CLEAR CUT: The Story Of Philomath, Oregon, Shot With Panasonic AG-DVX100 Series Cameras, Is Selected To Screen In The Spectrum Category At Sundance Film Festival

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Last Updated: January 19, 2006 7:04 pm GMT
(SECAUCUS, NJ - January 19, 2006) Clear Cut: The Story of Philomath, Oregon, a provocative documentary shot by filmmaker Peter Richardson with Panasonic AG-DVX100 series mini-DV 3-CCD 24p camcorders, will screen in the Spectrum category at the upcoming Sundance Film Festival, Jan. 19 – 29 in Park City, UT.


(Sundance’s Spectrum program expands this year to present out-of-competition dramatic and documentary films from some of the most promising new filmmakers from the U.S. and around the world.) Clear Cut will screen five times between Jan. 20 – 25 (see times below).

In the rural Oregon logging town of Philomath, every high school graduate has his college tuition paid thanks to the generosity of local lumber baron Rex Clemens. For more than 40 years, the Clemens family provided thousands of students with scholarships–with no strings attached. As the fading lumber industry gave way to new high-tech industries, Philomath found itself in flux, with old and new ways of life dividing residents. As one of the descendants in charge of the Clemens Foundation, Steve Lowther was determined to change what he felt was a "politically correct" high school curriculum and a lack of morals among students. The conflict between the old-time loggers and the “urban immigrants” escalates dramatically, and the scholarship administrators deliver an ultimatum: either the school superintendent leaves or the scholarships are withdrawn, abruptly leaving the town’s children without money for college. The documentary shows that there are no “clear-cut” heroes and villains; moreover, the small-town events serve as a microcosm for the rampant ideological divisions within the country at large.

Clear Cut is Richardson's first feature-length documentary, for which he served as Producer, Director, Editor and Co-cinematographer (with Michael A. Brown). A 1998 graduate of Philomath High School, he was himself a recipient of the Clemens Scholarship, which he used to attend the University of Notre Dame. Richardson also produces commercials and documentaries for Microsoft and Hewlett Packard, as well as the documentary short Racist, a first-person portrait of notorious white supremacist Matthew Hale.

“I became aware of the AG-DVX100 when I was a senior majoring in film at Notre Dame,” Richardson recounted. “The prospect of a mini-DV camera in the sub-$4000 price range that shot 24p, had XLR inputs, manual controls, and uncompressed audio was extremely appealing to me as an independent filmmaker. The reviews I read of the camera only confirmed my first reactions, so when it came time to select a camera for Clear Cut, there was really no doubt that the DVX100 was the camera to use.”

He continued, “Versus competitive offerings—which I used in college and to shoot my first documentary short-- I found the DVX100 to have superior ergonomics, to the degree that the camera can essentially be operated by ‘feel’ instead of by sight. I love the true manual zoom and the form factor is light enough to do handheld work.

I purchased the DVX100 when I began Clear Cut. Then, when the DVX100A came out, I traded up to that model, which has been a real workhorse for me—paying for itself many times over.”

Commenting on the documentary shoot, Richardson said, “Clear Cut was shot with a minimal crew, typically no more than two people—myself and co-DP Michael Brown. For interviews, Michael and I would discuss how we’d like to shoot the interview, what our background would be, how we’d light it, and then we’d share responsibilities setting lights, setting up the camera, miking the interviewee, etc. The interviews themselves were conducted by me, and Michael would operate the camera.

“The rest of the film was shot either with me or Michael behind the camera. We would sometimes go as a team on shoots, such as the town parade or abandoned mills in the area, or even hiking up into the mountains of the Oregon coast range to catch a scenic vista. This is where we really appreciated the compact form factor and durability of the DVX100. We were able to hike into areas much easier than if we were lugging a large Betacam camera, and we could always depend on the DVX100 to perform in inclement conditions, including cold and light rain, without any additional protection.

