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Old October 14th, 2009, 10:56 AM   #1
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Okay, some quick background:
I'm new to filmmaking. I've studied plenty and I'm ready to hit the ground running. The best way to learn is by doing. So, I got a little $ together and I've decided to put together a kit to get me started. I plan on making short films for a little while, one every other week or so, and then in the winter I'm going home to shoot a feature with some friends. Here's the list of things i'm planning on buying right now to get me started so that I can shoot, edit, and distribute (if I choose to) my work. These are the bare minimums, as I see it, that's required to get this done. The advice I'd love to have from you guys is a) if you see anything VITAL missing (for instance, if I get the canon 7d but don't get any memory cards... that'd be something VITAL that's missing. A lens hood would not be vital, because I can get by without that for a little while if I have to. you can argue that a lens hood IS vital, but keep in mind I'm mostly just trying to learn here, one step at a time). Secondly, I plan on slowly adding items and accessories to my kit to really get something good going, and be fully rounded so that if someone needs me to do sound on a project, I'll be set, if someone needs me to photograph a project, I'll be set, etc. So, lens hood would be in here. Thirdly, if you see anything I can get a better deal on or think I should spend more on X item and less on Y item, tell me!
I hope this thread can be a good resource for those to come as well.
On to the stuff I'm going to buy!

CAMERA:
Canon EOS 7D /w 28-135mm lens: $1899 + tax = $2100
(not sure about the lens, but it seems the best for the price)
(if I can find this used I'm going to jump on it. I've seen it once or twice used for like $1000-$1300)

Wide angle lens: ~$400
(I hope to find this used, I'm probably lowballing the price though... I'm still looking into what I should get, suggestions would be helpful)

Tripod: $40-$80
(I hope to find this used as well. Right now I'm not terribly concerned about a great tripod since I plan on having mostly static shots for the time being)

2 Transcend 16gb 133x CompactFlash cards: $50/each, $100
(They're not the best brand, but I've heard there's really no problems and they're cheap. I'll take my laptop with me and be transferring the data from one while recording on the other. Worst case scenario, I get some corrupted files and I have to re-shoot it. I can deal with that)

Kingston CompactFlash card reader: $15

CTA Rechargeable battery: $50

Lenscoat Camera Bodybag: $25


Total approximate camera costs:
$2100
$400
$60
$100
$15
$50
$25
-------
$2750


Audio equipment

Shotgun microphone: $300
(I don't want to spend a ton of money on a microphone because I'll probably end up upgrading before too long. I figure a nice, used Rode or Sennheiser, or even audio-technica will be fine here while I'm still learning)


Zoom H4N 4 track audio recorder: $250
(used)

Microphone boom pole: $100
(used, or i might just make my own for now)

Shock mount: $50

Audio total:
$300
$250
$100
$50
-----
$700

Lights:
Work lights from hardware store: $50
Chinese lanterns + stands and bulbs: $30
Foam boards + shower curtain for diffusion: $20

Total lighting
$50
$30
$20
----
$100

TOTAL
$2750
$700
$100
-------
$3550

That's what I'm looking at for right now. It seems like any other issues I may have may be worked around, i.e. I'll use natural lighting or only shoot static shots. I'll add to my kit as necessary, but this should get me started. Anything else vital you think I need? Anything you think I DON'T need? Any other comments?

Thanks a ton, and I look forward to being an active member on the board.
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Old October 14th, 2009, 11:03 AM   #2
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Welcome to the board. Looks like you are well on your way.

I'll say it looks like your audio solution is probably solid. The boom pole thing may be a bit undervalued, but it's workable.

The lights... well, a shower curtain + worklamps could lead to a real fire hazard, so I wouldn't recommend that solution, but there are other solutions that can be used.

The camera choice seems fine to me. The lenses are about as good as you are going to get in a small budget. I would say don't be afraid of manual lenses. Especially if you are not planning on moving the camera a lot.

The tripod concerns me greatly. If you plan on being outside, an $80 tripod just won't hold the camera still. You want something with heavy legs that don't flex. There are other options out there, but you really ought to spend some time thinking this through.

