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cheap interview kit

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David Owen
cheap interview kit
on Mar 2, 2009 at 1:48:49 pm

I have a long-time client who wants to be able to shoot raw footage of individuals in a sit-down interview setting, then send it to me to edit every month. To avoid walking into a horrible edit scenario, I need to direct them toward a low-cost kit that includes a camera (prosumer or even consumer), a quality lavaliere mic, and a portable light or two.

To make things more interesting, they want it produced in high res (HDV? AVCHD?) and, since I've had no prior requests for it, I'm currently not equipped to ingest anything in that arena. So, I'm thinking a hard-drive solution of some sort that we could send back and forth.

Initially, all they scoped out was a Canon HF100 AVCHD camera (~$600).

Any low cost insights would be GREATLY appreciated!

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Mark Suszko
Re: cheap interview kit
on Mar 2, 2009 at 5:06:47 pm

The most goof-proof lighting I can think of to give some untrained person is a single Lowel Rifa light. Folds up and deploys like an umbrella, easy to set up. Put it 45 degrees off camera lens axis to the left or right, at about five feet, turn it on, done. The light wraps around your subject and looks very flattering on anyone. But "cheap" is a relative term. It's going to cost more than the camera you're thinking of...

AVCHD is still tricky to edit with.

Your budget won't afford a new Firestore, maybe a used earlier model? Or run it into a laptop on location? Probably too complicated for your person to manage. You need to keep it simple. I'd still rather use tape for this myself. Look at the JVC HD camera, or on a budget, the flash memory card based cameras. Those usually have crummy sound, so augment with a lav mic. With a small consumer cam you might need a mixer in between. Try Fullcompass for a new mic, or find a used Sony or EV on ebay.

These kinds of requests from clients usually end badly, I find. I would instead steer them into hiring a local shooter with his own gear to come in for a half day just when they need it. Much better quality. Ask them to try that for the first time or two, to see how they like it.

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Bill Davis
Re: cheap interview kit
on Mar 2, 2009 at 7:59:16 pm

You know how you can go to Costco and buy a really nice electronic keyboard?

So if a client came up and said they were having a series of PARTIES and instead of hiring live musicians they wanted to buy the Costco really nice keyboard and get music that way.

So they do that. Then they get the keyboard to the party and they hit the key labled AUTO play songs... And yes, there's music at the party - but it's pretty weak.

Eventually, they're SICK AND TIRED of listening to the damn electronic keyboard. So someone figures out that maybe it's not the keyboard, but the fact that they need someone with talent to play it. SO they hire someone who knows how to PLAY piano, and suddenly the keyboard sounds a LOT better - but it's still just a Costco keyboard so it's kinda limited.

Then when they grow up - they realize that what they REALLY want is the results that a real band provides and the keyboard sits in a closet from that point on.

Equipment doesn't make videos. People make videos.

And sorry, but giving video equipment or lighting equipment to people who aren't experienced in how to use it is as silly as buying a keyboard and thinking that the ownership of it is what's required to produce music for a party.

Set up the all the pro gear you want in that client's set. But if nobody knows how to adjust it for the woman with wispy blond hair or the guy with the Carribean vacation tan, then the BEST you can hope for is mediocre results.

My 2 cents anyway.

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Nick Griffin
Re: cheap interview kit
on Mar 6, 2009 at 5:31:29 pm

I'm late to this thread, and have to agree with both Bill and Mark.

What they are really asking you is for ways to to this cheaper. They're not thinking at all about the fact that it's highly unlikely that their own people can do this with satisfactory results.

So instead offer ideas like sending the people to you, perhaps sending them a few at a time so overall shoot cost is minimized. Or one that I've employed quite well, shoot a whole bunch of talking heads while the people are at some off-site meeting or trade show where you can have a real set-up in a nearby room and bring a large number of people through as needed.

Above all else, tell your client the truth -- that this is not a very good way to get decent results and that you will help them explore alternatives which can provide the maximum bang for the buck.

