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Experienced DP just replaced by Flip Camera ($229)

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Ned MillerExperienced DP just replaced by Flip Camera ($229)
by on Feb 26, 2010 at 5:21:47 pm

Please excuse my rant, it's cathartic.

I was scheduled to shoot today some talking heads for one of the country's largest Fortune 100s, but was cancelled a couple of days ago with: "We're going to shoot them on our Flip camera (again)". This company has revenues of 8 billion PER QUARTER and is usually good for 10-20 days of shooting a year.

I read with interest the thread below about the ABC layoffs but we all know there's no long term career path in news, at least as aging cameramen, especially at local stations. However, we in the Chicago area have always had corporate (I hate the term "industrials", sounds greasy) as our revenue foundation when other segments like TV shows, sports, documentaries, etc. were slow. But now that foundation is shaky and I was wondering if the rest of you are experiencing what I am?

The trend I see, at least for B2B and internal communications, is to look like you are not "wasting" money on video. It is now cool to appear frugal, in the video sense. Just as conspicuous consumption is now gauche in the consumer world (bye, bye Hummer), during this recession I am seeing a movement towards a UGC (User Generated Content) video look in the corporate world. And that is bad for our business...All of us on this forum: Our living is based on making video look BETTER than what the amateur is able to do, so how do we combat the acceptance of the "amateur look"? I have also seen this visually dumbing down among my non-broadcast documentary clients, going DIY. My client base is deep and wide having done this for 33 years and I see this "frugal look" movement in many areas. It really took off with the 100A.

Getting the video on the company's intranet immediately trumps most everything else and production values mean less. Younger employees are now so comfortable with video and media files they can muddle their way through (thank you iMovie). With the Flip camera they get in closer so the audio doesn't suck as much and perhaps put the camera on a spindly still tripod. After awhile they figure out how to use the window as a key light.

Does anyone else see what I've been seeing? An actual preference for a DIY look even when they have the money? The fear of a crew coming in with magliners full of gear and then their department being accused of "wasting" money on "slick looking" video? Perhaps targeting B2C, where production values matter, that would be a better business model. Is it 5 o'clock somewhere yet?

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David Roth WeissRe: Experienced DP just replaced by Flip Camera ($229)
by on Feb 26, 2010 at 5:43:39 pm

[Ned Miller] "Does anyone else see what I've been seeing?"


I spoke with a Cow member just last Friday (who shall remain nameless), and he relayed a similar, but even more telling story. He is a DP who shoots high-end commercials for a living, primarily with his company owned RED One Camera.

It seems that a certain company was shooting a feature film and had hired another DP with his own fully tricked out RED CAMERA (about $40,000). And, that DP abruptly walked away in the middle of a six week shoot, without explanation and without even saying good bye.

Now, that production company was trying to replace him with another DP with his own RED Camera. They were offering $200 a day for a man with a RED Camera.

The moral of the story is, whether $200 Flip Cam or RED Camera, times are tough when people refuse to pay realistic money for professional expertise, experience, and equipment.

David Roth Weiss
David Weiss Productions, Inc.
Los Angeles


A forum host of Creative COW's Apple Final Cut Pro, Business & Marketing, Indie Film & Documentary, and Film History & Appreciations forums.

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Mark SuszkoRe: Experienced DP just replaced by Flip Camera ($229)
by on Feb 26, 2010 at 6:17:25 pm

Allow me to quote from the recent remake of Battlestar Galactica:

"All this has happened before: all this will happen again".

It happened when video started replacing film for corporate and industrial.

And when DV started digging into the margins for high-end analog production.

When desktop publishing unleashed a torrent of cheap and ugly word salad in Comic Sans upon an undeserving and unexpecting world of small publications.

And when webcams finally got sufficient bandwidth.

The typical answers I have heard before from COW writers fall into:

1 So what: don't chase the market to the bottom, maintain standards and quality and only devote your business to quality-valuing clients who understand and can afford you, or more exactly, know they can't afford crummy product even if it is made to look cheap on purpose.

2 Learn the customer and always adapt to their needs, educate them as to when this is a good idea or a bad one.

3 This is a fad, and they will come back to you if you hold out.

4 "Embrace the suck" (mil-slang). Meaning, if they want crap, give them the shiniest crap you can make. Use the enemies tools, plus your advanced knowledge to get more out of the inferior gear than the competition can, for the same price.

5 Time to retire, it was fun while it lasted, and what we do is no longer relevant in this Brave New World. Ideal candidate to become the bitter old mentor at a community college teaching part-time for pin money, cranking out more com arts students that can't read a scope or use a tripod.

I tend to cherry pick a bit from each of these trains of thought. But I'm too young and pretty to retire, and too old and indebted to enjoy a totally fresh start in the fast food industry. :-)

Kind of like our economy, the great middle is dissolving away, leaving an elite tier (3d?) and a slumdog tier (Flippers). Frankly, there is plenty of work for the very cheap side, but it is all going to be done by the clients themselves. Perhaps if/when the economy heats up again, this trend will partially reverse, but I think Boomer (the COW one, not the Battlestar one) was onto something when he suggested there will be no return to as it was, that this was a major correction and we're going to be living in a different world, going forward.

