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Dazed and confuzed......

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Martin Slidder
Dazed and confuzed......
on Mar 12, 2009 at 8:18:52 pm

Hello guys I need help!

I'm based in London and in the earliest of stages of setting up my own production company as have recently been made redundant. I have worked in production for a couple of years but always in sales/marketing/new business positions so my knowledge of the finer points of production is not what it could be (but am trying to learn as much as poss!)

I'm trying to start off on a small scale (size wise) whilst hopefully future proofing my equipment so one edit suite and 2 camera's. My main area will be live events and after building up a showreelhopefully moving into corporate/promo work (with one day moving into commercials but that is a pipe dream at the moment).

Camera wise I'm liking the sound of the Sony PMW EX-3.
Reasons being...
1. affordable (ish)
2. full 1080p
3. multiple lenses
4. has shoulder mount for attachment and hence steadier and more pro look for clients

What do you guys think????

Edit wise I'm thinking the new 8-core mac pro with a decent graphics card (ati radeon hd 4870 512MB) and upgrding the memory to 8GB. Also due to the size of HD files will it be better to upgrade the internal hard drives or use external hard drives?? Will I need any extra equipment to do that, i.e. link together multiple hard-drives to the mac?

As for monitors I think 2 monitors always add to the professional look of an edit suite but 2 apple 24" monitors will be very expensive. Like I said earlier to future proof is really important so are the apple monitors worth the extra money and can I use these to colour grade or do I need a specialist monitor for this??

Also as I'm planning on burning dvd's for final delivery especially for live events like weddings will I need to buy a Blu-ray burner to get all the data of full HD onto disk or will the mac have a blu-ray burner built in??

As you guys can tell I've alot to learn so was thinking of going to NAB in April. Have found a source code from a retailers website to get in free but I still have to factor in flights and hotel etc.

As I'm not a broadcaster but want to learn about camera's, sound equipment etc will it be worthwhile me going???

This is the first time I'm posting anything and apologies for the length of this but your help will be invaluable for me....

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Nick Griffin
Re: Dazed and confuzed......
on Mar 12, 2009 at 10:30:42 pm


On this side of the pond we have an expression: "Build it and they will come" is a recipe for bankruptcy. In other words, slow down on the acquisition side of things and get to work generating business. Business which you can job out to small post houses and individuals until you have a steady flow of incoming work. THEN you can fund your own stuff without going into debt or depleting savings.

Produce (not direct) on shoots, sit in on edit sessions and learn what you can. This will be a far smarter and cheaper way to learn what you'll need to know and should reduce the chance of failure. The only downside is that you'll have to pay others for their skills and investment in equipment.

As to the gear, with the exception of computers, consider buying (lightly) used gear. It can be a tremendous savings with essentially the same output. And, by the way, there's a whole lot of stuff you'll need in addition to what you've listed. Yet another reason to work with others, learn and observe.

Going to NAB may not be as productive and cost-effective as you would assume. Mostly because a show of it's scale can be a bit overwhelming if you're not going to see specific vendors for specific reasons. You can easily end up spending too much time looking at things which have little relevance to what you need. Like the booth babes with the short skirts and big... oh, wait. That's what I get distracted by.

Anyway, these thoughts are just my opinions. Other people may have different ones. I would suggest, however, that you spend some time looking through the Business & Marketing forum as this kind of thing is exactly what we discuss there routinely.

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Mark Suszko
Re: Dazed and confuzed......
on Mar 13, 2009 at 5:04:51 pm

As usual, I agree with Nick :-) With one little difference this time.

My opinion is that getting the editing computer may be all right for your start-up, assuming you already have editing skills, but rent everything else , and rent it just for the actual jobs you get, don't tie up all your (limited) capital in gear that will mostly sit around costing you money. The "correct" way I think it should work is: Get the job, know what the job is going to take to carry out, hire your gear and staff for the shoot, bang that out, and then take the time you need on your own editing system to do the rest of the work on your own timetable. You could do the post elsewhere as well, and save some money for the first couple jobs until you get enough together to make your own edit room. But really, all you need is internet access and a phone to produce videos. Everything else can be hired out to specialists, which you agree you are not. Becoming a specialist is fine as well, but it is hard to build a business using the clients for on-the-job-training.

If you want to go browsing for gear, IBC in Amsterdam is closer to you than NAB, but the calendar obviously favors NAB right now.

Apple is still not coming forth with anything for BluRay for FCP and DVDSP, but the good news is if you pick Adobe's Premiere bundled suite for mac instead of Final Cut, their Encore product will give some BluRay burning ability, you'd likely need an external BD drive though.

Or, you could go cheaper, and run Sony Vegas, which I understand is ready to go for BluRay, and Sony has burners already. Vegas is a very feature-rich app and has a large user community. It is still fighting a perception that it's just for wedding video guys, but I see no super compelling reason it can't be used in other lines of work, except maybe if you need to import and use EDL's from other platforms. That's unlikely to be a problem for your needs.

Most of all, you really have not yet formed a proper business plan, and you really need to get that sorted before you start buying anything. Take the money and keep it safe in something interest-bearing until you really really know what you need to do with the money.

