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In the movie industry, the quality of a film is referred to as its “production value.” Films with a higher budget will usually have a high production value, because of the greater investment of resources. It is the goal of most movie makers to make films that are stylish, attractive, and use high quality special effects in combination with exotic locations. These films can be quite costly to make, representing a major gamble on the part of potential investors.
In some cases, films are deliberately made with a low production value, because the campy aspect of cheap movies is enjoyed in some genres. “B Movies,” as they are called, are characterized by unrealistic special effects, poor continuity, and grainy film. In some cases, these films are enjoyable to watch and often fun to make as well. Low budget film making is an art form, and especially in the 1990s when individuals could easily record and distribute video media, it became quite popular.
Most moviegoers expect a high production value when they go to the theater, however, and as a result, Hollywood directors make an effort to achieve realistic looking effects and sophisticated camera shots. Big budget films often use unique locations, stellar special effects, and sophisticated technology to create what they hope will be a crowd pleasing film. In addition, many big name actors will increase the production value of a film.
Many low budget filmmakers work to achieve the look of a high production value film, either by investing a great deal of resources in one or two scenes, or using various tricks of the trade to enhance the quality of the movie. These tricks include playing with camera angles, relying on a strong script, using lesser known character actors, and integrating unique lighting techniques. Using old skills in a novel way may increase a movie's production value, making it ultimately more appealing to investors.
In order for a film to succeed commercially, it usually requires a high production value unless the film makers have made a conscious artistic decision to go for the look of a low production value film. As a result, potential producers and investors like to be assured that the movie they are financing will meet this criteria, resulting in a major return at the box office. Many filmmakers provide investors with a proof of concept, showing how the movie will be presented and how novel techniques will be used. This is often the case with movies that rely heavily on digital elements.
Ultimately, high production value is the result of a combination of factors, including a strong script, good acting, cinematography, and special effects. A determined filmmaker can make an excellent film in a basement with the right techniques, although the millions of dollars behind big budget movies usually make it easier.