Advice for a corporate project (specialized health Klinik)
I came across this forum doing a web search and it seems good so thought I could ask some advice.
I am an American living in Germany; I have a video background and have recently been contacted by a local health clinic about creating short videos for them (4-7 min). The thing is, my background goes way back and I'm not so up on the latest equipment - I shot in the late 80s & early 90s on professional equipment (i.e. Ikegami 55L camera) and spent many years as a broadcast TV video editor in NY (Grass Valley switchers, Sony 9000 editor, Abakus, Chyron, etc).
I've taught myself non-linear editing and because of my background that's really no problem (I'll probably use Premiere).
When it comes to the camera, tripod, mic(s), lights, etc, I'm at a bit of a disadvantage. My prospective client has a small budget (looks like 5000 EUR each for 3 videos) and they want me to buy the equipment with that budget. A lot of the videos will consist of animations and stock footage which need to be licensed (I'll need to license some music as well); I'll also shoot some mock discussions (real discussions between staff posing as clients) and show some of the location. I can do VOs myself. So here are some specific questions and I'm very open to concerns I may have left out:
For the camera itself, as much as I'd love to go pro or semi-pro, I'm thinking of going high-end prosumer because A) it's coming out of the budget that pays me and B) I don't think the highest quality is really necessary as the videos will mainly live on the client's website and youtube channel. (they've talked about offering them to local TV stations as a PR tool when related topics are in the news, and for this I'd render the highest quality possible, but that's really a secondary concern). I've heard that nowadays the quality has improved so much that these top-level prosumer camcorders look pretty damn good especially as the finished product will be seen on the web - am I really off on this?
For audio, I will need to shoot some conversations but never more than two people at a time. Can I get away with an externally connected shotgun mic on the camera or do I need to go with two Lavs (clip-ons) and have a separate mixer and recording medium (I assume the prosumer camera won't have more than 1 mic input, though it would be great if there were two). RE: voice-overs, could I use the shotgun mic for that (if the shotgun makes sense as I wrote above) or do I need a separate USB mic? I have mic stands already.
I want to make sure to get a good tripod as nothing bugs me more than fighting the tripod to get a smooth pan/tilt. I'll be shooting in pretty tight spaces so I don't think I need a dolly or sliders. Am I wrong on that?
Their lighting is pretty good so I was hoping to go without external lights. Saving the money is a concern, but also transportability. They told me that recently they started having a photographer who shoots in natural light and it's been working well. I also feel like as I'll be using staff and not real actors, they'll probably relax more without external lights on them. I've heard that the prosumer cameras adjust well to low light. True?
I have a decent pair of Audio-Technica headphones that are very comfortable and already have a mini/1/4" jack adapter, so I think that should be ok there.
I very much welcome feedback and gear suggestions, i.e. what camera (I was thinking panasonic, JVC or Sony), tripod and mic(s)/audio equipment to purchase. I would really like to keep the price for the gear under 1500 EUR (I realize many reading this may be rolling their eyes at this, but at much more the job just isn't worth it). I figure I'll make very little on the first one but more on the 2nd & 3rd and any subsequent videos that come along (they said there is a very good chance for more if these do well for their marketing department).
Thanks in advance for any opinions.
Until you are established with a regular income I would strongly suggest that you consider hiring in the equipment for each production. This will also give you the opportunity to find out what camera and tripod you'll like the most (Not setting aside that the next 18 months will see a number of 4K lower cost video cameras entering the market). I understand that the client wants you to purchase the kit, but it is not clear whether it will yours or theirs? If theirs, then your fees will be reduced by 30-40% which may not make financial sense to you.
Put production/crew/equipment/public liability insurance above anything else you do as a priority - this cost alone could be high, but compulsory for any business working with the public. Based on my UK rates, you could be looking at as mush as 1,200 Euro annually.
Set aside money for Adobe CC (and training). If you want to start low-budget, you could buy the combined Photoshop and Premiere elements package.
If there are budget for it, do consider getting yourself a couple of lapel mics. Radio mics is easiest for you to control if you have to run around after more than person connected to the camera. An LED top light for the camera for stand-ups etc. Eventually leaving the large ticket items for that time when they'll give you a return on investment within 3 years.
