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Newb Questions

Critique My First Film (and advise on gear)

I haven't had formal film school training, and have never worked in videography, but I have always wanted to try to tinker around with making my own low-budget films. I have recently lost my job and now I only work part time. I now have the opportunity to invest my extra time into part-time videography. If I cannot find someone willing to take me under their wing to let me work in their videography business, I am even considering investing in some equipment and taking the plunge on my own. If I could get by with only two cameras to start, maybe that would let me do smaller weddings and promotional videos, and things like that-- just to help pay for the cost of the equipment. If I went that route, what would I need to get started?

I wouldn't be filming any local news footage, any sports coverage, or anything like that to earn cash, just simple occasional standing talent and wedding-like events. Dabbling in bringing my own screenplays to life would involve much more action shots, tracking, and motion.

Is there any chance a TV commercial could be filmed with a simple 8-bit camera with a single 1/3-inch sensor and ultimately be good enough quality to air on local cable TV in the U.S.?

Here are some of the things I am currently debating:

1. Canon XF30x or Canon XF10x?

I am leaning toward the 100 series, just as a sheer cost factor, but am willing to be talked into making an investment in different equipment if you want to make the case for doing the 300 series instead.

Here's my thinking: I really, really want the optical zoom, superior lens, and triple CMOS of the Canon XF300/305, but right now I think my budget would be better allocated toward the smaller XF100/105 instead-- so I can invest in other equipment. (I currently have no mics, rigs, lights, matte box, editing software,... not even a quality tripod or head.) I could buy two Canon XF105s for the cost of one XF305 or two XF100s for the cost of one XF300. The XF305 costs $1200 more than the XF300, and the XF105 costs $700 more than the XF100. (Current online price check yeilds: Canon XF305 at $6,995.00; Canon XF105 at $3,495.00; Canon XF300 at $5,799.00; and Canon XF100 $2,809.00.) Twice the zoom is nice but not worth twice the price. Plus, I can use the XF100 as a family camcorder, whereas the 300 is way bigger.

2. Canon XF100 or XF105?

I have been browsing the Canons and heretofore haven't even looked at the XF105 or the XF305 because I didn't have sufficient computer hardware to make use of the HDSDI.

This might end up being a completely moot issue, if my current computer will not run any good video editing software anyway. If you can help me discern that I can't run the software without upgrading my old hardware, I could get a card to take advantage of the $700 HD-SDI output on the XF105. Maybe this is one of those cases such that, if I have to ask what it does, I don't need it. Nonetheless, I'm afraid if I do not ask I will never learn. So, what will I lose (what money-making opportunities will I miss) if I do not invest in the 105 and do not upgrade my computer to make use of a 1.485Gbps data rate?

3. Adobe Premiere Pro 5.5/6 or Sony Vegas Pro 11?

This one is really a question of whether I have to upgrade my computer or not. If the answer is yes in order to use either software option, I would probably rather have Premiere 5.5. Premiere is not that much more expensive than Sony Vegas 11, but I'm really concerned that Premiere would require me to beef up my computer system.

I have a 4yr old PC. It currently only has one PCX 512MB NVIDIA® GeForce™ 9800 GT; 6GB DDR3-1333 (3x2048) memory; Creative Labs SoundBlaster® X-Fi™ XtremeAudio; and a 3-way SLI Motherboard EVGA X58 based chipset with PCI Express; and an Intel® Core™ i7 processor i7 Intel® Core™ i7 with quad 2.66GHz cores, 8MB Cache (4.8 GT/sec); but only one 500GB Hitachi 7200rpm 16MB Cache SATA 300w/NCQ; a built-in card reader and one 20x DVD+/-RW Dual Layer Burner; and Windows 7.

Would Premiere work on my machine at all? Or would it work, but just be very slow? I suspect that if I went with Premiere CS5.5 and didn't upgrade my video card, then it would tell me that it could not find one of the “certified“ video cards and would therefore set the Mercury Playback Engine to use only the computer’s CPU and not the video card’s GPU. Even if I hacked it to recognize my old card, it still only has 512MB and GPU Acceleration Mode requires at least 896 megs of video ram, right? I think that even the buggier CS5 required at least 756 MB.

