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Old May 6th, 2009, 08:52 AM   #1
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Shopping List of Budget(ish) Equipment for Good Quality HDV Film Production

I recently finished making a film with a volunteer crew and one problem I found was that my budget equipment was somewhat lacking - we had no audio mixer or focus controller for instance. And our tripod head gave poor panning and the tripod legs tended to move. I'm hoping to make drama and thriller films of sufficient quality to market on DVD/TV and enter into competitions etc... My next film will be my third as director.

I compiled a shopping list of things to buy (after endless hours of internet dredging, ugh!) and my current equipment list is below the shopping list for comparison. The shopping list is in order of priority (highest at the top). Note that I can't afford to pay more than this unless a generous benefactor donates lots of money to us like in Great Expectations. I'm really stuck on the lighting equipment, I was just going to buy a couple more cheap Interfit tungsten lights for filling in the background and so on.

I wondered if anyone could comment on how good my choices are before I take the plunge?

Thanks in advance!

SHOPPING LIST

Bebob, DVXL Universal remote zoom/focus controller, £185.27
Rode NTG-3 microphone kit with blimp windshield, 3.2m boom and 5m XLR cable, £661.25
Sound Devices Mix-pre compact 2 channel field mixer, £718.75
Portabrace MX-24, audio mixer carry case, £164.45
Canare/Neutrik, CAXMXF15, 15' star quad XLR cable with Neutrik connectors, £17.86
Gitzo GT5561SGT 6 section 260cm tripod legs, £703.70 - partly chose for height (OTS etc)
Gitzo GS5320V75 75mm bowl adaptor, £44.40
Gitzo G1380, Fluid head, £616.60
Canon, WD-H72, 0.75x wide angle converter lens, £402.50

Total £3,646.20


CURRENT EQUIPMENT LIST

CAMERA
Canon XH A1 high definition camcorder
4 x 4200 mAh Li-ion batteries
Kata CC-195 camcorder case
BW 77mm Circular Polarizing Filter

MONITORING
7” LCD TV, generic, with homemade tripod stand – powered by mains or battery - poor quality but good for framing and monitoring audio levels and focus points
2 x 12V 4Ah sealed lead acid batteries to power the above

CAMERA SUPPORT
Manfrotto 055XB tripod - not great but has good height
Manfrotto 700RC2 smooth action (sort of) tripod head
Home-made track dolly - poor but we have plans for a vastly improved DIY one
Home-made ‘Steadicam’ - poor

AUDIO
Audiotechnika AT815b shotgun type condenser microphone
Audiotechnika shock mount
homemade tripod stand
2m homemade telescopic boom (a carbon fibre fishing net pole)
6m unbranded XLR cable
Sony MDR 7506 studio monitoring headphones

LIGHTING
Interfit INT265 5-in-1 folding reflector (42")
Ezybalance folding Grey/White Card 30cm LA1250
4 x INT100 Interfit 3200K tungsten head lights with stands
1 x boom light stand for back light
Brollies for the above lights (translucent and silver)
2 x 4 Leaf Barn Doors

Thanks for reading my embarassing equipment list!
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Old May 7th, 2009, 02:18 AM   #2
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I'm kind of a tripod fanatic but I cannot afford the tripods that I want yet. I resolved that problem,. after a horrible shoot with various Bogen Manfrottos failing with frequency, by buying a couple of used Peter Lisand tripods with O'Connor fluidheads on Ebay. Peter Lisand equipment seems to be primarily used by ENG crews so there isn't the competition for the equipment that you see with the lines that are popular with indie filmmakers. Now, what you'll find for sale is older and heavier than the ultra-light tripods that you find today. But the O'Connor fluidheads are superb and flawless. We were shooting a lot of dance stuff for one documentary and they were just a dream to work with. I would up paying about $250 a piece of them - you can't beat that. It took me about six months to find two that I wanted on Ebay but I'm glad I did it that way. it would be nice to have one of the new ultra-light ones but I'll handle the weight to get the performance that I want.
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Old May 7th, 2009, 03:24 AM   #3
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Thanks Lori, I'll have a browse on E-bay and see if I can find one. Thing is I'm in the UK and I think there's a lot more equipment on sale will be in the US version of Ebay. but I'll certainly take a look. $250 for flawless performance sounds good to me, I think weight is not a problem as long as you can lift it into a car :)
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Old May 8th, 2009, 06:30 AM   #4
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+1 for going deep with a tripod. I think you'll see the biggest difference for the money spent there. Classy and precise camera moves can add a lot, whilst dim ones literally scream "amateur".

I looked into getting a portable mixer a few years ago for my XH A1 and though I didn't end up getting one, I was leaning toward getting one with three XLR inputs rather than two. After pouring over the audio list here, it seemed to make the most sense. The A1 already has two inputs so I'm not buying much getting a two input mixer.

As to LANC controllers, look carefully before you leap here with the A1. I have the Varizoom Rock which I love, but Canon's implementation of LANC means that only some of the possible control functions are exposed on the Varizoom. Fortunately, they are the ones I most care about. LANC is not really a standard. It's more like a set of guidelines so make sure you'll get the functionality you want out of the Bebob.
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Old May 8th, 2009, 09:33 AM   #5
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Thanks Tripp, I think you're right about the tripod and head, my Manfrotto/Bogen 055XB tripod with 700RC2 semi-fluid head is okay but you've no chance of pulling off a silky smooth Hitchcockian pan with it - especially with the rather unfortunate rewind effect at the end of pans if you take the pressure off the pan bar. If you tilt the head to point the camera about 45 degrees downwards and lock it off, even really really tight to the point of almost breaking the screw, the camera will still gradually sink - something I found to my detriment while attempting some stop-motion. I must say in defence of the tripod and head that for the price it's not bad - the tripod has good height and it's all pretty bomb proof and panning isn't too bad for the price.

