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The TOTEM Poll: Totally Off Topic, Everything Media
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Old July 19th, 2005, 09:14 AM   #1
Join Date: Jul 2005
Location: Willmar, MN
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If you could start over from scratch - what would you buy?

So I'm gearing up to launch my video production business this fall. I'm quitting my day job and everything. I have a lot of experience in marketing and advertising, while my video experience is mainly public service and non-profit stuff (read: freebies.) My primary focus will be business video, but I may take on some weddings to generate some income and to help foster a few strategic relationships.

Right now I'm in the "resource acquisition" phase, so I'm buying lots of stuff. Here's what I have so far:

Canon GL2
Sony Vegas 6.0
Adobe Video Collection 2.5 Standard
Serious Magic ULTRA 2
Azden wireless lapel mic
Amvona 1000 watt tungsten softbox lights w/stands (x2)
VariZoom Flowpod
Amvona video tripod
Beringer mics/mixer for recording voice overs
10x20 chroma key backdrop w/stands
5x7 collapsible chroma key backdrop
Sony MD recorder
Dell Dimension 8400 3.2GHz desktop
Dell Inspiron 8600 1.6GHz laptop
Dell Inspiron 8200 1.6GHz laptop

What am I missing? What would you consider a "must have" if you were starting out?

Here are some things I'm considering:

Serious Magic DV Rack
Ulead Cool 3D Production Studio
Small VHS duplication system
Manfrotto Fig Rig
Another DV camera
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Old July 19th, 2005, 11:37 AM   #2
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DV Rack for sure. Not only can you monitor the video and audio for quality, you can record straight to hard disk. That extra level of protection is worth the price of admission, IMHO.

You might also want to consider your camera. The GL2 is respectable, but something in Sony's DSR line (like the 250) will be more flexible and produce higher quality pix and sound.

Just my 2 cents.

Matt Ockenfels

a pixel a day keeps boredom at bay
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Old July 19th, 2005, 12:16 PM   #3
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The thing that stands out on your list to me is the "Amvona video tripod." What is that? Does it have a nice fluid head that gives smooth movement? I don't shoot weddings, but I do shoot live performances and much of the time I'm 100 feet from the stage, zoomed in all the way. Sometimes I even use a 2x telephoto adaptor. A cheap tripod is really a problem with this sort of shot.

Maybe yours is OK for this sort of work? If not then I'd invest in a better one - visit our tripod forum for lots of discussion:


I would want to have a smooth way to move my camera before investing any more in software....
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Old July 19th, 2005, 10:13 PM   #4
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hello chris, what is the model of your sony MD recorder? do you use it for recording ambience sound? don't you want to consider iriver with squid mic?
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Old July 19th, 2005, 11:41 PM   #5
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start from scratch ??

i'd go back to RENTING

would have one laptop w/vegas+DVDA/Dv rack/combustion/few terabyte 1394 drives.
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Old July 20th, 2005, 07:22 AM   #6
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Thanks for the suggestions, guys.

-Tripod: Amvona sells tons of gear on eBay. This tripod was cheap ($60) but is much better than any $60 tripod I've seen anywhere else. I realize it's not good for long term, but when I bought it, I was still just a semi-serious amateur. They advertise it as having a "fluid head", but it's not that great.

-I have a Sony NetMD MZ-707. I'm looking into an iRiver. The only reason I have MD instead of iRiver is that I bought the MD for my personal use a long time ago! I actually haven't used the MD for anything yet, since all my prior projects were not events, and therefore worked well with a wireless lav or simply adding the vocals in post.

-Perhaps if I lived in less rural area, renting would be an option. I'm 2.5 hours away from the nearest video rental shop.
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Old July 20th, 2005, 07:31 AM   #7
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A good tripod is worth it's money in production values. Don't skimp there. Think in terms of spending upwards of 500 for a head and sticks.