If you are adamant on purchasing a camera, don't write off getting a HD-SLR with a BeachTek or similar. At least the camera can double as a still camera and you will be able to shoot a lower light in cost comparison to a video camera model.
There are plenty of websites that offers copyright free music and footage at really affordable prices. Again, just make sure that it is in the budget, before agreeing the final price.
Hope this helps - well done on getting a client with a decent budget too!
All the Best
@madsvid, London, UK
Check out my other hangouts:
Thanks Mads for the very useful advice. I will absorb what you wrote and start looking into options, including checking out the cost of renting on a per job basis.
May come back with a question or two later.
For your budget, renting or buying used makes sense.
Before that, though, you need to get a really clear idea of the kind of work they want and the level of quality they expect. DSLR's and dedicated video cameras each have certain advantages and disadvantages, depending on the task at hand. Lots of interviews? Long lectures? nimble run-and-gun around the operating theatre? Event coverage at social affairs and fundraisers? No one camera does all those things best. Pick the setup that works best in the context of what you'll do most... or don't buy the camera, and rent something event-specific.
I would get two inexpensive wired lav mics to start, and a pocket-sized digital audio recorder connected to the wired lav, makes a cost-effective alternative to a wireless. The on-camera shotgun doesn't cut it, except as background and editing synch reference.
Reconsider lighting; it is one of those areas that distinguish pro work from amateur, and I'd suggest at least purchasing a single large softbox, as cheaper than an LED panel. Cheap Chinese knockoffs abound on ebay. One other cheap but effective option here is to build a stand-mounted soft bank of fluorescent tube lights, covered with a diffusing material like tough frost, using the same tubes that the hospital uses in their ceiling lights. This makes all your color temps the same, helping the scene to look :natural:, yet better than if it wasn't lit for the camera... a trick they used to use on the TV series, "E.R."
Before you get anything fancy like a jib or slider, get a teleprompter kit for those long speeches: the talent will thank you, and you'll save time in the edit plus end with better quality.
Since your goal is a profit, weigh every purchase decision in the context of the question: how, specifically, does this add value to the project in a way that pays for itself?
Thanks for the reply.
I've asked about this on a couple of forums and the advice to rent, not buy has been pretty consistent and I've taken that to heart.
I've found a great place here in Germany to rent from (recommended by a friend in the business); here is what I plan to rent, I'd love feedback and to know if any red flags come up, if I've missed anything, etc:
They also offer the Canon XF 300 - whixh is more expensive to rent - but the guy on the phone is recommending the Sony after hearing about my project. I'd rent an extra memory card and extra battery along with it.
Sachtler System FSB (fluid head)
Lights (I will rent these as well as the suggestions to rethink my idea to go with natural light have been overwhelming):
LED Leuchtfläche 1000 - obviously this is German and I haven't found out the English word for Leuchtfläche (other than an illuminated area), but it is 1000 watts and can be dimmed. Seems somewhat similar to a lightbox (though not exactly). I'll rent some foils along with it.
Two Sennheiser EW 112-C G3 clipon wireless mics. The Sony camera has two mic inputs so the guy at the rental place is saying I don't need a Zoom. These take standard AA batteries.
I'd also rent a memory card reader to ensure I can get what I shoot off the camera into Premiere Elements.
Also have one more question, although I'm a musician and have mic stands and SM-57s & 58s (as well as other, better mics), I'm using a mac mini which does not accept analog line audio (strange I know). It's a powerful little computer and I don't expect any issues with memory or ram, but it only accepts a usb mic input. So for VOs, I will either need a USB mic (any recommendations?) or do the VO (doing that myself) with the camera. This of course limits the ability to make quick changes once I've given the rental camera back. Thoughts?
Thanks again, very much appreciated.
To your USB mic question, after research I got a Shure x2u converter. This uses a standard XLR connection to the mic of your choice, and it has optional phantom power for those of your mics that need it. Has a tap on the side for earphone monitoring in real time. I use this with the free app for mac and win called Audacity, to do my vocal reads. The Shure is recognized directly by the mac, so you can use the mic directly in Final Cut or Premiere. Reasonable price. I'm sure you can get better if you spend more, but this one has worked out fine for my needs and budget.
Looks like about $100 for the Shure XLR/USB interface - maybe cheaper on ebay. Only did a quick search, lots of times those things are more here in Euro.