The giant Gitzo tripod looks good because it is enormous - going to 260cm in height without the need for a stem. So it's going to be great for different perspectives, OTS and so on. The Gitzo catalogue also states the 5 series (of which the giant tripod is a member) is the best for lenses with long focal lengths (like the XH A1 lens) because it has the lowest twisting/torsion factor (or whatever it's called).

I looked into the Bebob and I think all the main functions - focus and zoom work with the XH A1. One thing I liked is that the levers on it are pressure sensitive so the harder you press the faster it zooms/focuses. But somewhere I read there is only one focus speed possible via Lanc so I'm not sure it will work. Focus pulling is the main reason I want the Lanc controller.

I too was looking at the more expensive mixers, I didn't realise Sound Devices (who many say are the best field mixer manufacturers) made a more basic 2 input mixer (The Mix-PRE). I was also looking at sound recorders in place of a mixer but a few people here on DVi advised that a mixer and better microphone are much more important. I think the Rode NTG-3 should be an improvement over my At815b (I hope) - people seem to rate it highly and for the price it's great to get the boom, zeppelin and softie/fluffy thing, XLR cable and shock mount all in one package..

The main thing I'm stuck on is lighting - we really aren't that hot on it and I don't know whether to get more/better gear or if we're just doing it all wrong/rushing it too much (I suspect the latter is the main factor).
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Old May 8th, 2009, 07:14 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stuart Graham View Post
But somewhere I read there is only one focus speed possible via Lanc so I'm not sure it will work. Focus pulling is the main reason I want the Lanc controller.
You may be disappointed in the LANC focus performance. I remember reading that there's a problem with the way Canon implement the LANC focus parameter. It's way too fast no matter what you do. I don't think the issue is limited to the Varizoom but I don't remember which units had the problems. Search the XH A1 and LANC controller lists and you should find a lot of information because I know there have been multiple threads.

The Varizoom was worth it for me because I primarily cared about start/stop and zoom. I just wished focus worked too. I tried changing the focus speed settings in the camera's menus but I could not get it anywhere near slow enough so the function is still rubbish.

We Yanks call that twisting either "torque" or "windup", but I got your meaning. (grin)
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Old May 8th, 2009, 10:25 PM   #7
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Another option for a good, professional tripod on a budget is to look for an old Miller Fluid Head and a set of wooden legs. On auction sites, look in the "vintage photography" section. I have one that I bought for $150 and used on many, many shoots (it's still the tripod for my b-cam) until I could afford my dream carbon-fiber Miller DS10.
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Old May 9th, 2009, 03:32 AM   #8
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To Brian: thanks for the tip, I'll have a look round for an old wooden tripod see and if there are any about. The DS10 looks nice but I need a much higher tripod for the type of work I intend to do.

To Tripp: I looked around the other LANC controller threads but most discussions are confined to the zoom capability. I posted in the threads asking about people's experiences focusing with the various controllers but no replies yet. I'll have another look around though.

If you can't do a reasonable job of changing focus steadily with a LANC controller I might be best off getting a follow focus wheel from Indifocus - but this will cost more as I'll need rails as well. The follow focus solution is a bit dodgy as well because if I do a tracking shot the focuser will have to run alongside the trolly turning the wheel, it doesn't seem ideal. Either that or the camera operator will have to operate the follow focus and control the framing and panning/tilting at the same time.

LIGHT BULB SWITCHES ON. Unless, unless I can get the electronics guys at our university to build a wire controlled follow focus wheel to attach to the XH A1, perhaps they could modify the Indifocus one. I may have to pay them huge amounts or money and or chocolate to do that though and it might not even be possible.
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Old May 11th, 2009, 05:49 AM   #9
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Anyone have any ideas if my shopping list is in the right order, priority wise?

It goes from top priority at the top to lowest priority at the bottom.

Will the NTG-3 shotgun microphone be an improvement over my Auditechnika At815b?
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Old May 17th, 2009, 10:28 AM   #10
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After quite a bit of reading around I've ordered a modded Oktava MK-012 mic with Rycote BBG windshield and windjammer, boom and mixer and cables instead of the NTG-3. With hindsight shotgun mics are not ideal for indoor recording - something I didn't realise before - so the NTG-3 is a possible future upgrade over my Audiotechnika for outdoor work. Most of our work is indoor so it's not necessary yet.

I've ordered all the audio gear now so will have to save up or get funding for the tripod and head next so we can improve our panning quality.

In terms of focus control I'm a bit stuck, I'm not sure how good a Lanc controler will be for focus pulls and the only alternative appears to be the Indifocuspro friction focus wheel. You can't put a geared ring (like the Camvision ones) over the XH A1 focus ring as the autofocus sensor gets in the way - I tried removing it but after looking under the AF cover you'd have to be pretty brave to take it off, part of it disappears under the XLR module!

I need someone, other than the cameraman, to be able to control focus during developing shots: tracking, 'steadicam', crane shots and so on.

Anyone have any ideas for a focus pulling solution or opinions on the Indifocuspro and Lanc controllers being used for this purpose?
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