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Brock Burwell January 14th, 2014 12:17 PM

Advice on Starting
I am 26 years old and I currently work for the state here in West Virginia. I graduated with my Masters in 2012 in an unrelated field and have been doing very minimual work on for my church since I graduated. I am looking to turn this little bit of work I do into much more. I married the Pastor's daughter last August so it has given me access to a lot of the church equipment which helps a lot.

You'll have to excuse me ignorance as I don't know the proper term for a lot of things but they church currently has..

3 stand up lights
4 tripods
2 sets of lav mics
1 DSLR camera

I have made 3-4 short videos in since i graduated but my most recent video was about 3.5 minutes and I really worked hard to make it good enough so that if someone saw it, they would like me to do something similar for their business.

I was basically just wanting some advice on getting started. How did you get started? Any advice would be helpful.

Oren Arieli January 14th, 2014 12:37 PM

Re: Advice on Starting
Other than reading up on the topics related to filmmaking, following online bloggers, and shooting continuously. I would suggest assisting a local videographer whose work you admire. Offer to help (for a discounted rate) and you'll likely learn quite a bit.
Dave Dougdale's Youtube channel might be a good starting point for learning to shoot with DSLRs. A good videographer is a jack-of-all-trades, so expect that there will always be something new to learn. For the business side, It helps to study up on marketing. The back-end of running a business is usually the weakness for us creatives, but it's vital. Best of luck.

Denis Danatzko January 15th, 2014 11:01 PM

Re: Advice on Starting
I've never shot video with a DSLR, but my experience in getting started may be helpful to you.

Video is my "2nd career" after nearly 30 yrs in the corporate world. After my corporate career, I (finally) got a degree in Communications. The focus was primarily public speaking and live presentations, with LOTS of PowerPoint, but I managed to work some video into those from time to time. (The public speaking helped, as I have done some small voiceover jobs).

I called a few local indie producers, one of whom was willing to use me as an on-call PA. I'd work with him 2-3 times per month, and did so for about 2 yrs. I eventually bought my 1st tripod and camera, and worked my way up from 3rd to 2nd, then 1st camera for him. He most often worked alone, so I learned a lot from him about being an SPC/OMB. I kept buying equipment as I could afford it, and started taking work from wherever I could get it: freelance sites, low-ball web promos, low-paying "cookie-cutter" production houses, even a few jobs from CL over time...anything to get experience. I also made a couple of local contacts, who were kind enough to recommend me when they were already booked. Lately, most of my work has involved either shooting footage for web-promos (in total I've shot about 200), and shooting and editing various aspects of legal video. There, too, the public speaking experience has paid off, as I've narrated some legal video work and that's been very well-received. It's taken me a few years, and I'm not getting rich, but more opportunities seem to come my way with each passing month.

I point out my experience only to let you know it CAN be done. Bottom line is, I think Orin's advice is likely the best - and maybe the most common - you'll get. Read anything that interests you, practice, and shoot, shoot, and shoot til you know your equipment and settings "like the back of your hand".

Best of luck, and visit the forums here; there's SO much information available. Lastly, post your progress from time to time so we know how you're doing.

Chris Harding January 16th, 2014 01:17 AM

Re: Advice on Starting
Hi Brock

It would of course be very useful to know what sort of market your are intending to branch into...it does make a huge difference if you are doing mainly online stuff and web based promos for business or if you are delving into stuff like events and run 'n gun stuff. All this would involve different sort of marketing plans and even whether you need 1, 2 or 3 cameras.

Maybe a brief outline of where you intend to concentrate your efforts will make it a lot easier to give advice and also will tend to allow experts in your chosen market to help you?


Garrett Low January 16th, 2014 11:48 AM

Re: Advice on Starting
Brock, first you need to fully understand that your job will be to run the business. Many people start a business based on something they have done and like to do and think that their job is to do video production or make and bottle jams or whatever. But if you think that your job is doing video production if you start a video business you will have a less than 50% chance of surviving long term. Your job is to run the business. Video production is the product that you sell.

So, the first thing to do is to study up on how to run a business. Learn about marketing techniques and what works for your local markets. Create a simple business plan. Understand how businesses make money. There are some very good resources via the internet or books for how to start a small business. Before jumping in calculate your Cost of Doing Business (CODB). Here's a pretty simple calculator that can help you. https://nppa.org/calculator. I like to break it down to an hourly rate I must make for a certain number of billable hours per year to achieve my desired income level and what my minimums are to break even.

