here.
Also EBU Tech.3335 tells how to test cameras, and R.118 tells how to use the results.