Advanced Tech and the Rise of Indie Film Quality

movie film strip

High quality video production technology for storytelling has never been more accessible. Nowadays, you can create beautiful pieces simply using a smartphone. If you want to get even fancier than that, the barrier to entry for high quality video production, namely price, has dramatically decreased.

red digital cinema  gopro

Those in the industry know that companies like Arri and RED have ruled the high definition video production scene with 2k-8k cameras. These cameras cost upwards of $20k. In addition to that their operators use stabilizer rigs and drones to get amazing cinematic shots which add to the production value and cost even more.

On the other end of the spectrum, GoPro just announced some new gear that does all of that for $1,100 and fits neatly in a backpack. Plus, many consumer DSLRs and mirrorless cameras now shoot in 4k and do it for around $3k or less which is far easier on the wallet than that Epic RED Dragon people keep raving about.

Another thing any indie-filmmaking-baller-on-a-budget has going for them is the ease of access to incredible resources for knowledge. NoFilmSchool, CreativeLive, and VideoCopilot are just a few of those great resources. When you pair the lower cost of high quality gear with the ability to learn the do’s and don’ts of filmmaking from anywhere with an internet connection, you have the opportunity to create some very high quality content.

Does this sound like the perfect storm for discovering the next Quentin Tarantino or just a sign that cat videos will have higher production value?

tarantino

Amazon and Netflix have taken notice of this trend and have been acquiring the streaming rights to many indie films at various film festivals. This is a good strategy to hedge their bets against the possibility of major studios and TV stations pulling their content as tv ratings decline and more consumers cut their cable cord. It has created an opportunity for indie filmmakers to gain global distribution for their work through these two corporate giants, which in turn gives the giants great diversity of content to drive subscriptions. It’s a win/win. Sounds great, right?

amazon netflix

As the saying goes, anything worth having doesn’t come easily. One of the biggest obstacles with any indie film project is funding. While this decrease in price of high quality video production equipment helps immensely, there are many other costs involved. For example, talent can be fairly expensive depending on the actor. A well-known actor with solid performance will come at a premium while an unknown will be a risk but cost much less. Let’s face it, the audience will not care if the film was shot in 4k if the acting is shit.

Many filmmakers, photographers, and creative storytellers will tell you that the best camera is the one you have with you. While I agree with this statement, I cannot deny the positive impact new technology has had on the production quality of creative work. It’s refreshing to see that high quality is no longer exclusively paired with the big six studios and that sometimes even the big six use gear typically aimed at the average joe.

The barrier of entry into indie filmmaking may have decreased with inexpensive gear and copious knowledge of technique online, but the aspiring indie filmmaker now faces a new problem. There’s a plethora of people producing films with high quality video. With that in mind, how does anyone stand out?

One of my favorite indie short films is Uncanny Valley. Yes it has amazing special effects but the more compelling part of this film is the story. It tackles a concept that is relevant, thought-provoking, and original. Hollywood blockbusters have been rehashing ideas for years now, so this was a very welcome retreat from that.

uncanny valley

That is the answer to my question. Original ideas stand out. But that’s just part of the answer. The other part is development. Original ideas that have been developed from pre-production to distribution are unstoppable. I believe this trend in technology and creativity will all lead to more original content being fully developed and produced at a very high quality. And I am very excited for that.

Devin Harschnek

7 thoughts on “Advanced Tech and the Rise of Indie Film Quality

  1. I really enjoyed that you pointed out that even if a film’s cinematography is spot on, but the acting doesn’t live up to expectations (“is shit”), you will not have a successful release. The technology will only get faster, cheaper and more efficient from here. I wouldn’t mind seeing some 4k cat videos.

  2. It’s so awesome to live in a time where taking your idea for video and creating a good product is so feasible. Making videos that can be used in a professional settings with a camera that has a low cost of entry is awesome for us as filmmakers. It may create competition for projects, but it gives everyone a chance to create something awesome in quality.

  3. So glad to be living in a time with all these free resources. Sure, the cameras and equipment aren’t free, but there are so many free online resources that the idea of film school is absurd. Why pay thousands of dollars when you can just look it up online? I also agree with you Devin that the story is what makes the whole movie work. George Lucas even said that in an interview. What makes Star Wars so great is not so much the special effects, but the story.

  4. Due to an increase in quality consumer products amateur filmmakers are now able to create films that only large budget producers would have been able to accomplish. This leads to a lot more competition because the amount of different plays that are now on the field. While cheaper quality gear may be allowing entry level video producers to up their production game the one thing that will always stand out is story. You can be using great gear but if you aren’t telling a story with the equipment you are not effectively connecting with your audience.

  5. I think it’s really cool that more and more people can make high-quality videos. It allows for more good ideas to become realized. As time progresses, the equipment will only get better and cheaper. I’m hoping it allows for more original content to break out and get popular. I’m sure it will with how Netflix and Amazon are pursuing these independent movies out. It’s nice that you mentioned that too because I have not seen a lot of people talking about it.

  6. As you mentioned, with all this new and easily accessible technology at filmmakers finger tips one has to stand out with original content. In my opinion, this means a breath of fresh air and new ideas. Hollywood has been reinventing the same story line over and over or banking on the same franchise (as with the Marvel Movies). Granted, there are exceptions such as when a movie is made based on a book, but it gets boring. I really hope that with Netflix and Amazon buying indie films that they will pick up speed in terms of popularity. I think it’s time for more original and different content to hit the mainstream in terms of popularity.

  7. The ability to make kick butt video as you said has become more affordable and freelance work I can only imagine is still on the rise. Aside from the camera costs and quality, I feel that post-production editing is just as important. Continuing the story here, a blog post potentially about post-production costs and improvements is just as important as the content captured.

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