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Newb Needs Equipment Advice!

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Jim Perkins
Newb Needs Equipment Advice!
on Nov 29, 2012 at 12:36:50 am

First, a quick background on me:
I'm not a complete newb to video. I've been messing around with video for about 10 years or so. Used to use an old Sony Handycam (mini DV) for fun, and even used it for some freelance work. Learned to edit using old versions of Sony Vegas movie studio and Adobe Premiere Elements. Most of my personal video recently has been taken with Canon point and shoots and smart phones. But I'm looking to get back into video, and suddenly have an opportunity to do it professionally as well, but trying to learn a lot about the advancements in all the technology.

Basics of what I need:
Going to be doing mostly short videos (30 seconds to a few minutes, max) for web. They should all be shot in a small area indoors, likely with talking subjects a few feet from camera. They'll likely be uploaded to YouTube, Vimeo, etc. and embedded somewhere. I just need HD video with decent audio, but my point and shoot won't cut it of course. Also will be doing a bit of photography, as well.

Because of these factors, and since I'm trying to be extremely cheap about stuff right now (yet semi-professional), I'm having trouble deciding what to buy.

First, I decided to go with a DSLR for a few reasons. #1, prosumer video cams are way too expensive for me. #2, I'll be doing photos as well. #3, I've used DSLRs in the past before, like the versatility and could use one for personal use anyway. I know they're more than capable of doing what I need for now.

I'm looking at either going with the Rebel T3i or T4i. I've played around with the T3i a lot lately and like it. I know that the T4i has a touchscreen, can record longer clips, and has live autofocus in video mode (although it doesn't look like that works very great to me). I can't decide which one to go with, and the 200ish price difference is big for me. But looking at it as an investment, I feel like it might be a worthy price to pay for a slightly newer model. Does this sound like a good idea for my situation? Or am I completely looking at the wrong cameras?

I really think I should be fine with the EF-S 18-55mm kit lens if I go with either of those cameras. I can always upgrade later when I learn more about lenses, but right now I'm being cheap and probably just need a lens for shooting up close indoors. Thoughts? I figured the best deal would be to just buy a camera that comes with the kit lens.

I have an old Ambico standard tripod from many years back.

I'm not sure if I should go ahead and buy a newer, better one, or if this should suit my purposes for a while.

I know this is really important. As far as I'm aware, if I'm going to have talking subjects a few feet in front of the camera, the audio quality will still be pretty bad using the Rebel's internal mic, correct? I'm leaning toward getting a Zoom, either the H1, H2n, or H4n, and using their mics to record and then sync in post. It's either that or I get a Rode Videomic and plug it into the camera. Which would be better for me? Part of the reason I lean toward the Zoom is because I like the idea of either mounting it on camera, or placing it closer to the subject off screen to pick up their audio. I don't know if I can afford a Zoom and Rode right now, that's why I'm looking at one or the other. Also don't know which Zoom model best fits my needs, but if the H4n is way better and a good long term investment, I would consider going with it. I would also get some headphones to plug into the Zoom to listen while recording. It would be a one man show, basically.

Here is where I'm really getting stuck right now. I already have a really old version of Sony Vegas consumer, and Adobe Premiere Elements 2.0 (yes, I know, very old). I know that most professionals scoff at any of the consumer level editing software, but I'm really thinking for my current opportunity that I should be able to do everything I need in Elements or likewise. Does this sound reasonable for a while?

The main problem is my hardware. I've tried editing some test files from the Rebel T3i in Adobe Premiere Elements 11 trial, and I'm getting the dreaded lag in playback. Horrible, horrible lag. It won't give me an option to render the preview, so there's nothing I can do. I have 2 machines currently, here are their specs:

AMD Turion X2 dual core, 2.4 GHz
ATI Radeon HD 3200 display

AMD Athlon 64 X2 dual core 3800+ 1.99 GHz
NVIDIA GeForce 9500 GT display

Are these both just too old and too slow to smoothly edit the H.264 Rebel videos? Is there any workaround I can use to do it in Elements? Or am I most likely going to need to buy a new computer just to edit my Rebel files?

THANK YOU so much to whoever can help me with any of this.

