Building a new department
I have a couple of questions regarding my new job position.
I have left the world of news after 10 years and moved into the corporate field. The position that I'm in requires that I basically build the videography department from scratch with a robust budget. The company has a few items like lights, stands and tripods, but choosing what editing machine I use and what camera is up to me! This is a dream come true and I want to make sure that I get the right tools for the job so I thought I'd toss out what I've been researching so far and see if the community could tell me if I'm on the right track or not. To help out with the advice, I'll be shooting mostly indoors, outside occasionally but only in daylight. Also unlike news, I won't be 'running and gunning'.
Having said that, I'm looking for a rig that is versatile and user friendly. The cameras I had been using were Panasonic P2's. I'm super comfortable with them but great as they are for ENG I'm not sure it's what I need for this job.
The other rig I've been doing research on is the Canon EOS C-100 and C-300. I've heard/read lots of great stuff about them. Just wondering if anyone else has found the small LCD screen to be problematic?
The reviews from EOS also seem to be folks that are using them to shoot rock concerts and indie films so it's hard to get a good read on if a rig like that would be useful for what I'll be doing.
This SonyHVR-Z5U also got rated really well.
Are there any other brands that you'd recommend?
For editing, I'll be using CS6 and I'm looking at a MacPro with these specs:
Two 2.40GHz 6-Core Intel Xeon processors (12 cores)
2 Hard Drives both are 1TB Serial ATA's
Graphics is ATI Radeon HD
I also need to figure out what kind of back up system to use. It looks like RAID 5 is more reliable that RAID 0 or 1.
This is a lot of info, so let me know what you think.
The MacPro you describe is End of Life. The Z5 shots DV/HDV, formats that have been surpassed. I really wouldn't consider them.
While I think you've hinted at some of your shooting requirements you may need to think both with greater specificity. The type of company would have a significant influence.
For example, corporate video for a real estate investment firm vs a major book publisher vs a consumer product vs a service based company might have very different environments.
A book publisher might involve a lot of talking head interviews in nice offices and b-roll on the subject matter.
A consumer product company might mean going out into the field, shooting product delivery, inside stores while their open, inside factories or warehouses under conditions not very video friendly. It may mean shooting product shots.
If you'll be doing VNRs it may well be similar to news run & gun although often under more controlled circumstances.
ENG (smaller sensor) vs large sensor cameras serve different (although overlapping) purposes. Imagine shooting for a company that makes sporting goods in which you may need "product in use" and slow-motion video. You may want an ENG style camera that can shoot at least 60p for that.
The computer(s) you need may depend editing circumstances and graphics. Generally a current Quad core i7 with current 2GB VRAM GPU (nVidia would likely benefit you if you're using Adobe software) would cover most needs. But if you're going to be editing while staying in hotels over night you might consider a MBP Retina which could can also server as your main edit machine at home based when hooked up to larger monitors. On the other hand if you'll be heavy into motion graphics you might consider the up coming MacPro Tube or, on the Windows side an HP Z series workstation.
Craig makes some great points...
It would probably be helpful for you to describe the type of work a little more... the type of things you will be shooting and projects you will be asked to produce. An in-house web video, for example, could have very different requirements than, say, a broadcast television commercial or a national trade show marketing video.
And, while I realize you might not be able to share this exactly, at least a hint of what a "robust" budget is would probably go a long way in determining what some of your best choices are.
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
[Craig Seeman] "The MacPro you describe is End of Life."
[Craig Seeman] "you might consider the up coming MacPro Tube"
My thoughts exactly. As a devout Mac user I'd want to wait for the release of the tube. From its description it sounds like it's going to be incredibly powerful. Then again, waiting may not be practical as its fall release could be delayed for any number of unforeseen reasons. It should also be noted that its radical re-design may mean that it will be a while until add-ons like I/O cards and RAID interfaces catch-up.
So, if it were me I'd try to find a used MacPro tower -- of which there are many -- match it with a Level 5 RAID, get a 30" monitor and at least a 24" second monitor and set aside some money to make the jump to the MacPro Tube and peripherals six months from now.
This also brings up the need for an on-going budget. Ask for and plan for one now. Don't get stuck in a situation wherein you requests for anything new are turned down for the next few years because a "manager" determines that you had your chance to buy everything in the beginning. This is a business of change and, if the last few years have shown us anything, it's that the pace of change is increasing.
