Movie making magic was on full display at Visual Products for Wellington High School students May 26.
Teacher Dave Conklin’s video production class was treated to a tour of the Shiloh Street camera refurbishing business.
“The owner of the company started Visual Products out of his living room in the late 80s,” said Visual Products general manager Rick Benton. “We purchase used motion picture equipment, fix it up, then sell it worldwide. Our clients go all across the board. It can be a kid in film school to a large production studio.”
Conklin arranged the trip to show his class just how far video editing and production have come since the advent of digital technology in filmmaking.
“It’s exciting and daunting at the same time to have these tools available to anyone who wants them,” he said. “There’s more opportunity but also more competition. It’s finding a gem in a big pile of filler. As an educator it means there will plenty of projects for my classes.”
Large mechanical cameras were shown to the students to illustrate the differences in equipment size, cost efficiency, and the editing process that filmmakers previously faced.
For example, Denton showed a VistaVision camera, which handles film horizontally rather than vertically to create a larger image. “These are generally used for special effects work because larger images lend themselves better to special effects. It’s actually on loan to us right now from Paramount Studios,” he said.
“Films like ‘Back to the Future’ used VistaVision cameras. Up until the past five to six years, most films using special effects were shot on VistaVision. Now, digital cameras can produce the same wide shot that VistaVision provided,” he said.
Denton urged students not to take modern resources for granted.
“You have technology available to you that was unheard of 10 to 15 years ago,” he said. “Consumer technology now can get higher resolution shots than many of the cameras that we have here. There’s still merits to shooting on film in terms of future-proofing stuff — but in terms of quality, you could use a $1,000 digital camera and get better quality than most older film cameras that studios used.”
Denton some said modern filmmakers are putting lenses made in the 1960s and 1970s on digital cameras to try and achieve an imperfect vintage look without losing the efficiency of the digital medium. This has caused older camera lenses to go up in value even though the cameras they were attached to are now obsolete. New lenses are still used, but people very often want that retro look.
Modern Hollywood digital camera packages typically cost just below $100,000 but they replaced film cameras that cost $250,000. This was partly because the film cameras have handmade parts that could only be used in that camera.
Modern digital cameras are essentially computers and have parts that can be used in many things aside from a camera.
“Stuff hasn’t been edited on film in decades,” Denton said. “Since the 90s, even movies shot on film have been edited digitally. As far as Adobe and other modern video editing software programs, they actually do mimic the old process of editing Hollywood films in many ways. Take the show ‘Louie’ on FX. He does that on a laptop. He shoots it then edits it on his MacBook Pro. It’s a brave new world for filmmakers.”
Richard Maurer and Camille Bowman are two 16-year-old students in Conkin’s class who gained valuable knowledge from the trip.
“I always wanted to go college to be an electrical engineer and I feel like a lot of that can carry over into filmmaking,” said Maurer. “I need a high school job right now and would love to work here if given the opportunity.”
“My friends and I have a YouTube channel and have produced two short films,” said Bowman. “We plan to produce more over the summer. I really like filming horror films. They’re very fun and very simple to do with limited resources.”
On what it takes to break into the film industry, Denton pointed to the need to be creative and have an incredible work ethic.
“Be prepared to make little or even no money right away,” he said. “When you want to get into a popular industry like filmmaking, you have to be prepared to run into people who will do jobs for little or no pay. You can go to school to break into this industry but to be brutally honest you have to get on a set somewhere. Many people start off working for free. If you manage to write an incredible script, someone will make it. One of the biggest benefits of film school is getting your foot in the door.”
Denton said the documentary genre has probably benefited the most with the move to digital film. It has allowed low-budget filmmakers to get past the cost and time concerns associated with film and have free reign to shoot as much as they desire.
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.
Photos by Jonathan Delozier | Wellington Enterprise
Visual Products gave WHS students a glimpse of the movie making process May 26.