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Old July 25th, 2004, 06:59 PM   #1
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Making a Wish list, would like suggestions!

Hi all,
At work this past week, my boss (the best boss is the world!) was talking about possibly starting an in house prodution company at our small not-for-profit. She has the opportunity to apply for a grant that pays for equipment that is not traditionally office related (my boss wouldn't tell me the max amount). We would be shooting mostly documentary style productions and some other field work most likely.

What I am lookig for are suggestions on equipment. Cameras, Microphones, Lighting, accessories, etc. All of my prodution so far has been in school - and now I want to make sure that I'm going to get the right equipment for the job - so if you can suggest anything, it would be GREATLY appreciated!!

I could probably use the most advice on mics (wireless vs. shotgun, what type) and other stuff I might be forgetting.

Robbie
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Old July 26th, 2004, 10:59 AM   #2
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It's always lots of fun to help spend other people's money, but when you throw out something like that, be prepared for a barrage of opinions telling what the best camera in the world is, why you must shoot in 24 frame progressive, why you need this or that, and why everything else is garbage, etc.

If you live in a city big enough to have dealers, it would be nice if you can see the stuff for yourself before you buy. If not, once you've done some research , it would be well worth the air fare to go someplace and check things out.

You didn't mention anything about editing. Would you be spending the money for editing outside for each production, or doing it yourself? If doing it yourself, you'll need a chunk of money for a computer, editing software, monitors, mixer, deck, etc.

As far as the camera is concerned...that's a difficult one. The 1/3" chip 3-chip "prosumer" cameras are probably as cheap as you would want to go, and you might want to consider one of the lower end 1/2" chip cameras, such as the JVC DV GY5000 or the Panasonic dVC 200. In the 1/3" chip area, you've got five to choose from...the JVC 300, Sony PD170, Sony DSR250, Canon XL2, Panasonic DVX100a. The DSR250 is the most expensive, but the only reason for having it in your case would be if you need to shoot big long meetings, because it has the capability of using 3 hour tapes. If I were in your shoes, I think I would look seriously at the new XL2 when it becomes available; but the PD170 would probably be the best overall value for the money.
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Old July 26th, 2004, 11:54 AM   #3
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Hey Bill,

Thanks for the reply! Looking back at it, I was wondering if I might not have left it my request a bit open ended - afterall there is a lot to cover. I am really looking for opinions on what I should be looking at as far as "professional quality" equipment. I have used VX2000s, PD150s, DVX100s, XL1s's, etc. I would think that the newest generation of any of these cameras would suit my needs.

Unfortunately, I do not have access to a place where I can play around with equipment. I hae a good idea of what this stuff can do - but I was juts wondering what people have used for professional documentary style applications (surely, I am prepared for differing opinions!).

I'm thinking the PD170 is my personal choice as far as cameras go (I loved my Sonys!). I guess my major concern is audio equipment, lighting and other things I might be overlooking. I usually just took whatever was available at school as far as this equipment was concerned, but now I'd like to hear about what is one the market now.

Thanks again Bill!!

p.s. As far as editing is concerned, I'm doing that all myself and I already have a setup. Being a recent graudate, I just sold off all of my other equipment to get a good financial start but now that I'm lucky enough to work in production, I'm trying to re-enter the game!
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Old July 26th, 2004, 02:50 PM   #4
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If you like the PD150, then I'd say the PD170 would be your best bet and best value for the dollar. You more than likely have no need to shoot progressive scan, 16:9, etc.

You'd need a lightweight tripod, and several are available from about $700 to around $1600 or so. Probably a couple of long life batteries also would be nice.

For audio...that sort of depends on if you have another person or not. If you have a soundman, then a shotgun on a boom is good for many situations. Audio Technika makes a nice shotgun for a reasonable price, and so does Sennheiser. I use a Sennheiser MKH60, but that's about $1300. I also use a Shure FP33 mixer, which is an excellent field mixer, about the same price as the MKH60. Sennheiser also has a cheaper mic that's in the $300-400 range (ME66?). I personally like AT better in the lower price ranges.

If you do not have a soundman available to you, the shotgun mic would be good for putting on a mic stand (I use a C-stand) for talking head interviews. But for more complex stuff, shooting by yourself, you might want a fairly decent wireless. We use Lectrosonics wireless systems with Countryman lavs, but there are cheaper wireless systems that are good. If they're beyond your budget, don't disregard a decent wired lav. In most cases the people you are shooting will be either interviews, talking head narrators, etc., so you might could live with a wired lav. I always travel with the shotgun and boom, a wireless system, mixer, and a wired lav in case the wireless has trouble.

