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Video Equipment Suggestions

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Ed Buonocore
Video Equipment Suggestions
on Apr 16, 2009 at 11:21:02 am

I work for federal probation. We are looking to purchase some video equipment to produce some short videos for our clients on supervision and I'm not sure what I need or where to begin. I have some video and editing experince. We are looking to purchase a camera, lighting, microphones and some editing software. This will be for in-house viewing only. Any suggestions would be appreciated. Thank you in advance.

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Todd Terry
Re: Video Equipment Suggestions
on Apr 16, 2009 at 1:52:23 pm

Well, this is not what you want to hear (and I'll admit not what you asked)... but my main question would be, unless you folks are planning to do lots and lots of videos now and in the future, why the heck is the Federal Department of Probation trying to get into the video production business?

Honestly, I'm not trying to be condescending, but you admit you are not sure of "what you need or where to begin" and that you have some editing experience.

It seems to me the much better route would be simply to hire a professional production company to do produce these for you. You won't have to worry about buying (or renting) a bunch of expensive equipment, learning from scratch how to use it, will get a much better end result, and probably come out a whole heckuvalot cheaper.

I'm reminded of a defense contractor who came to use to do a marketing video. They had first tried to do it themselves with a home handycam and two $80 VCRs from WalMart. You can imagine the results. Yet they tried it themselves first, even though they were trying to sell pieces of equipment that are well over a million dollars each. Finally they realized they should hire pros.

The "learning to do it" part is the hard part. It's not only buying the right equipment, but learning from scratch how to be a director, cinematographer, acting coach, sound operator, electrician, video/audio engineer, and going from having some editing experience into becoming a proficient editor. It just seems slightly akin to saying "I've got a dent in my fender, I only know a little bit about it but I need to put together a complete auto body shop and paint booth."

Again, I'm not trying to be concescending, honestly. And if the probation department is trying to get full-blown into the video production business now and into the future, that's a different story. But if you just have a few videos to produce, seems the smart thing to do is just hire them out to pros.

You'll defintely get better results... just because they are for in-house viewing only doesn't mean they shouldn't be good.

And will likely be cheaper... a better use of taxpayer dollars... incuding mine. :)


Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.

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Rick Wise
Re: Video Equipment Suggestions
on Apr 16, 2009 at 6:20:12 pm

Todd is so right: just because you have a camera and some lights and some editing gear does not mean you know how to make video stories of any sort. But if you want to try this, then go very, very cheap and see if you can make it work.

Camera: HV30, $600 on sale at -- get at least one extra battery
mic: Rode video, $149,; make sure the mic is no more than 4 feet from the speaker(s)
editing software: if you have a PC, Vegas Movie Studio 9 Platinum, $90,; if you have Macs, Final Cut Express, $150 -- this one is much, much harder to learn than the Vegas.

For starters, do not buy anything else. Shoot hand held, available light. If shooting interviews, brace your arm on a table, chair back, pillow. Use windows if there any for "key" lighting. Set the camera to auto everything. Get some images. Play with editing with the software above. Vegas will be much, much easier to learn, and will allow you to do everything and more than Final Cut. The latter has dominated the market for some time, especially in the pro format. But Final Cut is infinitely harder to learn and more cumbersome to use. These consumer versions of the software are all you need to get started.

Then you can evaluate whether or not this is really something you want to continue with. This project will consume an enormous amount of your time, so you had better love doing it.... At least your initial investment is limited to around $900. The main expense will be paying for your time.

Rick Wise
director of photography
and custom lighting design
Oakland, CA

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