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What would you order

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Brock BurwellWhat would you order
by on Feb 3, 2014 at 10:14:33 pm

Newbie on a budget here. Just looking for what you would purchase if you were on a budget and in what order. I really want a slider sometime soon and a steadicam at some point. But say you are just starting out, in what order would you purchase your items. Example..

second lens
second camera
better tripod

Thanks guys!

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Mark SuszkoRe: What would you order
by on Feb 3, 2014 at 10:41:51 pm

Sliders and jibs, I would rent as needed. Buy the things that are cheaper to own than rent, and things that retain a lot of resale value. Tripods with really good fluid heads. Mics. Lights . These retain value and are cheaper to own than rent.

A lot of what your list has, Brock, will depend on the kind of work you anticipate doing most.

But you know, there are knock-off versions of the go pro out there selling very cheap these days... those would be ideal to plant around your church service or weddings or other events before they start, to get extra shots from novel angles. VERY nice for concerts and pageants.

A couple of inexpensive portable digital audio recorders would improve your sound and not suffer the same problems as wireless mics. A 3-channel beachtek mixer would be great for your camera rigs.

I was always short of the color gels I needed to splash a wall for some shot, so I finally convinced TPTB to get me an LED PAR light that can generate any colors I need, and it even has some animation effects for more exotic projects. Around $150 for a model by American DJ.

I don't know how theatrical your church gets in terms of creating illustrated sermons or whatever, but a portable greenscreen and two big softbox lights to light it might come in handy. I'm partial to Lowel Rifa lights; fast and easy to set up and tear-down, they make interview subjects, particularly women and elderly, look great with little effort. You can get them in a style that can switch from tungsten bulbs to fluorescents, very handy.

Before you get a steadicam, I would suggest you try a monopod first. Something like the Benro combines features of a monopod and tripod, plus, adding a small wright to the bottom, it can also act like a steadicam.

A good quality field monitor could help you keep your visual quality high. Also, good headphones, even more important, to make sure you get good sound.

Consider some extra tools for post-production: more music or color grading effects, that kind of thing. And some lighting tutorials on DVD or in book form. Matters of Light and Depth is one evergreen favorite.

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Jeff BreuerRe: What would you order
by on Feb 4, 2014 at 12:33:03 pm

I agree with you both. Like Mark said, make sure to get a decent set of headphones with your audio gear. Mark also mentioned some training, a subscription is something like $20 a month and will give you access to enough info to keep yourself busy for a while.

I would also add some grip equipment, especially for the lighting. Having some of the essentials like extension chords, Gaf tape, lens cleaner, diffusion/gels and extra batteries will go a long way. If you are shooting a lot in new locations, I also bring a cheap outlet tester with me so I can be sure an outlet is hot before I set up - especially if I get to scout the location first. Also some packaging and carrying equipment will end up on your list. Maybe a nice pelican case for your audio gear and if you do a lot of moving, maybe a cart or a dolly.

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Nick GriffinRe: What would you order
by on Feb 4, 2014 at 5:08:11 pm

I would say that a camera and good tripod go hand in hand as the starting point. You really can't have just the camera at the beginning. Perhaps later on you'll develop good handheld technique, but that's not likely where you want to start.

A lav mic is an inexpensive good starting point for doing talking heads, but talking heads dictates at least one good broad light source and a reflector which can be as simple as a large piece of foam core board or white cardboard stock as sold in artist supply stores. Hopefully your camera will come with a mounted mic which can get you by for catching ambient sound for B-roll, etc. -- NOT for interviews.

Personally I like the idea of a second lens next, if it's a wide angle. This can be a wide angle zoom, which might become your primary lens or a "zoom-through" add-on lens which attaches in front of your normal lens. However wide angle is my personal preference for the kind of stuff I shoot where I'm often using the close-up foreground / wide angle look for dramatic purposes. Probably not so necessary if you're shooting mostly people, but to each his own.

More and better lights comes next. Of course, and not really said before, lights need stands. You can start with cheap, general purpose stands and eventually work up to C-stands with arms and bigger things like extended boom arms for positioning hair lights as well as overhead and angled lighting for certain product shots. With lights, stands and booms comes a few basics like sand bags / ballast weights, flags (light blockers) for better controlling where your lights fall, and scrims (like a flag only in various degrees of transparency for fine tuning the light you're getting. Flags and scrims need stands, too.

This is about the time having an external monitor on set becomes a HUGE advantage. I especially favor the ones with built-in scopes and VU meters. My personal preference are the Flanders monitors. We take the 17" when we can and a 6" one when space and time are constrained. In addition to offering a far more accurate view of what you're getting than the viewfinder and/or swing-out LCD on the camera, the scopes let you identify problem areas quicker and easier. Zebra bars show only one level (normally set to 70 to 80 for flesh tones). A luminance scope shows you what everything is. I also find it extremely useful when the camera is mounted high up on a tripod or jib arm to use the monitor's display of timecode as a sure fire way of confirming that the record button was properly engaged and not accidentally hit twice.

And speaking of fine tuning, at some point you may want a matte box with various filters, a polarizer, perhaps multiple grades of diffusers and even a graduated density filter for things like darkening a sky without affecting the rest of the shot. Personally I work in many industrial environments where I use a plain skylight filter as a means of protecting the lens. It's far easier and cheaper to clean or replace a filter than it is the front element of a lens. And what discussion of fine tuning would be complete without the addition of follow focus, not cheap but addictive once you become used to using it rather than the barrel of the lens. Follow focus is routinely used by a camera assistant for keeping previously blocked-out action in focus, but for the solo shooter its also quite convenient for smooth and repeatable "rack focus" shots where you mark the focus for both focal points on the collar of the focus knob with a china marker and simply slide between the marks.

The key here is you get stuff as it can pay for itself and as you can learn how to use it. This is where working with/for/under others with more experience becomes an invaluable way to learn.

Rent versus own is a question with different answers for different people in different locations. Years ago I used to rent cameras as needed. I quickly reached the point where I realized I could buy the camera for the price of 10-12 rentals. The other HUGE advantage was having plenty of time to become completely familiar with the owned camera. Lighting, particularly big stuff like HMIs, are better to rent. They are VERY expensive and, at least for us, not needed for every shoot. As to the matter of different places, if you're in or near a major city rental can be an easy option. If not you're going to have to pay for shipping both ways which makes renting all the more expensive. The other thing that needs to be said about rental is the time the process consumes versus already having the gear on hand. As I said, this is an area where different people have different needs and therefore different answers.

Hope this little diatribe is of some help.

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