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Newb Camera Op Freelancer

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Rob Maples
Newb Camera Op Freelancer
on Mar 16, 2009 at 6:57:34 pm

Hey all,
I normally do video editing freelance, and have my own home "suite." Recently, I did a shoot for a local corporation through a partnership with my fulltime employer. The corp I shot for has now asked me to freelance video tape for them semi-regularly. I have experience running cameras in the Studio and out in the field, but never with my own equipment.

The shop that's currently interested is a DVCAM shop, and I would have to rent equipment to work for them at first. So my first question would be what sort of camera should I rent? Something along the lines of a Panny DVX100, Canon XL1/2 or something more ENG style such as a Sony DSR-400?

My second question is this: Would it be more beneficial to buy some used equipment or to pass the buck on the rental each time? Would it make me more likely to get hired? I'm used to freelance editing where the shop normally has their own suite already set up, or I can bring a HDD home with me and do the work there. But the world of Freelance Camera work is a whole new ball game to me.

What sort of equipment do I need?
Camera, Tripod, shotgun mic, (I have a lav system currently)... Anyway, what would you reccomend for a greenhorn camera op for a good all around system to have? And what's a good all around camera for DVCam shooting? Is this a good format or will I be tying myself down to certain clients? Should I go with a different SD format?

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Doobie Doobie Doo
beware the penguins


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Mark Suszko
Re: Newb Camera Op Freelancer
on Mar 16, 2009 at 7:42:46 pm

Panasonic does not shoot DVCAm, AFAIK. Their format is DVCPro25 or DVCPRo50 or DVCPRoHD, their decks can play DVCAM BACK, but the Panasonic decks and cams don't record it. So You might want to stick to Sony brand if all-around DVCAm compatibility is important.

I would always try to rent everything just for the specific job. That way you can somewhat customize what you bring depending on the job requirements, and always have the latest stuff. Fact is, a shooter with his own gear should be passing on some level of "rental fee" equivalent in the rate he charges a client, they forget to do this sometimes or charge too low.

But when you really rent the gear, I think you're actually often making more off of it than if you owned it. Certainly you lose less in depreciation, maintenance, and associated costs, if the camera sits dormant any time. The camera makes more sense to own if you really are renting it out more than once a week, every week.

Rental rates as a *loose* rule of thumb, set the rental cost of a piece of gear as ten percent of the full price. So if you will definitely rent it ten times or more, you perhaps may as well own it.

The other reason to own the cam full time is if you need to be able to deploy it on an hour's notice, any time or day of thr week. With rentals, you usually need a little more advance planning, and if you need a lot of scheduling flexibility, maybe the rental place can't always accomodate that for you. Also, if you know you have other little projects here and there you can do on the side with the camera, then again, owning may beat renting. But if they only call you once a month, for a shoot that's scheduled well in advance and is unlikely to change the schedule, or this is a tentative, experimental deal that may not last, then rent.

The other things to own rather than rent include mics, tripod and lights. You use those every time, while you may rent between three different camera models for different jobs. The tripods, mics and lights hold resale value well over time, cameras depreciate worse than cars do.


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Rob Maples
Re: Newb Camera Op Freelancer
on Mar 16, 2009 at 8:23:50 pm

[Mark Suszko] The other things to own rather than rent include mics, tripod and lights. You use those every time, while you may rent between three different camera models for different jobs. The tripods, mics and lights hold resale value well over time, cameras depreciate worse than cars do."
With this, I own a single set of wireless lavs right now, they're not the best. But they're audio-technicas which sound good enough I think. As far as a tripod goes, at least one place I've gotten in touch with around here provides a tripod with the camera rental (pricing for a dvx100, 300/day 900/week ... DSR-570 500/day 1500/week). With the cost of rental, I know to pass that on to the client, but should I be marking that up at all? Something like 10 - 15% or should I just pass it along as is, meaning my rate + exact rental costs. As far as Lights go, I need to check in with the would-be client. I wasn't sure if they would also be bringing a guy with a boom-mic for audio, and possibly a guy with some sort of softbox light kit.

Anyway, thanks for the info, definitely something to chew on.... Now to figure out what sort of DVCAM camera to go with for rental, I'm sure this should vary from job to job. Any recommendations?



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Doobie Doobie Doo
beware the penguins


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Mark Suszko
Re: Newb Camera Op Freelancer
on Mar 16, 2009 at 9:07:20 pm

Regarding the mark-up, heck yes, if you are taking on the job of securing the gear and all, consider it a service charge. How much is up to you, but *something* yes. It is weird to me that you as shooter would not be intimately aware of the lighting arrangements. If they make that a separate job for another guy, be sure to stay in tight communication with him.

I'm not ahuge Sony camera expert, ask someone in the cinematography forum maybe, or the sony forum here on the COW. Chocies are going to depend much on the situation and what the final product needs to be.


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Brian Pitt
Re: Newb Camera Op Freelancer
on Mar 26, 2009 at 10:14:42 pm

If you are paying $300/day for a DVX100, you are getting screwed.

I do a ton of freelance work and own a DVX100. Granted, I can only shoot SD, but it's paid for it self at least 5 times. I would highly recommend purchasing a 3CCD camera along those lines. If you shop around, you can get a lightly used DVX100 for $1000. A few jobs and it's paid for.

For higher end shoots, renting is the only way to go. But you should definitely own a good tripod and always bring along things you think you might not need (i.e. gaff tape, extra tapes, extra mic cables, etc.) You can never be over prepared.

I do the full-time corporate editing gig, but the money is in the freelance jobs. Just make sure you make your clients happy because there are people who will do this work for next to nothing these days.

Brian


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