Filmmaking

Emergence

Age 16

Manifestation

When I turned 16, for my birthday, my mother gifted me a Quelle Super-8 Film Camera, and I started filmmaking.

Quelle Super-8 Film Camera

I was first making mute films, but not for long. I was envisioning to make the sound for movies, and this would require the use of a tape recorder and a special projector that could be synchronized with the recorder for the playback of movies.

Grundig TK245 4-Track Tape Recorder

The sound would of course be played from the tape recorder as at that time, fully audio-equipped projectors were only available for the studio range of products destined for radio and television, and not simple Super-8.

Bauer Projector before Upgrade to Sound

But Bauer had come up with an uncanny solution. There was an upgrade to be attached to their projector which consisted of a number of reels and wheels to be attached at the left side of the projector (seen from front). It could be called a ‘synchronization module.’

The device was to be put closest to the tape recorder as the tape had to be inserted into the synchronization module, as it was the sound that was making the pace of the film depending on the speed of the sound playback.

I had thus found a complete solution but my mother was shying away from the investment. These devices were not cheap. And not one but three of them had to be purchased at the same time for the whole thing to work.

I was being tested. My mother was working in a media studio run by the government for the equipment of schools with audio-visual content. They had various experts, a regionally well-known art photographer and a sound engineer. They had a huge collection of films that could be watched in the cinema, or rented out for presentations and the use in schools. My mother was first working in the film archive on the ground floor of the villa, then got her office on the first floor, which was specialized on color slide collections of Baroque art in the Saar region.

Ludwigskirche. Baroque Church in Saarbrücken.

Given the new idea, she asked the sound engineer if her 16-year old son would possibly be able to produce sound-equipped movies? The man with the name of ‘Kohler’ was affirmative. He had known me well as from the age of 10 I was no more spending my school holidays with grandmother but in mother’s office. And most of the time I was hanging around in the sound studio, and was introduced to classical music as well as George Gershwin for whose music I got a special liking.

He must have told my mother she should give me the opportunity after testing me for mother came home not long afterwards with a huge and very heavy tape recorder and a microphone, and the idea I should make sound using traditional techniques. She had also rented out a film about professional sound production and an old projector they had in the office and did not need at the moment.

Watching the film, I was dumbfounded how easy it was to for example produce steps on asphalt or on a wooden floor or else on a tile floor. I got a piece of old marble and some salt, and produced the noise of steps on a tile floor, then producing a number of other sounds. My mother told me to record it all using the tape recorder and microphone. I did and she returned all to the office after a few days, asking Mr. Kohler to listen to my recordings of self-made sound. Kohler must have been enthusiastic for he suggested mother to buy the devices I had suggested. He also found my idea great to make a film about the office, which was the project I envisioned. So my mother indeed spent the money and bought that wonderful machinery. I was excited over both ears for weeks to come, and the film was a great success.

The director of the media office organized a real event in the cinema where my film was being watched by the entire staff, after the office was closed for the public. The general judgment was that my mother should support my talent for audio-visual production and the director insisted that I could come to the office every time for learning more, which I did.

Sony VX-2000 Camcorder

In 2000, after my mother’s death and after having inherited the family fortune, I bought the Sony VX-2000 camcorder, which turned out to be a functional and well-built device that I used until 2011 when I bought the Canon 5D Mark II, which in turn I replaced in 2018 by the Canon 5D Mark IV.

Canon 5D Mark IV

That was marking a temporary halt in my filmmaking endeavors, finding the DSLR structure and functionality a real handicap for producing videos. I cannot get myself to using a tiny LCD instead of a full viewfinder. Also, the form factor is not really adapted to video production, and a complete sound solution was entirely missing.

Zoom H6 Handy Recorder
Using the ZOOM H5 for the Canon 5D

The latter problem was solved when I purchased the ZOOM H6 Handy Recorder, but I would still have to find a way to having a decent LCD monitor as a viewfinder solution is tech-wise impossible for the 5D. The solution here would be the Atomos Ninja 5.

Canon 5D with Atomos Ninja

This would be a solution, but I would prefer to purchase again a dedicated video camcorder such as the Canon XF 400 or the C100.

Canon XF400 Dedicated Video Recorder with XLR Soundboard

The form-factor is important. In my honest opinion, and perhaps also given my age, the video form factor has huge advantages over the awkward solution of DSLR-based video production. I remember the film ‘Tokyo’ by Wim Wenders in which he says he was a photographer before becoming a filmmaker, and that his first camera was a LEICA M. He further pointed out that he could not imagine to make good photos without a viewfinder. I have the same view of things. The Canon 5D is ideal for photography but a pain to use for video shooting, because the viewfinder cannot be used for video, the internal mono-based sound is awful, and the form-factor is ideal for camera shake, but not ideal for anything even remotely professional to avoid camera shake, else using a tripod all the time!

Ideal Form Factor

Last not least, the Canon C100 would be a fair solution while the price range is higher than the XF400. If however the form factor is functional and pleasant to use, I cannot so far answer. To me, the form factor of the XF400 looks better, and more functional for video shooting.

Canon C100 Dedicated Video Recorder