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$4k budget for video and sound how would you spend it?


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#1 Jeremiah Foster

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Posted 05 February 2007 - 08:18 PM

Hello all,

First some background, I have been involved in still photography for many years but never really made the transition to video until now. I am not inexperienced when it comes to video cameras as I have helped my cinematographer friend on many wedding shoots. Typically I will shoot the stills and he will shot the video until the reception when we both go to handhelds. I have experience with the vx2000 and the pd170 however I typically lean towards canon for my still work.

On to my question, I have managed to save $4K for equipment in order to produce a horror flick short that I have been thinking about for years. Here is a list of what I want to try and accomplish with the cash:

Image:
1. I want to a film look, either shot in 24p or 60i converted to 24p using Magic Bullet or DVFilm Maker.
2. We will be shooting outdoors at magic hour to get that dark look and at night
3. I would like to capture great color, deep rich tones to help alleviate too much color correction.
4. I want to enter it in Short film festivals as well as burn to DVD.

Sound:
1. I want good sound, on this shoot I will have an experienced boom handler but I don't know what mic to get (XLR preferred).
2. Should I go with something like an iRiver and ADR the sound later, try and shotgun mic the sound on set or both.

With all of that what lights, camera and sound equipment would you buy to try and achieve these goals?

One finally note, I will be using either Vegas 6 or FCP to edit the film. This is not included in the $4k as I already own both systems.
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#2 Chris Durham

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Posted 06 February 2007 - 12:21 AM

I have managed to save $4K for equipment in order to produce a horror flick short that I have been thinking about for years.


First thing's first. Do you have a script? You say you've been thinking about it for years, which is good; but nothin's nothin' till it's somethin', as they say. There's no point worrying about how to spend your budget, and possibly even worrying about what that budget might be until you've written "THE END."

It's tempting to think of how to budget an idea, especially when it's like "okay, I've got 4 grand now and I can finally make this happen." But before you spend dime one, make sure you take care of the part that's free.
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#3 Jeremiah Foster

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Posted 06 February 2007 - 03:16 AM

First thing's first. Do you have a script? You say you've been thinking about it for years, which is good; but nothin's nothin' till it's somethin', as they say. There's no point worrying about how to spend your budget, and possibly even worrying about what that budget might be until you've written "THE END."

It's tempting to think of how to budget an idea, especially when it's like "okay, I've got 4 grand now and I can finally make this happen." But before you spend dime one, make sure you take care of the part that's free.


Yes have a 25 page script, it was written 5 years ago and revised several times. It is a single location 5 person script specifically written for a low budget production.
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#4 John Carreon

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Posted 06 February 2007 - 03:42 AM

Hello,

Is $4k your entire budget...or solely for equipment only?

What about food for the crew, costumes (if needed), money for FX and all the other stuff that goes into a production?

If the $4 Grand is solely for equipment I would recommend shooting on film, Super 16mm. You'll probably have a relatively short schedule...maybe over a weekend so rental fees aren't too bad. Kodak is pretty good about hooking up young, and serious filmmakers with a respectable discount.

As far as lights go...what's the "single location"? Is it a forest at night? An empty room? That totally effects the amount of lights you're going to need. Going outside at night is gonna kick up the amount of wattage you need to get a respectable shot plus generators and the like...

You can be thrifty without losing quality, to a certain degree...

John Carreon
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#5 Francesco Bonomo

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Posted 06 February 2007 - 04:11 AM

25 pages, if properly formatted, mean that you could have a 25-minutes short film, and based on my experience there's no way you'd be able to shoot 25 pages over a weekend.
I would start with the cheapest thing of all, i.e. breaking down the script, timing it and creating a shot list (that doesn't need to be extremely accurate). After that you can start thinking about scheduling and budgeting. I think technology and food are the last things you should think about at the moment: with 4K, nothing is more important that a good prep.
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#6 Chris Durham

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Posted 06 February 2007 - 11:06 AM

I agree with Jeremiah. 25 minutes is a lot to do in a single weekend; even with a single location - especially if you're looking to take advantage of magic hour for most of the flick, because you'll have to spread out across several nights.

