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Last Updated: Sunday, 22 February 2004, 08:20 GMT
Digital video frees film-makers
Consumer video cameras are allowing film-makers to create award-winning films on tight budgets, reports the BBC Go Digital presenter Tracey Logan.

Courtney Cox in November
Courtney Cox stars in the film, November
Friends star Courtney Cox was not fazed when she saw the consumer video cameras on the set of award-winning psycho thriller November.

In fact, according to Director Greg Harrison, she found the whole experience refreshing.

And his indie film's surprisingly low budget, just $150,000 instead of the $1-2 million low-budget movies usually cost, meant his backers at Indigent Productions were happy too.

Mini-DVs are widely used nowadays in news reporting and for TV documentaries and some soaps.

But November's award at the Sundance Film Festival for Excellence in Cinematography shows they have moved beyond the Blair Witch Project's rough, hand-held, natural light aesthetic into something more fitting for the silver screen.

"I wanted to push the technology and not abandon a cinematic look," Greg Harrison told the BBC's Go Digital, " and still work with colour and shadow and framing and lighting" to convey the tension in this psychological thriller.

25 mini-DVs

The corner store scene of a violent robbery and murder in the film needed to look dark and murky.

Greg Harrison
You can't tell that we shot it on a consumer camera, it just looks like a regular movie
Greg Harrison, November director
In a film shoot of just 15 days and on a very low budget, the special lighting and coloured gels of conventional filming were out.

But November's director of photography, Nancy Schreiber, got her Sundance citation by achieving the same effect through white-balancing video cameras in the warm tones of a nearby streetlight.

As well as cloning the look of more expensive film-shoots, the Panasonic DVX-100 cameras Mr Harrison used had unexpected spin-offs for the actors.

With a price tag of just $2,500 apiece, the crew bought around 25 min-DVs, allowing them to use multiple cameras simultaneously on conversation scenes to capture wide-shots, close-ups, and cutaways without the need to repeat the scenes endlessly.

It meant the cast spent more time acting and less time standing around on the set.

"You can't tell that we shot it on a consumer camera, it just looks like a regular movie," said Mr Harrison.

Faster, cheaper

All of this suggests the imaginative use of consumer video cameras could start to erode the stigma of low-budget film-making.

Still from November
Scenes were shot by multiple cameras all at once
It could allow more independent film-makers to compete with the big studios for those precious box-office dollars.

The combination of such cameras along with cheap, desktop editing could change the picture for production companies around the world, technology analyst Bill Thompson told Go Digital.

"I would imagine Bollywood and other film centres could start to look at these technologies and say can we make our films faster and cheaper and get more films out there, given that we have the ideas and the cast to do this.

"It could be a very good thing for film-making around the world."

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