Would I have to upgrade my cpu and graphics card even if I went the Vegas route? The Sony Vegas Pro website says their acceleration only requires at least 512 MB of GPU memory, but my computer is feeling sluggish now even when it is not doing video editing.

If I can't manage without upgrading my PC, which parts would I need to change or add to use Vegas comfortably? Which parts would I need to change or add to use Premiere comfortably? Would either of these answers make it more worth the expense to go ahead and choose the XF105 over the XF100? I assume I'd at least need another hard drive at the very minimum, but what else should I realistically expect to need?

If you were me, what gear would you get if you could invest $4,000.00?
 
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Alcove Audio

Business Member
indieBIZ
Production sound gear and audio post software is also important.

"Sound is half of the experience!!!"

Rearrange your budget to include them.
 
I obviously haven't thought anything through at all. Here's the background why my plans are so amorphous at this stage.

My sudden interest in all of this was prompted by my wife, who is still working full time. Because I had made a huge deal out of this being a major birthday for me (turning 40) I kept bugging her about getting me a major gift for my birthday. At one point she suggested a major trip (since we never really had a real honeymoon). She suggested a quick trip to NY City, just to get away. I didn't go for that idea much, so then she said "Why don't you pick out a video camera for your birthday?"

This was two days ago. I have always had this desire to tinker with film-making as a hobby, but never sank any real money into it (and never really gave it any serious thought).

Her idea really got me salivating about the possibilities. I spent an entire day watching videos about how to build your own jib, rigs, cheap lightstands, etc.

[I totally did not think about sound. I hadn't thought about post much at all for (video or) audio, but for production audio, I was going to try to start off with a Tascam DR-40 on a home-made shock mount, a cheap lav, and an NTG2.]

At any rate, I was assuming my total budget was around $10,000.00 and that I could even stretch that by working some odd jobs with the gear to afford a better setup.

WRONG.

Tonight I learned that when my wife said "Why don't you pick out a video camera for your birthday?" She was thinking about a $1,000 camcorder-- not something that would cost more than our car. So shatters my short-lived dream.

I am going to have to completely re-think my goals, desires, and strategies. Most likely this will involve just connecting with local film-makers and volunteering to help them out and learn as much as can... just dive into this new hobby from a different angle.
 
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Alcove Audio

Business Member
indieBIZ
Film/video can be an expensive hobby. But there is a huge difference between a hobby and a profession. The hobbyist can make due with consumer products and DIY gear; the potential professional should not - though many often do.

The main issues are the quality and reliability of the equipment, plus upward compatibility and integration. For the hobbyist a $500 camcorder, a Rode VideoMic and a few hundred in basic accessories will do the trick; for the budding professional the VideoMic would soon have to be replaced - an unnecessary expense if proper research and planning are undertaken (and a few extra dollars are wisely spent). For the hobbyist the basic video editing that comes with Windows or a Mac is sufficient; the up-and-coming professional will quickly hit its limitations.

So your first decision is to decide if it's a hobby or a profession as your money will be spent differently. Either way, I suggest that you get involved with the local indie film community. Do all the menial crew jobs, or be an extra. Being on even a poorly run shoot teaches you a lot.
 
Total Budget of $4,000.00 for Everything

Thanks for bringing the audio needs to my attention. As it is, I now have a hobbyist-only budget, so my "Tascam DR-40 on a home-made shock mount, and an NTG2" route might still work for my reduced budget. But just out of a hypothetical curiosity, what equipment and what editing setup would you recommend for a wanna-be pro with a $10,000 budget for all video, post, equipment, and total startup sum?

for the budding professional the VideoMic would soon have to be replaced - an unnecessary expense if proper research and planning are undertaken (and a few extra dollars are wisely spent).

This is the reason I was seeking advice about going with a XF105 instead of a 100. I didn't want to have to reinvest in another $3500 camera if I could have had that feature for an extra $700 up front. I was hoping to lay a foundation that could turn a hobby into a real profession.

