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Old September 30th, 2008, 11:03 PM   #1
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Trip To Africa! HELP!

I will be heading to Africa for 6 weeks next summer (2009) with a few other people to get footage for documentary/promotional/public-awareness purposes.

Right now, the hope is to get about $7000 worth of equipment and go to do the best we can.

I am trying to build a kit that will do as much as possible for $7000

I would like it to consist of:

1 "A" Cam
1 "B" Cam
1 tripod for the A Cam
1 decent shotgun mic for the A Cam
Plenty of storage space.
Whatever accessories necessary.

Here is what I have so far in my research:

A Cam = Panasonic AG-HMC150 with two extra batteries as well as 3 panasonic 8GB SDHC cards. Panasonic Camera Bag

B Cam = Sony HDR-SR11 with 2 extra NP-FH70 Lithium Ion Batteries. Sony Camera bag.

Tripod = Bogen / Manfrotto 055XDB Pro Tripod with 503HDV Fluid Video Head

Shotgun = Sony ECM 673

Hard Drive = Buffalo 2TB DriveStation Quattro TurboUSB

I also threw in a couple of Neutral density filters for the SR12 and a Canon UV filter for the HMC150.

All of this came out to just under $7000 on B&H.


Am I missing something vitally important? Any other suggestions for cameras, tripods, or anything really?

OH YEAH. I really don't know much about shotgun mics. Anybody have a better suggestion than the ECM 673 in that price range ($285)?

PLEASE GIVE ANY FEEDBACK! I decided to try a tapeless workflow because it comes out cheaper in the long run (I'd probably have to spend $1000 on tapes for the 6 week trip) and the solid state SDHC cards would be more durable in the harsh African environment. Any ideas for or against this?


THANKS!

-Michael
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Old October 1st, 2008, 12:38 AM   #2
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Ooh, scary...............

Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael Kraus View Post
I will be heading to Africa for 6 weeks next summer (2009) with a few other people to get footage for documentary/promotional/public-awareness purposes.

Right now, the hope is to get about $7000 worth of equipment and go to do the best we can.
Well, it is to me, for one!

Before I venture a word, can you be a bit more forthcoming about that first sentence?

You and who?

Document what, exactly?

Promotion of what, exactly?

Public awareness of what, exactly?

You know what about video production, exactly?

You know what about Africa, exactly?

You are going where in Africa, exactly?

This is going to end up where, with whom and for what purpose, exactly? (hopefully).

You have a total budget of what?

You have budgeted what for excess baggage?

Do you have handlers/ minders/ body/ gear guards/ guides lined up?

Appologies up front if this appears like I'm jumping on you from a great height (ok, I am, but with good reason) but this is so vague a catalogue of expectations that I don't feel I can let it simply slide under the radar.

If you were a seasoned Pro, this list would be a joke. You would already have the proper gear or have access to same.

As you would appear not to be a Pro, you're buying a lot of kit you don't know how to use and could take a very long time learning (even if some of it is considerably below what a Pro would ever use).

Of course, I'm just going on the few brief details in your post. If I've missed something, do let us know.

Please don't take this as a negative post - I'm just trying to get to the nub of the question.


CS

Last edited by Chris Soucy; October 1st, 2008 at 12:40 AM. Reason: Whoops.
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Old October 1st, 2008, 01:42 AM   #3
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a few more details....

Thanks for your reply Chris :)

My apologies for the vagueness of the post. I was trying my best to keep it simple so that people would actually read it, but I see now that I've actually made it difficult for people to give solid feedback.

I am on a small team (about 6 students, of whom 2 or 3 will actually be working on capturing footage) that will be traveling through West Africa to do volunteer work and promote a non-profit relief organization that works with/builds orphanages in the places that have the most need. While we are there, we will be getting footage to raise public awareness concerning the desperate conditions of the orphanages and what the organization is doing to help (this project is still somewhat in the planning stages).

Obviously, I am not a seasoned professional, and this is very much a learning experience (and meant to be one). I am studying radio/television/film at my university but I am not far along with my major.

By the time we head to Africa, I will have taken more film courses and I will have a bit more experience. I am trying to get the equipment sorted out ASAP because I realize that I will need as much practice time with it as I can get.