Do you really intend to do a lot of greenscreen?? I'd drop the big chroma backdrop, and pick up a neutral backdrop. I've done lots of corporate and buiness talking heads, you are more likely to need a good dappled backdrop than a chroma key backdrop for interviews.
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Old July 21st, 2005, 12:08 AM   #8
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My suggestion would be to give weddings more of a shot at being a focus. For one thing, they are popular, and therefore you have a lot going for you as far as finding work relatively easy. But more importantly, they are really fun, and filled with artistically fulfilling opportunities, with nearly limitless creative options.
To me, business video has been something I'll take if I can get, because I'll shoot and edit dang near anything someone will pay me to shoot and edit. It's very limiting because you have only cut and dried reasons for the video existing...to do business, whether it be communicate instructions, or directly represent the company or their products.
Now, I would love to get some work doing commercials for businesses, but I have had no bites of interest on that one, though I did do a product demo of some color changin coffee mugs for a lady who sells them at arts and crafts festivals. She wanted a DVD that could loop in their festival tent, to constantly be showing the mugs (isolated into black space....no visable background) having hot water being poured into them and watching the scenes colorize.
But weddings, and keep in mind, I got into them with serious apprehensions, initially just to generate $......weddings have become an awesome creative outlet for me, and it pays pretty decent. And I too, much as you are doing, made an initial investment and then quit my job (Nov of last year). It has become my main focus as far as most intensive advertising focus goes, because weddings are what I most enjoy getting a return on.
Of course, everyone has their own array of enjoyments and dislikes, and the area you are opperating out of will seriously shape what is and is not going to be most profitable, and relatively steady...but weddings go on all year!

Anyway, as far as equipment goes, if you're going to have a general videography business, it would probably be a good idea to make sure youre decently prepared in your lighting options. It would be tough to find yourself in a shooting setup and really need light that you dont have. You can build yourself a very versitile kit, very reasonably priced at Rostronics (google it). I chose to get multiple dual watt softboxes to begin with, because it gave a lot of options for little. It all wound up being very much worth my while to have gotten.

Another area to make sure you are strong on is audio gathering. You want to make sure you can capture audio under fairly diverse circumstance. Wireless lavs, a good boom has proven to be awesome when circumstance allows it's use, a few iRivers and lavs make great vocal recording devices, especially capturing wedding vows.

Make sure youre ready to take that leap. You might want to wait until youre only a few months away from getting your income tax return from your job, before you quit, since it can swoop in and save you! It gets scary when youre dependent on your own vision and craft for your income, and you have a period you dont get any calls. It's a real good idea to start with at least $1000 in the bank, and always try to keep three months of bills in the bank from the income you do generate (or whatever cusion you feel comfortable with) so you'll always be prepared for flux. The last thing you want to happen is being forced to admit defeat and having to apply for a job......working for THEMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM!



I see you mentioned having lights. I would still suggest picking up some iRivers, and some Giant Squid Audio lavs, since they're just so versatile. I've used them for lots of interviews and live documentary footage, where it was good to have seven hours of uninterupted record time, with no worries of batteries dying.

Also, I must strongly agree with others about the tripod and head...it is one of your most vital purchases and will greatly impact the overall quality of your work. I would recemmend no less than a Bogen 503 head, and some sticks that can raise up high and will give you lots of versitility.

Try to meditate on different types of situations you can think of yourself needing to be prepared for, and do imaginary set ups for those. Did you have everything that you need at a moments notice, organized, charged, and ready to do whatever comes your way? That will help you determine what you really need. Is DVD duplication going to be important? I'll let you know if I think of anything else I can recall to have been useful, be it gadgetry or otherwise.
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Old July 21st, 2005, 06:33 AM   #9
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Thanks for the advice on weddings. I used to own a wedding DJ company several years ago, and after spending 12 years attending about 40 weddings a year, I got a bit burned out on the whole experience.

As I mentioned in another thread, I am shooting a wedding this weekend. I've been reviewing a lot of sample videos from this and other sites and honestly, I'm getting kind of excited about the artistic possibilities. So maybe weddings will play a bigger part than I expected.

