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Losing in-house studio, need to rethink equipment

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Joe Knapp
Losing in-house studio, need to rethink equipment
on Sep 10, 2014 at 5:32:23 am

Well, that went fast....

As the single video producer/editor/photographer for my company, I was excited to get my own small studio space this past January. A mere 9 months later, I've been told we need to get rid of it, as we can't justify the large lease expense vs. it's ROI. Hello...pre-planning, anyone?

Long story short, I need to get portable. I plan on dumping my Nikon D700 (for photography)and my Arri tungsten lights. In it's stead, I'll retain some things, buy some others.

Here's my semi-portable solution:
BUY:Panasonic GH4: for both video (interviews, simple b-roll, events) and photography (corporate portraits)
•Sony EX1: for long-format video shoots.
•Sachtler tripod
BUY: LED lights (or possibly CFLs), for video interviews
•Kino Diva 2-bank lights (pair)
BUY:Red Rock's "One Man Crew"
•External monitor (SDI in)
•Heavy duty backdrop stands
•Backdrop paper (white, grey)+ a large greenscreen foldout panel
•Boom stand w/ wired bi-directional microphone
•Lav mics (wired & wireless)
•Misc. flags, gels, sandbags,etc

I plan on putting all this on a couple carts, save for the background paper. Can anybody 1) suggest some modestly-priced LED/CFL lights, or 2) suggest a change or addition to the equipment I have listed?

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Mark Suszko
Re: Losing in-house studio, need to rethink equipment
on Sep 10, 2014 at 3:11:19 pm

Skip the slider; spend that money on a good TTL teleprompter head, software, and laptop or other system for feeding it: will be used much more, and it helps make the less talented people you need to work with, look better.

Slider moves look sexy: until your audience gets tired of seeing them over and over. And over. Slider moves are a spice, not the main course, which is standard, well-framed angles alternating between wider and tighter shots.

The prompter head has one other feature: you can combine it with skype or other teleconferencing systems to make your presenter give great eye contact with the audience.

Instead of the paper rolls, think about one of these:

or these:

Aside from the equipment, you have a much bigger problem/question that purchasing gear doesn't necessarily solve. They told you flat out your ROI was too low to cover the cost of a dedicated shooting space. That means you are dangerously close to getting axed altogether, and replaced by an outside contractor, and there must be a reason. You're either not making enough good, successful videos, or you are, but the bean counters aren't connecting the cost of your ops to an incoming amount of profit. Either way, that's a serious problem, more serious than the loss of a studio space.

What kinds of vids are you making for them? In-house training? Monthly pep talk/sales info? Communications meant for the web to reach out to customers? Advertising or marketing stuff for trade shows and the like? What are you doing, and what are you NOT doing, that you COULD be doing? And are you reporting to somebody up the chain each month, what it cost to make the video versus what measurable result came in? Can you say: "This youtube video about installing our widget got 20,000 hits and the on-screen phone number got 10,000 more calls than usual after we put this video up".

Or: "sales of the XYZ unit were 1,000 per month before this new marketing training and now our salesmen are moving 1,500 units a month."

"After the video training I made, the phone bank operators as a group have reduced time-on-call by 50 percent, and customer satisfaction, measured by escalated call numbers, is improved by 70 percent, because the call center operators now have a better method for handling the xyz issue".

or: "We got twelve requests for copies of the video annual report from some venture capital firms and two cable business news TV stations."

"Wzyx TV ran a positive news story about our company's ABC program, using b-roll my office shot and supplied in a VNR."

You have to show costs avoided, thanks to your work, or profits gained. And it has to be done with solid numbers of some sort.

If you can't show them some kind of a metric, you are living on a very precarious bubble. Because "Anybody can make a video". And they do. They're often crap, because they are not thought thru very well, and then they are poorly executed. Then you hear the common "we tried video, and it doesn't work." What you do is not really about making videos - its about solving a specific communications problem. Your marketing task is to educate your customer: the company - on how to use your talents and resources to attain goals and increase profits.

Besides re-thinking the equipment, re-think the job you get asked to do most. Fit the gear and your workflow processes to that. Then ask yourself, what other things you can and should be producing for the company, what kind of performance metrics can you deliver, and what do those require? It could be that really all you need to be is a producer/director/editor, and hire out shooters and gear on an as-needed basis, just for specific jobs.