Again, overall, I think you've done a nice job here. Better than most. Just these few things concern me.
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Old October 14th, 2009, 12:41 PM   #3
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Hm, I'll look into the tripod issue. That actually concerns me the least because until winter I have a tripod I can use. As for lights, that's the area I'm weakest in, equipment wise, but if necessary I think I can work my way around it. It'd be nice to have better equipment, don't get me wrong, but it's a tight budget and money for better lights needs to come from somewhere, and I think the camera + audio stuff is more important (since if i have to i can use natural light)
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Old October 14th, 2009, 04:47 PM   #4
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I echo everything Perrone said.

In terms of audio, look for a K-Tek KE-110CC boom pole (AVALON aluminum, internally wired) if you can find one. I swear by mine. Spend more money on your shockmount that I did - the rubber "welds" are letting go.

In terms of high performance to cost ratio shotgun mics, I can't recommend the RODE NTG-2 short shotgun highly enough. There are much better mics out there but for the dollar, it's a GREAT mic.

ADDENDUM: and get a windscreen AT LEAST for the mic.
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Old October 14th, 2009, 06:12 PM   #5
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Actually, the Rode NTG2 rides a little under my budget. If you really think it's a solid mic i'll look into it, but I figured I'd spend a little more and get something better. And you're definitely right, windscreen is necessary. So maybe I'll go with the rode and use the extra money on a windscreen?
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Old October 14th, 2009, 06:16 PM   #6
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I think Shaun's point -- and I agree -- is that you'd have to spend a whole lot more to get a little better because the performance/cost ratio of the Rode is so high. And it comes with a windscreen, so you could splurge on a nice deadcat as well.

B&H has some nice packages available -- basically you can either buy the mic alone, or a mic plus other goodies for the same price. Right now just the mic is $269, or the mic plus shockmount plus cable is $269.95.
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Old October 14th, 2009, 09:07 PM   #7
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I'll definitely look into the NGT2 then.
What do you guys think about my lights? Obviously, as I mentioned, it's the weakest part, I figure I'll get by with natural lighting, a worklight (or two) and the occasional foam board or something... and I don't know that much about lighting, do you think I'd be better off getting some gels or anything? Is it gonna be super necessary?
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Old October 14th, 2009, 09:42 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Adam Gold View Post
you'd have to spend a whole lot more to get a little better because the performance/cost ratio of the Rode is so high.
And I did - my boom mic is a Sennheiser ME66 short shotgun (I come from a news background and when I bought, it was the only shotty I had experience with) that I paid $800 for. My Senny is far more abrasive than the NTG-2 and has higher self noise whether powered by battery or Phantom. I'll be picking up either an NTG-2 or an NTG-3 (significantly more money but WOW!) once I'm settled in my new locale.

Again, there are better mics but you won't go wrong with the NTG-2 in and around the budget you have identified. And when you DO splurge for a more expensive mic (IF you ever do...), it's still a great utility mic.
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Old October 14th, 2009, 09:47 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alex Payne View Post
What do you guys think about my lights?
In my HUMBLE opinion, you don't have lights in that list. I can't STAND worklights: they are far too hard to get anything useful out of. You'd be further ahead (and that's not a HUGE stretch) to buy open face clamp lights instead. Power goes down but usability goes up.

Oh, and I hate clamp lights as well. But they are more practical than worklights, which simply throw as much ugly light as possible in a general direction - hardly a description for a good creative lighting instrument.
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Old October 15th, 2009, 01:13 AM   #10
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Yet another suggestion...

Hi Alex,
I'm going to suggest some things quite different from your list. (Feel free to ignore this, it's just my opinion.)

CAMERA:
Unless you really MUST have shallow depth of field, forget the still camera. Go with an HD camcorder like the Canon XH-A1, Sony HVR-V1U, or Panasonic AG-HMC150.
TRIPOD:
Spend $400 to $800 on a solid tripod with good fluid head. Look at Bogen/Manfrotto tripods for starters. (Many pros use more expensive brands like Miller or Sachtler, but we're talking well over $1K for those.)
LIGHTS:
--Get 1 or 2 200W 3200K flourescent soft lights such as Coollights or Alzo. (about $400 ea.)
(Your actors will thank you for the relatively cool flourescents.)
--Get 1 or 2 Lowel Omni lights. ($135 ea.) (Sometimes you need the punch.)
--Get a tiny fresnel spot such as LTM Pepper 100. ($180 ea.) (Sometimes you need something small.)
--Several aluminum stands, a couple being at least 8'.
--A few 14 gauge extension cords.
MIC:
--Rode or AudioTechnica, that can work with battery or phantom. (About $250)
--Mic fishpole (under $50).
--Mic shockmount (about $40).
--2 25' XLR mic cables.
--Zoom recorder and clapboard, unless you just use the camcorders audio.
EDITING:
--A fast computer with multi-core processor, several GBs of RAM, and a seperate hard drive (maybe 1 Terrabyte) just for video files.
--Editing software. (For PCs, Vegas Pro gives a lot of bang for the buck. For MAC, either FCP or Premiere Pro.)
MISC:
Lots of bags/cases to hold all this stuff. C-clamps and A-clamps. Oh, and don't forget the gaffer tape.