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Martin Slidder
Re: Dazed and confuzed......
on Mar 13, 2009 at 6:35:30 pm

Hey great advice Nick and yes I am VERY easily distracted!

I completely understand where you are coming from with regards buying 'almost for the sake of it' but there are reasons for my approach.

Firstly I have a personal project shot on HDCAM which was being edited at my old workplace before I left. This still needs alot of work and the cost of hiring an edit suite and editor will be very expensive.

I need this cut in a few versions to use for a website etc and was wanting to learn more about editing when hiring a cost effective editor.

I'm lucky enough to have some money put aside for this so would like to set up the edit suite asap and your advice about buying 2nd hand camera's or even using dop's with their own camera's sounds good.

The main questions I have are......

1. What are your thoughts on the apple monitors???

2. Apart from Mac pro, monitors, final cut software what other editing equipment is vital if say I do end up buying a Sony PMW-EX3 with downlaodable SxS cards???

Thanks for your help and I'll also have a look at the other forums

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Mark Suszko
Re: Dazed and confuzed......
on Mar 13, 2009 at 7:21:25 pm

First, some of the things you said sound like you're too hung up on appearances over functionality. Unless you expect clients to come to your home office to see you edit, don't fret so over "looks".

Second, rent the HDCAM deck just for the day, load footage into your hard drives, send the deck back until the project's done. Those decks are wicked expensive to own, especially if not generating billable revenue every day.

Third, re-consider about hiring the edit on your half-done project.
reasons is, the established editor and facility already have everything ready to go and can work super-fast, done in a day to a week, whereas you, just starting to learn editing, may take months to get this done and still may not have it right in the end... and meanwhile, you've wasted all that time and have nothing to show for a demo. And wasn't that really the point? To get a finished product to use as a demo, soon as possible, and use that to make sales calls and generate business?

As you develop your skills and abilities, you can and should take on more of these functions yourself, but for now I recommend you hire out all those parts and concentrate on project management of the "big picture".

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Mike Smith
Re: Dazed and confuzed......
on Mar 14, 2009 at 10:19:51 am

There are reports that Dell make monitors with the same lcd panels as the cinema displays, but sell them for less.

But you also need a third screen - a dedicated video display, CRT, LCD or Plasma, that is calibaratable, that uses video colour space, and that can handle HD and SD reliably and in good quality.

And you need a card that can feed a signal to that display. The card could be from AJA, BlackMagic or maybe Matrox.

You need suitable fast disc storage - a large, fast RAID for HD work.

You need decent speakers. Some would argue you need a sound mixer or control surface.

Repeater: you need a video display, separate from the computer monitors. If you want to edit high definition, you need a high definition video display, separate from the computer monitors. This starter article might help - you'd need the pro end.

and this

Since much of your work will also be output as DVD, you will benefit from having a CRT so that you can check the interlacing on your standard-definition PAL output.

A thought: HD editing is a market you will struggle to break into in London - very small customer base as yet in UK, supply dominated by a few high-end facilities with skills and kit beyond your reach at present, unless you find a technical / editing partner. Why are you reaching for this - does your market research suggest cusomers in your target market willing to pay a premium for HD / BluRay over high-end DVD in London?

It might be better to separate your thinking into :
1 / what do you want to invest in to build a business?
2 / how do you finish your personal project, started when you had cheap / free access to high end HDCAM and HD editing facilities?
These two may produce different kit lists.

This from the cow might help

or this

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Tim Kolb
Re: Dazed and confuzed......
on Mar 14, 2009 at 2:57:31 pm

Interesting thread.

I take it you need a Mac because the project you speak of already exists in data form on the hard drive of some existing Mac-based edit system and it's in...I don't know...maybe ProRes, which is completely proprietary to Apple?

A couple things...

There is no way to own any hardware in this business and be "future proof"...none. The EX1 of which you speak will not be sold much longer in it's current state as the market constantly clamors for more capabilities and manufacturers constantly revise even cameras. Look at how many years it's taken Panasonic to move from the DVX100 to the HVX200 to the HVX170 and've moved from a tape format to a proprietary digital card (P2) to the ability to record AVCHD to Flash Media. It's been a handful of years and the AVCHD format used on the latest of those camcorders wasn't even foreseen when the earliest hit the market.

You better be able to pay off a camera in 18 months.

Editing. 2 displays look more professional... I have four displays 2-17", 1-24", and a 30". We could meet in the middle of the Atlantic and arm wrestle, but what does the one-upmanship help really?

I would look at the possibility of simply getting the cheapest displays you can if you're simply setting up an edit system to finish a personal project short-term. You shouldn't color-correct using and computer display when it comes right down to it, but you could take your project to someone who has an apple setup with an evaluation display for final color correction... Dell has great deals on overstock/discontinued/refurbished displays and a couple of 20" displays gets you going and you can buy different displays later once you've had the chance to work a bit with the system and really consider what you want to do from there.

