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Techniques for Independent Production
The challenges of creating Digital Cinema and other narrative forms.


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Old July 12th, 2009, 03:24 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by Dennis Stevens View Post
Not to forget that technology is always changing.
And to me, this is where RED has outshone everyone since it's inception. Every new technology they have made available to their customers. Anything that can be done in firmware, is done in freely downloadble firmware. Other parts are easily transferable.


Look at this scenario. You are a wedding videographer. You buy a 2/3" Scarlet with a couple of lenses. You buy a monitor, some rails, a Mattebox, and some filters. You get hired to shoot a 30 second TV commercial for a local store. Your setup works just fine. Then you get asked to shoot a music video, and they demand it be shot on at least an S35 sensor. You rent a brain, swap your stuff, and shoot it. A year later, you decide to shoot a short. On real film. You transfer your lenses, rails, monitor, mattebox, and filters to the film camera and shoot.

Buying a non-modular setup like my EX1 or someone else's HPX, or a 5DMk2, means that nearly nothing is transferrable, and you're locked into what you have. If you want to upgrade, you sell your entire camera system and start over. Film (real film) isn't like that. And neither is what the RED guys are doing. And to me, that is what makes the system smart, and that is their competitive advantage. Not the large sensor, or the resolution. It's the highly modular system that can go from shooting broadcast video, to 70mm equivalent and all your gear being transferrable. That's huge.
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Old July 12th, 2009, 06:33 PM   #17
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The problem that I see with 'modularity' in a high tech field is that every module tends to improve in unison - monitors, sensors, etc. Only glass tends to enjoy a lifespan that crosses a new generation. At the same time the technology improves, the prices typically fall.

I agree that the Mk2 is not usable for most of us, but my point was that it opened the door for large sensors and interchangeble lenses. Three years from now, I think every prosumer, and higher level camera will have big sensors and optionally, use DSLR lenses.

Wasn't this essentially Red's formula - use someone else's DSLR sensor and add other components? The Letus and kin will be obsolete. The next EX1, A1 and HVX200 will have a DSLR sensor and allow accept 35mm lenses. Just a predicition, but it seems fairly obvious. And with that large sensor, we'll see Red-like resolution.
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Old July 12th, 2009, 08:08 PM   #18
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I agree with you Paul. I think the Mk2 is just a sign of things to come, and I know that Canon and others will be developing large sensor video cameras. By the time we actually see the Scarlet I think there will be several large sensor cameras in development from all the manufacturers.

What RED has really done is bring Digital Cinema at a price point that looks attractive. If other companies can do the same thing then there is no reason they won't take a piece of that pie. I'm sure that a Panasonic, Canon, or Sony can produce something that sells for less then RED.
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Old July 12th, 2009, 08:13 PM   #19
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Both Paul and Perrone make excellent points. I do have to favor Perrone's analysis of what RED brings to the table tho. But I agree that within a couple years it's likely that a $1K camera will be up to 1/2" censors with better compression capabilities.

I will say..I am impressed that the RED can do REDCODE wavelet compression in the camera while CineForm needs a dual-core system to do it.. er.. before someone from CineForm shoots me for saying that.. it *seems* to me that what RED can do in their small body of a camera can't be done by anyone else yet. Yet is the key word. I have no doubt that CineForm could be put on a chip in a camera and do the same thing. (hint hint).

Still, even tho the EX-1 and similar cameras are probably more than good enough for my needs, I can't help but really be drawn to the capabilities the RED offers. If their accessories were more reasonable in price, I think RED with have a huge market for a while. A handle cost $150, and their flash cards being in the range of $500+ is quite expensive, making it just out of reach of those that would consider it over say the EX-1.

I sure hope RED comes out with complete Scarlet packages.. not just the 8x Fixed one..but a "deal" where if you buy all this together, we'll give you 20% off.. maybe they will.

