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Just Setting Up

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Jody WrightJust Setting Up
by on Dec 19, 2008 at 4:50:06 pm

I'm just setting up and would like your opinion on the best video camera (Under $2,000.) that offers flexibility. Something I can begin with but not be disappointed with as I have more experience. A piece of equipment that will be with me a long time and where we won't disappoint one another, ha.

I was thinking of the Canon XL-2 Mini DV Professional Camcorder. Pros and cons? Anything you think better for the price?

Also, I'll be purchasing Adobe Creative Suite 4 Production Premium and a new computer with speed to function well.

If you were setting up for the first time . . . what computer would you go with (Apple or Windows based)? Please tell me specifics.

Let me learn from your mistakes and also your wonderful experiences.

Thanks,
Jody


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walter biscardiRe: Just Setting Up
by on Dec 19, 2008 at 5:25:21 pm

[Jody Wright] "I'm just setting up and would like your opinion on the best video camera (Under $2,000.) that offers flexibility. Something I can begin with but not be disappointed with as I have more experience. A piece of equipment that will be with me a long time and where we won't disappoint one another, ha.

I was thinking of the Canon XL-2 Mini DV Professional Camcorder. Pros and cons? Anything you think better for the price?
"


Honestly all of that contradicts itself. You want something that will be with you for a long time and the camera you're looking at is standard definition. At the very least you want to get into HDV so you're able to produce both SD and HD. Our standard definition work is down to about 10% of our total workload each year. Even if we don't Post in HD, we shoot in HD so the project and footage is good for use in the future. If possible, you want to get a decent prosumer HDV camera like the Sony V1 or Z1.


[Jody Wright] "If you were setting up for the first time . . . what computer would you go with (Apple or Windows based)? Please tell me specifics. "

When I set up in 2001 I went with Mac and Final Cut Pro. Haven't looked back since and our business has grown by 200 to 500% each year since that time. For specifics, click on my Profile and you can see how all three edit suites are set up. Bare minimum for a Pro in my book is the fastest Mac you can afford, an AJA Kona board, a fast enough media array to do ProRes HD.


Walter Biscardi, Jr.
Biscardi Creative Media
HD and SD Production for Broadcast and Independent Productions.

Read my Blog!

STOP STARING AND START GRADING WITH APPLE COLOR Apple Color Training DVD available now!


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Timothy J. AllenRe: Just Setting Up
by on Dec 19, 2008 at 7:36:10 pm

Jody,
What type of work do you plan to focus on?

I agree with Mr. Biscardi that its worth the extra expense to invest in at least a decent HDV cam rather than standard def - if nothing else from a marketing standpoint. You'll want equipment that you can pay off (and learn inside and out) long before it becomes obsolete.

One more note... there's no shame in starting out with used gear, especially cameras and lights.

Speaking of lights, don't forget those AND decent audio gear. Quality audio may not be noticed, but poor audio is the first indication of a hobbyist.

-Tim



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Jody WrightRe: Just Setting Up
by on Dec 19, 2008 at 7:50:29 pm

Good suggestions Tim. THANKS!

Right now I'm planning on doing some music videos, art gallery videos, and short promos for the Chamber of Commerce and local tourism. Mostly 5-10 minutes. I'd like to stay open to growing into other areas though.

What audio gear do you suggest for a modest start?

Computer wise, many like MACs but I can get just as much RAM & large hard drive in non-MAC's for a lot less price. I want to make a smart choice but do have a budget. If MACs are far better, for some reason, I'm open. I'll spend the money but need to do it wisely.

I'm trying not to be overwhelmed, lol. Thanks for your help.






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Timothy J. AllenRe: Just Setting Up
by on Dec 19, 2008 at 8:07:01 pm

If you are mainly doing 1-on-1 interviews, you'll need a decent lavaliere microphone. A good shotgun mic is ALWAYS a good thing for run and gun shoots. Also make sure that whatever camera you get accepts XLR connections instead of going with the RCA connectors.
After a certain quality level, audio gear choice can be quite personal, but I'd suggest you run a search in the audio professionals forum here at Creative Cow and see what's hot these days.

Having been on both Macs and PCs, I really feel that while there are advantages to both, what's "best" simply comes down to what's most comfortable to you.

I used to be faster on a Mac, but these days, I'm faster on a PC. It's not because of the processor speed, it's because of my familiarity of the software and hardware. My most significant speed limitation is whether I know keyboard shortcuts and workarounds and how to troubleshoot issues. ;-)

If you are a one man band, that becomes even more important. I'd also factor in how much access you have to a repair shop that can step in and help quickly in the event that you get stuck with a computer issue beyond your reach.





