FresHDV’s Oakhurst Interview

Matt at FresHDV has been running a two-part interview this week with indie film/postproduction techie blogger Josh Oakhurst. Josh’s from-the-hip style suggests what might happen if you crossed that Mad Money guy on CNBC with a video engineer. This is my way of saying Josh’s energy can make some otherwise somniferous subjects (say, differences in video codecs) interesting.

Josh, if you’re reading, I do have two bones to pick with you:

Small point: I’m not convinced when you argue that Panasonic’s P2 technology is ready for the trash heap. (For what it’s worth, I have no allegiances in the HD/HDV format wars and I own none of those competing cameras.) I think it hurts your argument when you compare P2 to Panasonic’s other failed/non-adopted formats, but you don’t do the same for Sony (which it sounds like you use). Remember, Sony is the originator of Betamax. Shouldn’t the same logic apply to HDV? Anyway, like I said, the logic didn’t seem strong. Plus, a lot of people I’ve talked to that have used P2 say that a) it’s getting cheaper and b) once you use it you never want to go back to using tape. My $0.02.

Bigger point: I think taking punches at “film school” kids is too easy. Sure, there are lots of spoiled rich kids making movies. (As a big-time indie producer once confided to me at the Rotterdam Film Festival, “They call it independent film because you have to be independently wealthy.”) But film school kids and the crowd you’re griping about aren’t one and the same. For my part, I went to school before the DV revolution. It was the only way for a guy growing up in East Tennessee to get his hands on the tools of production. I went, I learned, and because of teaching assistantships I incurred very little debt. I have no regrets.

Likewise, the students I have taught at Temple and University of Tennessee (as well as the students that I’ve met in my travels) weren’t born with silver spoons in their mouths. In fact, most have pretty heavy work schedules just to pay their state-school tuitions and the rent. They’ve come to film school to meet fellow-travelers, to have access to computers and good cameras they couldn’t afford otherwise, and maybe, just maybe, to learn some ways to challenge the system that produces the television crap that you and I both hate. Like you, they are hungry to make films, that’s all.

Anyway, other than that, I liked the interview. Keep up the good work with your blog.

4 Responses to “FresHDV’s Oakhurst Interview”

  1. Josh Oakhurst Says:

    Hey Paul, thanks for reading! I’ve been peepn’ your blog for some time now so its cool to get some feedback from you. I’ll address your picked bones:

    ON WHY P2 WILL VANISH:
    First of all, I stated that n addition to P2’s costs and AQUISITION workflow nuances Panasonic’s past proprietary failures are all reason’s P2 will fail. I LOVE LOVE LOVE the idea of P2 and would like to never spend time digitizing footage. But as a one man (self-reliant) crew, I don’t want to be limited to shooting two minutes at a time or carry a hard drive with me and pay a ridiculous amount of money to do so.

    Suggesting P2 is another faulty attempt by Panasonic to revolutionize the industry because of their past failures is an absolutely legitimate arguement because it’s obvious Panny spent a ton of time an money building and marketing a product they didn’t think through to the end user. The developers of P2 should have stopped dead in their tracks when they realized capturing 110 seconds of 1080p material would cost thousands of dollars at a time. If you want to shoot constantly, P2 is not an option.

    I know P2 and a hard disk recorder can be okay for certain shooting settings, BUT IT STILL COSTS TOO DAMN MUCH. If the 8GB P2 cards were $40 bucks, then shit yeah! You could buy a ton of them, and I would be all over this camera, but since the price of P2 will never come down significantly, this format will fail. So while pricing was not, however, a cause of failure for MII or 6mm tape, Panny’s track record for format innovation is not a good one.

    The same logic of past format failures cannot be applied Sony’s Betamax and now HDV for several reasons. First, Betamax failed because of a format war with JVC’s VHS and Sony’s innability to loosen the technology licensing to other manufacturers. HDV was created from the tech conglomerate formed by JVC including input from all the major manufactures (Sony, Sharp, and Canon) accept Panasonic. Additionally, HDV is not a new TANGIBLE technology, merely a reprocessing of existing media (MiniDV tapes). P2 is wildly different in that the workflow necessary is new from the ground up.