As to the camera, the answers to Craig's questions are a great start. In the interest of simplicity though, (and IMHO) you'll probably be happier in the long run with a conventional video camera than you would be with a DSLR with its limited audio capabilities.
This is great info guys, thanks!
Craig and Terry, to answer your questions, I'm working in the marketing department for a hospital in my hometown.
I'll be shooting a lot of doctor interviews and patient testimonials against a green screen. I'll also be shooting stuff around the hospital and off-site at homes and outdoors at different events.
Terry, as far as "robust budget" goes, I was told that they would get "whatever I needed to do my job". That's not very helpful, but they are willing to spend some money on me.
Nick, regarding the camera, I'm pretty familiar with the Panasonic P2 format and was also considering that. Possibly an AGHPX-170. It got pretty good reviews here http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/751649-REG/Panasonic_AGHPX170PJ_AG_HP...
Also seems like several other videographers in my similar position are using it.
Craig and Terry, if that MacPro I'm looking at in an 'end of lifer' would I be better suited to go with an iMac? I don't think (as Nick said) that I'll be able to wait until the new MacPro solid state comes out.
Thanks so much!
In the same camera family you might want to look at
Panasonic AC160. Being able to use SDHC/SDXC cards will probably be a bit less expensive, even thought the camera itself costs a bit more. It's a newer model.
If you don't need the variable frame rates this is similar at a lower price (about the same as the 170).
I think you'll find this class of camera good if you're following people around (example might be emergency room preparedness in response to an accident). Also if you're shooting medical procedures I'd think you wouldn't want to be in a situation where you're chasing focus.
Large sensor cameras can be good for interviews where you need to throw background into soft focus to avoid visual competition but that doesn't seem critical for the type of shooting you describe.
I think a BTO 27" iMac (Quad i7 with the nVidia GTX680 GPU) would probably be enough for what you're doing.
Another thing to consider is that, in my experience, they may want to you to use clean video from the monitoring equipment rather than pointing a camera at it. You might want a scan convertor and an SDI to Thunderbolt input device to capture on the computer.
[Alan Balch] "a lot of doctor interviews and patient testimonials against a green screen"
Okay, I'll bite. Why green screen? Is your concept that all of the interviews will be able to look alike? If it were me I'd look for multiple places around the hospital where you can get an interesting background, thereby making a variety of looks. Green screen can also be problematic with a 4-2-0 camera, which I believe the HPX170 is. (Not positive, though.)
Also, if your background is news you'll also find that you're now in a position to do a LOT more with softlights, reflectors, hairlights, etc. than you may be used to. Budget accordingly for this stuff.
[Alan Balch] "would I be better suited to go with an iMac"
Purely personal opinion, but no. The MacPro tower has room for up to 4 internal drives, a second removable bay which can have a BluRay writer, MUCH easier access to RAM and lots of slots for cards. However,, as discussed in my previous post, at this point in time I would NOT spring for the cost of a brand new MacPro since it will plummet in value once the new ones start shipping. Buy reconditioned with a warranty from Apple or from any number of other sources, but don't be one of the last to pay full price for 5 year old technology. (IMHO.)
Craig is on FIRE with great advice in this thread, I concur with just about everything there. Especially about the specialized conversion and scan-modifying gear for interfacing with medical imaging systems. I'd buy those items first, before the cameras, even, since they tend to be expensive.
Because it sounds like you have the ability to rent a few cameras before you settle on the one that works best for you, I won't suggest one now, and why lock yourself into a camera you'll hate, early in the game?
If you're shooting any operations, I think a monopod with a good pan/tilt head is a great option for shooting awkward angles, having mobility with stability, while not getting in the way of the staff.