Apple displays... As with everything Apple, they look really good sitting on a desk as they have the typical exquisite Apple industrial design. I hate the matte finish as it makes blacks look gray unless you killed every other light source to prevent the reflected sheen. I know that Mac Book Pros now have the availability of clear display faces and I've worked with one...much better IMO. The Apple 30" has one glaring advantage over the can feed a single link DVI signal to it (1920x1200 MAX) and it will scale out and fill the screen very nicely. For the Dell you must have a dual-link DVI display card (an expensive prospect several years ago when I purchased the then-brand new and also -at that time- very expensive 30" Dell panel that I have).

Anything below 30" in an Apple monitor has a solely aesthetic advantage from what I've seen.

I'd echo Nick overall on this one...sit on your cash as in this economy you may end up having to eat the EX1 if things dry up for you for a time. The Mac might be an OK investment to finish cutting the project you spoke of, but to set one up with capabilities beyond the bare utility of you being able to edit this project right now will be expensive and the system will go obsolete during the time you're getting your business going.

All opinion of course...take it or leave it.

Director, Consultant
Kolb Productions,

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Nick Griffin
Re: Dazed and confuzed......
on Mar 14, 2009 at 2:50:40 pm

[Martin Slidder] "1. What are your thoughts on the apple monitors???

I believe Mike is correct that the Dell 30" monitor is cheaper. Personally, the last time I bought a MacPro I also bought the Apple monitor. Time is money and doing so was fast and simple. So fast -- about 10 seconds as I remember it -- that the kid in the Apple store was left stammering about didn't I want to consider other options in the CPU and monitor. That's me. I had a big job and a big RAID waiting back at the office and little time to linger around the Apple store.

[Martin Slidder] 2. Apart from Mac pro, monitors, final cut software what other editing equipment is vital if say I do end up buying a Sony PMW-EX3 with downlaodable SxS cards???"

[Mike Smith] "But you also need a third screen - a dedicated video display, CRT, LCD or Plasma, that is calibaratable, that uses video colour space, and that can handle HD and SD reliably and in good quality.

Absolutely! If you simply rely on what you see on the computer screen you can easily miss bad stuff going out the door. At the moment I'm working on a review for the new line of Flanders Scientific monitors and, from what I've seen so far, I'm impressed by their features and quality relative to price. But, as you will see, professional-grade, which can be CALIBRATED are not cheap. Then again neither is not being able to see exactly what you're doing.

[Mike Smith] And you need a card that can feed a signal to that display. The card could be from AJA, BlackMagic or maybe Matrox.

I initially bought a BlackMagic card/box for FCP only to later switch to AJA because it could run both FCP and Media 100. When we added a second Media 100 specifically for HD we went with their HD Suite (Kona III card). I prefer Media 100 for speed and ease of use, but have to also have FCP and, in particular, all that comes with it, around. More on software below. Also, many people for whom I have a great deal of respect think AJA products are the superior solution.

[Mike Smith] You need suitable fast disc storage - a large, fast RAID for HD work.

Essential. Plan on at least £1,000, probably more.

[Mike Smith] You need decent speakers. Some would argue you need a sound mixer or control surface."

We have mixers at both of our edit stations and truthfully they're really just a convenient way to switch between monitoring multiple audio sources. Actual mixing is done in the software. A control surface might be nice for some, but not an essential (IMHO.)

As to other software, perhaps you CAN get away with only what comes with Final Cut Studio, But I prefer After Effects to Motion. The other biggie, and this probably IS essential, is Photoshop. Yes, it's a still image program, but I don't believe there is any other single program which is part of every production suite's work the same way Photoshop is.

So, Martin, if you're going to go out and spend a boatload of money, at least take some of the advice here on the COW and buy stuff you won't regret in a year.

As to the camera -- anyone who is in a position to wait should AT LEAST wait until after NAB when new stuff is introduced and many existing products drop in price. And once again I will point out that buying this stuff NEW is a lot more expensive than good condition used equipment is.

"Some people say that I'm superficial. But that's just on the surface."

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George Socka
Re: Dazed and confuzed......
on Apr 4, 2009 at 8:21:37 pm

Chiming in very late here:

Anything PC will cost you less than anything Mac at all points on the spectrum. A Mac only has value if you become part of a food chain of Mac based people. Or if you are trying to impress people ( something not to be dismissed.)

Anything Sony will cost more than anything else. But again, impressions may matter.

Having somebody else create your reel is a bit of a fraud is it not? It is supposed to be a statement of what you can do. Not what other people can do.

You want to learn your craft. On the job learning on other people's jobs is the best IMNSHO. But hard to learn without equipment. Renting may be economical, but that gives you no opportunity to learn by doing. Buy a cheap edit system. You only need 8 cores if you have a project with a deadline. You do not appear to have that yet. Add as you get projects. I would however rent the camera. You can learn a lot by renting for a week at a time, even for spec projects, and the cost will be way less than the amortized cost of an EX with even a small list of accessories. Let the rental house eat the depreciation.

George Socka

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George Socka
Re: Dazed and confuzed......
on Apr 4, 2009 at 8:29:47 pm

One more thing - That videomaker article is 2 years old. A walk through Best Buy showed nary a CRT monitor in sight. And plenty of inexpensive 1080i/p HDTVs under $500

George Socka

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