Has anyone gone to China recently with video gear (camera, tripod) ? If so, did you encounter any problems like high duty fees or gear being confiscated? I haven't been there for several years and I've heard it's getting more difficult. Any info would be appreciated. Thanks.
We did a shoot in China, Spain, France and Milwaukee. We used crews in the other countries and shot with our own crew here in WI.
We had the best results with the China crew. Right now there are a ton of people over there for the olympics. We sent some sample shots, told them exactly what we wanted and it was some of the best footage we got back.
If you don't have to go, and you are just shooting a small number of shots, you can find a great crew to get them for you.
We had them shoot DVCPro HD to match the rest of our footage.
I traveled to China Last year and we hired a documentary crew for like $1000 USD a week. It ended up being an "experienced High end documentary videographer" and a DVX-100 PAL. Exaggeration is very common in my limited experience. I took a Sony HVR-Z1U and shot a great deal of HDV footage myself and had no trouble, ever. We had a great time and video many of the sites including the Great Wall and Forbidden City and Shaolin in Deng Fung. The video I shot saved the project as the Chinese production company claimed their gear and our footage was stolen. They asked us to pay for their gear even though we had been long back in the USA, they were supposed to edit the footage down. We never got anything more than a very low quality web version.
This is based on my experience and may not reflect the Chinese way.
I would say beware the crew you hire in China. I think you are wise to hire local crew but unless you speak fluent Chinese you will also need to hire a proficient translator. You usually get the low ball price then you get upgrade price if you pay up-front. I recommend paying in phases as they are completed. Be prepared to have the deal change as you go along. Chinese business is sometimes a bit different than the way we think of business. Get as much as you think you can get, if it looks like you can get more do try to work the situation to get more. I would say if you can get a good referral from someone for a production company that has treated an American producer fairly that is the best thing.
Rates in China a few years ago were amazing and labor and food was incredibly inexpensive. This may be changing with the Dollar and with the Olympics coming.
Much of the gear they have is PAL, so be prepared to deal with that.
I think a lot depends what kind of gear you're taking. We shot for 2 weeks recently in a variety of cities with a PMW-EX1 and had no issues anywhere other than Tianenmen Square, which is where I would have expected it. Then it was just a cop asking who we worked for and we explained we were tourists.
If you're taking a large camera and shooting anything other than b-roll then the only way to go is to get it cleared through the embassy.
In Xian, one guard in pit-1 took exception with the size of our camera, but he was the only one out of several on the site.
Producer/DP, HD series, "Discoveries...America", "Discoveries...Ireland", "Discoveries...Spain",