Nick and Todd's advice are both worthwhile. I'm going to argue against my friend Nick's opinion on the computers however, and look at things on the computing side in this waY;
The latest imacs are quite powerful in their own right, and half the cost of a mac tower, which is obsolete now anyhow. Your drives and break-out boxes will all be on thunderbolt, and my feeling is that setup would be more than enough firepower, without the need for a tower that opens up for playing mechanical swap-a-rama games inside. Really, how many layers of video you you expect to have to deal with on the timeline at once? Five? The imac can handle that fine, no need to push and spend 90 percent of the money chasing the last 10 percent of performance. If my choice was one tower or two imacs and shared storage between them, THAT is what I'd prefer. The imacs can run FCPx or Adobe, for your needs. I think you want the Adobe bundle, as you'll be needing to illustrate a lot of science-y medical stuff where you can't get shots of the real thing, and the Adobe suite is excellent for this. You will also get handed plenty of stuff shot or recorded by doctors, and it will all be quite horribly produced, needing extensive audio repair and clean-up in color correction and better graphics; again, the Adobe bundle is great for this with the deep tool integration and round-tripping. It also comes with a 3D CGI program which will help you in animating organs and processes... even if you can't model, you can buy models online then animated them for custom looks. having two imacs versus one tower means two people can gang up on big projects simultaneously, one doing audio or color correcting or graphics, while the other edits.
You will want a small switcher for simple multi camera work: this is going to significantly cut down edit time, the more 2-camera stuff you can shoot live to tape. With non-pro on-camera talent like doctors, and their short spans of available time, you need to maximize your efficiency in recording them, so get a prompter, two cameras that can sit close together and grab the medium and tight shots simultaneously to iso recordings as you live-switch to a master drive. Then your edit time is cut, not in half, but by 2/3rds. Set it up on a mobile "crash cart" that's self-contained and ready to scoot around the hospital campus at need.
Owning a green-screen space is handy for when you don't have the budget for locations or set building, or need to show a location that's imaginary... but make the space multi-purpose, with a curtain or other wall treatment in one corner, so you *can* have some small standing sets for the most commonly-produced weekly magazine type shows. So much medical stuff is stand-up lecturing, you can zazz it up for little money using just gobos and colored lights, a nice pillar or two, and a slab of uncut interior door as standing elements. And these all store in a small space. Figure a large flatscreen on a floor stand for the presenter to stand next to, and/or a portable video projector, which can be used to inexpensively "paint" a set with patterns and text or logos.
The hospital will have events like ribbon-cuttings and appreciation receptions for big donors, as well as lectures and presentations by visiting specialists. Besides low-light capability, these events will need long-capacity recording. And you will want quality audio, so budget for an assortment of lavs as well as other mics for panel discussions or mobile events.
Invest in a mass-duplicator for DVD's at least, and consider one for BluRays for the medical imaging stuff.
Budget for an archival/library system now, before your production gears up and starts getting back-logged.
Staff-wise; how many you got? Or are you the only full-timer, with access to temps, interns, or day-hires?
I'll leave the computer nerdom to the other much more learned experts on this forum.
I'm going to make a complete non-hardware recommendation, in the lighting arena... since that's often an area where just a little bit of tools/technique improvement can do wonders for getting better results.
I certainly do NOT intend to cast aspersions on Alan's ability (and for all I know he might light better than Haskell Wexler and Roger Deakins combined). BUT... he did say he was coming out of news, and I know enough news guys (and have been there myself) to know what the usual lighting/cinematography levels and expectations are there.
I'd suggest saving a little bit of the budget to bring in a "real" (i.e., at least "pretty darn good") DP (or gaffer) for a day or two, someone to show you a few tips-n-tricks to get the most out of your shiny new gear... and to impress your new bosses with something a lot better than the "news-quality footage" they might be used to seeing.
As some of my friends here know, in my misguided youth I was a wanna-be actor before I was a wanna-be director and DP... and I know personally for me, I learned more about lighting and cinematography by watching the DP in my first four hours on a real movie set than I did in four years of film school (and that is, sadly, not an exaggeration).
You might even bring this guy or gal in before you make your big gear investment, seeing what you can accomplish and what tools it will take might help you decide what kind of gear to put on your wish list.
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
[Todd Terry] "I certainly do NOT intend to cast aspersions on Alan's ability (and for all I know he might light better than Haskell Wexler and Roger Deakins combined)."
Thanks for the vote of confidence Todd! In my dreams, though.
[Todd Terry] "and I know personally for me, I learned more about lighting and cinematography by watching the DP in my first four hours on a real movie set than I did in four years of film school (and that is, sadly, not an exaggeration)."