“Some of the best shots in the film came from simply having the camera on-hand at all times. While I was producing Clear Cut, I also freelanced as a videographer at King Estate Winery in Eugene, OR, producing commercials and a documentary that were likewise shot entirely with the DVX100. It was on this scenic drive from Corvallis to Eugene that I was able to capture some of the most beautiful images that appear in the film. If I saw something to shoot, I’d simply pull over to the side of the road and take out my camera and tripod and start shooting. Having a camera that can allow you to both make art and a living is certainly a major plus, and those drives to a paying job in Eugene that also allowed me to pick up shots for my film are certainly evidence of that.”

The filmmaker said that cinematographer Brown, a veteran commercial DP accustomed to shooting 35mm, was “consistently impressed with the image quality of the DVX100. I think he was surprised to see how closely the DVX100 could emulate the color and motion characteristics of film.

“We shot Clear Cut in 24p Advanced mode, so that should the need arise, the movie could be more easily output to film or progressive DVD. With most NLEs these days, there really is no reason not to shoot in 24p Advanced, as most will re-insert the 2:3 pulldown automatically on output.”

Clear Cut was edited on a G4 Powerbook using Avid Xpress Pro. The media (90 hours of footage) resided on five external hard drives connected to the laptop via Firewire. The film was taken to an Avid Adrenaline to go out to Digibeta and have the 2:3 pulldown reinserted.

Richardson said, “For me, having a camera at this price point that can make an independent feature, especially a documentary, look and sound like a much more expensive film is invaluable. Viewers are often surprised to learn that Clear Cut was not shot on film, and are even more surprised when they learn that it was shot with a $3500 camera. I think that if you shoot with the same care and attention to aesthetics as you would shoot with film, you can render images that are truly remarkable, and go a long ways towards telling a compelling story.

“If you are considering making an indie film, whether feature-length or short form, narrative or documentary, the DVX100 has to be at the top of your list. The ultimate test of any endorsement is obviously what the endorser does with his own money, and in my case I’m putting my money where my mouth is and have purchased the new Panasonic AG-HVX200 hand-held, HD solid-state P2 camcorder. This camera will immediately go to work for my clients, and will also be used on any independent projects I undertake.”

For more about Clear Cut, visit http://www.clearcutmovie.com * The Sundance screening times are:
  • Friday , Jan 20--12:00 PM--Egyptian Theatre, Park City--CLEAR20ED
  • Saturday , Jan 21--8:30 AM--Prospector Square Theatre--CLEAR21PM
  • Sunday , Jan 22--12:30 PM--Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center, SLC--CLEAR22TD
  • Monday , Jan 23--7:30 PM--Broadway Centre Cinemas VI, SLC--CLEAR23BE
  • Wednesday , Jan 25--2:30 PM--Holiday Village Cinema II--CLEAR252A

The recently-introduced AG-DVX100B, one of the first professional camcorders to be RoHS-compliant (i.e. a product that is virtually free of lead, arsenic and other hazardous substances), is a unique Mini-DV 3-CCD camcorder with exclusive CineSwitch™ technology that supports 480i/60 (NTSC), cinema-style 480p/24fps and 480p/30fps image capture. Panasonic's AG-DVX100 series camcorders are the standard for affordable 24p acquisition and proven performers with hundreds of independent movies, TV programs, commercials, and documentaries to its credit. The DVX100B offers unmatched audio performance, extensive auto and manual controls, and a CineGamma curve that truly emulates the rich look of film.

About Panasonic Broadcast
Panasonic Broadcast & Television Systems Co. is a leading supplier of broadcast, professional video and presentation products and systems. Panasonic Broadcast is a unit company of Panasonic Corporation of North America. The company is the North American headquarters of Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd. (NYSE: MC) of Japan, and the hub of its U.S. marketing, sales, service and R&D operations For more information on Panasonic Broadcast products, access the company’s web site at www.panasonic.com/broadcast.

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