Info & Answers
Expert Interview: The High-Def Future of Modern Cinema
Independent filmmaker Scott Perry discusses the pros and cons of shooting his latest project in high-def, and what lies beyond.
Photo by Don Couch.
August 16, 2007 by Steven Castle

Scott Perry isn’t afraid of change. The independent filmmaker is a former advertising executive who turned in his Rolodex for a video camera and has never looked back. Perry has produced documentaries for IBM, Motorola and the National Park Service, among others, and has produced or directed independent feature films, including Teenage Catgirls in Heat.

His latest venture is a Western called Six Gun that tells the story of an aging bounty hunter turned rancher on a collision course with a soulless killer. But what makes this Western unique is the cutting-edge way it was filmed, using a high-definition JVC GY-HD100U camera, which captured the action in realistic settings including the Alamo and Willie Nelson’s town set. Six Gun is scheduled for a midsummer release.

From his home base in Austin, TX, Perry talked with us about the dawn of filming in high definition, the differences it will mean to viewers and the future of digital filmmaking.

About Six Gun
I’ve always wanted to make a Western, because I live on the river crossing for the Chisholm Trail [in Texas]. The project grew out of that. I’ve always wanted to work with horses, too. We actually shot at historic locations, and we got to hang out with Willie Nelson.

Staying in Focus
This is my first HD project. I own 16-mm and 35-mm cameras, and I was nervous about switching on several levels. We had heard warnings that with HD, the slightest change can put a picture out of focus, but we had no problem with that. I’m astounded by how the HD camera can capture. We had a shot of a saloon building and other buildings, and it’s amazing that the slightest details on the signs are in sharp focus. It’s almost too clear.

High-Def Hurdles
One of the challenges in HD is getting back to soft-focus backgrounds that are used in film, to throw a background out of focus when you want a close-up, for example. That’s really hard to do in HD. This is an interesting phase in it, because we’re all learning the techniques. We’re trying to handicap HD in order to get it to do the things that film used to do.

Quick-Draw HD
In film, at best you have a 10-minute load, and you have an hour load in a hard drive. For smaller films, raw 35 mm is $500 just for the stock, then $100 for development. With the JVC, I put a $6 tape in there, and I can improvise with actors and do things I would never do with 35 mm.
There’s a value of improv, and some directors hate it, but I very much believe in it. Actors invest more fully in their roles if they can play around with it. Some cameras don’t even use tape but record directly to flash drive. You have dozens of takes and can drag and drop [in editing].

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Steven Castle - Contributing Writer
Steven Castle is Electronic House's managing editor. he has been writing about consumer electronics, homes and energy efficiency topics for two decades. He is also the co-founder of GreenTech Advocates.

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