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Old June 12th, 2003, 03:45 PM   #1
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video equipment advice?

Hi,

Having just graduated high school.. I now have some money to spend and would like to spend it on what I like doing most.. making movies! Right now, I am using the Matrox RT2500 and Premiere 6.0 to edit my movies, and a Sony TRV-25 to film them.

I have ~3500$ to spend, and my question is: what would be the wisest investment to take a step towards higher quality video production? I'm torn between getting a new camera or a new editing system.

The reason why I would even consider a new editing system is because I find Premiere incredibly limited for doing the stuff I would like to (complex composites, etc). Also, Apple/Final Cut Pro systems seem to be a lot more stable than my current setup (hardware be damned, I'd rather have software rendering -- less hassle). ALSO there seems to be a better community built around Final Cut Pro, in that there are more classes/user groups (I could be wrong, but this is what I think I see).

Would it be worth it to get a Apple setup and learn the tools of the trade, having more freedom in my editing (maybe even improve the video quality out of my crappy camera) -- or would it be better to get a new camera and just tough it out with Premiere?

Thanks,

Nik
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Old June 12th, 2003, 05:52 PM   #2
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Re: video equipment advice?

<<<-- Originally posted by Nik Hanselmann : Hi,

"Having just graduated high school.. I now have some money to spend and would like to spend it on what I like doing most.. making movies! Right now, I am using the Matrox RT2500 and Premiere 6.0 to edit my movies, and a Sony TRV-25 to film them.

I have ~3500$ to spend, and my question is: what would be the wisest investment to take a step towards higher quality video production? I'm torn between getting a new camera or a new editing system. "
-->>>


Hello Nik,
Congrats on your new found freedom. Interesting question. I'm sure you're going to get a wide variety of responses. My gut feeling is that you need to learn as much as you can about as wide a field as you can, if you're really serious about making a movie. That said, you have a camera. Granted it's not what "the professionals" use, but at this stage, don't care. It works and you know how to use it. Move on to things you don't have any experience in, and you need to learn. Take lighing for example.

You'll see in threads all over the internet people going on and on about how to make digital "look" like film. Everybody has an opinion. But the thing you'll see mentioned most often is that if you want your digital to look like film, and particularly if you want to work in film (or whatever they're shooting when you land a job), learn how to light your video/film scene. The independent has to know all aspects of the business, and even if you plan on having a budget someday where you can hire a DP to do it for you, the more you know about it, the more control you'll have as a director because you'll know what you like, what you don't, and how to communicate that to your DP. To that end, my advice is buy a very basic light kit and learn how to use it. There are Lowell starter kits to be found out there (yeah, some people say Lowell kits have drawbacks like flimsy stands, etc., but I'm just using that as an example) for under $800. Take you old trusty camera, plunk down your dog in the living room, your mom, your little sister, and learn the nuances (and pitfalls) of light. Figure out what makes a classy shot stand out from the mundane. You can make a shot from an inexpensive camera look awesome with lighting, while without understanding lighting, a camera that costs 20 times what you present one does, can give you shots that look absolutely flat.




"The reason why I would even consider a new editing system is because I find Premiere incredibly limited for doing the stuff I would like to (complex composites, etc). Also, Apple/Final Cut Pro systems seem to be a lot more stable than my current setup (hardware be damned, I'd rather have software rendering -- less hassle). ALSO there seems to be a better community built around Final Cut Pro, in that there are more classes/user groups (I could be wrong, but this is what I think I see).

Would it be worth it to get a Apple setup and learn the tools of the trade, having more freedom in my editing (maybe even improve the video quality out of my crappy camera) -- or would it be better to get a new camera and just tough it out with Premiere?"