I love this idea, and as a matter of fact, next week there is a production company coming in from out of town to shoot some 3D stuff and I could use all the help I could get!
[Mark Suszko] "I'm going to argue against my friend Nick's opinion on the computers however...If my choice was one tower or two imacs and shared storage between them, THAT is what I'd prefer."
This discussion kind of reminds me of the whole "platform wars" argument -- no real right or wrong just a depth of personal beliefs and preferences. I do have to admit that my thinking was limited by the idea of a single, vastly expandable computer and, given the power and Thunderbolt connectivity of the current iMacs, perhaps Mark is right. Just maybe not in the way he was describing their use.
While the idea of a second workstation for a second person is good, perhaps a better approach is the idea of a second computer for one operator. Between renders, compression, disk-burning and other tasks I find myself far more efficient when able to hop between two computers. The basic idea is that the computers should be waiting for you, not the other way around.
So between computers, monitors, peripherals, the camera, tripod/support, mics/audio gear, lighting, backgrounds and on and on we are certainly having a lot of fun telling Alan how to spend money. Hopefully his hospital's pockets are as deep as our ideas on what's needed to launch a video department.
my question is "what staff do you have available to help you? " Are you the only one in your department - are you going to be producing, writing, shooting, editing, doing graphics, audio and all web distribution, or you you have HELP. ? Do you have any freelance help ? Or is it all you.
If it's all you - I feel sorry for you, because this is a lot for any single person to handle. If you have help - even freelance help (especially if it's freelance help) - you should ASK THEM what they like to shoot with, what has worked for them, and what they feel comfortable with. Because if you wind up with "brand x" and everyone hates it, and you then say "but the guys on Creative Cow said it was great" - well, what the hell do we know.
As for your editing gear - same answer. Who is your editor - who is going to use CS6. Are you a Premiere guy ? Is your editor, is your freelancer ? What are his recommendations. There are countless choices in storage, and there are countless forums on Creative Cow just on forums. What I can definatively tell you is that a 12 Core Mac Pro is a GREAT INVESTMENT - even right now (even when the cylinder comes out) because you have to MAKE A LIVING and prove to your department what a great job you can do, and you DO NOT want to be slowed down because of "start up" problems with a new unproven Mac. I can tell you that in the shared storage world, the Mac Pro will still be the preferred computer for a while. Will the new Open CL cards perform as well as proven NVidia CUDA cards with CS6 - who knows - do you want to be the one to find out, and make a fool of yourself in front of your new employer ? Get the Mac Pro 12 core. Don't chance your career to impress the Cow forums.
Like I said - ask for advice from your freelancers, or existing staff - since they are the ones that will be using it - and not us. If it's just you - well, then I guess our advice is as good as you are going to get.
Rescue 1, Inc.
To answer your questions, I'm the lone videographer but I do have three graphic designers and one webmaster to work with so I'm not totally alone in this venture.
[Bob Zelin] "f you have help - even freelance help (especially if it's freelance help) - you should ASK THEM what they like to shoot with, what has worked for them, and what they feel comfortable with"
Your reading my mind, dude.
[Bob Zelin] "Like I said - ask for advice from your freelancers, or existing staff - since they are the ones that will be using it - and not us. If it's just you - well, then I guess our advice is as good as you are going to get. "
Don't sell yourself short. There is a TON of experience in this forum and while I may not take all the advice, It would foolish to marginalize it!
Very exciting time for you and I can empathize since I was in the same situation in 1994. Although the times are different, in terms of cost of entry in the business, the basic things you need to do are:
- start introducing yourself to department managers and ask them what their communications or training pain points are.
- Get buy-in from your supervisor and discuss now if you will charge-back your time and materials cost to people using your services. You might have your cost spread out over multiple department budgets as a services fee or management fee. My department started that way but eventually went to a straight fee for services cost structure albeit half the cost that external companies would charge.
- Have you thought about all the other things like music licenses, legal forms, software and equipment maintenance contracts?
- Also, a biggie is starting an archive now while getting off the ground. Will save you tons of time later. I like CatDV.
- you should also develop some way to track your time and productivity so when your boss asks you (and they will), you will have all of it ready.
Feel free to contact me or email off-list and I can share some insight in starting and managing a hospital based production arm.