    MORE REASONS P2 WILL FAIL

    One other thing to think about regarding P2: You must buy all needed storage up front to complete shooting. Example:

    Let’s say you are working on a documentary and need to shoot 60 hours of footage now, and then another 60 in four months. Because the cost of archiving P2 is astronomical, you can’ just let the first 60 hours sit until you’re ready to begin post production. In order to begin shooting said documentary, you will immediately need to purchase storage for AT LEAST 3TB of media, and computer system fast enough to transfer it all. There are no tapes to store away until more project money comes in to begin editing. If you’re traveling overseas, or backpacking, or just flying around the country – where do you keep everything you shot? You can’t carry your shot media with you easily or cheaply, and because of this huge huge huge workflow nuance, the market for the HVX (in shooting HD material) shrinks considerably. In other words, in order to begin shooting on the HVX, your post production storage and editing infrastructure MUST ALREADY BE IN PLACE, and consequently, P2 WILL FAIL. Not everyone looking to shoot already has access to a computer or storage drives. Panasonic absolutely did not think about how this huge financial hurtle will severely limit their market.

    Think of it this way – your upfront cost to begin shooting 60 minutes of 1080(p or i) material will be:

    (on the HVX)
    Camera $6,000
    (1) 8GB P2 Card $1,400
    Laptop/ Tower $3,000
    Storage (50ish GB) $60
    $10,460

    (on the Z1U)
    Camera $4,700
    (1) MiniDV Tape $7
    $4,707

    Do many Indies already have an edit bay? Sure – maybe half. But an even smaller number have ample enough storage to begin shooting anything longer than a 30 second spot.

    Keep in mind I believe the future of aquisition is a solid state format, just not in the form of Panasonic’s P2. In general, the HVX200 should simply the be referred to as the DVX100C with a really really expensive, and consequently, huge pain-in-the-ass option to shoot 1080.

    PASS.


    FILM SCHOOLERS

    Here’s a good anecdote: You know what the problem with film school is? Too many film schoolers.

    I believe film school used to mean something when it was only about access to equipment. Since the advent of cheap, quality digital cinema (lets say 2000 as a WIDE release), potential film schoolers have had numerous options to get ahold of equipment which are far cheaper than paying for a film degree. Claiming a film degree now is just the same as claiming a BA in anything else – you’re a dime a dozen. Credentials, name dropping, and a diploma do not make great art – or even begin to suggest you possess the possibility to make great art.

    The only thing that matters in getting your films made and seen are actually making films. I’ve met so many delusional people who claimed filmschool like it was a notch on their belt.

    “I’ve got a film degree! I’m off to direct in Hollywood!”
    How many short films have you made?
    “One. BUT IT WAS SHOT ON 35MM!!! ”
    Sweet – good luck.

    What’s worse is I’m hearing of people going to GRADUATE film school just so they can complete their first screenplay which they’re sure is going to be a big hit. YOUR STORY IS NOT GOING TO BE ANY BETTER JUST BECAUSE YOU PAY FOR THE OPPORTUNITY TO WRITE IT! GRADUATE FILM SCHOOL! HOW ASININE! WHAT, DO THEY HAVE BETTER EQUIPMENT THAN UNDERGRADUATE FILM SCHOOL???? OF COURSE NOT!

    The current crop of film schoolers are a bunch of whinny, self-absorbed drabs cultured by too many over-privileged John Hughes’ protagonists.
    Some money men (as told to me) will not even hire film schoolers because (many – not all) “think they’re the next Steven Speilberg, they’re pissed because they haven’t received the recognition they deserve, and they won’t take direction from anybody.”

    The above text in quotation marks are not my words.

    My film school dissent mostly stems from the fact I believe film school is a waste of money and the backlash I’ve received from film schoolers after finding out I don’t have a film degree. As with the HVX and P2, people don’t like to hear they wasted a bunch of money.

