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60-Second Q&A: Director Gregg Simon

Recognized in MVWire.com's 2005 "Music Video Directors On The Rise" spotlight, Gregg Simon is an up-and-coming young director. He is a Project Greenlight finalist for "Hot Under The Collar," a short film he directed for Spike TV's pilot episode of 60 Second Cinema. (The new reality series challenges a filmmaker to write, cast, shoot, edit and score a short film within a period of 24 hours and with a budget of a mere $1000.)
Simon recently finished a shoot for Kidz Bop: The Videos, directing three of the 10 music videos on the popular children's DVD. He works closely with DP Michael Huss, who used both Panasonic's AG-DVX100A and Canon's XL2 SD camcorders for this project. Simon also directed several other music videos and national commercials, shooting in both SD and HD.
Simon and Huss just bought a Panasonic AG-HVX200 HD P2 solid-state camcorder, which they're about to use for a major infomercial and a new feature. With the flexibility of multiple frame rates and recording modes, the P2 camcorder creates a whole new workflow that Simon says will make their production company more efficient and better able to handle the variety of projects he's often working on simultaneously.
Q: How will your workflow change now that you have moved over to solid-state recording?
A: We were a bit hesitant at first, because we weren't sure about the capacities of these 4 and 8 GB P2 cards. We also looked at the Focus Enhancements FireStore product, but the problem there is that you can't record 24p natively on the FireStore [hard drive]. The advantage to shooting in 24p native is that you save drive space, because you are only recording a true 24 frames, without the extra frames that shooting in normal 24p adds. An 8 GB P2 card holds about 20 minutes of 720/24p native HD material, and you get about 10 minutes at 24p.
Also, the only way to playback scenes on the set in real time that were shot in variable frame rate (slow or fast motion) is by capturing native. Capturing in normal 24p involves running it through a frame rate converter in Final Cut Pro before you can actually see what the effect looks like.
Q: Is 20 minutes per card enough capacity for the type of shooting you do?
A: I look at the P2 workflow much the same way magazines are changed with a film camera. We're planning on having three P2 cards at each shoot. Two get loaded into the camera immediately, and the third is on standby. When we fill up the first P2 card, we remove it from the camera and replace it with the standby card. We take the filled card and load it onto our laptop PC through the PCMCIA slot. We then drag the files over to a WiebeTech SilverSATA-II storage system, with two 100 GB internal SATA drives. That's where all of the day's material will live. Since it's a RAID-protected array, we can move files on and off the two drives quickly through a SATA or USB cable.
At the end of the day, we take the two 100 GB drives, out them into enclosure and give one to the client. The other serves as a backup, in case data is lost on one drive.
Q: As a long-time user of videotape, does this tapeless workflow make you nervous?
A: I think whenever you are using new technology you always get anxious that it might not work. But after using it, you become comfortable. The reality is, I have the material saved on two SATA drives and on my laptop desktop, so the data is safe. I think once we have several productions under our belt with it, it will be a very reliable and efficient way of doing things.
Contact Gregg Simon at http://www.greggsimon.com.

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