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Old March 15th, 2004, 12:58 PM   #1
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paying for a camera

19 year-old filmmaker here. Alright, here's my situation. I want to purchase a DVX100 for an upcoming project but I don't have the money. I've got about HALF, about $1500. I was thinking about getting a credit card and charging the camera on that. Now I don't have an income, I rely on pretty good sized financial aid checks that I get from my university in Spring and Fall. I would want to charge the camera on the card and then make small monthly payments on it until Fall 04 when I receive my aid check. Then I would make one huge payment and pay off the card. Now I do have pretty good restraint when it comes to spending and money, and this credit card would be used solely for getting a camera.

Does this sound like a good idea? Could it work like this? Perhaps some of you folks with prior experience can lend me some advice, thanks.
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Old March 15th, 2004, 11:04 PM   #2
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Here is the truth of your situation:

You want a camera you cannot afford, and you are prepared to go into debt to get it. Why? Because like most filmmakers, videographers, and pretty much any consumers out there, you have been mislead by the marketing giants (and probably techno nerds on the internet) that you need this camera to make a good movie (for whatever reason, 3CCD, 24p, Cinegamma... whatever...) And besides, by the time you accessorise a DVX100 you are going to be at at least $3500 with batteries, a camera bag, filters, etc...

All the above is BS. The least important thing to making a movie is the camera. Look at Leonardo DaVinci. He's got a canvas, paint, and a brush. Does anyone care what brand of any of these he painted the Mona Lisa with? Hell no. If you make a good movie, no one whose opinion matters will give a damn if you tell them that you shot your movie on a ten year old VHS-C single chip camcorder.

Re read the last paragraph and let it sink it. I just saved you about three grand.

Now, what should you buy?

Your camera doesn't matter. It is the least important filmmaking tool you will ever own.

What you need, mostly in order of importance:
A good micrphone.
A light kit.
A decent tripod.
Lots of friends. Yes you can buy these, but it's cheaper to rent them with bribes of free pizza and beer.
Assuming you are studying film in school, you already have books. Buy more. If you aren't studying film, buy three times as many. Knowledge and skill are all you really have in the end. Rent lots of good movies too. Watch everything you can.

So what equipment should you buy SPECIFICALY?

Camera:
On the low end, I'd look for a used Canon Optura Pi for under $500. At the high end. consider a used Canon GL1 for $1000-$1200. Other people will step in with other choices for you. Often it's a personal choice, and really won't affect your career in the long run. Look for good resale value, and watch out for internet scams.

The good part about only spending $500 on a camera is that it leaves you with $1000 to spend on more important things.

Light kit. You can get Home Depot shop lights from $40-$100 each. Going to your local pro video store, you can pick up some CT Blue gel to balance the colour temperature they put out, some diffusion paper, some ND gels, some screen mesh to make diffusers out of, and some sheets of foam core for reflectors and flags (probably from Staples or Office Depot). This should yield a basic light kit for less than $300. A basic new kit from Lowell will start at $500, but there are always good deals on Ebay. Do a search on this forum in the Lighting section for more info on both.

Microphone. Sennehiser makes the MKE300 shotgun mic, which sells for $150ish I think. That would fall nicely into your budget. It's not an XLR mic though, but the ME66 is around $400, possibly out of your range depending on what you do with the light kit and camera. You'll also need a boom. You can get a painters pole from Home Depot for $30 and convert it. A real boom will start at $200 and go up from there. Ask the guys in our Now Hear This audio forum for a better opinion.

Tripod. Since you camera is light, I'd consider a Libec M20 tripod from our sponsor www.zotzdigital.com Its cheap at under $200 and will work nicely on a light camera.

Then there are other things you WILL need. A camera bag, extra batteries and filters are just the start. Budget 25% on top of the camera for accessories like these. Good camera bags come up used on Ebay from time to time, could save some money there.

Now go shoot a good movie.

PS, save your credit card until you actually need to shoot a movie. The cheapest part of filmmaking is buying the camera. Seriously.
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Old March 15th, 2004, 11:05 PM   #3
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The credit card advice I would give is this... stop and think. I'm a very frugal, many say anal, spender. I can say from experience that debt is much much harder to pay off than it is to spend. I think your big decision here is whether you need, and I do mean need, this camera enough to put yourself into debt. There are times when a debt like this is 100% justified, like a financial investment in yourself. I went into debt during a fuller-than-full time internship for very little pay. That internship provided lots of hands on experience that is paying off right now, and was well worth the debt (especially now that I'm paid off). But it was still very hard to get out of that hole. It sounds like you need to really consider if you need the camera now, or if it can wait until you can afford to pay in full. There are all kinds of questions you can ask yourself.