Technology has democratized the process and made it a commodity item. What is still harder to commoditize is talent and skill and creativity, so I think multitaskers will do better than unitaskers in the future.

I don't look at the the flip as "replacing" you, so much as the clients re-evaluated what the mesage was, who it was for, and what that was worth, including perceptual issues as mentioned; "looking frugal" is a job all it's own, even if it costs more to "look" frugal than to BE frugal. Still, nobody wants to get "flipped off", (tm and copyrighted meme, MPS, 2010, used for magazine article titles by permission only).

So, maybe the work really *didn't* deserve the level of quality you bring to it. However, I would opine that there's still a world of difference between disposable and ephemeral internal video comunications, versus stuff targeted to the world and the customers to generate sales. I know Sony spent thousands to try to make a home-made-looking viral for the PS-2, and failed at it. That wasn't because of anything technical, it was because the creative and the strategy and marketing thinking *behind* the execution was flawed.

There is money to be made, not having that happen again.

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Alan OkeyRe: Experienced DP just replaced by Flip Camera ($229)
by on Feb 26, 2010 at 8:29:59 pm

The funny thing is, despite the "good enough" philosophy trumping traditional production values on the videography/cinematography side of the equation, it seems that there aren't enough motion graphics artists to go around.

Absolutely everyone wants motion graphics now. People are nuts about After Effects-generated content to a fault. 90% of all of the job ads I see are looking for motion graphics people. There's a sickening amount of superfluous mograph out there, whether it's TV news graphics, which have become comical in their ever-increasing density and ubiquity, to mograph-only local spots that dispense entirely with actual video to save a buck and "generate impact!" I respect and appreciate well-done motion graphics, but there's an awful lot of visual vomit out there that's simply awful. It's a never-ending assault on the eyes screaming "Look at me! I'm cool!"

Are they paying mograph artists what they're worth, or is all of the work going to the unending stampede of young, hip AE-friendly kidz freshly churned out of college multimedia programs and trade schools who are willing to work for next to nothing?

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Andrew KimeryRe: Experienced DP just replaced by Flip Camera ($229)
by on Feb 26, 2010 at 8:39:20 pm

Like Mark said, this type of thing has happened before, it will happen again and the professional world won't come to an end because of it.

Personally, I blame Guttenberg for starting this who democratization of media trend. ;)


3.2GHz 8-core, FCP 6.0.4, 10.5.5
Blackmagic Multibridge Eclipse (6.8.1)

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Timothy J. AllenRe: Experienced DP just replaced by Flip Camera ($229)
by on Feb 27, 2010 at 1:14:02 am

Very good points, guys.

As Mark said, "there is plenty of work for the very cheap side, but it is all going to be done by the clients themselves."

So, one of the "targets of opportunity" is to mentor the clients how to do the low-end quick stuff and make it look better than their competition. We have to keep in mind that our real job isn't creating video, it's solving problems for the clients. Often it's being proactive and solving problems the clients don't even know they have.

When we are asked to make something "look like YouTube", it's usually because the client wants the viewer to feel that the communication is hip, spontaneous and (most importantly) authentic. We try to uncover the motivation behind such decisions and then figure out how we can best achieve the goals.

Showing the client how to not only make expensive shoots look cheap, but how to make cheap, quick shoots look as good as they can look is something you can offer that provides value to the client.

For instance, we gave a client some basic tips for lighting and showed them what difference it makes when you put some space between the actor and the background. They appreciate it because even though they are using a Flip cam, our tips helped keep the quality of the video from impeding the message. We are remembering to focus on the relationship between us and the client and how we can add value - even if it means giving away what some might call "trade secrets". (Really just basics of how to get quality picture and sound.)

Because when it comes down to it, they aren't buying us for equipment anymore, they are buying us for the experience we bring and our ability to make them look good - no matter who is pushing the little red button or how much that button costs.

On a side note, it's amazing how so many of the principles I learned regarding how to light a scene back when we used tube cameras has come back around with the rise of super cheap equipment. The other day I showed a client how to use foam core bounce for fill light and I thought they were going to hug me. We take this stuff for granted, but to an office worker that has suddenly been tasked with creating YouTube videos as part of their job, this is still valuable knowledge.

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Chris BlairRe: Experienced DP just replaced by Flip Camera ($229)
by on Feb 27, 2010 at 4:20:08 pm

I have to agree with Tim. I tell our employees all the time that our job is to solve clients' problems, whether it's for a high-end video or a slice and dice low-end one.

When these clients do have budget and need for a higher-end project, they remember we understand that they just want their problems solved.