You'll need to do some research about the markets in your area and the type of services you want to provide. Develop a plan on which markets to target and a schedule for when you'd like to be moving into each of them. Don't try to take everything on at once. You should be controlling direction your company is moving in. You do need to be ready to jump on an opportunity when it comes up but don't use the shotgun approach to business development. It's costly and for a small new business has a very low return rate or ROI (return on investment).

Then you need to establish yourself as a business. Get all appropriate license, business insurance, etc. Then, you're ready to jump into the technical side of producing your product which is video productions.

Some advice that was given to me, even though you love most of the tasks that you do for your job, i.e. shooting, editing, writing, etc., at some point it will become a job. It's called a job because it's something we have to do even though we may not want to do it. That's when you start to question your choice of getting into it. For most creative types, that's when you have to do the repetative work like billing or tracking collections. But, remember, that's what allows you to do the stuff you like. So you need to do it.

As far as getting going in video production, I would suggest finding a small local company and seeing if they could use some freelance help on some of their jobs or if you could be a part time worker. It will give you a chance to see what the operations are like, what types of things happen on a day to day basis and it will allow you to develop some relationships within the industry and markets that you would eventually be trying to break into.

Sorry if that's a little long but there is a lot to think about when you're going to start a business. Good luck.

Robert Benda January 16th, 2014 12:43 PM

Re: Advice on Starting
Great point, Garrett.

If you're interested in filming and editing, go work for someone else.
If you do like the marketing, accounting and all, then be in business for yourself.

Dave Dugdale's "Learning DSLR" is great.
Vimeo has an entire series from the StillMotion folks, and Phillip Bloom has a series, too. Watch them all several times.

If you want to be a wedding DSLR shooter, here is what I'd recommend based on a modest budget and working alone, you still need 2 cameras in case of failure and to give you some options. We prefer 3 since, during the vows/rings, we can get a close up of each the bride and groom's faces, then a wider, safer shot from the center aisle.

the right Manfrotto tripod with 501 head ($300 ish total) is sturdy and gets up nice and high (7 feet?), which is key for situations where everyone stands up, like the bride's processional.

A monopod

Canon 70D's autofocus will make your life easier, and has a swivel screen.
We also use the 5d Mark ii because of low light shooting at dances, and picked them up gently used (10,000 clicks or so) for $1000-$1200, about the same price as the 70D, though I'd still suggest trying the 70D first. We have both because we use 3-4 cameras at weddings.

For lenses, I'd get:
50mm f/1.8 ($110) for a prime/portrait length good in low light
Sigma's 18-35mm f/1.8 apparently works with the 70D's autofocus and seems like the kind of lens that would stay on your camera for most of the day.
If you can afford it, Canon's 70-200mm f/2.8 ($1500) will be great for long reach, but if you can't, and need a long reach, I'd go with vintage FD lenses and an adaptor over the cheap/(sh**ty) kit lenses for $80.
We really like our Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 ($250/$300) for that super wide, all-incompassing shot, or during dancing we get the head-to-toe, but we don't use it all the time, and it usually accounts for 30 good seconds of our videos (after shooting 5-15 minutes).

at least a Polaroid shotgun mic ($40) but you should get a Rode mic ($200) with windscreen.
Olympus DM-620 pocket recorder ($100), and probably two of them (3 would be nice). You'll be putting a lapel mic on the groom to catch vows, and the 2nd can go on a pastor, church/DJ sound system output, or just get stashed where it will pick up the readings and such.
We REALLY like our MM series Matchstick lapel mic ($130) since it's almost invisible and can hide inside shirts, suit jackets, or even in their collar (get fabric tape to hold it in place) MM Series Matchstick Matchstick Lapel Style Microphone

Noah Yuan-Vogel January 16th, 2014 03:32 PM

Re: Advice on Starting
Sounds like you already have access to some equipment.

