Is my gear good enough?
Hello - I have been doing corporate video work over the past couple of years. I have done some promotional and training spots for the company I work for. I have used a Canon GL2 3-chip camera and have been pretty pleased with the results. In addition, the History channel used a good amount of my footage as b-roll for a show they did for modern marvels that featured the company I work for. The footage looked really good on tv.
I want to start getting paid for the craft that i have developed over the last 5 years and want to start my own media/production company and I also believe there is a market in my imediate area for cable TV spots.
Here is my question, As I am getting started, do you think my 3-chip Canon is good enough to produce brodcast quality spots for TV?
I thank you in advance and value your input.
You have to understand that the concept of "quality" is a relative term! As you say, the b-roll of yours that you saw on the History Channel looked good, but compared to what? You must know that some networks will not accept DV format material.
Whether your camera is 'good enough" is really to be determined by your client. The network news clients I work for always specify a format that they want; it's been Betacam for many years past, created on a 2/3" CCD camera. Once in a while, usually for the reason of discression they'll ask for a DV camera (like yours) or for use as an additional angle or POV shot.
Furthemore, the camera you own in many ways determines your status and/or stature in the production heirarchy; if you have a Varicam or Cine Alta and market yourself as a HD production facility that's one thing, and if you a have a DV camera that's another. This should be pretty obvious. But what isn't obvious is the impression that that distinction often has in the client's eyes. I'd suggest that the better equipment you have, and more complete a kit you use, the higher regard (and rate for your services) you will command.
Of course, you can't start at the top, and there is a learning curve to be expected with all types of equipment, not to mention to the task as well. I guess what I'm saying is that you must study the competition, survey your clients and potential clients and figure out how you want to proceed. Buying into a camera and format can be confusing and I can best report that these decisions are best made by your clients for you (businessplan-wise). If you get enough calls for a certain camera/format and you want to make it your business you'll buy it.
Fortunately, the tax codes are advantagous to small business people like us to amortize capital expenditures on gear by depreciation. Essentially by accelerating your depreciation to take it all in one year (to the current amount of $105000) you'll be getting as much as a 36% discount on the gear (based on the tax bracket determined by your total income). This can ease the pain quite a bit, and this is precisely the time of year to be thinking about this.
I know I haven't given you a direct or specific answer, but I don't think anyone other than your client can!
I have to echo John and add that you'll see a certain amount of client snobbery in regards to equipment. John may remember when many of us who couldn't afford Sony cameras (all the rage in '77 - '80) would buy SONY nameplates from Sony's parts department and put them on cameras ranging from JVC KY's to Sharp 800's and the occasional less expensive Thompson (identical to the Sony 300 and 600). All the client saw was SONY and that made them happy...and kept them as clients.
In 1980 the Greene-Crowe Company created one of the most technologicaly compleate mobile units availible and equipped it with Ikegami cameras. It took a bit of convincing of the Hollywood client base to shift - the reputation of Mr. Crowe and Mr. Greene as front runners in the industry made the deal work...but it was a battle.
The last go-round of purchases I did was for rental HD remote units...clients specifically had their HD flavors in mind as well as cameras. I favored the Ikegami's with Fujinon lenses. After significant market research we ended up with Sony because of the ability to provide a name brand product to producers AND multiple signals out for production and distribution needs. Having the client's comfort zone met with the branded gear being able to fullfill the technical side made the units more profitable.
Frank, John and Donatello - I think you so much for your insight it is truly appreciated. I think I can draw from all of you.
I would like to also thank you for the time you spend helping us newbies. I am sure it is a great sacrafice at times.
the GL2 is OK .. and you could do low budget commericals with it (local cable or small tv channels ).. and you could even shoot a feature etc BUT IMO start thinking of a different camera .. you might consider renting camera's as it should be the project that decides which camera format and not you have a GL2 so you shoot with it on every spot.
If you're just getting started (or if you've been in business for 10 years...) the best use of your time (and money) is in promoting your services to clients and ad agencies -- NOT buying more stuff.
Here's a bit of advice. Every shoot requires specialized equipment which is generally too expensive to buy.
For example, a local car commercial where I live usually consists of a female spokesperson talking about the weekly specials while walking towards a camera which is mounted on a Steadicam. They generally use a wireless microphone of some sort to capture her dialogue.
This commercial requires two things you haven't mentioned. A $11,000 Steadicam and a $2500 Wireless Mic.
Another example is a commercial for a professional (i.e. - dentist, lawyer, etc.)
These types of shoots generally require a substantial amount of light and grip equipment.
Truth is, you don't really need any gear to shoot commercials. That is, if you don't mind renting every time! Renting and leasing are usually bad deals if you can afford to own, but if you can't, it's not a bad alternative.
It's very difficult to sell your service without an impressive demo reel. In fact, impossible. You will likely come to realize the only way to establish yourself in this industry will require a lot of money, a lot of your own money. And, many years of doing hard work and paying dues.
You will be hard pressed to find someone who doesn't LOVE their job as a Director of Photography.
Your camera is good enough for local broadcast or cablecast. I'd invest in lighting and audio before a new camera; cameras become obsolete a lot faster than lights and mic's. But you may want to verify that you can make a living with cable tv spots.
The sample reel idea is terrific in any case. Even if you don't want to leave your present job, you should buy a case of your own tape stock and regularly put your best stuff on your own reel, and take it home with you. In today's business climate, you never know when your dreams of working for yourself will come true just a little earlier than you'd planned.
Another point to consider is style and experience. Case in point. Panasonic is using a very experienced ASC DP to test their hvx200. Haskel Wexler ASC has shot projects with video. Allen Daviau ASC has shot projects with mini-DV. Mike Figgis did a movie on DV. There are many others. While equipment is important to many projects it is still a tool and if used in the right hands can produce some amazing results. So, keep in mind while you are looking for the "right equipment", you will also want to be looking for your own style and experience. That is the kind of thing that brings clients back.
Flip Flop Films