Are you getting the camera for fun?
Will this camera make money immediately?
Will this camera provide a means for experience that will be worth money in the future?
Will your upcoming project provide any financial return?
Will you miss out on anything by not buying the camera right now?
...and most importantly... Can you borrow someone else's camera until you get one?

Credit cards can be very helpful when paid off every month. At the same time, they will eat you for lunch if you slack off a month here or there by only paying the minimum.
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Old March 16th, 2004, 12:04 AM   #4
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I agree with Dylan, but when I was 19, I bought a car in much the same way. I put 1/2 down and got a credit union loan for the other 1/2---which my dad had to co-sign. Would I do it again? Yes. Because I really needed (or wanted) that car. Do you really need and want that DVX100? I'm sure you can make due with a much cheaper one, as Dylan suggested.

Bryan, may I suggest getting a PV-DV953 or a GS100? The GS100 is a fantastic cam for the money, but you'll have to get it from Japan. Allan can help you out with this. Just visit our MX Forum for information. (The GS100 even has great 16:9, unlike the DVX100.)
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Old March 16th, 2004, 05:07 PM   #5
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Heh, wow this has kind of gotten a little off topic. I may be 19, but I've already shot over 15 short films. I've been using my Sony TRV11, ATR-55 shotgun, and a home built lighting kit for about 3 and half years now. I just upgraded to the ME66 shotgun. I'm gearing up to shoot my first feature length film and I've admired the look and feel that the DVX100 can create. My ol' Sony is getting buggy in its old age, it has served me well but it's time to dump it for a pro cam. It's not like I'm some clueless kid who just decided on a whim to buy a $3000+ camera. I've carefully considered everything, including the fact that I would have to go in debt to obtain this camera. That is alright. I need to establish credit anyhow, this would be a good opportunity I think. I'll make some monthly payments on the camera for about 8 months or so, then I'll be able to pay it off in full, at least by the end of this year. I won't be in debt and I'll have my camera. True, I may have paid a lot extra in interest, but that's cool with me. The only problem I can see is that my credit union may not give me a card because I don't have any income, I'm not employed. My mother will likely cosign, and we're both members of this credit union, so I think I'll be able to work through that.
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Old March 16th, 2004, 07:07 PM   #6
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<<<-- Originally posted by Bryan Harley : I need to establish credit anyhow, this would be a good opportunity I think. -->>>

Suuuure.... I've heard worse excuses to buy something. :)

Ok, sounds like you've got a good start. You didn't give much background info on yourself.

Reasses your budget though. $1500 is not half of what a DVX100 will cost you (unless buying used), especially with accessories.
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Old March 17th, 2004, 08:50 PM   #7
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You almost have enough for a DVC80 or Vx2100...

oh yea...Get a Job- ya bum!
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Old March 18th, 2004, 09:56 AM   #8
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Bryan, if you've got the discipline, then your approach could work. But as Dylan suggests, once you get the camera, there will be many accessories that you you 'need' in addition to the camera itself. Now, if you *do* have the appropriate discipline, you will have considered this, and will only buy what you must have, and will forgo any additional purchases until the camera is paid off.

That being said, I'd look for the best deal possible on a used model. Buy locally if possible, otherwise, look at eBay, but as other's have noted (and some have experienced), be very careful in who you deal with. In this instance, it is very useful to use a credit card in your transaction as you have some protection against fraudsters out there.

A word about credit: for many people, it can be very dangerous ground. You've placed the camera on credit, and have paid a few of the minimum monthly payments of $15 or so. You realize that if you put a few accessories on there as well, your minimum monthly payment only goes to $19 -- quite a deal. Before you know it, you don't owe $1,500, you owe $4,500, and you can be over your head. An interesting phenomenon happens to some people at this stage: since they know they can't pay the card off immediately, they focus on the minimum monthly payment and not the total owed on the card. The amount charged grows dramatically, and before long, the time required to pay off the card is years, not months. This is a sickening feeling to those of us who have experienced it. So, if you're sure you want to do it, then go ahead with your plan. However, as soon as you've bought the camera, destroy the card, or give it to your co-signer with the agreement that you don't get it back until you have a zero balance. Just for fun, download a program on the web that shows you how many months you need to pay the minimum to pay off your balance based on your interest rate and the amount owed. It is quite an eye opener.