Here, the former editor in me feels torn. On the one hand, as you say, you have an editing system in place based on Premiere. Yet, Final Cut Pro and Avid DV Express will indeed offer you more power to composite. But consider this. Not that long ago I was at an Motion Picture Editors Guild meeting out at Universal and an Academy Award nominated editor (her credits would blow you away) stood up and addressed the gathering that was expressing concern over the onslaught of non-union editors working these days, and she basically said that she'd seen a lot of work by a wide variety of the new crop of editors... and she was reassuring the crowd that their jobs were secure as what she'd seen "out there" was artistically %#&*. Now people might take issue with that, but honestly, she wasn't being arrogant (this woman is an incredible talent, yet arrogance is not in her), she was just stating a fact that knowing what a cut is and how to do it on a NLE (whether you're talking about Premiere, FCP, or Avid) and even knowing how to do layers and layers of compositing with your footage, does not an artist make, if you get my drift. Consider stepping back and reading everything you can get your hands about editing. Concentrate on learning the art. That's far more important than what bells and whistles your NLE can pull off. If, on the other hand, you've done that already and you truly have outgrown Premier, maybe you should look at FCP and Avid DV Express, but be sure and get the student versions. They have everything the standard versions do, at a fraction of the price. Also, consider getting a summer internship in the biz. I see adds for them all the time. There are a wide variety of mentor programs out there as well through which you can learn hands on. And regarding which you should get, it entirely depends on what your long term goals are. If your dream is to get into big budget effects films someday, get started learning the ropes on an entry level Avid. What a high end Avid can do on big pictures is something to behold, and a gazillion dollar Symphony uses the same commands as DV Express. If, however, you envision yourself a future John Sayles, learning FCP will serve you well for many years to come.

Probably wrote far more than you wanted to hear! Hope this helps.

Best of luck and let us know how your journey goes,
Marcia
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Old June 12th, 2003, 09:00 PM   #3
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Thanks for your great advice. You certainly gave me a lot more to think about. Maybe I should put a little more thought into theory...
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Old June 13th, 2003, 01:06 AM   #4
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Spend your money on more education. Film school, seminars, books.

If you have to buy something tangible, spend $1000 on a light kit and accessories and $500 on a good mic system.

A better camera and computer won't make you a better movie maker.
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Old June 13th, 2003, 08:25 AM   #5
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Dylan,

If you get the light kit and a good mic system, will you be able to take full advantage of them when shooting with a TRV25?

I'm asking because I'm in a similar situation as Nik, except I graduated high school 20 years ago and don't have near as much money to spend :-).

What I'm asking is would I light and/or mic a scene the same way with a one chip camera as I would with a 3 chip camera?

Thanks
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Old June 13th, 2003, 11:11 AM   #6
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Skip film school just watch movies, see what you like, and get every bit of information you can about how it was done. Read every book you can on all aspects of film making and simply experiment. It's a hell of a lot cheaper. Make your lights, there's plenty of info on the net on how to adapt work lights safely. Invest in a few gels to control the color temp. Good sound recording is essential and probably a good place to drop some cash. There's no way to fudge good sound. Invest in a better camera, it won't make you a better film maker, but it will make your shots look better no matter what anyone has to say. Start with the lights and the camera you have now and experiment to get the look you want. Try to get every look you could ever want, try to shoot in every environment possible and figure out how to deal with it. There are many books out there that explain lighting beautifuly. Next move onto sound and learn everything you can through experimentation and reading (and of course asking around here). Finally when you've got a good base in lighting and sound and framing shots then step up your camera. If you wanted to do a project that was going to be transfered to film you would want a 3-ccd camera with more manual controls. Unless of course you were going for a real rough look that accentuates the video aspect. There's nothing you'll learn in film school that isn't written if you just want to shoot DV. In the past film school was a great way to get hold of equipment but now with video you'll find you would be far less restricted in your experimenting just trying everything at home. If you intend on working on film some day though, classes wouldn't hurt. Film is not cheap to experiment with.

Good Luck!
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Old June 13th, 2003, 01:44 PM   #7
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Hrmmm well, I'm hoping to go to film school at some point (perhaps graduate school) but for now I think I'll just keep to my books (unless if I can get into the UCLA summer program next year...).

Anyhow, thanks for the advice Dylan and Ian.

Even though there are conflicting views of... pretty much everything I posted to start with :) It looks like the common theme in everyone's posts is to LEARN HOW TO LIGHT/SOUND/FRAME a shot. So I guess I better do that before I plunk down lots of money for some equipment I wouldn't know how to use :) .
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Old June 13th, 2003, 03:15 PM   #8
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You may also want to get some books on Guerilla style film making. I preffer to do things the proper way, however, there are times when you will need to be "creative". This will apply to all aspects of video and film making. Don't have the correct lights to shoot a scene? For $20, you can get some nice work lights with stands, or use a piece of $3 foam board to bounce light. Can't get permission to use a location? Create your own.