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cow
Neil WeaverRe: Just Setting Up
by on Dec 19, 2008 at 7:55:09 pm

I quickly found out when I first set up that a camera and editing system are only the beginning. You'll need a decent mic set-up - preferably shotgun and radio, lights, although we can hire a 3x redhead set up here in the UK for well under the equivalent of 100 bucks a day, and not forgetting a GOOD tripod - either Vinten or Manfrotto.

As for the camera, my Canon XH-A1 shoots in both SD and HDV, has a better lens than the Z1 and feels more robust too. It took a couple of knocks on the last shoot and is still working!

Editing wise, go with Apple. Can't understand why anyone in their right mind would trust professional production work to a PC!

As the last guy said, there's plenty of good kit on the 2nd hand market, so get yourself on ebay and see what you can find.

Happy hunting and good luck!



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Mark SuszkoRe: Just Setting Up
by on Dec 19, 2008 at 9:22:04 pm

My standard advice is, you can always rent better than you can afford to buy. Buy first the things that are "evergreens", that you use every time, that would quickly add up to moer than their cost if rented every time. People that buy "everything" right off the bat often find the stuff sits on a shelf or in a closet 6 days out of 7, yet they pay for that gear every day, even if it is not being productive, bringing in money. I have not owned anything but a family camcorder for decades now, because I can rent exactly what I need just when I need it, and don't have to worry about it the rest of the time. Don't have to worry about maintenance or depreciation or debt. The right way to be a business about this is to find the work, get some or all the money, then spend money just for the things you need to complete the work properly. Never own a steadicam or dolly or jib unless it actually gets used absolutely every time you go out.

Now, there is something to be said for owning a basic camera that you can take your time playing with and mastering all the controls and functions. But this could be a used camera, a cheaper camera, and it wouldn't hurt you that much just starting out. Ebay is full of barely-used almost-new cams bought by "auteurs" who thought owning equals being. Their loss is your gain.

A solid, used tripod with a quality fluid head is smart to buy. A wired lav mic first is a must, rent wireless ones just when you need them until you can save up to afford to own one.

A shotgun is useful but even before the shotgun, I'd buy a wired, handheld dynamic cardioid mic for basic news type interviewing and grabbing general sound. Electrovoice mics are sometimes known as "hammers" because they are so rugged and foolproof. You should be able to pick up a satisfactory used one cheap. Get a table stand and a floor stand for it.

Light kits are definitely a good investment, and retain great resale as well. You can build up your kit a piece at a time, but start out with at least a softbox for the key and a second light like perhaps a Lowel omnipro for fill, with gel holders, diffusion sheets and other accessories, plus an extra stand to hold a cheap foam core bounce card. You can make something that looks like a million dollars with just those things, if you know what you are doing. And if you don't yet KNOW what you're doing, why spend more?

Beginners often want to use adapted home depot work lights and I say, well, you can do that, but I'd suggest you get away from those as fast as you can afford to. Pro lighting instruments give you reliability, repeatability, control and speed of deployment. You save money with home depot junk lights, but you trade in valuable time to position and flag them and make them do what takes a single knob twist for a pro light. A pro light can be expensive new. But divide that cost into an over 20-year lifespan (I have some lights that old and older) and it's practically free.

What kinds of lights you need to own first depends on what you shoot most. For lots of fixed-position interviewing, a big softbox like a Lowel Rifa or chimera is great and easy to use. I like the Rifa: it gives a Vermeer-like light-wrapping quality that flatters people's faces. Get as big a one as you can afford. I also have tips elsewhere on this site for making your own softbox attachment that works great, may tide you over until you can afford the Real Deal. The flourescent caselight by Lowel or similar array of tubes can do the same thing without heat and draw very ltitle power compared to hot halogen type lights. Whatever you choose, build up your kit over time by making sure you bill enough to buy a new piece on each job.

Get quality headphones for monitoring your field audio, and some kind of decent monitor to see if you really have what you think you have. If you will have moer than one person taking, a simple mixer will come in handy. Beachtek is one source but there are others.

Don't buy the cheapest tape, Don't buy the msot expensive tape, buy the medium-quality tape, if this is a tape-based camera. Buy and stick to one brand only wherever possible.

Some good cheap or free schooling for you can be obtained by joining your local cable access/ public access channel studio. You get access to free gear and facilities, training, extra crew, local production contacts,and you can use these to make some of your gallery type work for free while you learn and save up cash. It's like an apprenticeship at a master's studio. And you get to make programs almost right away, programs seen by people in your local area.


