Tale of the Tape

I recall being very proud to be showing my film on fancy HDCam 24p.

It’s no secret that I don’t miss tape formats, but being the sentimental guy I am it was still hard to throw out all these old tapes of my short films during a recent purge.

I’m pretty sure this represents over $1,000 of media and duplication fees in 2005-2012 dollars.

These tapes were made for film festival screenings between 2005 and 2011 and they were not cheap to make. Back then, if you wanted to show your film at a reputable festival you needed to provide an exhibition copy in a professional tape format.

This usually meant a BetaSP, DigiBeta, DVCAM, or HDCAM created by a post-production facility with professional tape decks. Although I could create DVDs and MiniDV tapes on my Mac, these formats were generally not accepted by festivals for screening.

Festivals were an essential part of the indie scene when I was starting out, but costs could get high, My short Beijing Haze cost just $94 to make but I spent over $2,500 to submit the film to festivals, get exhibition copies made, and travel to some of the festivals that showed the film.

Don’t get me wrong — the money was well spent. The festivals provided publicity and audiences for the film as well as opportunities to meet other folks in the industry. There’s nothing like seeing your film play on a big screen in a dark room full of strangers. And many of the people I met at festivals would become collaborators and friends. But for someone of modest means self-funding a film habit, it could get expensive.

A friendly note to the festival print traffic staff never hurts. My contact info is redacted here, but it was good practice to put your name on everything.

Fortunately, indie filmmakers today don’t need to have tapes made to show their work at a festival. Shorts are generally submitted via a link and features will be shown on DCP. Everyone is better off and I don’t think anyone misses having to work with tape.

It wasn’t the greatest of formats, but I always felt like a pro saying “DigiBeta.”