If they insist on doing it themselves the cheapest light source is going outdoors with a reflector. Have the subject stand with the sun to their back and bring the reflector in tight, under the bottom of the frame.

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Mark Suszko
Re: cheap interview kit
on Mar 6, 2009 at 8:10:57 pm

That takes care of lighting, shooting outdoors, but adds complications to sound, and adds risk that weather may turn bad. Nothing in life is free.

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Nick Griffin
Re: cheap interview kit
on Mar 7, 2009 at 4:45:40 pm

[Mark Suszko] "Nothing in life is free."

And little about the scenario discussed here seems likely to have a happy ending. It's always "interesting" when clients have dumb ideas, force you to implement them, hate the results and somehow it's your fault.

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Craig Seeman
Re: cheap interview kit
on Mar 7, 2009 at 5:06:04 pm

It's not uncommon for some clients to ask you to "recommend purchases" if they choose to build their facility.

Some of the possible results are:
They hire you to train the people to use the gear.
They end up hiring you to use their gear because they can't figure it out.
They really believe the results are OK even if it looks like cr&p even though you wish they knew better.

The last point is very much the crux of the "craigslist" mentality. Professional businesses look for "students" or "interns" because they care about cost not quality. There are some businesses that really think this way. Heck all one has to do is look at all the bad cable spots the cable companies do. They don't understand that poor quality is poor ROI.

If you are on the "short end" of receiving such material for post production you need to think about a couple of things.
Either you attempt to fix and drive up the cost of production (and let them know that beforehand) or you understand their low expectation and simply meet those expectations.

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Craig Seeman
Re: cheap interview kit
on Mar 3, 2009 at 7:12:25 am

Do they have a budget in mind?

Normally I'd recommend B&H but the folks at DV Creators might be great for this.

My recommendations:
Get a Sennheiser G2 wireless mic kit. You really just need lav and receiver.
discounted to $500.

Lowell Light Kit
Although I think a Rifa and two Pros might be fine. This is about $1050.
Panasonic HMC70 It's $1800 and records to SDHC.
Interview Lighting DVD It's $50 and it's good for a beginner and focuses on using inexpensive lights.

So for about $3400 they could get all the basics. They can send you the SDHC cards for you to edit.
AVCHD would have to be transcoded to another codec. In Final Cut Pro you'd transcode to Apple Pro Res. It's no faster than real time but manageable.

If you need to go lower you can go with this light kit
Lowel Rifa and Pro light only
It's $635. which brings you down to $3000.

My concern about going lower on the camera is you want the camera to be easy to use in manual mode. Using a camera in Auto mode is going to create problems for you. Teach them how to focus and set the iris and they could be good to go.

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Mike Cohen
Re: cheap interview kit
on Mar 9, 2009 at 7:32:24 pm

As the others have suggested, what your client is really saying is:

"Can you tell me how to avoid paying you, and still save me even more money."

This makes me think of a project we did a long time ago for a local newspaper. We interviewed their editorial people and some others in the organization, typical interview style, 3 point lighting.
They wanted to interview the editor in chief themselves and send us the video. We told them to have the interviewee look at the interviewer off camera. They had seen the other footage. What we got was a full profile of the guy, you could just barely see his left eye, he nearly had his back to the camera.

Extreme example, I know.

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Craig Seeman
Re: cheap interview kit
on Mar 9, 2009 at 8:05:57 pm

[Mike Cohen] "What we got was a full profile of the guy, you could just barely see his left eye, he nearly had his back to the camera. "

I'll bet they thought it looked just fine too, otherwise they'd ask for your help following that. Of course it could also be "the next big thing" as MTV's shaky cam was.

Back in the early 80s I worked at a place that was experimenting with some unusual techniques (with willing clients) which included interviews that were nothing but ECUs of hands, eye, mouth, never full head shoot. The idea was to focus on body parts to impart emotion and mode without showing the entire face.

Certainly clients try to save money. If they're happy with the result then . . . they're happy.
The problem is when clients think they can get the same results as you and they don't and they're not happy with it and they expect you to fix it.

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