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Nick GriffinRe: Just Setting Up
by on Dec 19, 2008 at 10:46:23 pm

[Mark Suszko] "Don't buy the most expensive tape, buy the medium-quality tape"

OK It's finally happened. On this I disagree with Mark. The tape is the least expensive thing on the shoot, so why skimp? When shooting with our XL-2 I've never used anything other than Panasonic, Master-Grade AY-DVM63MQ tapes. I've never had a lick of trouble with them.

I think the idea of starting with used equipment is universally a good one. I also think that for just starting out, and the kind of stuff that Jody wants to do, an SD camera is fine. And a used SD cam is FAR more affordable than even the least expensive of the HDV cameras.

My next camera will be HD -- after renting for the past 5 HD projects we're ready to own. It's also becoming increasingly clear that there are fewer and fewer places willing to repair our trusty Sony Beta SP camera. That and the only clients who still want SD projects are those who use rear-screen projection as part of a show which integrates live cams. Here the cost of HD cams, HD switching, playback and projection is still too costly. That's likely to change and gradually come down, but it may take a few years.

BUT... for someone just starting out and in a smaller town too, it's a lot more marketable to have lights, a decent mic (or two), tripod, etc. than to have an HDV or HD camera and not be able to afford little else.

Also, for what it's worth, I've been using Macs since late 1984 (yes -- the year they came out) and only went into video with macs in the mid nineties when it became possible to get something approaching on-line quality. I have, but seldom use, Final Cut Pro because I find myself much faster with Media 100. That said, for someone just starting out, there's not a great deal of difference between most NLE software systems. Once you learn one they're all pretty much the same in principal. (IMHO.)



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Nick GriffinRe: Just Setting Up
by on Dec 19, 2008 at 11:02:53 pm

And one more thing... You may not need the latest and greatest computer to start out. You can get used Macs (and PCs, too) for far less than a new one. Google "used Macs" and "used computers" and you'll have lots to choose from.


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Scott CumboRe: Just Setting Up
by on Dec 20, 2008 at 2:30:29 am

The choice of computer should really be decided by which Editor you want to use. Since you seem to be more of a "do everything yourself type shop", I would stay away from Avid. I say that as someone who makes his living on Avid and Loves Avid. Great editor, but not a great 1 stop package.

Premiere from Adobe (PC) and Final cut (mac) offer much cheaper packaged software that cover all your needs (editing, audio, advanced effects & compositing, DVD authoring) They both pretty much offer the same stuff, Though I think Adobe is a little stronger just because of photoshop. I would go with which ever platform you feel more comfortable because you gonna be spending a lot of time in front of that computer.

good luck

Scott Cumbo
Editor
Broadway Video, NYC


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Christopher WrightRe: Just Setting Up
by on Dec 20, 2008 at 2:32:03 am

"Editing wise, go with Apple. Can't understand why anyone in their right mind would trust professional production work to a PC!"

Boy is this a loaded statement. Discreet Logic's edit* was on a PC. The most expensive Avid is on a PC, Adobe's CS4 on a PC runs circles around the MAC version. As a matter of fact, unless Apple gets its act together with a substantially more powerful desktop system and a complete rewrite of FCP, I'm going back to a PC!

Dual 2.5 G5, IO, Kona LH, IO, Medea Raid, UL4D, NVidia 6800, 4Gig RAM
Octocore 8 GB Ram, Radeon card, MBP, MXO
Windows Vista Adobe Studio CS4, Vegas 8.0, Lightwave 9.3, Sound Forge 9, Acid Pro 7, Continuum 5, Boris Red 4, Combustion 2008, Sapphire Effects


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Todd TerryRe: Just Setting Up
by on Dec 20, 2008 at 6:06:43 am

[Christopher Wright] "Boy is this a loaded statement."

Man, you got that right. That's one of those one-sided comments that starts the inevitable, useless, and never-ending "Mac v. PC" flame wars. A similar situation crops up now and then on one of my non-Cow cinematography forums with the "Digital v. Film" debate.

Bottom line, they are just tools.

For us, it's PC. With the exception of a couple of Macs that our art director prefers, we've been a PC house since the beginning 12 years ago... with three edit suites all running PCs, and I like to think we churn out that so-called "professional work."

Just tools. Use the tool best for you.


T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com






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Mike CohenRe: Just Setting Up
by on Dec 21, 2008 at 3:22:34 am

Todd - Amen!


