BRING ON THE REVOLUTION (AGAIN!)Once upon a time - well, at least back in the '60s and '70s - there was a thriving independent filmmaker scene, where the availability of low-cost 16mm and Super-8 cameras allowed anyone with a vision and a modest budget to express his or her feelings cinematically. Suddenly, short art films were the rage, and campus screenings, film festivals and local cinema societies all offered outlets for independent projects.
Compared to the bulky, low-res video equipment available at the time, film offered a means of generating high-quality color images - even using a simple spring-wound Bolex camera. Meanwhile, better gear, such as Arriflex and Eclair cameras, was readily available at affordable rental rates in the major markets. Many a budget-conscious producer did weekend shoots, where a complete camera package could be picked up on Friday night and returned Monday morning - all for a one-day "Saturday" rental fee. The main drawback to independent filmmaking was that sync sound was a complex process, requiring a team approach - or at least a second person to run the Nagra and hold the fishpole.
After the shoot, the independent then had to weave a tangled web of lab work - ordering edit workprints from the original film, resolving the 11/44-inch location audio tapes to sprocketed mag film, editing the separate picture and sound rolls, preparing multiple rolls of mag for the audio mix, and finally conforming the original picture footage into checkerboarded A/B (or A/B/C...) reels for release printing. The process wasn't exactly easy.
Today, low-cost DV-format camcorders provide broadcast-quality video and digital audio recording in easy-to-use, compact packages priced from well under $1,000. Combined with IEEE-1394 (Firewire) interfacing to a variety of affordable disk-based desktop editing software systems for the PC and Mac, DV production has transformed the independent video scene in the same way that ADATs and DA-88s revolutionized digital audio a decade ago.
DV offers a high degree of instant gratification - where a simple point-and-shoot approach can yield a remarkable image. However, novice videographers often overlook the nuances of audio recording by relying on built-in camera mics, which typically pick up lots of room tone, leading to major problems in audio post.
Speaking of post, the doors are wide open for audio engineers, composers and facilities to cater to this new market, and with careful preplanning and some attention to audio details, the extraordinary power of the DV format can be taken to the next step.
These are exciting days for the independent video/film scene - high-quality gear is more affordable than ever, the Internet and new cable channels have opened additional distribution/exhibition outlets for short films, and opportunities abound for savvy audio pros to make sure these productions sound as good as they look.
Vive la Revolution!