The Vision Thing

When it comes to HD production, few can match the expertise of Randall Paris Dark. The founder and president of production company HD Vision was shooting in HD when reality TV was barely a gleam in the networks' eye. He spoke with
B&C's Ken Kerschbaumer about growth of HD from fledgling upstart to embraced standard.

You moved your business from Dallas to Los Angeles. What was that like?

The big thing, with all due respect to Dallas, is the talent pool in Los Angeles. It's incredible. The quality of the work we've been able to do, in terms of look and feel, has improved dramatically. Also, in the past 21/2 years, there are more bells and whistles on the gear, and the cameras are better. The other thing that's important is the workflow. HD has become commonplace.

What are you seeing in terms of SD versus HD work?

My world is all HD. But I'm finding that some clients who would never consider doing HD are looking at their budgets. The price point of HD versus SD is marginal because the cost of the director and lighting are the same. The marginal cost is just the technology.

Is that marginal cost getting smaller?

Now HD is so mainstream, price points of rental gear have come down. Having equipment in every major city is making it affordable to any producer who wants to go out and do it.

What is that cost premium today?

Depending on the type of project, it's cheaper than 16mm or 35mm. But it's about a 50% hit compared to something like Digital Betacam tape.

Given that HD is cheaper than 16mm or 35mm, what is the future of film?

Film is an art form, and art forms don't get replaced. That being said, HD is a cost-effective way to duplicate the look and feel of film, although there are differences. To be brutally frank, film is going to look like when The Elephant Man was shot in black-and-white: Certain people use it because it's a great art form.

But I can't see people writing checks [for work] that is more expensive because of the technology. The young independent filmmaker will look at the price difference and the end result and say, "Why should I spend more money for a product when the consumer can't tell what it originated on?"

Does that mean no more TV shows shot on film?

In a few years, it's all over. No one will be shooting 35mm for what I call disposable or time-stamped programming. It just doesn't make sense. With HD, you can shoot 50-minute loads, aerial and underwater shots. It's insane to use any other technology.