The good news about your situation is that at least you're asking if this is a logical approach. Many kids your age would charge now and deal with it later. You're going to need credit to get around in this world, so if you can handle this successfully, then you'll be well on your way to handling credit well the rest of your life. Good luck.
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Old March 18th, 2004, 01:05 PM   #9
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The best advice my dad ever gave me was "If you don't have the money, don't buy it." I can't say I've followed it, 100% but I've come pretty darn close and am happy to say I don't owe the bank or a credit card anything (except for the current monthly charges - cell phone, gym membership that I don't use enough, golf club membership that I don't use enough).
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Old March 19th, 2004, 11:24 AM   #10
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Bryan, you said
"Does this sound like a good idea? Could it work like this? Perhaps some of you folks with prior experience can lend me some advice, thanks."

Dylan answered along those lines.

Now you come back with "It's not like I'm some clueless kid who just decided on a whim to buy a $3000+ camera. I've carefully considered everything, including the fact that I would have to go in debt to obtain this camera."

It sounds like you really wanted affirmation on your plan, not some advice from folks with prior experience.

Now you also wrote, " . . . . I don't have any income, I'm not employed. My mother will likely cosign, and we're both members of this credit union, so I think I'll be able to work through that. "

Some of the best advice my Dad, gave me was to never cosign for someone else’s loan, not even kin or your own kids. To take own your own debt is one thing but to put it on your mother is, in my opinion, not being responsible.

I'm not telling you to not borrow to get the camera, but you should listen to and respesct those whom you have solicited advice from. BTW, you did not come across like a clueless kid until you responded to Dylan's post. In fact, you came across like someone well informed with a plan of action.

Take this for what you will, it is intended to help and educate, not flame or put you down. Good luck with the plans and I hope it all works as planed. I look forward to seeing some of your work.

Now go shoot a movie so we can say, "I know that guy. sort of."
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Old March 20th, 2004, 04:29 PM   #11
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Borrowing the money, isn't the best idea IMO. But if you really will be able to pay it off, it may be possible. I still wouldn't do it. I don't charge anything unless I have the money in hand.

But then remember, Kevin Smith made Clerks with 27,000 dollars that he got from maxing out every credit card he could get, and the money he could bum off of friends and family.... but it's a real long shot to be the next Kevin Smith.
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Old March 20th, 2004, 06:45 PM   #12
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If I was going to go into debt for the sake of making a film, I'd use my credit cards for production content rather than a new camera.
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Old March 20th, 2004, 07:19 PM   #13
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Some advice that may put your situation in perspective (click here)




... from the Guide Book for Guerrilla Filmmakers
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Old April 3rd, 2004, 11:37 PM   #14
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I am in production of my 5th short film (budgets ranging from $10,000 to $30,000), and here is my 2 cents.

I started out more or less like what you just described (only I had a very good steady income from my day job and could afford these nice gadgets).

I would probably borrow a friends one chip and shoot the first couple of small scale films, edit them and watch them. This will be your first official films, and you will see that it is difficult (but not impossible) to make movies. You will also learn that the cost of a camera is pretty insignificant compared to other things involved in filmmaking (depending on how professional you want the production and the final product/film to be).

Once you have gained a little more experience, then you can go ahead and rent e.g. a 3 chip camera, more lights, gels, maybe even a glidecam and/or a dolly etc.

Then, you will probably also realize that making short films is not just something that you do easily, and that you will be making 12 short films or 4 feature films a year.

If you were to buy this expensive camera, you will find that buying a camera as supposed to renting one, will be a good investment if you are making say 12 films a year. If you are, then I think this would be a good time to invest in one. Plus, by this time the cameras that we are discussing today will be much cheaper plus higher end cameras may be available at a good price by that time e.g. HD cameras.

Or you may find out that you would rather be shooting film or HD and take filmmaking to the next level, in which case you would have a camera that you paid top dollars for and now is hardly used and that you can't get that much money for if you sell it.
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