Film/video can be an expensive hobby. But there is a huge difference between a hobby and a profession. Either way, I suggest that you get involved with the local indie film community. Do all the menial crew jobs, or be an extra. Being on even a poorly run shoot teaches you a lot.

There is a budding local indie scene, so I am looking forward to connecting with folks. I even plan to shadow the people that do local TV commercials and volunteer as support crew for weddings, etc. I'd like to see if I can't shadow people as they do post work, too.

I still might be able to spend up to $4000 to get some of my own equipment off the bat, but maybe after learning more I will know how to invest it better.
 
I can help you quite a bit with editing software. Your computer should be able to handle both of them, mine did and the specs are pretty similar.

What are your main purposes of using video editing software?

CC/Editing/Audio Work/Effects or just plain editing?

I've worked 10x more with Vegas than I have with Premier but I can say that Vegas is fantastic and can handle a lot of things. It's not the industry standard but if your doing basic editing/audio work then it won't fail you. Also, don't ever use any of them programs for visual effects of any kind. Invest in After Effects or another compositing program.
 

Alcove Audio

Business Member
indieBIZ
The "what to fit into a $10k budget" is up to you. I, of course, would lean heavily on the audio side of things. And someone else is going to have to give you info on cameras, lighting and NLEs.

For my audio list?

Rode NTG-3 Shotgun
Audix SCX1/HC Hypercardioid
Two (2) Sennheiser G3 wireless trans/rec sets
Two (2) Countryman B6 Lavs
Edirol / Roland R-44
Boom-pole
Shock-mount
Cables
Cases

Pro Tools w/MBox Pro DAW
Blue Sky eXo2 Speakers

That's about $6,500.

The "cheaper" version:

Drop the wireless, and the lavs; replace the R-44 with a Marantz PMD-661 and you'll save $2,500. Eliminate Pro Tools and save another $1,000. You're now down to $3k for audio gear. You can, obviously go a lot cheaper.
 
Trimming $1,400 to meet a $4,000 budget

What are your main purposes of using video editing software? CC/Editing/Audio Work/Effects or just plain editing?

Right now I have a firm $4000 total budget, so I might get a basic video editor now and add a nicer effects and dedicated audio editing software later. So I'm seeking an editing pack that has basic audio editing capacity, video editing, and can do minor post corrections and sweetening. As much as my son would love to see himself flying, I won't be starting off with really heavy masking, compositing, rotoscoping or other effects... so I am almost wondering if I couldn't get by during my steep learning curve with just one of the mini-NLE/lites-- for now something like "Vegas Movie Studio HD Platinum 11 Production Suite" or "Adobe Premiere Elements 10." It looks like an upgrade to Premiere gives a discount for the entire purchase price of paid for Adobe Elements... does Vegas offer the same upgrade discount if you have Movie Studio, or does it only apply if you have an earlier Vegas version?

The "what to fit into a $10k budget" is up to you. I, of course, would lean heavily on the audio side of things. And someone else is going to have to give you info on cameras, lighting and NLEs.

I now have a total budget of $4000 max for starting out. I am still going to have to trim at least $1400 off the list below:

$2,849.00 1x Canon XF100
$600.00 1x Rode NTG-3 Shotgun
$570.00 1x Marantz PMD-661
$500.00 1x Audix SCX1/HC Hypercardioid
$500.00 1x Blue Sky Exo2, 2.1, 3" Monitor System
$150.00 for DIY lighting equipment, refelctors, and stands
$100.00 1x Adobe Premiere Elements 10
$60.00 Audio Cables, pop filters, windfilters

Since I'm using my old PC and old PC monitor, maybe I could skimp a little in the audio monitor department?
 