That may make shooting film impossible, unless you can borrow a 16mm camera from someone. Of course there could be arguments made for shooting Super8... (of course shooting 25 minutes 6:1 will run you about $2500-3000 after stock, processing, and telecine; but it would look good)

Just be careful in any case because there are many video horror movies that look like video horror movies. If you're gonna shoot video, shoot 24p, light the scenes carefully so you can 1) keep your iris open and minimize DoF 2) reduce gain in your toe. Looking at a black ProMist filter wouldn't hurt either - aid your shadows and add diffusion to offset that video crispness.

But yeah, storyboard it first. Get a shotlist. Figure out what you'll need in terms of 1) set design 2) props 3) special effects. then you'll know what your budget is for equipment and you'll also have a more accurate view of your equipment needs. And don't forget to feed your crew and get them drunk at a wrap party.
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#7 Jeremiah Foster

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Posted 06 February 2007 - 03:30 PM

I truly want to thank each of you for the input. I also see that I need to shed some more light on my project.

The $4k is for lights, camera and location sound equipment only. This is a hard number that can not be exceeded. I also have a budget for cast and crew needs including food. A budget for wardrobe and special effects even though they will be very minimal. A budget for editing including sound and hardware/software upgrades. Finally there is a budget for lawyers expensive to review contracts and legal documentations.

I would love to shoot on film, however, I see it as too complicated do to my circumstances. You see, I live in Alaska and the processing is ungodly expensive up here. Even if I were to ship it out of state for processing the cost of shipping alone will raise the production budget several hundred dollars and would create a liability that would to be a nightmare. Think about it, you just finished shooting only to have your stock lost, stolen or crushed in the mail. Not to mention access to equipment for editing or for digital transfer is nearly nonexistent. Also I hope to repurpose this equipment after the shoot for a few other projects with as little additional cost as possible.

The script is properly formatted, it has been storyboarded and a shot schedule has been created. Trust me I have planned for a lot more then 1 weekend.

I have a small production crew that consists of:

Myself who will be working as the Director/Camera Man

A Casting Director/Lead Actor with a B.A. in Theater and almost 20 years experience.

A professional sound man who has his own studio equipment and over 25 years working in stage and sound system installation, planning and design. He is willing to let us use his studio equipment for mixing and ADR but not in the field. Hence the need for location sound gear.

An Associate Producer/Production Supervisor who is one of the savviest businessman I know and who shares a love for the genre.

An Assistant camera man who I trust to get the shots while I am wearing my directors hat.

And a makeup artist/wardrobe person with a few impressive stage productions under her belt.

No I did not forget about the cast, we are planning on holding auditions in March. I have a few connections in the local thespian circles with quite a few interested parties willing to participate.

You see this is not a wake up one day and say to my self I wan to make a movie. Instead it is a project that has been long in the making and has just started to reach the true pre-production phase. The last time the crew and I were reviewing details it was determined that we should post the question here to see what the response would be

This brings us full circle to the original question: "If you has $4k to spend on a DV Camera, Lights and location sound equipment what would you buy?"
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#8 Chris Durham

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Posted 06 February 2007 - 04:39 PM

Excellent. Sorry about all the run-around; but "how do I spend my money?" is a pretty open-ended question.

I would advise using a 24P prosumer model like the DVX100 or XL2. Problem is your budget keeps you from picking one up new, but if you look around you can find a used DVX or XL1 for around $2000 (which is about the cost of 2-3 weeks' rental - but I understand you'll want to repurpose afterwards).

The good news is that either of these cameras has two XLR inputs so you can save money on recording equipment if you want to go that way (The XL2 can accept an adapter for 2 additional XLRs, which reduces all four to 12-bit - not sure if this option is available for the XL1). If you want to record sound to DAT, I'm not much help for you.

Don't go cheap on the mics. A $300-500 mic is worth every penny and sound is very important.

For lights, you can get away with a tungsten kit like a Lowel. A 4-head kit like a Lowel DVCreator55 kit goes new for like $1100-$1200.

So my $4000 budget-at-a-glance would go something like:


$2000 Camera
$1200 Lights
$600 Mics
$200 Tape Stock

I don't know about Alaska, but in Texas filmmaking, unlike still photography, is considered manufacturing and therefore any of this equipment is exempt from sales tax. Something to consider looking into.

Also, if you want an example of what these cameras can do, the horror movie 28 Days Later was shot with XL1s.

Edited by Chris Durham, 06 February 2007 - 04:40 PM.