Good luck,
Ken

Last edited by Ken Hull; October 15th, 2009 at 11:30 AM.
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Old October 15th, 2009, 07:57 PM   #11
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Hey Ken,
Thanks a ton for your input. Your list looks fantastic-- unfortunately I think it's gonna put me a little over my budget. I've done a ton of research on the 7D and I've decided it's got tons of advantages and disadvantages... but essentially it's the price that cinched it for me, so I think I'm going to stick with it. As for everything else in your list, it's really helpful but like I said, but I think most of it I can get by without for right now... but I've definitely got this page bookmarked for when I'm looking to upgrade!

One thing that does concern me though is the lens. I plan on getting the lens kit right now, the 28-135mm, since it's a great price if I buy it with the camera and it seems fairly versatile... I've done a ton of research on lenses but having no experience with them technical data only does me so much good... what do you guys think? Will the 28-135 lens do me good as an all-purpose lens for a little while? It's a great price. I'd really like to have something that's pretty wide though, but the catch is they all seem out of my price range, and I can't spend all my money on a wide angle lens since I'll have nothing to use as a shorter lens.

Thoughts/Opinions?

edit: let me put it like this. If you had no lenses and only had a budget of say $700 for lenses, what would oyu go with? (so pretty much, if you could only get one lens which would it be)
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Old October 16th, 2009, 12:03 AM   #12
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Recommendations: Revision 2

OK, going with the EOS 7D:
How about getting just the body (save $200), then get a wider zoom like 17-85? For movie making, wide angle is usually much more useful than extreme telephoto. You might find that's all the lens you need.

LIGHTS:
Coollights CL-255P 3200K: $275
Impact Air-Cushioned Heavy Duty Light Stand, 9.5' from B&H: $39
Impact Qualite 300 2-light kit from B&H (stands + umbrellas included!): $200

MIC FISHPOLE:
Testrite 31"-79" fishpole from Markertek: $33
5/8 to 3/8 adapter (or whatever size you need to connect to shock mount): about $5

The above should get the price down a bit from my original recommendations.
Ken

P.S. -- I hope you've thought about what you're going to use to edit these HD movies. (And burn Blu-Rays?)
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Old October 16th, 2009, 11:12 PM   #13
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It's nice to see your enthusiasm. You've done a lot of homework but there a couple of things that struck me. First, there are no legit used 7D cameras selling for $1k. It was just introduced and you will more than likely have to buy it new.

Second, you should really rethink the lens thing. A 28-135 is a normal-to-telephoto on the 1.6x crop 7D body. And it's way too slow. The only reason to get the 7D is for shallow depth of field with wide apertures. (A regular consumer camcorder will be a million times easier to use and give comparable results to a slow kit lens. You could get a Canon HF200 for one-third the price and get better results.) Maybe you could get an 18-55 for a wide, a 50mm for a fast mid range, and a 100mm/f2.0 for a telephoto, and still stay in your budget. The longer the lens, the more you need fast apertures.

If you've got fast lenses on the 7D, you don't need lights - you can use whatever practicals you've got lying around.

Whatever you decide, don't scrimp on the audio. An NTG-2 is good for regular dialog and will probably work as well as anything in your budget range. It's not so good for loud environments, if you're planning on a Halloween chainsaw massacre movie....
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Old October 17th, 2009, 07:54 AM   #14
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That's great to hear, I was really concerned about my lens choice as mentioned. I'll spend a little more time looking into lenses. And yeah I definitely think I'm going to go with the NTG-2, it seems great and fits within my budget really well.
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