The leaders of the organization will be our guides and they are the ones doing most of the planning for the trip. It's not meant to be a mind blowing full scale production, but we are intending to do the best we can with what we have. We will have translators as well.

The current budget for equipment is $7000. This could change to be less or more (planning stages should be over here in a few weeks).

Basically the purpose of my post was just to get some suggestions on a kit for about $7000 that would survive Africa and yield some decent results.

The purpose of this trip is not completely focused on getting footage. We will be doing relief work alongside the workers in country and providing volunteer assistance. Again, I stress that this trip is meant to be a learning experience.

The organization we are working with knows what they are doing and has years of experience doing non-profit work in Africa.

I know that this doesn't answer all of your questions and concerns, but hopefully it helped some.

-Michael
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Old October 1st, 2008, 02:36 AM   #4
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One thought how about saving yourself a lot of problems by getting a video pro with their own kit to travel with you?

This may be a better way of spending the $7,000 and get you far better results.
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Old October 1st, 2008, 11:09 AM   #5
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Where did you come up with $7000 as the budget? Putting on my project management trainer's hat here, budgets are not a top-down statement of the maximum amount you're allowed to spend. Budgets are a bottom-up estimate of the costs that will be incurred in order to achieve a certain explicitly defined specific outcome. In your case, you've put the cart before the horse by selecting equipment that will fit into an allowed expenditure limit. A more fruitful approach is to decide exactly what you need to accomplish, then select the equipment that will do the job properly, and THEN look at what it's going to cost to purchase or hire that equipment, THEN figure out where you're going to get how ever much money that turns out to be. It may be $7000, but then again it might be $2500 or it might be $25000. Until you explicitly define the job it is to do and the problems it needs to solve you have no basis for even beginning to select equipment or define the budget. For example - does your projected film include sit-down interviews? Shotgun mics of any sort mounted on the camera are woefully inadequate for that. Same for walk-and-talks. So maybe lavs need to be considered. Wired or wireless? Will you be doing "streeters" where an interviewer stands with a subject and talks to them - handheld reporters mic is the best bet there. Or consider your A & B camera choices - why two? Is that the best deployment of your resources? Why mixing Panasonic and Sony? - could lead to colour matching problems in post if you need to intercut them. If you feel you need a backup why not two identical cams?

By the way, traveling with that much equipment look into obtaining a carnet to speed customs clearance.
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Old October 1st, 2008, 11:50 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve House View Post
Where did you come up with $7000 as the budget?...
Steve
I am sure that who ever sponsored these students told then that the maximum that they can spend in video gear is $7000.This mustn't surprise you. When I was a student, in Africa by the way (South Africa) we also got a project to shoot some native homelands in Zululand and they told us that the maximum gear we could get was something like $1500 at that time so we picked equipment to fit this budget.
Anyway I agree with you that he must choose the same brand of cameras and also since they are not professionals they must choose a prosumer camera rather a pro one. I would suggest for him to get two Sony FX7 since the price came down on these cameras.

Stelios
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Old October 1st, 2008, 12:00 PM   #7
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Stelios, the FX7 records to tape and the original poster stated his preference for a tapeless format.

I agree that camera brands should not be mixed. Stay with one manufacturer.

The suggestion to allocate this budget to hiring a shooter instead of buying gear is very good advice in my opinion. The money would be so much better spent that way. I don't think it would be too difficult to find an experienced videographer for this trip for that amount of money or maybe a bit more, providing their travel and living expenses are met as well.
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Old October 1st, 2008, 01:09 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stelios Christofides View Post
Steve
I am sure that who ever sponsored these students told then that the maximum that they can spend in video gear is $7000.This mustn't surprise you. When I was a student, in Africa by the way (South Africa) we also got a project to shoot some native homelands in Zululand and they told us that the maximum gear we could get was something like $1500 at that time so we picked equipment to fit this budget.
Anyway I agree with you that he must choose the same brand of cameras and also since they are not professionals they must choose a prosumer camera rather a pro one. I would suggest for him to get two Sony FX7 since the price came down on these cameras.

