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Digi-Cine camera

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Tom Galli
Digi-Cine camera
on Jan 29, 2016 at 1:41:56 am

What should I buy?????

Ok, the noob part is out of the way, here's the back story...

I'm a professor teaching video production at a small private university in Hawaii. Introductory classes shoot on Canon Vixia camcorders; intermediate and advanced use JVC GY-HM750, we subscribe to Adobe for audio and video editing (as well as a host of other things). We're well stocked for support gear (lighting, audio, tripods, gazintas). My own background is broadcast: ENG, EFP, Studio.

It's occurred to me that offering a class, or even a workshop, on the somewhat-different world of cinematic production could benefit those students who are lucky enough to end up on a high-end production, maybe interning with Hawaii 5-0 or Godzilla 2, for example. Were they to come face to face with an Alexa, it would be nice if my students weren't completely ignorant.

Of course, an Alexa is out of the question. I've spent many, many hours looking at options, using B&H as my baseline, but there are so many choices for things that I've never actually touched, I'm feeling out of my depth. Which I obviously am.

What do I think is important?
-working with interchangeable prime lenses
-using a matte box
-assembling a component-based camera

What would be nice?
-false colors
-shutter degrees
-camera raw
-super 35 sensor
-PL mount

Are my priorities reasonable? What am I missing?

Let's pretend I can spend $10,000. That's all inclusive: body, lenses, power, viewfinder, cage, rods, matte box, follow-focus... everything above the sticks. What are my viable choices?

Now let's pretend I can spend $20,000. Same question.

Thanks in advanced for your comprehensive-yet-concise responses!

Tom G

The difference between theory and reality is that, in theory, there is no difference between theory and reality.

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Mark Suszko
Re: Digi-Cine camera
on Jan 29, 2016 at 4:49:23 pm
Last Edited By Mark Suszko on Jan 29, 2016 at 5:02:42 pm

Aloha, Tom.

Here is what I'd suggest. Don't buy any uber-camera at all. Take that pool of money and use it to RENT the latest and greatest for a day or two, rent it WITH an operator, conduct the class in a real "shoot day" twice a semester, letting each of them go thru setup, tear-down, card/ drive management exercises. You'd have the budget to do this up to eight times a year. If it was me, I'd find some drama department people willing to play out a scene or two on-location or in your studio, over and over, while each of your students plays DOP. If you don't have a drama department, bring in a couple kupuna, sit them down, and record some oral history sessions with them, using the super-camera. Now, your kids have had hands-on with the cool toys, they have footage to practice editing and effects and color correction with... and some usable and *meaningful* footage to create a product that can be shown publicly as a portfolio piece for them and promotion for the school. Everybody learns more than they expected, and you'll do something nice for the community/culture/future historians.

Whatever you buy today starts becoming old and irrelevant right away, depreciating all the while. Even real pro DOP's don't always own, except maybe for owning their primes... Instead, rent the same things the big guys rent on actual productions, and your kids will always be up to date with what's current, not what was hot two or more years ago... maybe talk to the rental company about picking up a package after it's just wrapped and there are days left un-booked.

Renting is the most cost-effective and pono way to go, IMO. It's win-win-win.

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Todd Terry
Re: Digi-Cine camera
on Jan 29, 2016 at 10:15:31 pm
Last Edited By Todd Terry on Jan 29, 2016 at 10:14:49 pm

I'm in total agreement with Mark. He's always much quicker to sing the praises of the rental route than I am, but in this case it's a no-brainer.

Your 10-$20K Isn't going to get you anything that the kids might see on the set of Hawaii 5-0, where a single prime lens they use will probably top $20K. But a portion of that will definitely let you rent an Alexa, probably another body or two in various flavors, a bunch of glass, accessories, and someone who knows how to put it together and show everyone how it all works. And you'd still have money left over to buy something else, or rent again next semester.

And almost all camera rental houses will have student rates, so I bet they would give an educational institution quite a break, probably a pennies-on-the-dollar break. Heck, they might almost give you gear to use during unrented times, as long as you can front the insurance.

It's definitely worth a call... no doubt there are several cine rental houses in Hawaii.


Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.

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Mark Suszko
Re: Digi-Cine camera
on Jan 29, 2016 at 10:44:16 pm
Last Edited By Mark Suszko on Jan 29, 2016 at 10:45:39 pm

Mahalo, brudda Todd.

My other main point, aside from being a cheapskate, is that for a school class, you really wanna maximize the learning potential with a holistic approach, where everybody is learning something about camera, lighting, direction, sound, grip, story, production, post-production... all at the same time. Everybody rotates thru everything. The kids you graduate will end up needing to be Jacks and Jills of all production trades, such is the state of the business today. Even if they know to a certainty they want to specialize in the camera department, that department doesn't exist in a vacuum. ALL department people need to know enough about every other person's job, to understand how all the parts and people fit together on large collaborative projects. Because decisions one department makes will ripple thru the entire project.

It's also a great lab for developing leadership and teamwork skills, something the younger ones can use a lot of guidance on. On-Set etiquette lessons would be very useful. Learning when to offer suggestions and when to stay quiet and follow directions is crucial.

Just so MUCH to learn! And workshops like this are such a great way to do it, over pure "book-larnin'".

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Tom Galli
Re: Digi-Cine camera
on Feb 2, 2016 at 2:47:03 am

Huh. Funny that rental never occurred to me. That would certainly be an option if I treated it as a workshop, but I don't think it would be tenable for an entire class. I'll kick that idea around for a bit, see where I land on it.

In the meantime, I'd still love to hear what you would buy with the budgets!

The difference between theory and reality is that, in theory, there is no difference between theory and reality.

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Mark Suszko
Re: Digi-Cine camera
on Feb 2, 2016 at 4:12:22 am

Airfare and hospice money for 12 days so I can come grip for you. :-)

Look at it from an accounting view: you avoid a lot of depreciation. You don't have to insure it all year. Your class is not likely to be shooting with it every day anyhow, rather, using it for a burst of activity, then working with the resulting files for longer periods. You just don't need to own a RED or whatever to teach how to use it. You need the *access* to it. And I guarantee you, in 4 years, when the kids are out of your program, today's RED is going to be for sale on ebay because there will be some hot, new toy out. You're not teaching them to be avid editors or FCPX editors or whatever: you're hopefully teaching them how to EDIT. Likewise, it could be a knockoff gopro with a milk bottle on the front end; as long as you can compose a frame with it, you can teach the essence of cinematography. Teaching to a specified brand name product is a dead end because changes come so fast. teach the evergreen skills, and they can read a user manual for specific switchologies of specific cameras. I'd actually let them play with an Aaton and a reel of film, before that's all just a memory, before I'd spring for a RED. Because they'd learn some history and context at least.

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