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cow
Brendan CootsRe: Just Setting Up
by on Dec 21, 2008 at 6:53:17 am

Not that I would ever purposely contribute to the endless Mac vs. PC war, but here's my position on the benefits of Macs:

- Final Cut Pro. Say what you will, but FCP seems to have wider acceptance in the mid-to-professional community than any PC editing software aside from Avid, which is almost certainly out of the smaller shop's price range. There is a reason so many have moved to FCP, and it's not just slick marketing. Throw in (the previously $10,000) Color software and you've got a system that would cost $20k to match on a PC, computer not included. This is a compelling value proposition.

- Macs can run both Windows and OSX, all but ending the need to choose. Operating system isn't really part of the equation any more.

- Mac hardware is, for the most part, of a higher quality than most preconfigured PCs out there. Dells are chock full of components supplied by the absolute lowest bidder, and while Macs aren't perfect they do seem to last longer and offer up fewer complaints day to day. This also results in a MUCH higher resale value than any PC can hope for.



Brendan Coots

Splitvision Digital

http://www.splitvisiondigital.com


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walter biscardiRe: Just Setting Up
by on Dec 20, 2008 at 11:37:22 am

[Christopher Wright] "Boy is this a loaded statement."

Absolutely, positively agree. I love the Mac, but PC is cheaper and there are a ton of great tools on there as well.

Like most of us say, everything out there is just a tool, choose the one you really need to work with and that makes you the most compatible with your local media community.



Walter Biscardi, Jr.
Biscardi Creative Media
HD and SD Production for Broadcast and Independent Productions.

Read my Blog!

STOP STARING AND START GRADING WITH APPLE COLOR Apple Color Training DVD available now!


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cowcowcowcowcow
Bob ZelinRe: Just Setting Up
by on Dec 21, 2008 at 6:15:47 pm

Jody -
my response is very different from everyone else on this list. There is no "best" camera for under $2000. From your description, you have never done this before, and are completely new - yet you are trying to start your own video production company.

This is my advice to you. GET A JOB. Go to work for a local TV station, or production company - even if it's for free as an intern. Learn how to use some of this equipment. Learn what lighting means, learn what editing means. I don't give a crap if you just got out of XYZ Film school - all this means nothing, your student film is not a replacment for real life experience. You dont want to learn and embarass yourself in front of potential new clients that may (or may not) give you a chance. Get a job, learn some of these skills. See what a real video camera does. See what a real editing system does. See what it takes to actually run a small business.

THEN, you can think about buying some equipment. It will make a lot more sense, when you have some potential clients. You may find that if you can't afford real equipment, but have the drive and ambition to get these clients right now, you will find plenty of people that are struggling that will let you hire them (and their equipment) to do your production and editing jobs. When you accomplish this (without equipment) - this means that you are a PRODUCER. You may find this more profitable in the long run anyway.

Bob Zelin




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Neil WeaverRe: Just Setting Up
by on Dec 21, 2008 at 11:34:44 pm

Not my intention to start a flame war. It's just having worked on PCs for many years before making the switch to Mac, there is a world of difference. Ok, maybe not in terms of what the software can achieve, but the reliability is just in a different league. Working for my last employer, we were putting up with PCs falling over all the time - and this was a major broadcaster, not some backroom operation. You just don't get it those sort of annoyances happening with Macs.

Anyway, s'just an opinion...






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Paul CoreyRe: Just Setting Up
by on Dec 25, 2008 at 4:05:20 am

Hi every one,
I will tell you how I got set up. I started working for a wedding photographer shooting the videos. Some of buttons on the cameras didn't work to well (AG-455 and AG-456). So I got my own and he gave me more money because I used my own equipment. I got one camera after my first year and the second one the next year. There was other stuff I needed that he had. So I got everything a little at a time (mic's, Lights and Tripod).

With editing I wasted money on that. I had a Fast Video Machine with 3 AG-1980 decks and did not make any money editing. Then around 2000 or 2001 I sold it all but one deck. Got a VX-2000 and a new PC with Adobe premiere 6.5 and the photographer had me edit all the weddings that year. So I did not shoot that year. I have full time job to.

If I had to do it over with the editing I would go with a Mac. With a Mac you can install Adobe premiere Pro, Final Cut Pro and Avid. On a PC you can't use Final Cut Pro and I see a lot of job posts that say Final Cut Pro Editor need. Not premiere Pro, Vegas, and Pinnacle. Just Avid and Final Cut Pro. So if you need to sub-contract as an editor I would learn Final Cut Pro. Doing your own jobs use what you like.

For my own video jobs I edit with premiere Pro CS3 on a PC. This fall a company I shoot weddings for ask me if I would like to edit some of the wedding I shot and they use Final Cut Pro and they want me edit using Final Cut Pro. If had a Mac all I would need is the software. No one is asking to have there wedding in HD yet.

I make money with Event Videos. I did one Real Estate video.

Paul



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