What kinds of lights are those? Do they have any other markings/labels? 4 tripods and one camera? Maybe you mean they are light stands? do each of the three individual legs have multiple stages of adjustments or are the "tripods" a long center post with small legs? (That would be a light stand) I'd definitely recommend getting to know your equipment intimately so you know what its capabilities are and how to optimize them. It could be quite important to be able to effectively communicate to producers or other crew what kind of equipment you want or are bringing and are comfortable with. I'd recommend checking out the lighting technician's handbook to learn more about the technical aspects of lighting and grip equipment as well as some basic techniques. What kind of DSLR is it? Learn everything you can about it.

If you are really starting out, maybe take a class or just volunteer to work free on a couple jobs to learn and meet new people who are working in the industry. Best way to get work is find someone who has work and make yourself indispensable or at least useful to them so they hire you every time they work. Depends what you are trying to do, though. I assume from the location of this thread that you are looking to do videography work that involves doing your own operating and some lighting and sound and editing. Keep your options open and look for work as an assistant camera or 2nd/3rd camera operator and maybe volunteer to shoot some things for free or low pay if you arent getting bigger jobs yet. It can help a lot to come up with your own ideas and work on your own projects as practice and to showcase your skills. Build a reel and work on your workflow and market yourself and hopefully work you are qualified for will find its way to you once you've done a few jobs or worked with a few people/clients.

Brock Burwell January 21st, 2014 11:09 PM

Re: Advice on Starting
Thanks for the responses guys....

I am currently shooting on a Canon T3i. I got into photography when I moved from college to the city where my (now wife) lives. That was about a year and a half ago. I convinced the pastor to purchase this camera and I have used it to take photos at church services and church events over the last year and a half.

It was just in the last couple weeks that I started to realize I could make video fairly easily (at the time I thought it'd be easy) because of all the equipment. I have 3 light stands and 3 tripods currently. Looking to purchase a steadicam or something similar before too long.

Currently, I have only made 1 real video for my church. They are actually a pretty perfect place to work on my craft as there is a lot of different things going on all the time and they don't really expect a lot.

I would like to build up a collection of videos with them to learn and get better before I really start to market myself. I have some friends with some small businesses that I think would let me shoot a video for them which is where I will try to get a lot of my business.

Currently, I'm not interested in weddings. I would like to work with small business and nonprofits.

So far, I'm comfortable with interviewing people and getting b-roll footage. ha. I know that isn't much, but it's a start.

I did a lot of marketing while I was in school. so the business side of it would be fun for me. I would really enjoy that. I'm just trying to learn as much as I can so that I can be able to work quickly and be efficient with my time

Thanks guys!

Tim Polster January 22nd, 2014 09:39 AM

Re: Advice on Starting

I would say find the area(s) you would like to work in the video world and focus on learning everything you can. It is easy to fall into the trap of being a jack of all trades and tell folks you shoot everything. We may think that but from a customer's point of view, they want an expert in what they want.

I have always approached freelance work as being an expert. You have to offer something that sets you apart from the other choices or why would a client choose you? Study, read on the internet, read books ask questions but most of all, pactice your craft and gain FIRST HAND KNOWDLEGE. It is all too easy to read about stuff on the web. Everybody has an opinion. Go learn it for yourself. You have some tools, set them up, trweak the dials, shoot different scenarios etc... Its all digital, so experiment and delete. It is free.

Another tip - The riches are in the niches

Robert Benda January 22nd, 2014 10:40 AM

Re: Advice on Starting
Maybe you should go buy one of those 60D's in the other thread. That's a fine price for a quality camera and you really should have a backup (the T3i should be it, though it's not even really yours).

The money you save getting that could be used for a very nice Rhode mic (with wind screen) for on the camera. Or...

You may want to see about using the lav mics to directly input into your camera. If not, an on camera mic (like I listed) is MUCH better than camera's mic. If you go cheap (like the $40 Polaroid) it's mostly just to sync with another audio like a recorder for the lav, or a pocket recorder to mic people. In a good room, the on camera mic will be fine. That's until you can get a proper boom microphone.

Brock Burwell January 22nd, 2014 04:40 PM

Re: Advice on Starting
Thanks Tim and Robert...

I would love to get a 60D. Where is the thread you are talking about? I would love to take a look.

Am I able to figure a way to use my wireless lavs and plug them straight in without making them wireless? Would that give me higher quality.

Good advice Tim on specializing in one niche. Shooting short promos for small business is going to be my focus to start. Perhaps I can expand from there once I gain some experience and get better.

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