Big Bad Wolf Creative Group
Fort Worth, Tx
I'm not sure if your from Fort Worth or just live there now, but from one Texan to another, thanks a bunch(I used to live in Austin.)
I'm getting settled in here and have just ordered the computer I want.
3.4 Ghz Intel Core i.7
768GB Flash Storage
NVIDIA 2GB gpx card
Promise Pegasus 12TB external storage
I'm still looking at cameras and could use a little advice. I'm looking at a Panasonic AG AC160
or a Canon XF 300
In my experience, I've always used Panasonic cameras and have never had any problems. I'm thinking of 'going with what I know' on that one.
On the flip side, a lot of my former colleagues say that in all of their personal experience, they love the products that Canon puts out. That makes me think that maybe it's time for a change. Any thoughts?
[Alan Balch] "colleagues say that in all of their personal experience, they love the products that Canon puts out. That makes me think that maybe it's time for a change. Any thoughts?"
Well, personally I'm a die hard Canon guy now. I used Sony cameras for years and always found them to be the "industry standard," and Canon was more in the consumer world.
Not any more. We bought an XL1 about 15 years ago just as a small "B" camera, and really liked it... although we still shot Sonys as our primary cameras. About five or six years ago we switched to the then-brand-new Canon XLH1 as our primary camera, which (when paired with a P+S Technik converter and cine primes) was unbelievable for the time. It was my favorite camera ever. Until now... after switching to the C300 almost a year ago, now that is my favorite camera ever. So much so that even though I was a hardcore film guy for years I have now sold my last 35mm camera, which was my last remaining piece of real film gear. The C300 has totally won me over.
Now, I don't recommend that particular camera for you... it's definitely cine-style gear and that might not be most appropriate for your particular usage (or it might be, I really can't say). But I blather on about that to say, yes, you should definitely take a look at the current offerings from Canon.
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
[Todd Terry] "But I blather on about that to say, yes, you should definitely take a look at the current offerings from Canon."
Todd, your not the only one going on about Canon. All of my former colleagues are doing the same thing, so that makes the decision, in my mind at least, pretty clear. I did look at the C300, I'm really impressed by what I've seen however, since I'm a OMB around here, I feel that the XF300 is the way to go. I like what I've seen and the reviews I've been reading.
Here's a question. If my understanding is correct, when shooting HD a 16GB card will get me about 30mins of recording time. I'm basing that off of what I know from using the P2 from Panasonic. Is that a global figure or would Canon be different. If that is the case, would I be able to get an hour of shooting time from a 32 GB card and 2 hours with 2 cards?
[Alan Balch] "Here's a question. If my understanding is correct, when shooting HD a 16GB card will get me about 30mins of recording time. I'm basing that off of what I know from using the P2 from Panasonic."
Very basic math. Card duration is relative to the data rate. MPEG2 GOP and AVCHD data rates are more efficient that DVCProHD in most cases.
[Alan Balch] " If that is the case, would I be able to get an hour of shooting time from a 32 GB card and 2 hours with 2 cards?"
It depends on settings etc. For example with the C300 you can shoot at various bitrates, although I always shoot at the maximum which is 50Mbps.
I shoot on the 16GB cards, which are more than big enough for most of my projects (but then again I'm almost exclusively shooting :30 broadcast commercials). You can of course shoot on the 32GB or 64GB cards (as long as they are fast enough, always at minimum use the SanDisk Extreme 60MB/s cards), although anecdotal evidence tells me the 16GB cards are the most stable ones. I always shoot dual cards, recording the same thing to both card slots so I have a backup.
A 16GB card at highest bitrate gives me 41 minutes of 1080p 23.976fps footage.
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
Just to throw it out there, I'm obsessed with the Sony FS700. Now that it's getting RAW and 4k, I'm in love with it even more. If you're shooting regular HD, you just load the SD card into your iMac and it loads in without a hassle. Nice n' easy. Check out the Metabones Speed Booster for it too. You can get full frame images into the cropped sensor AND you'll gain a stop of aperture. Pretty nifty.
John Davidson | President / Creative Director | Magic Feather Inc.
Give me your email address so we can carry this conversation on off-list. Mine is firstname.lastname@example.org or phone is 817-429-0818
I moved to Fort Worth in 1984 so pert'near a Texan!