Chris Blair
Magnetic Image, Inc.
Evansville, IN

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Steve WargoRe: Experienced DP just replaced by Flip Camera ($229)
by on Feb 28, 2010 at 7:39:23 pm

We've shot an annual 3 day conference for a client for 13 years. As a bonus, we shot testimonials at the end of the day, all on a Sony DSR-500ws. A few years ago, they told me that they were going to shoot their own testimonials with a Flip. Keep in mind that we did this at no additional charge. The video they get is rough, to say the least. They are completely clueless as to the backgrounds and they normally have their subject stand under a bright ceiling light (blown out forehead and dark eyes), and they absolutely love it because they can upload it their website in minutes. But then, they come to us later and want us to edit the Flip footage and they wonder why it doesn't just drop into a timeline.

Steve Wargo
Tempe, Arizona
It's a dry heat!

Sony HDCAM F-900 & HDW-2000/1 deck
5 Final Cut (not quite PRO) systems
Sony HVR-M25 HDV deck
2-Sony EX-1 HD .

Ask me how to Market Yourself using Send Out Cards

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Rob GrauertRe: Experienced DP just replaced by Flip Camera ($229)
by on Mar 4, 2010 at 4:55:22 pm

that's crazy. i couldn't imagine just walking out of a job like that.

Robert J. Grauert, Jr.

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John CummingsRe: Experienced DP just replaced by Flip Camera ($229)
by on Feb 27, 2010 at 1:37:13 am

I didn't want to tell you this, Ned, but I got the call to operate on the flip gig.

I'm looking for a decent ac and dit for the shoot...

J Cummings

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Ned MillerRe: Experienced DP just replaced by Flip Camera ($229)
by on Feb 27, 2010 at 3:26:56 am

I hear Zacuto has made focus rings for the Flip. The rods and matte box are bigger than the camera.

Ned Miller
Chicago Videographer

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Mark SuszkoRe: Experienced DP just replaced by Flip Camera ($229)
by on Feb 27, 2010 at 3:34:19 am

I made that same joke weeks ago, but actually, they already DO sell accessories like that for iphone video shooting, in two price ranges, but it should fit the Flip fine. Zacuto knows who made the most money in the '49 gold rush: the guys selling supplies to the prospectors:-)

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Ned MillerRe: Experienced DP just replaced by Flip Camera ($229)
by on Mar 5, 2010 at 4:21:47 pm

Ugh! Here's a test of 4 one button camera models:

The reason they are a threat to pros is that all the people who hire us that are afraid of camera controls now only need to press ONE BUTTON! If they figure out how to light and attach a lav mic, why call us?

Ned Miller
Chicago Videographer

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Ron LindeboomRe: Experienced DP just replaced by Flip Camera ($229)
by on Mar 5, 2010 at 4:28:43 pm

[Ned Miller] "The reason they are a threat to pros is that all the people who hire us that are afraid of camera controls now only need to press ONE BUTTON! If they figure out how to light and attach a lav mic, why call us?"

Wow, I realize that I am not Monet or Michaelangelo, and that my work is 'art for the moment' and is not art for the ages, but just as Microsoft Word did not invent a single new author, I am not convinced that a box with a single button will get the job done either.

A threat to pros? I don't think so. Well, unless the pros are not very pro. (And yes, Bob Zelin, you can use that one. I stole plenty of yours over the years.)

Best regards,

Ron Lindeboom

Creativity is a type of learning process where the teacher and pupil are located in the same individual.

Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.
- Antoine de Saint Exupéry

First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.
- Gandhi

Better is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure than to rank with the poor spirits who neither enjoy much, nor suffer much because they live in a gray twilight that knows no victory or defeat. - Theodore Roosevelt

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Randy WheelerRe: Experienced DP just replaced by Flip Camera ($229)
by on Mar 6, 2010 at 10:22:16 pm

I actually just gained a client because of the pocket HD camcorder they tried to use to shoot a demo video of their product that was going to be shown at a convention this week.

This business had many thousands of dollars invested in this product and it really cheapened the appearance of it by using a pocket HD camcorder, especially being all handheld and with the built-in mic for audio. All the video was shaky, jittery, jello-effects, poorly lit and the audio had inconsistent volume levels making hard to hear what some people were saying.

Since they had no time to have me re-shoot everything properly, I showed them how to use what they had for the convention because they didn't even have a clue on how use what they had.

First they needed me combine all 22 H.264 video clips they had shot into one video and then train them how to play that video in a loop on a large LCD monitor from a laptop that was going to be setup in their booth at a convention the next day.

By the way, the owner of the business called me at 5pm and urgently needed me to work on it that night so that he could have it the next morning to leave for the convention. This is after he had two other experienced video production people try and help him with no luck. I just happened to have experience with and own several pocket HD camcorders so I knew what to do in this situation.

Second, I showed the owner an HD demo video of how much better their video could look if he hired me. He was in shock, asking why did my video so clean and stable looking and not have the jittering, grainy or jello/shakiness that his pocket HD video had. After viewing my demo, he said that I was hired to shoot all their upcoming videos.

I guess the lesson here is you need to learn and embrace new technologies, in this case pocket HD camcorders, that your clients or potential clients are using so that when you are called upon by them like I was to help solve a problem that you can confidently respond and possibly gain a new client.


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