Funny parallel to this.. I am in the process of buying my first home. I've been told by many..just get an old home.. a starter home, get some equity and then buy something bigger. I've got four kids tho.. so while we're moving a few hours away, we're getting a brand new much larger home for less money in a better area/neighborhood. I suppose this is my life story.. I am always trying to get the "best" I can from the start. I should be looking for a used XH or HMC150 or something.. to get me started, but here I am trying to find some way to go right for the RED. But here is why I do this..at least to justify the means for me.. buying a brand new home when there are cheaper/better deals on the market.. afford me something.. there is a very unlikely chance this new home is going to be "old" right away.. and more so, far less worry about things breaking anytime soon. Likewise, getting the RED up front assures me that I have a great camera right now, one that can and is used to shoot commercials and movies (with the right upgrades of course), and one I can grow into as I further my career in this field. Likewise, if I buy a used camera with no idea how it was taken care of and used.. chances are it may break very soon, and I am out the money and now have to get another, or have it fixed. Getting a new camera, whether RED or anything, at least I know I am the only handler of it and how I take care of it.

Anyway..sorry.. just an interesting relation to how I usually end up buying things.
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Old July 15th, 2009, 04:34 PM   #20
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My general rule of thumb is that any piece of equipment should pay for itself in 1 month or less if you're a full-timer, and 4 jobs or less if you're a part-timer.
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Old July 23rd, 2009, 01:21 PM   #21
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My general rule of thumb is that any piece of equipment should pay for itself in 1 month or less if you're a full-timer, and 4 jobs or less if you're a part-timer.
Sort of an odd question, but how do you know when a piece of equipment has paid for itself? If you buy a light, it presumably makes your video look better, which attracts more clients, which allows you to raise your rates, etc.

But presumably we are always trying to improve our skills. Every day, at least every job, we gain experience. So as the business grows, how do you know your new light, or new camera, generated extra income equal to the cost?

How would I know my newest video job generated 1/4 the cost of a new Red? Do you mean just raise your rates by that much, and hope you can convince enough people your shiny new camera is worth that much more?
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Old July 23rd, 2009, 03:13 PM   #22
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My general rule of thumb is that any piece of equipment should pay for itself in 1 month or less if you're a full-timer, and 4 jobs or less if you're a part-timer.
That doesn't really work with more expensive kit. Certainly one rental facility I knew used regard 18 months to be a maximum time scale, allowing for perhaps a working life of 4 to 5 years on a Betacam kit. Although a 100 days rental used to be a commonly figure quoted.

No producer is going pay enough in rental over a month to buy the more expensive cameras. Of course, it depends how you break down your income in how much is your own fee and how much the kit itself is earning. Certainly the rental fee on one of the smaller cameras is a much higher percentage of the purchase price compared to that on a high end broadcast camera. So working fully for a month could cover the one of those, but smart producers do commonly expect to do a deal of some sort on the longer jobs.
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Old July 23rd, 2009, 04:01 PM   #23
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This is a fantastic discussion, but I want to add in just a couple of things:

1. No one knows how the Scarlet will actually be, because it's been delayed to make significant improvements (which is very cool). I'd wait until it ships and enough real users like us give it the thumbs up.

2. JVC's new line of cameras (HM100 and HM700) are incredible and I'm hoping to check out the HM100 soon.

Here's a "rant" I did recently about cameras:

http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/1148616-post12.html

Again, great discussion here!

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Old July 23rd, 2009, 08:29 PM   #24
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Since the shelf-life of camcorders is getting shorter & shorter these days, my philosophy is to buy a used camcorder for one project, maybe two, and then dump it. That's around $5k per film which seems decent and can easily be put into a budget. I am actually more serious when it comes to the "accessories", like good mics in the $1k and up range, and at least two high-quality tripods (one for a rental cam when I need two cameras rolling at the same time) which will probably last my entire life.

