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Muddfilms Shoots Feature Film with Panasonic 480P DVCPRO50 Camcorder

(November 30, 2001)
Production company Muddfilms (Tarzana, CA) recently shot ?Lucky, a full-length theatrical feature with the Panasonic AJ-PD900WA 2/3 DVCPRO50 Progressive camcorder. The shoot, with 420 set-ups, took place over 10 days earlier this year. The equipment was rented from Birns & Sawyer (Hollywood, CA).

Muddfilms plans to make a digital transfer of the material at Complete Post (Hollywood, CA), which specializes in 480p production, and will then handle editing in-house, utilizing Final Cut Pro; the producers intend to have the movie ready for festival submissions.

Director/producer Steve Cuden describes ?Lucky as an offbeat black comedy about Millard Mudd, a failed, alcoholic animation writer whose career bounces back after he runs over a dog. Lucky, the dog, revives, enslaves Mudd and transforms him into a literary success and, subsequently, a serial killer. Cudens fellow producers, Stephen Sustarsic and Michael Emanual, are the projects screenwriter and star, respectively.

?Shooting digital video made sense on our limited budget and tight schedule, said Cuden, ? but we were after a totally professional quality level. Distributors are increasingly inclined to consider projects on video, but only if its high-end video. Wed heard more and more DPs talking about shooting wide-screen and progressive, which led us to the AJ-PD900WA.

?Ninety percent of the shoot was inside an 830 sq. ft. house; with the AJ-PD900WA we were able to record more information, with the cameras wider 16 x9 capability affording us a depth of field that shows as much as possible of Mudds suffocated world. Minimal lighting was needed. Outside of the house, we went to longer, tighter shots that de-emphasized much of the rest of Mudds surroundings, but in both cases, the picture looks simply amazing. He added, ?Were very excited about having shot progressive, and expect a superior transfer to film than had we shot at a lower resolution. With progressive, were able to pull single-frame digital stills out; also, we can achieve effects such as slo-mo in post?yet we didnt have to overcrank or undercrank while shooting.

Cuden noted that only one shot of the 420 set-ups was locked down. ?Byron Werner, our DP, was like a human tripod, and the Panasonic camera with Steadicam was ideal for handheld work--flexible and lightweight. Handheld was a key element, not just because we had to work fast, but also, stylistically, we were after a film noir look, slightly off-kilter, to make the viewer feel just a little uneasy.

Werner commented, ?Lately Ive been shooting more and more digital video, and I find prosumer level DV unsuitable for feature films, lacking in controls and the appropriate lenses.

?On the other hand, I was able to use the AJ-PD900WA largely as Id use a film camera. Its high-quality, 16 x 9, with lots of menu options and m anual set-ups--I only utilized one-tenth of the camera's capabilities. He continued, ?We set up the gain, details and colors at Birns & Sawyer. Because this is an edgy back comedy, I worked with a dull color matrix, shooting at -3dB, as slow as possible. I shot wide open to keep blacks down and minimize the depth of field--I wanted the camera to be the least light sensitive as possible.

?I consider a camera like the AJ-PD900WA the only viable standard-definition alternative to shooting film in a professional arena. I enjoyed the challenge of the new medium. The camera was easy to use. Ultimately, I dont think it will make any difference to viewers if ?Lucky was shot on video or film and, as the DP, I dont have to wish that wed shot in something else. What we were able to achieve, on a small budget, was unlimited amounts of high-quality video.

Cuden added, ?The AJ-PD900WA exceeded our expectations, and helped us facilitate a 150 scene shoot with limited time, space and money?and that included having a dog for five of our ten days of shooting! DVCPRO Progressive provides content creators a new means of acquiring and finishing in high resolution, while saving money by shooting on a nearly standard definition budget. DVCPRO Progressive offers 480 lines of Progressive Scan recording at a digital video data rate of 50Mbps, a low 5:1 DV-based compression ratio, 4:2:0 signal processing, four 16-bit 48 kHz uncompressed digital audio channels, and compatibility with 25Mbps DVCPRO, 50Mbps DVCPRO50 and 100Mbps DVCPRO HD.

DVCPRO Progressive produces spectacular images with full 4:2:2 detail, and 480 progressive scanned pictures compress better and more efficiently. With 60 complete frames per second, 480p delivers sports and live-action with film-like clarity and is the perfect medium for upconverting and inter-cutting with HDTV formats as well as for digital cinema (tape-to-film) applications.

Capable of recording either 16:9 or 4:3 images, the AJ-PD900WA DVCPRO50 Progressive camcorder features three 2/3-inch M-FIT CCDs and records 480 progressive scan images in 50Mbps and 480 interlace images in 50Mbps and 25Mbps. Other key features include 33 minutes of progressive recording, 10-bit digital processing, a signal-to-noise ratio of 63dB, and minimum illumination of 1.6 lux. Fully-operational at under 14 pounds, it consumes less than 28 watts of power and offers a bayonet mount for high definition or standard definition 2/3-inch lenses.

For more information on Panasonics DVCPRO formats, phone 1-800-528-8601 or visit our web site at

For more information on Muddfilms, calls 818-343-4488 or visit them at

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