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General HD (720 / 1080) Acquisition
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Old September 23rd, 2010, 02:45 PM   #1
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Join Date: Oct 2009
Location: Ft. Lauderdale FL
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Noobie-Help me buy my first setup

Hello all. First off, thank you. I've been a long time lurker here, and the wealth of collective knowledge on this site is just unbelievable. Now here's my situation:

I have zero experience with camera equipment. I am completely green. But it has been a long-time ambition of mine to make films, and I have $2500 sitting around and I've decided that now is the time.

So, my budget is $2,500, and I would like to have everything I need(bare bones at least) to start making short films. Please help me pick my equipment. Here is what I figure I'll need to get started:

1) A camera

I have been eyeing the t2i and the 7d. I really like the stuff that I've seen from these cameras.

a) I understand that both of these are used for digital photography. Is this true? The idea of being able to dabble in photography appeals to me very much.

b) What are the main differences between them? What more would I be getting if I decided to go with the more expensive 7d?

c) Manual focus- This scares me. If i decided to use some creative scorsese-esque camera movement, will I need a focus puller for that or will I be able to do it myself while operating the camera?

2) Lenses. I am clueless here. Will I need to buy more or can I work with the stock. FYI I would like to be able to do some zooming.

3) A mic. help?

4) A stabilizer. I was looking at something like the Merlin, but would be nice to find something cheaper.

5) Lighting - I figure I can rent or just use alot of source light.

Also, right now I have Vegas Movie Studio Platinum 9.0 on my computer. Will this be OK and compatable with everything? I am not planning on using any greenscreen or effects or any of that stuff. Just simple straight forward shoots.

Also, where are the best places to buy everything?
Is it wise to buy used equipment? ebay?

Thanks in advance for any help, suggestions, or any other info you guys can give me.

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Old September 23rd, 2010, 07:16 PM   #2
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Join Date: Nov 2007
Location: San Diego, CA
Posts: 240
Mostly videos, or mostly stills?

Hi Chris,

If you're going to shoot mostly stills, and some video, then the t2i would be a good choice. Another reason for getting a still camera like the t2i is if you really like the extremely shallow depth-of-field you can get with such a camera.
I was helping a friend shoot a movie with his t2i, and I found it more awkward to use than a regular video camcorder. Also, it's audio system is only AGC (Automatic Gain Control), which means that when the actor stops talking for a couple seconds, the AGC increases the audio recording volume, desperately trying to find some sound to record. When this happens you hear a loud hiss on the soundtrack, coming from the microphone preamplifier (whose noise you don't usually hear when audo levels are normal). There are devices you can buy to overcome this (check out JuicedLink).

If you're going to shoot mostly videos, then get a high-end consumer camcorder, preferably one than allows manual control of microphone levels. These days, few consumer camcorders have that feature, but Canon has some models that do. The least expensive camcorder I could find with manual audio control was the Canon VIXIA HF M30, costing about $550. Another good choice would be the Canon VIXIA HF M32, costing about $1000. A high-end consumer camcorder will likely have both auto and manual controls. You can start out with everything on auto, then graduate to manual controls as you become more comfortable with shooting.

Plan on spending at least $200 for a sturdy tripod, preferably with a fluid head. The better tripods cost over $500. A stabilizer? Hmmm.... don't know. Might skip that for now, and see how you like the camcorder's built-in OIS (Optical Image Stabilizer).

Rode Videomic (about $150) is good if you're just going to plug in to the 1/8" minijack. If you're going to use an XLR adapter such as a Beachtek or a JuicedLink, then plan on spending $200 to $300 for a suitable XLR mic from Rode or Audio Technica. (Other brands like Azden or MXL might be good too... you'll have to do your own research.) And if you do get an XLR mic, make sure it can take batteries. If it doesn't, and requires 48v phantom power, your XLR adapter probably does not supply that.

You'll have to decide if you want to go the tungsten route (color temperature 3200 Kelvin) or the daylight route (color temperature around 5500 to 6000 Kelvin). The least expensive units are tungsten. You could get some clamp-lights with 8" reflectors at the hardware store for just a few bucks. For a little more you can get inexpensive 10" photo reflector units, such as Smith-Victor (which will have a more even coverage than the hardware store clamp-lights). When you can afford it, some low-end professional units like a Lowel Omni-Light ($160) with a white reflector umbrella ($10) give a lot of versatility.

Recently, fluorescent lights and LED lights have become popular for professional video shooting. They usually have a daylight color temperature, and tend to be quite a bit more expensive. But they don't heat up as much (important in a small room during the summer), and don't need bulbs replaced as often.

Your Vegas should be fine for now. Eventually you might upgrade to Vegas Pro, but no hurry.
I buy most of my equipment from B&H. I hear that Abel Cine Tech is also good.

I'll let others answer your remaining questions. (I'm off to get some dinner!)

P.S. -- I just remembered: B&H sells a $200 lighting kit consisting of 2 focussing 300 watt units with barndoors, umbrellas, and stands. 2 of those kits would be enough to get you started.
Impact Qualite 300 Focusing Flood 2 Light Kit QL300-2KI - B&H

Last edited by Ken Hull; September 24th, 2010 at 01:26 PM.
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Old September 24th, 2010, 09:58 PM   #3
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Location: Ft. Lauderdale FL
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Well boys and girls, I did it. Just got home with my brand new canon 7d w/ EF 28-135mm lens and I'm buzzing with excitement. Battery is charging and I'm reading through the owners manual like I'm studying for a test. I still need some help though in securing a good mic and a stabilizer.

Also, I'm sure this is a question that I could find in the search bar, but if anyone could point me in the direction of any books, videos, or any teaching tools that would help me learn to use this thing to it's fullest, let me know. Thanks.
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