Stelios
No, it doesn't surprise me at all. But there are pitfalls in letting it stand at that. It may not even be possible to deliver the project for that amount of money. Then again, it might. My point is that until you have more detailed planning it is impossible to know for sure and thus it is premature to be making decisions on exactly what you're going to be spending the money for. Scoping the project is far less glamorous than shopping for cameras but it has to be done before any equipment decisions can be made rationally.
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Old October 1st, 2008, 01:40 PM   #9
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Where exactly in Africa do you want to go? West Africa is a pretty vast. I stay in South West Africa (Namibia).
I have been doing some Wildlife videography recently and I'm very happy to use tape. (tape for me is still the safest/ best/ most economical medium)

Have you thought about filming permits in this part of Africa?
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Old October 1st, 2008, 02:15 PM   #10
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Everyone, thank you for your input thus far.

Know that I am not trying to make final decisions here. I am just brainstorming and trying to get suggestions for a simple setup for about $7000. The reason I posted my ideas for the setup so far was so that I could get some feedback on where I went wrong and what a better kit would be.

If I still decide to go with an A Cam and B Cam method, I will definitely make more of an effort to make the A Cam and B Cam the same brand. I was worried about this and I am glad you all clarified (my original reasoning was that they were both AVCHD formats...I figured it would make the editing process a bit simpler to have them record in the same format).
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Old October 1st, 2008, 02:18 PM   #11
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Björn just gave me another idea which I'm surprised we haven't mentioned yet -- why not just hire locally within Africa. Travel expenses for an experienced shooter to go from one of the major African cities will be insignificant compared to the costs of sending a U.S. videographer overseas. Capetown, Johannesburg etc. should have plenty of talent to pull from.
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Old October 1st, 2008, 02:42 PM   #12
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OK, Michael.................

Lets start at the end, shall we.

The finished production(s) are designed to be shown where, to whom and in what format?

By which I mean:

1. Live viewing in a theatre/ group type environment?

2. Distribution on DVD/ BD disc?

3. Transmission via public/ private network?

You get the idea.

Run time?

(May seem a stupid Q but you need an aweful lot of video to make a half hour program).

Structure?

(May seem yet another stupid Q but someone has to script/ storyboard whatever it's supposed to be).

If we can nail down what you are attempting to acheive, we can start working backwards towards our goal - which is to get you on the road to wherever with some small chance of actually suceeding in your endeavour.


CS
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Old October 1st, 2008, 02:50 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Hurd View Post
Björn just gave me another idea which I'm surprised we haven't mentioned yet -- why not just hire locally within Africa. Travel expenses for an experienced shooter to go from one of the major African cities will be insignificant compared to the costs of sending a U.S. videographer overseas. Capetown, Johannesburg etc. should have plenty of talent to pull from.
Good idea. I'll see what my leaders think about it. However, part of the intent of this trip (aside from just getting usable footage) is for our team to get hands on experience. If we just have someone else do the shooting for us it seems that that would take away from that....however it would also free a couple of us up to help out in other ways.

We are traveling through 5 countries. It seems like it would be complicated to hire someone to travel with us through 5 countries....anybody know if my assumption is correct?
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Old October 1st, 2008, 03:28 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by Michael Kraus View Post
Good idea. I'll see what my leaders think about it. However, part of the intent of this trip (aside from just getting usable footage) is for our team to get hands on experience. If we just have someone else do the shooting for us it seems that that would take away from that....however it would also free a couple of us up to help out in other ways.

We are traveling through 5 countries. It seems like it would be complicated to hire someone to travel with us through 5 countries....anybody know if my assumption is correct?
I'd listen to Chris... a local videographer will know all kinds of things about the field that might not only save your day, but save your whole shoot. If you still want hands on experience, take $2000 of your budget to buy 2 Canon HV30 kits, and use the other $5000 to hire a pro.

BTW, I'd go tape, not tapeless. You can always get more DV tape, cheap.

Also, you don't need to worry about gear that will survive Africa, any gear will survive if you treat it right (assuming you are going to be in some hellish places, if you are in cities/towns, it's the same as here).
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Old October 1st, 2008, 03:44 PM   #15
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I plan on routinely and thoroughly cleaning the equipment every day (especially when we are in more dusty areas). I heard Q-tips work well for the different edges and creases around the body of the camera. I'll obviously need some lens cloths and cleaner.
Any other suggestions for cleaning supplies?
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