As far as lights...depends on how much you want to spend and the types of things you are going to be doing. If it's a lot of corporate stuff, interviews in offices, etc., you can do a lot with two Lowel Caselight 4s and one Caselight2. Those are fluorescents, and as the name implies, they fold up into very handy cases, with everything self-contained. Fluorescents are cool and don't require much power, and you can switch between daylight and 3200 lamps. The downside is that you're lighting with softlights, they don't have a lot of throw, and they're expensive. You might check out the Lowel site. It's hard to go wrong with a set of 3 or 4 DP lights, with 1K lamps in one or two and 500w ones in the rest. They are open face lights and you'll need diffusion gels for them, and color correction gels for daylight situations.
If you have more money to spend, a set of 4 fresnels would be even better. Arri, Altman and Mole-Richardson all sell very comparable sets, the most common being two 300w and two 600w lights. Fresnels cost more, they're heavier and a little more of a pain to carry around even though they usually come in a big case with wheels, and you won't have as much output as the equivalent open face light. Upside is better lighting control. I have a set of 4 Altmans in additon to a bunch of Lowel DP lights and the Caselights and some softlights. I rent HMIs when needed for daylight situations. Most things I do I can light with a couple of 575w HMIs, a 1200w HMI, and then fill with the Caselights with daylight lamps. Purchasing those 3 HMIs would be around $15,000.

A common, lightweight, relatively cheap kit is the Lowel 3-light Omni set. They come in a nice case, you can store gels, scrims, etc., in the lid, and it's not too big and easy to move around. They're open face lights and require diffusion in almost all situations. Omnis are light and are easy to hang, and with a DC lamp, you can run one off a car battery. The stands are lightweight too, not too rugged but appropriately sized for that light. They can go up to 600w but are more comfortable with the 450w lamps. Lowel also makes some fresnels, but I like the Altman, Arri and Mole-Richardsons better in that area.

A coupe of C-stands and flags would be nice too...diffusion and color correction gels, C-47s (wooden clothes pins), gaffer tape, stingers (extension cords), Portabrace cases for your camera and sound gear...you can spend a lot of money on this stuff. Or you can simply buy a camera, tripod and mic and see what you can do with that and rent lights when you need them.
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Old July 26th, 2004, 03:16 PM   #5
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Geez Bill, thanks for taking the time to answer so thoroughly!! I will most likely be working alone for quite a while - maybe if things pick up enough we would be able to hire an assistant or something - but I'm sure I'd have him/her too busy washing my car to get to shoots anyways ;)

I've been factoring in batteries and cases myself, but thanks for mentioning them! As for tripods, I was thinking a nice $200-$400 Bogen Manfrotto would do, am I wrong? I am certainly aware of the more expensive tripods - but to be quite honest, I've never seen any real benefit. Don't get me wrong, I'm not the type to set a $3000 camera on-top of a $20 Best Buy triopod or anything....but if someone could explain the benifits of the other tripods, it would be greatly appreciated!

Believe it or not I have been searching the forums and reading my eyes off, and I have seen that a lot of people suggest a lav mic for sit down interviews when working alone - is the Audio Technica ATW Series any good? It seems like people say they are good for the price, but a second opinion never hurts!

I'm thinking a smaller light kit would suit me well. Mainly because it takes more time to set up more lights and while lighting is important, all I will need is 3-point interview setups and possibly a flood to brighten a room for shooting. As far as wattage, I'm thinking I'll want to stay on the lower end (I understand that there is a lot of variation within this as well) - do you have any suggestions for a relatively cheap kit? I'm looking into the lowel at this point.

I suppose it would really help if I had budget numbers as well, I'm thinking it'll max out by $15,000 - I am aiming for 10K myself.

But again, thanks for all of your help Bill. For some reason I am terrified of buying equipment since someone else is paying the tab - I just want to be sure I'm getting the right stuff for the job.
Once I get used to it, I'm sure I'll have no problem spending other people's money!

Robbie
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Old July 26th, 2004, 03:51 PM   #6
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Hey, spending other people's money (OPM) is in the greatest of American tradition. You've never seen a successful CEO slimeball using his own money, have you?

About AT...I have only used the long shotgun, but a sound guy I know likes all the good AT stuff. From my experience and others I've talked to, that's your best buy for the money.

I feel the same way about lights. The 3-light Lowel Omni kit is just over a thousand bucks these days, I think, and while it's popular on some boards to knock Lowel, I've used them for many years successfully. I did nothing but corporate stuff for many years using nothing but Lowel Omnis and DPs, and lots of diffusion gels, and some C-stands and flags. If your budget permits, you might try for the Omni set, plus a Rifa light.

One nice thing about the Omnis is their light weight and small size. You can hang one with a scissors clip from a drop ceiling very easily for a backlight in an office if nesssary (scissors clips--never leave home without one). I can't think of anything better than that Omni set for the money. If you don't get a Rifa light, maybe get an umbrella for a softer light off one of the Omnis, if you go that route. Lowel also sells flex arms and flags and stuff for better light control. You might get their catalog and check it all out. Also, a good buy would be Russ Lowell's book, "Matters of Light and Depth."

I'm not familiar with the cheaper tripods. The Gitzo 1338 is the cheapest thing I've used, since I've always shot with bigger cameras. I bought the Gitzo for a DSR250, and it is good enough that I use it with the DSR500 on occasion; but it would be overkill for the 150/170. With a light camera like the 170, all you really need is something that's quick to set up and can make smooth pans and tilts. I'd be careful of going too cheap.
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Old July 29th, 2004, 10:36 AM   #7
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Thanks Bill! You have definately reinforced some of my intital thoughts and brought some new info to the table!

If anyone else has any other thoughts or ideas, please feel free to add something, I'm still open to ideas.

Robbie
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