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Old September 13th, 2008, 09:18 AM   #1
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Freelancers -camera choice?

This is a question to you freelance videographers, especially those who work in the high-end/broadcast field.

I have a comfy job in a production house, but am considering becoming independent and going back to freelancing. Where I work, we use multiple formats, from Beta SX to P2. Our clients don't request a format, we use whatever we please.
However, the independent videographer usually doesn't have that option. What format do you find is most requested by clients? Is Beta SP still the king? Or has HD taken over? If you are just starting out and are buying your own equipment, what format would you spend your money on?
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Old September 13th, 2008, 09:29 AM   #2
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I'm currently a part-timer but I have lots of friends that are full-timers. They are all in the process of adding HD equipment as hard as they can to keep up with the increase in demand. If I were going to start out and drop the $$ on NEW equipment I would start with HD.
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Old September 13th, 2008, 10:02 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Medico View Post
I'm currently a part-timer but I have lots of friends that are full-timers. They are all in the process of adding HD equipment as hard as they can to keep up with the increase in demand. If I were going to start out and drop the $$ on NEW equipment I would start with HD.
Which HD format? Do they use HDCAM? XDCAM? P2? Do you know which is most requested?
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Old September 13th, 2008, 10:26 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by Glen Vandermolen View Post
Which HD format? Do they use HDCAM? XDCAM? P2? Do you know which is most requested?
There are two guys I know that do a lot of national network stuff and one owns an EX1 and the other one rents the first guys camera. The majority of their work is still Beta but HD is being asked for more and more.

One other person I know does have a P2 camera. I think he does mostly local stuff though.

You won't be shooting yourself in the foot with either P2 or XDCam. I've chosen XDCam myself but that is because I've already got a TON of Sony stuff and have gotten used to how it all works. With Panasonic licensing XDCam from Sony that might be an indicator of the pendulum shifting in favor of one format. Too early to tell for sure.
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Old September 13th, 2008, 04:05 PM   #5
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Glen,

The choices are varied and it depends upon your clients but I shoot from most asked for to least;
XDCAM HD, HDV (own)
DVCAM (Own)
HDCAM (Rent)
BetaSP (Own)

I also get a lot of requests for P2 and Panasonic HD but don't own any Panasonic gear (Never got over the pain of using MII). Look at who your best clients are and the kinds of shoots they do and focus on that format(s). Gone are the good old days when we could own one camera. You'll need at least to different formats.
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Old September 13th, 2008, 08:07 PM   #6
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There are plenty of freelancers where I am, in Houston (I'm not there at the moment; we've a had a little rain recently :-)), ESPECIALLY in the high end market, who don't own cameras. I would say most of them, in fact. It lets you be much more versatile to just rent the gear you use on shoots. There are a few of the upper level guys who own something like an F900 or whatever, but many just rent as needed. If you're targeting that high end work, why own anyway?


Oh and,
Common cameras I see on the shoots I work on:

F900 (or its variants) -
Varicam
SDX900
Beta SP (though it's gettin' rare)


On the lower end of the pro spectrum

HVX200
Canon XLH1
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Old September 13th, 2008, 08:28 PM   #7
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there are a lot of items that you should own before a camera body. A good tripod, a small light kit, small HMI's, high end audio kit...

These items are usually extra charges when working as freelance. They also propel you above the other guy bidding on the same job.

Most of the guys that work freelance in my area now own all of their own high end support and rent the body when needed.

You have several good rental houses in your area, and they all have deals with regular freelancer guys. Not to mention that rental houses get lots of calls for crew, guess what,, they usually refer clients that rent their stuff..

also since you are just entering the market you don't really have a regular client base. once you get that going and you track how many jobs you get vs what format then you may make a better camera body choice.

And if you decide 5 years from now you don't want to freelance any more ,, All of that high end support stuff I listed above will still sell fro next to what you paid for it. THe canera body will not.

spend your funds on marketing yourself up front and then let the market decide future items
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Old September 17th, 2008, 11:20 AM   #8
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I agree with Craig with the caveat that renting cameras only works IF you have a good rental house in your area AND they keep adequate kits around in adequate numbers so that if you get a last minute call, you KNOW you can get gear. There is nothing that screams unprofessional like telling a client "I'll get back to you in an hour... I need to find a camera" whereas "I'll call you right back, I just need to check my availability" is perfectly acceptable. Freelance IS different than working for a production house (or in my case BEING a production house) in that (at least in MY market) there are a lot of times when a freelancer will get a last minute call for a breaking event, to cover for an ill shooter or as a second unit type shoot that wasn't fully thought out in planning. As well, at least in my market, lots of last minute sports stuff needs to be shot.

I bought my own camera years ago (it was only a PD150) for last minute shooting and low budget stuff and rented Betacams or dockable DVCam cameras when I had the budget and the lead time.

I currently own 2 JVC HD200's because my business model supports it but my total buy in for 2 cameras, batteries, power/charger, tripods (which I "recycled" from my DVCam days), on camera lights et al was under $20k. If I NEED better quality HD, I'll still rent from a colleague as opposed to a rental house in my market.
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Old September 17th, 2008, 11:25 AM   #9
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Also, keep in mind that if you are freelancing, it is likely that at the end of the shooting day you will be turning over shot footage. Tape or disc acquisition has an advantage over card based capture here in that you can hand over camera original footage without an added step and VERY quickly. If you are shooting to cards, ensure you have a workflow to offload the cards QUICKLY in the field or else you are likely to have a producer who says "just give me the cards, I'll pull off the footage and get iot back to you", leaving you without cards or at least with diminished capacity until you retrieve them (which takes valuable time away from shooting).

I'm sure the details of this process are well documented here but make sure YOU have a process in place that works for YOU.
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