If you want to stay ahead of the curve and buy a camcorder that you can use for more than 3-5 years, you need to be in the large sensor region, 2k and up. What does such a cam cost you? Tricked out with everything you need, somewhere in the $20k range. I agree with one of the posters before that RED missed the target: by the time the Scarlet is finally available, and when you buy all the accessories that you need, you will be in the $15k range. The "modular design" doesn't convince me. Do you really think I will be able to put the viewfinder, battery, recorder, etc, on the next generation camcorder from Red? I wouldn't count on it.
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Old July 23rd, 2009, 09:51 PM   #25
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I agree with one of the posters before that RED missed the target: by the time the Scarlet is finally available, and when you buy all the accessories that you need, you will be in the $15k range. The "modular design" doesn't convince me. Do you really think I will be able to put the viewfinder, battery, recorder, etc, on the next generation camcorder from Red? I wouldn't count on it.
If you purchase a Nikon D3, D2x, F5, F4, F3, F2, the lenses, flash units, etc., all swap. If you buy an Arri 235, you can swap on a multitude of accessories from years past. The Scarlet has been designed to take the lenses, rails, EVF, etc., from the RED one. The Epic is the same. If you buy the PL mount you can swap on film lenses that have been around for decades. If you buy a broadcast camera with a 2/3" bayonet mount, you can put lenses on that have been around forever.

This isn't rocket science, even though most people treat it that way. The idea that you don't need to throw out the entire camera system, seems to be lost on camera manufacturers. The idea that I could attach different recording systems to my camera to get varying levels of quality, from uncompressed HD, to HDV shouldn't be revolutionary. The idea that I might want to use different batteries, or a different viewfinders shouldn't be either. But it's hard to do that stuff in the consumer space. People don't want to go into Sears and build a camera. They want to buy a box with a camera, battery, and recording media all included on their way to the beach and take video. And they want to do it for a couple hundred dollars.

People think the Scarlet is missing their target. I think they are going to hit their target dead on. But I do NOT think that target is what has been claimed. Scarlet is not a consumer camera. It is aimed squarely at the likes of the EX3, HPX300, etc. If you make money regularly with your camera, then the Scarlet will have some appeal.

It's funny, I sound like a RED fanboy, and I don't mean to. I barely considered the Scarlet viable when it was first announced. But in seeing past the smoke and mirrors, I think they are really on to something. The idea of being able to take a completely modular approach to a camera system. It's a lot like a film body. And you just work the pieces from there.
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Old July 23rd, 2009, 10:52 PM   #26
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If you purchase a Nikon D3, D2x, F5, F4, F3, F2, the lenses, flash units, etc., all swap. If you buy an Arri 235, you can swap on a multitude of accessories from years past.
Not sure if Nikon and Arri are good examples: Both companies have been in the business since 1917!

Sure, you can use PL lenses with a RED, but most pro camcorders can use PL mount lenses, so that's a moot point. In the end, camcorders are nothing but specialized electronic boxes. The true test would be if you can swap battery, electronic viewfinder, recording units, etc, from one generation to the next. Since electronics is progressing so fast, I doubt it (would you want to use a viewfinder or recorded from your 3-4 year old camcorder -- if you could -- on a newer model?). Technology is evolving way too fast in the camcorder market. Also, what accessory from your old Nikon F3 can you use on the latest Nikon D3? Yes, the lenses -- to some degree, AF? Stabilizer? -- maybe a flash, but that would work with any still camera. Nothing else, not the not the battery, not the ground glass, not the motor/winder, not the remote ... nothing. You are left with the lens, but the camera body has a limited shelf life. You buy the camera as is, use it for as long as it makes sense, and then you sell it on Ebay for a buck or two. I am a bit surprised that everyone here is falling for the "modular" marketing concept. Your argument with different batteries and different recording units and is moot too: You can slap a different monitor, an Anton Bauer or IDX battery kit as well as an after-market hard drive recorder to any pro camcorder that's out right now, so that's not unique to the upcoming Scarlet at all.

I agree with you, though, that Scarlet will be pro camcorder (and a good one!) and people might have the wrong conception that they will get a pro HD rig for little money. To be honest, I am tempted to get one for myself if it will be released before the end of the year, not because it will be modular, but because I assume that it will make kick-ass moving images.
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Old July 24th, 2009, 03:46 AM   #27
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Sure, you can use PL lenses with a RED, but most pro camcorders can use PL mount lenses, so that's a moot point.
PL mount lenses only work with single sensor cameras, that's unless you use a 35mm adapter of course, which tend to degrade the image quality of extremely high quality bits of glassware.