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Sareesh Sudhakaran
Re: Newb Needs Equipment Advice!
on Nov 29, 2012 at 9:20:03 am

Check out the Comprehensive Rigging Guide for help.

Regarding a computer, yes, you need a new computer - same software. You don't need anything fancy, an i5 ivy will be fine. Avoid laptops for rendering work. - Workflow information and support for filmmakers, photographers, audiographers and videographers.

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John Young
Re: Newb Needs Equipment Advice!
on Nov 29, 2012 at 3:28:14 pm

The first thing that sticks out to me is the tripod. I guess I don't know what kind of Ambico tripod you have, but I know some of those Ambico tripods (the kind you can buy at BestBuy) are barely good for still photography. You are going to want a fairly solid tripod with a fluid head for video.
The good news is that your DSLR camera setup will be pretty light, so you won't need a heavy duty tripod, and you can save money there. However, good tripods last a long time and I have found success in getting bargains on professional brand solid build tripods on the used market.


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Al Bergstein
Re: Newb Needs Equipment Advice!
on Nov 29, 2012 at 5:10:25 pm

Jim, welcome and you are doing the right thing in detailing out your needs. I hadn't seen the Wolfcrow series mentioned above, but it is an excellent thing to read, and it would have saved me hours of searching on the web when I returned to pro video after a few decades of absence. However, there's a lot of good stuff to know there, but to be clear, it's coming from a pro high end POV. That's good to know how the pros do it, but sometimes, we just can't afford that stuff.

For your price, given what I know today, and as someone who started with the T2i and have stuck with Canon products, if I had to start again, I would be considering the GH2 or 3 for the price. A friend that has worked with me has one, and it is superb. Spending a bit more on the GH3 would give you a cutting edge product that should last for a long time.

The AVCHD footage is spectacular, much better than the price suggests. There are some superb 3rd party lenses for it, including some european models that can get you down to the under F2 stop range. They are mentioned in the WolfCrow article.

Audio can be fed right into it, if you don't have an external recorder (which sometimes you might find you don't), and I believe you can plug headphones into the GH3 and monitor in in camera, something the T3i etc. don't have. In camera audio isn't usually recommended, but can be done, I've done it on my 5D Mkiii. My recommendations is to buy the PMD661 if you can afford it. I am not a fan of Zoom, having owned one. The PMD is a rugged piece of pro gear that radio people use all over the world. It has all the pro features you will ever need, and you likely won't outgrow it anytime soon.

Another option, though better in some ways and not in others, is getting the Panasonic TM900 camcorder. It also has a external mic adapter, headphone jack, etc. Not as nice of DOF as it's not a DLSR, but I have one and have used it to do interviews at times, works great, very small. battery life is much longer than the DSLRs. Needs a bit more light than a DSLR. I have run a wired Sennheiser lav mic to both my dslrs and my Panny and got excellent sound without buying a wireless (though I now have wireless as well). But to be clear, if I was building a first kit, the GH2/3 would be the starting point. The TM900 buys you

Good luck!


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Brent Dunn
Re: Newb Needs Equipment Advice!
on Nov 29, 2012 at 5:16:33 pm

The Canon XTi cameras will be a great introduction to professional video. Of course, the expensive L-Series lenses will give you much better images, but I understand budgets.

If you are serious, then you will need to upgrade everything. Your computers are dual core and will not keep up with the demands of HD video. You need to upgrade to a better computer system with a Pentium i5, i7....which are quad core processors, or a quad core AMD chip. Now is a good time to buy. I've seen computers for only $500 that have these specs. Of course, the more you spend, the better the outcome. You need a decent video card too and 8 gig or more RAM is preferred now.

Adobe Premier Elements is fine. You'll be able to do most of your editing on this. You might also consider Adobe's monthly payment plan. You can actually have the full Adobe CS6 Production suite for around $20 per month. Check their site for more info. It's a new program where you lease the programs.

You might want to invest in an external recorder and a Lav mic. These are anywhere from $100 - $500 on average.

Brent Dunn
Owner / Director / Editor
DunnRight Films
Video Marketing

Sony EX-1,
Canon 5D Mark II
Canon 7D
Mac Pro
with Final Cut Studio Adobe CS6 Production

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