Right now I have a firm $4000 total budget, so I might get a basic video editor now and add a nicer effects and dedicated audio editing software later. So I'm seeking an editing pack that has basic audio editing capacity, video editing, and can do minor post corrections and sweetening. As much as my son would love to see himself flying, I won't be starting off with really heavy masking, compositing, rotoscoping or other effects... so I am almost wondering if I couldn't get by during my steep learning curve with just one of the mini-NLE/lites-- for now something like "Vegas Movie Studio HD Platinum 11 Production Suite" or "Adobe Premiere Elements 10." It looks like an upgrade to Premiere gives a discount for the entire purchase price of paid for Adobe Elements... does Vegas offer the same upgrade discount if you have Movie Studio, or does it only apply if you have an earlier Vegas version?

If you have the movie studio you get a discount off the Pro version if it's above version 8 I think.
 
Okay, so far I am down to $4500.00 if I make some of my own gear from PVC. After listening to the difference between a NTG-3 and an NTG-2, I see the value in investing in a solid shotgun. Would I negate the benefits by going with a cheaper (noisier) recorder like the Tascam, though?

$2,849.00 1x Canon XF100
$600.00 1x Rode NTG-3 Shotgun
$150.00 1x Tascam DR40
$500.00 1x Blue Sky Exo2, 2.1, 3" Monitor System
$150.00 for DIY lighting equipment, reflectors, and DIY stands
$100.00 1x Adobe Premiere Elements 10
$100.00 Audio Cables, mic windfilters, PVC camera rig, home-made shockmounts, home-made boom, battery pack
1x Audacity Audio Editor
My existing computer and monitor, specs listed in first post.


Realistic? Possible?
 
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Okay, so far I am down to $4500.00 if I make some of my own gear from PVC. After listening to the difference between a NTG-3 and an NTG-2, I see the value in investing in a solid shotgun. Would I negate the benefits by going with a cheaper (noisier) recorder, though?

$2,849.00 1x Canon XF100
$600.00 1x Rode NTG-3 Shotgun
$150.00 1x Tascam DR40
$500.00 1x Blue Sky Exo2, 2.1, 3" Monitor System
$150.00 for DIY lighting equipment, reflectors, and DIY stands
$100.00 1x Adobe Premiere Elements 10
$100.00 Audio Cables, mic windfilters, PVC camera rig, home-made shockmounts, home-made boom, battery pack
1x Audacity Audio Editor

Realistic? Possible?


Forgot tripods. What else am I leaving out?
 

Alcove Audio

Business Member
indieBIZ
At this stage of the game your audio skills (and ears) will be so poor that you will not notice the difference in the quality of mic pre-amps in audio recorders/mixers, not to mention the fact that you won't have audio monitors that will allow you to tell the difference either.

This is not a slam at you but a fact of life. Just as it takes years to learn to really see things when you look at them (my wife is a graphic designer & photographer, so she taught me some) it takes just as much to learn to listen to things. The biggest problem is that we are a visually oriented society, so you are encouraged to "see" things, but not to listen. So when it comes to listening skills you have a lot of catching up to do.

And keep in mind that just having the "right" gear does not guarantee success; there are a lot of techniques and protocols you will have to learn. And you are going to have to get others involved. I also stand by some advice I gave in my initial response to you -
I suggest that you get involved with the local indie film community. Do all the menial crew jobs, or be an extra. Being on even a poorly run shoot teaches you a lot.

Look around for networking events and anything else you can get you fingers into. Nothing beats hands on experience.
 
man.. this seems like a really bad idea. Sorry, someone needs to say it.

You don't know what your doing. Accept it. Your a noob, embrace your noobiness and step back.

For example; You set your mind on a set of camera features, but do you know WHY you picked them? Not why they are good or bad features, but what they mean to your goals as a low budget filmmaker? (rhetorical question only, please don't give me a 4 page explanation)

My suggestion, Start here:

Go make the best ONE MAN SILENT film you can make with your iphone or whatever HD camera you can find in the next day, not to exceed $100 out of pocket. Post that film by Friday night. Extra points if you don't spend ANY MONEY.

Tips: More Light. Less Movement.

Go.

:P
 
man.. this seems like a really bad idea. Sorry, someone needs to say it.

You don't know what your doing. My suggestion, Start here:

Go make the best ONE MAN SILENT film you can make with your iphone or whatever HD camera you can find in the next day, not to exceed $100 out of pocket. Post that film by Friday night. Extra points if you don't spend ANY MONEY.