Seems like a possibility though, thanks - still deciding if it's too risky to simply do the VOs with the camera on the day I rent, with the danger of course being that I'm SOL if I need to do revisions later (though I guess i could by the adapter then).
Really appreciate the feedback!
Two shoots yesterday using two Canon XF-305's and Sennheiser Radio Mics, hence the late feedback. All went well.
Rental sounds like a good place for you to start. My advice is for you to find at least three rental shops and get three quotes - you'll soon find a company that matches your requirements and setup. When it comes to price and what is in the kit, remember it doesn't cost you anything to ask for better rates and service. One of the services not to undervalue is the hire-companies that includes collection and delivery to your location of choice.
Personally, if I hire a camera and is asked to pay extra for the card-reader, then it is likely that I am either taken for a ride or hiring the wrong camera - if you can't get the footage transferred, the whole exercise is null-&-void. Depending on what camera model you choose, it may be worth getting your own cards. High speed SDHC cards are not that expensive and most modern laptops have a built in reader.
In terms of your choice of camera. Because of previous personal bad experiences with a Sony product, I will only hire their cameras based on tried and tested models and on hire price. But my current favorite is Canon.
The Sony HXR-NX5E shows as being discontinued with one of the largest dealers in the UK. Looking at the specifications for compression, I am not sure that the picture quality will be as good as other similar cameras - the keyword is "discontinued". Which also implies that you may not be able to match the quality of what you record today, in say six months time.
Yes, the XF-300 is more expensive as it gives you a better picture (on paper anyway). However, the difference shouldn't be much more than £30/day, based on UK prices on similar cameras. For that extra money you get a camera that can shoot 50 Mbps in MPeg compression at 1920x1080, which will allow you to have slightly loose framing to the picture, which you can then later tighten up in post without loosing too much picture quality.
No matter what camera you settle for, make sure that Premiere elements will read the footage, or you will be in trouble...
Because the cameras are not that heavy, the tripod should be fine.
Lights sounds fine too - if in public make sure to carry extension power cables and loads of Gaffa - bring both regardless.
Audio mics for recording to camera fine too - make sure to Iso them on the camera, and do remember if you need more than two people speaking at the same time you'll need either a sound-mixer or an extra camera with inputs.
Home recording: if only a consumer microphone use that for guide track till client sign off. Then consider hiring a professional studio for the Voice Over (normally around £90-£125/hour). There are USB microphones on the market that will do a very good job - but I am not the right person to give advice on that.
Hope this helps?
Above all, remember that you have the excitement of a real client with real money.
All the Best
@madsvid, London, UK
Check out my other hangouts:
Thanks for the great advice. Glad your shoots went well. This rental place comes highly recommended - the difference between the Sony & Canon cameras are 10 EUR. Perhaps I should ask them why they are recommending the Sony since they'd make more renting the Canon. I will certainly double check with Adobe that Elements can work with the footage from the camera I choose - I've had good luck with Elements before, though that wasn't using footage direct from a camera.
I'm thinking of buying a card reader as they're fairly inexpensive (my mac doesn't have a built-in reader). I have some very good mics so will probably do the VO at home, just need an XLR/USB converter.
You wrote about Iso-ing the mics on the camera. Not clear on this, if I plug each one into a channel (2 audio channels on the Sony, I assume the Canon as well) is this not Iso-ed? Something else I need to do?
Thank you again.
At 10 Euro there are NO contest on a decision between saving money or having a much better picture. If anything, I would offer the hire company a bit more to help take you through the menu's on the camera (in particularly the audio in as well as monitoring), so it is setup before you arrive on location - or get it the evening before so you can have a little play with it.
Iso recording of audio could in your case be better described as "split mono". As in that each radio mic is recorded into a separate channel on the camera. If you are only using one radio mic, you could use a camera mic or gun mic for back-up audio on the 2nd channel on the camera. One good advice on using two radio mics is that my hire company supplies a Dual Hot Shoe mount, which allows the two receivers to sit on top of the camera. Either get one from supplier or by one to have.
All the Best
@madsvid, London, UK
Check out my other hangouts:
Thanks again Mads, I will absolutely get the camera the night before to familiarize myself.
Your help has been invaluable.
I posted some equipment I'm thinking of renting below in this thread and would love your feedback if you have time (replying here in case you are only following replies to your message and not the entire thread)