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Old February 23rd, 2011, 10:45 AM   #1
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Going Independent

I'm going independent this year and I'm trying to figure out the best way to position myself in the Videography market. Is it better to invest in a camera? or a flexible lighting/grip package? or everything/nothing at all. Is it better to rent everything? What kind of equipment are producers/employers looking for when hiring a videographer?
Lots of questions :)
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Old February 23rd, 2011, 11:47 AM   #2
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Re: Going Independent

Mike,

As a fellow Canadian who has also recently gone independant, I can tell you what I did, and how it's worked out.
First of all, I did a really detailed evaluation of what services were available in my market area, and what the relative demands were. Where I am, (Regina), there are a HUGE number of "independant videographers" servicing the wedding market.
Detailed investigation showed that the vast majority were people who had invested a few hundred bucks in consumer grade camcorders and were trying to re-coup their costs by offering wedding coverage. Much of what I'd seen is very average/borderline poor quality...but, there are LOTS of them.
Since I have never liked doing weddings anyway, it wasn't hard to decide that part of the market was adequately serviced, and that it would take too much energy to enter it, demonstrate the ability to produce higher quality products, and market my services at a price point where I would actually make a resonable buck.
there is a thriving independant cinematography industry here as well, with most specializing in pure "film" style work, plus a couple of full production houses as legacies from the likes of the "corner Gas " series.
What there WASN'T, was any small, professionally equipped "one man bands" able to generate high quaility media, audio, editing and production in house, that was portable and self contained.
There was/is a lot of demand for services like that here, and no one filling them.
Since I have everything i need equipment wise to accomodate that demand, it was there that I decided to direct my efforts.
a bit of luck early on helped a great deal; I was hired to produce some awards videos for a local Health foundation. The contacts and exposure my work got through that project immediately generated a significant amount of additional work; people and groups that wanted video better than "shaky handicam", but not necessarily looking for broadcast qualityproduct and the attendant prices.
I have everything I need in a pretty portable set-up. Camera gear ( still and HD video) audio recording ability, mics. lighting, stands, green screen, teleprompter ( via an ipad), all the software I need to generate a quality product and portable enough that I can be on location usually in a matter of hours.

It's niche work...thre is also lots of it around. take a really close look at what your local market area looks like and determine if there is a spot for you. Personally, I would never rely on rental gear strictly...it builds in a cost that may be a deal breaker for many jobs, In fact, having my own gear has been enough to close the deal on a couple of projects that I may have lost had I needed to hunt for equipment to rent. I don't have a crane, but can access one, etc. I think there is some stuff that it pays to rent, but there are basics that you simply need to own to make a go of it.

Bottom line: REALLY understand your market...you may be very surprised at where unfullfilled demand exists, and some of it can be really steady, and lurative.You just need to know where to look

Hope ths helps a little!

Wayne
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Old February 23rd, 2011, 01:44 PM   #3
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Re: Going Independent

Thanks for the advice, Wayne. When you were starting out did you buy everything all at once, or did you collect it over time? I can invest 10K and that's enough to get the basics as you put it, but I'd rather not spend where I don't have to.
I have no problems investing in lights and grip gear because they never go obsolete, but the cameras on the market these days are just waiting to be outdone by something new and better. I'm really disappointed with just about every camera I research. I might have to wait until August for the Scarlet :o
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Old February 23rd, 2011, 02:46 PM   #4
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Re: Going Independent

Hi Mike,

Great advice from Wayne!

Aside for knowing what market you want to target, and realizing what other competitors are offering/selling, I think you also have to figure out what you want to do. If it's camera work, invest in equipment that people in your area are using (for broadcast, etc.) so they can integrate it with their production workflow (hard to do when the next best is just around the corner). If it's cinematography, absolutely invest in lighting and grip equipment (and a vehicle you can haul stuff in). If it's audio...well, you get the idea. Ultimately, we all want to get paid for what we love doing.

For us, we had a limited budget to start off with (less than 8K), so we bought a Canon XL2, tripod, some audio gear, and that's it. Over the course of 5 years, we've been able to build and add additional gear, including the new Canon XF300.

Good luck,
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Old February 23rd, 2011, 03:14 PM   #5
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Re: Going Independent

I've been "acquiring" for forty years...my equipment aquisition took a bit of a jump this year, but that was primarily directed at improving my lighting equipment and upgrading my tripod and head.

Camera's pose a bit of a delemna; do you buy really high end and rent it out to re-coup some of the outlay, or do you buy to suit the work, and upgrade as business increases?

As much as I'd love to be shooting every day with a camera like a Red, the cost is something I can't justify right now, since I shoot a lot of "talking head" stuff. Instead, I went with the same philosophy that I applied when I got into shooting portraiture for pay. I couldn't justify a Hasselblad or Mamiya large format to shoot high school grads and weddings; I could justify a Fuji S5Pro, though. It gave me what I really needed for portraiture; high dynamic range, and lots of lens options.

I went with a Sony VG-10 now because it does a really good job with the type of work I'm doing, it's small and light, lens interchangeability is there, as is shallow DOF. It DOESN'T have a lot of features I'd LIKE to have, but right now I don't NEED to have them..Hopefully, business will eventually justify dropping a ton of money on my "dream" camera, but I'm not there right now
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Old February 23rd, 2011, 05:37 PM   #6
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Re: Going Independent

Whether to buy or rent is really no different from any other business. It makes sense to buy what you will be using most of the time, regardless of the expected lifetime:

What has a short expected lifetime and a high acquisition cost is also expensive to rent. A camera may be expensive and obsolete fast, but so it is for the rental company, and they need to add a profit on top of that.

So, for any piece of equipment you may need, do the calculus: What is the cost of the equipment? What is the expected lifetime (years) before it's obsolete or needs replacement for other reasons? what is the expected usage time per year? Then figure out the cost of the equipment as an owner and compare against available rental fees.

But before you focus only on the numbers, consider the other pros and cons:

pro-owning:
- you have the equipment when you need it
- it will be the same every time, you save time setting up etc...
- it will be well cared for and always ready

con-owning:
- service and repair is on your expense
- rental equipment get more continuously updated, you might have the choice of newer equipment next time

the pro-owning means that you might accept the extra cost in certain cases because the value of these conveniences outweigh the cost.

Second, for items less used, you may rent, but you can also buy and rent out your equipment when not needed.

BR, Erik
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Old February 24th, 2011, 11:35 AM   #7
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Re: Going Independent

Thanks for the advice guys. I've made my decision to invest in owning the "basics".
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Old February 27th, 2011, 03:45 PM   #8
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Re: Going Independent

I think that owning the basics is a good idea. It's the only way that your going to get good at using your equipment. Practicing with your gear is crucial if you expect to produce good/great results.
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Old February 28th, 2011, 08:10 AM   #9
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Re: Going Independent

Mike,
Let us know what gear you decided to acquire. I'm always interested to see and hear about what others are using, and what they consider indespensable as opposed to "nice to have" stuff.
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(800) 833-4801
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