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Joe Knapp
Re: Losing in-house studio, need to rethink equipment
on Sep 10, 2014 at 9:37:20 pm
Last Edited By Joe Knapp on Sep 10, 2014 at 9:39:54 pm

Great reply, Mark.

I used the term "ROI," but really I just mean that there isn't enough direct use out of the studio to justify the expenditure of nearly $100K/year.

I'm the only video AND photo person, so they have me spread pretty thin, and I work plenty of uncompensated OT. I do a lot of program management (hiring & overseeing crews/post-producers), plenty of hands-on editing, infrequent corporate portraits, and the occasional video interview. Of those interviews, only a few take place in a studio setting. So our management wants to move me into cubes & cart, and use the large conference center downstairs as a 'free solution'.

I work on image pieces, executive addresses, recruiting videos, explanation videos, and the typical "Year In Review"-type fare. We're also gearing up for a large footage collection effort. I've proposed plenty of ideas, but mostly the direction comes from higher up. We're so busy, we are turning work away. Could they be winding everything down? Sure. I've thought about it. And if so, I have Plans B-F ready to go. ;-)

Equipment-wise: My grudging agreement on the One Man Crew. I suppose I can always rent if I'm chomping. The greenscreen fabric looks great; I've heard some negative stuff about muslin, so this polyester might do the trick. That Lastolite would make a great background pattern for those shoots not happening in an office setting.

Although we usually get a crew for teleprompter activities, the costs of some of the iPad prompters are making me consider bringing this in-house, too. Any recommendations?

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Mark Suszko
Re: Losing in-house studio, need to rethink equipment
on Sep 10, 2014 at 10:43:39 pm

About prompters, I would say, get the biggest you can afford and that your tripod will bear. I'm not convinced an iPad-based model, even with a proper beam-spltting mirror, is quite large enough. See, at a distance of ten to fifteen feet, the ipad text is going to be small and hard to read. When you bump up the size of the font, that in turn makes the visible length of sentences shorter, plus, it makes you have to speed the rolling up, to keep to normal speech patterns. These factors make a non-pro reader uncomfortable, because she or he is reading very fast and they can't see the overall shapes of words and sentences as well, so their decoding/comprehension suffers, and they feel pressured. All of that becomes visible in your performance. A large screen, 30 inches or bigger, lets you go big and slow and still see whole paragraphs at a time. This makes the read easy and natural-sounding.

I do not approve of "next to the lens" solutions: the eye line is notably wrong, no matter the subject distance. that's little better than cue cards. Get the real deal and spring for a prompter head with a real beamsplitting mirror your lens shoots thru.

Also, steal one of the office video projectors, and try using it as a light source on backgrounds some times, also, try projecting the company logo across a wall behind a speaker, or across the floor in the foreground when they are seated on a "set".

Your new "studio" being a conference room, you may need easy to mount and remove treatments for any windows there, and some sound-deadening blankets to hang and kill echoes with.

Good luck, stay busy, but also, let those folks know how busy you are, helping them solve problems and meet communications needs.

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Sam Cornelis
Re: Losing in-house studio, need to rethink equipment
on Jan 23, 2015 at 10:42:43 am

I've used an iPad prompter. It was a rental and I don't remember the brand. There were no issues regarding the readability. This was fine, since the mirror also enlarges it.

The only two things that could be better was that you had to adjust everything on the iPad which is under a hood in front of the lens, that was not so handy. Also start/stop for instance.
And you can't adjust the speed while reading. Although, there are solutions for that. It was just not included in the kit.

But, it worked very well, especially for its price tag. And for inexperienced speakers, it saves a lot of takes.

If you are in doubt, you can always go out and rent one and see if it works for you.

- I have read the entire internet, and I am feeling a little bit bored, so I started to reply to interesting forum topics.

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Joe Knapp
Re: Losing in-house studio, need to rethink equipment
on Jan 25, 2015 at 4:09:25 pm

Thanks, Sam. Glad you were bored! I may try to rent one on my next shoot.

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Sam Cornelis
Re: Losing in-house studio, need to rethink equipment
on Jan 25, 2015 at 7:04:37 pm

- if this forum had a like button, I'd use it.

- I have read the entire internet, and I am feeling a little bit bored, so I started to reply to interesting forum topics.

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