The fixed zoom Scarlet certainly promises high quality images for those on a limited budget. At these price ranges there are trade offs, but unless you have a total shallow DOF fetish, this camera offers a lot more for those wishing to tell a story than the current crop of HD DSLRS.
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Old July 24th, 2009, 08:22 AM   #28
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Until RED puts out Scarlet and Epic, I'll wait to comment on them. Yes, I'm excited to see them but they're still working on it. And the bad economy doesn't help them with their delivery dates.

Ken Rockwell makes a good point: lenses hold value, digital cameras don't. That's why I'm going to (slowly) start to amass a nice collection of lenses for my D60 and whatever low-end Nikon DSLR I'll get next.

I also like the idea of buying a used camera to shoot a few projects then dump it. If the camera is still rockin', use it! I know people still using FX1 cameras and using plug-ins to get the film look and 24p!

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Old July 24th, 2009, 08:31 PM   #29
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Sort of an odd question, but how do you know when a piece of equipment has paid for itself? If you buy a light, it presumably makes your video look better, which attracts more clients, which allows you to raise your rates, etc.

But presumably we are always trying to improve our skills. Every day, at least every job, we gain experience. So as the business grows, how do you know your new light, or new camera, generated extra income equal to the cost?

How would I know my newest video job generated 1/4 the cost of a new Red? Do you mean just raise your rates by that much, and hope you can convince enough people your shiny new camera is worth that much more?
You're overcomplicating it.

Buying a new accessory, like a light, or a filter, or something - that's just discretionary. If it'll make your stuff look better, and you're not terribly out of pocket or going into debt, then just get it.

On the other hand, for the BIG parts of your kit - namely the camera and the audio gear, a good rule of thumb for "Can I afford this?" is "Can you make back the cost of the equipment in four jobs or less?"

So, if you were paying $10,000 for a RED, for example, you'd want to be making at least $2500 per job in order to justify that. If you were only getting paid $1000 per job, RED is probably overkill and going to set you back a while. On the other hand, something like a $4000 Canon 5DMk2 would work, if you were getting paid $1000 per job.

I'm just starting to go pro now, and I'm probably going to be charging $500 per job, which is one of the reasons I picked up a Lumix GH1; with the extended B&H Warranty, it's around $1800. If I was making $200 per job, I'd probably go with something like a Canon HF10.
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Old July 25th, 2009, 04:39 AM   #30
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You're overcomplicating it.
On the other hand, for the BIG parts of your kit - namely the camera and the audio gear, a good rule of thumb for "Can I afford this?" is "Can you make back the cost of the equipment in four jobs or less?"

So, if you were paying $10,000 for a RED, for example, you'd want to be making at least $2500 per job in order to justify that. If you were only getting paid $1000 per job, RED is probably overkill and going to set you back a while. On the other hand, something like a $4000 Canon 5DMk2 would work, if you were getting paid $1000 per job.
.
I think this depends on how you define a job. If it just involves one day's work there's no way you're going to pay off a 1/4 of a $10,000 camera. You really need to allow sensible time scales for more expensive cameras. You can reasonably easily work out a pay off period by breaking down how much of your fee is the client paying for equipment. You can itemise this very easily and then you can work out how many days you need to work in order to get the investment returned. However, if the job has a profit margin over an above your fees, you can put that towards paying off the kit, it really depends on the nature of your business.

You need to know the working life expectancy of your equipment; for prosumer cameras it's going to be perhaps a couple of years, so you'll want that to be in profit within a few months at most. A RED is going to have a longer working life, 5 years would be reasonable for a professional camera - some Betacams worked for 10 or more years. You need to allow for this in how much you charge, this is why 1/3" cameras actually appear to be more expensive to rent v their purchase price than high end cameras, which have much longer working lives.

Last edited by Brian Drysdale; July 25th, 2009 at 02:46 PM.
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