    Perhaps, just perhaps, I may live too close to the People’s Republic of Boulder, CO and have been tainted by the assfaces I’ve met from CU Film School. Additionally, I have a bad taste in my mouth from all the red tape associated with higher education and cost passed on to students. Higher Education is strictly a business and I learned way more about filmmaking from my 12th grade Expository writing class than I ever did from learning how to use a piece of equpment or software. I personally posses a $38,000 BA in Communications and Multimedia that I’m still paying for, and it will never help me make films. I wish I would have bought the camera and edit bay I planned to instead of going to college all together.

    All that said, I hope everyone gets a chance to create their own version of art and experience the joy of creativity. We all weave our own webs, ya’ know.

    Hope that helps. Thanks Paul, feel free to fire back.

  2. Paul Says:

    Now that’s what I call a comment! Thanks for reading, Josh, and thanks for writing.

    The P2 explanation/explication is appreciated. You may be right — only time will tell, I suppose. Personally, I’m not won over by *any* of the current crop of 10K and less HD cameras right now. I want to be, but I’m not.

    As for the film school stuff, clearly, we had different experiences, so there’s no sense in trying to change each others’ minds about it. Frankly, I enjoyed your rant, in part, because it highlights how different of an experience I had.

    I certainly have encountered the whiny, self-absorbed, self-involved people you speak of, and if those were the people that I had to spend most of my time with, I’d be bitching too. But mostly my experiences with film school students (both as student and teacher) have almost entirely been at state schools with hard-working students that haven’t known a lot of privilege. Not the privileged “whiners” you speak of. (Sorry, readers, if this sounds classist, but that whining is usually a function of growing up with lots of money.)

    I also think you’re absolutely right to rail about the misconceptions and myths that some film schools feed to their students about becoming “the next Spielberg.” I’d like to think that, at least for myself, I actually to do the opposite — that I say, “Have your dreams, but do a reality check and make sure you have a skill.” I think the fact that I’ve had some success of my own and I still have a day job is a big reality check for some of them. And that pleases me.

    I certainly don’t try to persuade anyone to go to film school, but if they choose to attend one, I do think some good can come of it — that good being that, at some point, SOME teacher is going to tell them to stop making derivative crap that is a 3rd-rate retread of Scorsese, Tarantino, or whoever the hot director of the moment is. (Or, on the flip side, the teacher is going to tell the navel-gazers that art is communication and if they’re not doing much good if they’re only indulging themselves.) Either way, if that intervention doesn’t happen — or if they’re going to ignore the intervention when it comes — film school is probably worthless. They’re better off just buying the camera and the G5.

    Sadly, though, for the kids that skip school and just buy the cameras and make the movies, that moment of intervention rarely happens. We’ve all seen the work these guys make. They make that movie with the guy (usually their buddy that they alternate bong hits with) and the gun. They don’t just make it the one time. They make that same movie over. And over. The work gets more polished, but it rarely gets better because no one ever says: “Enough. Do something that isn’t based on a movie you’ve seen. Or stop.”

    Finally, as for the usefulness of graduate school, I will say that at least one reason for going is: M-O-N-E-Y. At least at the place where I went, I was PAID to be a student (fellowships, assistantships, etc). Yeah, during those days I barely paid my rent, but I was essentially paid to make movies — my movies, not someone else’s.. Grad school can buy a person that time, and that can be a sweeter deal than either you or I have now, my friend. Then again, for those ones that PAY$150,000 for the privilege to write a screenplay, well… don’t make ME defend those saps.

    I hope everyone gets a chance to create their own version of art and experience the joy of creativity. We all weave our own webs, ya’ know.

    Well said. I’ll let your words be the last ones.

  3. Josh Oakhurst Official Site Says:

    […] Paul at SelfReliantFilm.com had a few bones to pick with me after reading PART I and PART II of my interview with Matt from […]

  4. Josh Oakhurst Official Site Says:

    […] I really like his last paragraph and the section about not being able to “get better in a vacum.” As you may remember, SelfReliantFilm’s Paul Harrill and I had a great discussion about attending vs. not attending film school. […]