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#9 Josh Bass

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Posted 06 February 2007 - 05:59 PM

I'd just like to say, for the record:

The XL2 has built-in XLRs (though it's important to note they accept a line level signal, MIC only), but the XL1s and XL1 DO NOT. You have to buy an XLR adapter for around $2-300.

Are you sure about this "no sales tax on film equipment" thing? I've bought plenty here, and paid taxes on it.

Edited by Josh Bass, 06 February 2007 - 06:01 PM.

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#10 Chris Durham

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Posted 06 February 2007 - 10:26 PM

Are you sure about this "no sales tax on film equipment" thing? I've bought plenty here, and paid taxes on it.


Texas Film Incentives

Sorry about the misinformation on the XL1.
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#11 Joseph Boyd

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Posted 07 February 2007 - 12:05 AM

Jeremiah,

I don't know where in AK you are, but UAF has excellent resources available for video production. If you have access to someone who's a student there, they have studios, editing workstations, Sony VX2100's for checkout, mics, Lowel Lighting kits, audio recording equipment and more, all available for checkout in the library- I wish they had this much stuff when I went there.

And BTW, for all the others, Alaska has no sales or income tax.

Edited by Joseph Boyd, 07 February 2007 - 12:05 AM.

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#12 Chris Durham

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Posted 07 February 2007 - 12:16 AM

Damn. I thought Texas was good being the second biggest and no income tax. But wow - biggest and no sales tax either. I'm unusually jealous.
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#13 Jeremiah Foster

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Posted 07 February 2007 - 05:36 PM

Jeremiah,

I don't know where in AK you are, but UAF has excellent resources available for video production. If you have access to someone who's a student there, they have studios, editing workstations, Sony VX2100's for checkout, mics, Lowel Lighting kits, audio recording equipment and more, all available for checkout in the library- I wish they had this much stuff when I went there.

And BTW, for all the others, Alaska has no sales or income tax.


I didn't even think about the Universities. I will have to check to see if any of my buddies have access to the equipment at UAA. Thank you for the idea.

As for UAF, unfortunally I live in Anchorage. All of the main film/video creation equipment is on the main UAF campus in Fairbanks about 350 miles away. So just to drive there would be like driving from Seattle to Northern California, or for you Chris from Dallas, TX to Wichita KS.

O and Chris, just to add fuel to the jealousy, there is no sales tax or income tax in Alaska and we get a dividend to live here that is normally around $1k per year per person. You just have to suffer in the cold. And the magic hour I was talking about, during the longest part of summer can last for hours.


As for the vx2100's how do you feel about them for a low-cost lowlight DV camera. I hate that they are 4:3 but I could take care of that in post. I have also looked at the Canon GL2, the Sony HVR-A1U and the XL2 (used) as they all fall in my price range.

The hard part about shopping up here is that don't have great access to prosumer gear. We have a Bestbuy and CompUSA and that's about it. Neither of them carry anything along the lines I am looking for. There are a few camera shops here in Anchorage but they make you buy the camera before they will order it, so in store tryout is out of the question. Sadly I am left researching forums like this one to try and get a feel for what camera to get.

This place is the best, thanks for all the help.
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#14 Chris Durham

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Posted 07 February 2007 - 05:43 PM

Well, I can vouch for the XL2. As far as I know, though, the GL2 isn't 24P (Though I've been wrong before;-). Ebay can be your friend. Just be wary.
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#15 Jeremiah Foster

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Posted 07 February 2007 - 05:53 PM

Well, I can vouch for the XL2. As far as I know, though, the GL2 isn't 24P (Though I've been wrong before;-). Ebay can be your friend. Just be wary.


Yep the GL2 is not 24p but I could fix that in post as well using either Magic Bullet or DVFilm Maker. How about the HVR-A1U, it seems like a great value right now at B&H? With the right lighting it can look really good from what I've seen in sample footage.

it's just so hard to choose without being able to check out the camera.
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#16 Chris Durham

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Posted 08 February 2007 - 12:04 AM

Dunno about the A1U. My boss has the Z1U and loves it. I know it's not the same, but it seems like a decent line. I had a lot of reasons for going with the XL2 but I could afford it. I might have looked at the GL2 otherwise; but I'm a Canon guy. My current arsenal is an XL2 as my main video, a ZR600 as a "home video" and B-Cam, and a Rebel XTI for stills. Part of it's loving the color, the other part is probably indoctrination - I worked for a Canon office equipment dealership for 7 years.
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