After I start my business in the fall, I will be dividing my time between video and software development. In fact, I could earn more as a contract software developer, but that's not where my passion lies. So I'm not concerned (much) about the cash flow. I guess I am concerned that I will spend too much time on the software side, and not enough building the new business.
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Old July 21st, 2005, 08:50 AM   #10
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P2, P2, P2
Thats what i would buy.
Might hurt on the front end but no expensive heads, capstans, moving parts to wear out. And the cards are only gonna get cheaper and have more capacity. Pannyt says they are good for 100,000 uses!
Good glass.
All the stuff you see and like was shot with a very good lens.
That investment will pay foor itself.
Besides, you would want to upgrade after a few years anyway.
I didnt read everyones reply but a couple of Chimeras and a small HMI.
If thats not possible, the standard Lowell 3 piece light kit will get you started.
Good luck!
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Old July 21st, 2005, 11:30 AM   #11
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Dear Chris,

Here is one man's opinion of how I would do things if I were starting over, which is well, pretty much the way I started. It is difficult (for me) to write a helpful suggestion without sounding critical, so please recognize this is a weakness for me, K.

I would approach a couple of things differently. I personally would buy a single computer (desktop or laptop) because owning several quickly depriciating items doesn't seem like a wise long term business decision. I acknowledge the awesome capabilities of DV Rack and a field laptop, yet I just don't see the cost/benefit ratio of having that setup in lieu of other areas which more noticeably affect video quality, such as tripod and audio, for example. If I needed a vectorscope and waveform monitor, I could buy a pair of older Videotek scopes on eBay for $50 each. Then, I would be $1500 more the wiser and be content recording on tapes; really, it's not all that bad!

Considering the nature of your video business, which is similar in scope to mine, I don't foresee many situations for a stabilizer in corporate communications. They are fun to have, of course! So, that is an item I would really think hard about before laying down the spend personally

As they say, the problem with having tools you don't use is just that...

I would probably get a good ($300-$400) hardwired lav mic for interviews because there is a big difference in sound quality over a lower cost wireless unit. I would spend on a good tripod because my work is noticeably better when using a good tripod. Of course, if doing lockdowns, an expensive tripod may not have any more utility than a cheap one. A zoom controller is a nice, compulsory accessory to have.

My focus is to be a professional cameraman, not a one stop shop. So, naturally my ethos and purchase decisions will be different than yours which appear to be more well rounded. I spend every dollar I earn on camera and sound gear. Naturally, I will suggest others do the same. Good cameramen are hard to come by (and greatly undervalued, sometimes).

I will say this. If I were starting a "videography" business, I would learn Flash and After Effects ASAP. There are a lot of opportunities I miss out on because I'm not interestered in learning those programs or doing motion graphics in general. Photoshop is another program I could care less about...

Good luck!
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Old July 21st, 2005, 12:27 PM   #12
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Thanks for the good info. When you read my equipment list, remember that most of it was purchased when I was simply a serious amateur/enthusiast, not necessarily with an eye toward starting a business. I've simply listed the relevant equipment I currently have at my disposal.

Since I'm currently working as a software developer, my focus naturally drifts toward the computer based solutions. However, I'm realizing that all the computer gizmos in the world will not make up for a lack of shooting skills and an artistic eye.
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Old July 21st, 2005, 01:31 PM   #13
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You forgot stretch denim. Comfortable shoes, 2 pairs.. Seriously, always try to wear comfortable clothes, and a fishing vest to hold things.
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Old July 21st, 2005, 05:20 PM   #14
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I once heard someone say, "To dress like a soundman: wear $70 jeans, $100 tennis shoes, and a free T-shirt!"

Same applies for this part of the biz! ;-)
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Old July 27th, 2005, 04:53 AM   #15
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Start from scratch? If I could send back all the electronics I've bought over the years, for a full refund, I wouldn't have to buy anything new, as I'd have enough cash to retire.
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