Stuff like this isn't just cheap... it's priceless knowledge when you get in a jam.
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Old June 13th, 2003, 03:53 PM   #9
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I think I would agree with Dylan about education. People forget the that another part of education is the community you join at college. Not many people make movies by themselves (good movies anyway). At college you will meet other enthusiasts; exchange ideas, networking, techniques, and that ugly word financing.

Another thing is you will have a really tough go in this world with only a high school education. If you have won countless awards at arts festivals on a regional level for your productions, then you might find people ready to take a risk financing your productions.

I think at this point it would be better to hit collegiate film and art schools. If you can part with the bucks and still get into to college then buy some video gear, hang a shingle shooting HS graduations & weddings. Use the profits from this enterprise to keep you in school and prepare for the competitive world out there.
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Old June 14th, 2003, 12:46 AM   #10
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<<<-- Originally posted by Nathan Gifford : I think I would agree with Dylan about education. People forget the that another part of education is the community you join at college. Not many people make movies by themselves (good movies anyway). At college you will meet other enthusiasts; exchange ideas, networking, techniques, and that ugly word financing.
-->>>

Nathan hit the point I didn't fully make. School is expensive but it does two things for you that you will never get from a book.
The first obviously is networking. People make careers based on who they know, rather than what they know. Obviously knowing a group of talented like minded people who can help you out is next to priceless when you are starting out with a low budget. Plus, it's a good bet some of them will have lights, mics, and better cameras than you, which they will probably share.

Second, film school will give you real set experience. I know people are going to say 'yeah, I can get all the experience I need by practicing with my own lights and cameras and stuff." However, that won't teach you how to work with people on a professional set where time is money, and you have to pay for your mistakes. This is also pretty valuable if you want to pursue a career in production.


If I was you, I would decide at this point what aspect of video production I wanted to continue with. It seems you have an interest in video editing/post production. Maybe that's the route you should follow?
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Old June 14th, 2003, 10:20 AM   #11
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<<<-- If I was you, I would decide at this point what aspect of video production I wanted to continue with. It seems you have an interest in video editing/post production. Maybe that's the route you should follow? -->>>

I would only add that whether or not remaining in Post is your end goal, life in an edit bay can be a real eye opener insofar as what works and what doesn't, before you make those costly mistakes yourself. You learn, for example, the limitations of the common mantra "we'll fix it in post" which has derailed many indie filmmakers because what they assumed could be fixed or glossed over couldn't be without the bucks they don't have. It's not a new phenomenon. Historically, Hollywood vaults have been stuffed to the max with stored unifinished film projects, and from what I've seen, that trend has continued with digital. The difference is now the tapes just sit on people's shelves. You'll always hear of exceptions who beat the odds regarding their flubs. But keep in mind, for every exception there are hundreds whose mistakes are "fatal." El Mariachi was indeed "shot" under $10K, but the mess that it was got a break from Sony who took a chance and poured $200K into sound, which is what the public saw and heard.

And don't forget, many a class act "A" list filmmaker started life as a lowly editor. It's at least something to think about, Nik. As if we haven't given you enough already. :-)
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Old June 14th, 2003, 10:31 AM   #12
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Marcia has a very valid point. I spent a year editing videos for a bunch of amatures. Before long, I was instructing them on how to shoot, and what to shoot. I also told them what they needed to do to improve the audio, which was ignored. I took the worst crap and made it watchable. That was not always easy.
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Old June 14th, 2003, 01:50 PM   #13
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Haha, wow. Certainly a lot of great advice here :)

I never intended to not go to college, right now I'm going to attend community college and take advantage of their transfer-UC program. Once in a UC, I plan to major in something like English. THEN, hopefully, I'll go to some graduate school for film. It's a long costly road ahead, but I think(hope) I can make it.

I really do like editing. I've filmed a lot of charity events, birthdays, and other events and I must say that the one aspect that I really liked was putting it all together. One thing I've noticed that through my editing, I'm not the best cameraman ;). Hrmm.. maybe this would be a route I'd like to persue....

Thanks everyone for sharing your wisdom!
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