Tips: More Light. Less Movement.

Go.

:P

Okay. I'll give it a shot. I work all day tomorrow, but I will try to complete the assignment when I get off work. It will have to be a very short piece, though, given the fact I will only have a few hours to film. I'll try to come up with an idea for a mini-narrative while I am at work tomorrow.
 
Critique Away

Sorry I failed the assignment. You said to film on an HD camera, but I couldn't get my hands on an HD camera by the deadline, so I used what I had--

But I spent $0.00!

It was shot on a Kodak pocket camera and "edited" with Windows Movie Maker Live. It is a 7min short. I filmed it in three hours and cut it together in about three hours. It probably was the best one I could make, because it was the only one I could make given that I worked all day that day at my job and then I forgot that my son had a viola concert Thursday night, oops.

There are so many things wrong here, but the sad part is, it really is the best I can do right now. Oh well, the things I learned were many. Some of my favorite things I learned are:

1. I am a noob. I have no idea what I'm doing with a camera or editing software.
2. Until I get more experience, I'll use storyboarding for planning the angles in advance to help me not flip around all over the place without a composition plan.
2. I won't try to slap together unfiltered key, or shoulder/back light with just a bare bulb lamp on a cardboard box again. (At least not until I take a long time just playing around with lighting to learn a whole lot more, and by then I'll have some home-made light rigs.)
3. My son's skateboard makes a LOUSY table dolly.
4. I'm glad you asked me to do this without sound.

Maybe some of you could take a few of my shots and point out some of the most major mistakes, going through the basics bit by bit... as well as commenting on the meta issues with the structure of the brief narrative.

As soon as it uploads it should be accessible at http://vimeo.com/manniebothans/etvoila

the password is mbdtbyti



man.. this seems like a really bad idea. Sorry, someone needs to say it.

You don't know what your doing. Accept it. Your a noob, embrace your noobiness and step back.

For example; You set your mind on a set of camera features, but do you know WHY you picked them? Not why they are good or bad features, but what they mean to your goals as a low budget filmmaker? (rhetorical question only, please don't give me a 4 page explanation)

My suggestion, Start here:

Go make the best ONE MAN SILENT film you can make with your iphone or whatever HD camera you can find in the next day, not to exceed $100 out of pocket. Post that film by Friday night. Extra points if you don't spend ANY MONEY.

Tips: More Light. Less Movement.

Go.

:P
 
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directorik

IndieTalk's Resident Guru
An excellent start.

Like learning a musical instrument you will get better
and better if you make more and more movies. You can
make five more movies with that camera before you
need to jump to a $3,000 camera.

Maybe get the audio equipment next. Practice, practice,
practice syncing audio with picture using the Kodak
pocket camera you have now. Over the next six months
slowly spend the $350 or so you have budgeted for your
DIY equipment, cables and editing software. After six
months of making short films if this is still your passion
then buy your $3,000 camera.
 
'Learn first, invest later' is indeed a better order of things.
Otherwise you'll end up with a lot of cool gear just to discover it's not that cool to make movies :P

After all these years I still only have a lav-mic and NTG-2 (which can be made wireless :) ). If I need more: I'll hire a specialist.
Audio is really important, but you don't need to start with all kinds of microphones when you don't know what they do.
Buying a camera: same story. Offcourse you want the best, but you can learn without having the best camera.
 
Great advice all the way around.

The short would have been much shorter if I would have had longer to cut. The lighting continuity was atrocius, so I need to learn a lot more there.

Any advice about how to improve with what I currently have?

I know I need to stop flipping around all over the place and plan the angles better, and I need to work on basic continuity, too.

What other major things can you point out that would help me improve?
 
wheatgrinder, Great post.

Mannie, in addition to what wheatgrinder said, which some people would get offended by, but is exactly what I would have said and is how this industry is, I would try and get some clients before spending all that cash. See if there would even be anyone interested locally in your services etc...

Just a thought..
 
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