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#1 Sean Lyons

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Posted 23 August 2008 - 03:38 AM

OK just to give you an idea of what your working with...

I'm 18, starting college next week. EXTREMELY in love with the film world. I think I have an eye for cinematography and want to be involved.

The only camera i've had my hands on is my moms little handy cam. Which i've made a few "youtube" quality videos. And occasionally got my hands on some equipment from my high schools media tech. department thanks to friends.

So to sum all that up. I have the love. Have the will. And I want it more than anything.

So my question is, what do I need (equipment 1st) to get started?

I was going to start with a camera. Looked at the canon XL2. Im in the $2000- $3000 range.

Any and all help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you in advanced!! :D
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#2 Walter Graff

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Posted 23 August 2008 - 08:19 AM

Cinematography is not about equipment. Any camera you get will do well for you. The key is to learn what film making is, how it is done, and what has been accomplished. I'd look into theory and watch some of the classics to see what it is that works for you, and what it is you want to try to imitate. Then using whatever camera you have, start practicing. But no camera made will make you a cinematogrpher. Todays generation is stuck on euipment. I'd imagine that if you have teh "unifrom" then one can act more like what they want ot be. But that is not how to make a career. The best cinematogrhers today started out simply working in the field (in most any capacity) and learning about how it is done, not by worrying about equipment.
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#3 Sean Lyons

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Posted 23 August 2008 - 11:44 AM

I kind of thought that way for a little bit. But yea, like you said I got distracted with the equipment.

I've always watched movies and enjoyed different styles and watching the movie deeper than just for your average viewing if that makes sense. I knew in the back of my mind I needed to find and practice "my style". But you just brought it to realization. ;) But I like how you put that, "Uniform" kinda play the part.. I'm defiantly going to do that now.

I looked at The American Cinematographer Manual VOL.2 I think it was... Would that be a good book to study?

Well I thank you for your input. You brought a new way of thinking to life for me, as weird as that sounds :P

So thank you my friend!!!!
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#4 Bill DiPietra

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Posted 23 August 2008 - 02:03 PM

Sounds like you have the passion...which is all you really need.

I agree. Any cinematographer, editor, director, etc. worth his or her salt will call themselves filmmakers. Therefore you should WATCH EVERYTHING...and I mean everything. I started really picking films apart about 15 years ago and I'm still doing it. There is always something new and different to look at. And I only recently set myself up with my own film equipment. You can always rent film or video equipment out so I wouldn't stick yourself with a single format or camera type just yet. You have plenty of time for that. I would experiment with all you can before purchasing something. Check out what your college media center has to offer. My school didn't have a film major per sey, but they had plenty of different equipment for us to play with.

And try to get yourself interested in film history. Very few filmmakers seem to be doing that these days and it it reflected in their work. For cinematography, this is a good place to start:

http://widescreenmuseum.com/index.htm

And always ask questions! Good luck and have fun.
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#5 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 24 August 2008 - 03:35 AM

A 2 to 3k video camera will be obsolete and worth maybe 500 in a couple of years. I would recommend going with a 16mm Arri BL package for that price. In professional circles film is still king and as you get more and more into cinematography, you'll realize that and probably regret waisting your money on a video camera. As a cinematographer, you'll need to learn and understand film stocks and processing, lighting for film, ect. A BL will help you learn that, an XL2 won't. My first "professional" camera was a JVC GY-500 I bought in I believe 2002 for 6K, it's now worth maybe $1500. My Russian 35mm camera packages which I bought 2 maybe 3 years ago have tripled in price from what I paid for them.

The only reason I recommend a 16mm BL is because you probably can't afford film and processing for 35mm otherwise I would recommend an Arri 2 or Konvas 1m turret camera with a crystal sync motor (the Lomo OCT-18 mount lenses are less expensive that the Konvas 2m OCT-19 mount lenses but still very good lenses comparable to Ziess and Cookes of the time) which are both MOS but very good cameras and can be had for the budget you've set. They made blimps and sync motors for the Arris and they come up on ebay from time to time but be warned the blimps are a pain in the ass to use on a shoot when you have to change out mags. The Konvas as far as I know never had blimps made for them as the Russians always did the sound in post. I do OCCASIONALLY see a Kinor 35H (location camera) go for about 5 grand and was recently offered a Kinor 35C package (studio camera) minus lenses with modern electronics for just under 4 grand (I didn't have the cash at the time as I had just bought a domino film scanners for my lab but I woulda bought it in a heartbeat if I had. The camera body alone later sold on ebay for $3500) The Kinor is the Soviet sound sync camera. An Arri BL 1 or BL 2 sound sync 35mm camera will go for around 8 grand for a small package, that's why I went with Russian stuff. Stick with film, kid, it really is the way to go if you want to become a professional. ;)

Edited by James Steven Beverly, 24 August 2008 - 03:37 AM.

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#6 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 24 August 2008 - 09:33 PM

I just noticed David Sweetman has an Arri BL 16mm package with a Tobin Crystal sync motor and a zoom lens for sale in your price range in the classified section. You outta check it out.

Edited by James Steven Beverly, 24 August 2008 - 09:34 PM.

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#7 Sean Lyons

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Posted 25 August 2008 - 02:29 AM

A 2 to 3k video camera will be obsolete and worth maybe 500 in a couple of years. I would recommend going with a 16mm Arri BL package for that price. In professional circles film is still king and as you get more and more into cinematography, you'll realize that and probably regret waisting your money on a video camera. As a cinematographer, you'll need to learn and understand film stocks and processing, lighting for film, ect. A BL will help you learn that, an XL2 won't. My first "professional" camera was a JVC GY-500 I bought in I believe 2002 for 6K, it's now worth maybe $1500. My Russian 35mm camera packages which I bought 2 maybe 3 years ago have tripled in price from what I paid for them.

The only reason I recommend a 16mm BL is because you probably can't afford film and processing for 35mm otherwise I would recommend an Arri 2 or Konvas 1m turret camera with a crystal sync motor (the Lomo OCT-18 mount lenses are less expensive that the Konvas 2m OCT-19 mount lenses but still very good lenses comparable to Ziess and Cookes of the time) which are both MOS but very good cameras and can be had for the budget you've set. They made blimps and sync motors for the Arris and they come up on ebay from time to time but be warned the blimps are a pain in the ass to use on a shoot when you have to change out mags. The Konvas as far as I know never had blimps made for them as the Russians always did the sound in post. I do OCCASIONALLY see a Kinor 35H (location camera) go for about 5 grand and was recently offered a Kinor 35C package (studio camera) minus lenses with modern electronics for just under 4 grand (I didn't have the cash at the time as I had just bought a domino film scanners for my lab but I woulda bought it in a heartbeat if I had. The camera body alone later sold on ebay for $3500) The Kinor is the Soviet sound sync camera. An Arri BL 1 or BL 2 sound sync 35mm camera will go for around 8 grand for a small package, that's why I went with Russian stuff. Stick with film, kid, it really is the way to go if you want to become a professional. ;)



You do realize that I only understood about 1/4 of that, right? lol And that's probably a SMALL fourth mind you. haha But what I did understand helps. I've come to my senses and started looking for a film camera instead. Might jus start with a super8 but i will go check out this cam that you recommended.

Thanks!!
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#8 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 25 August 2008 - 03:56 PM

Super 8 is a fine place to start out, but I think 16mm might be a better bet.
You have to keep in mind the costs of post with film, though, and you'll constantly be under pressure from shoots to keep those costs down. But, hell, if you can expose some reversal film, you can probably expose anything!
Myself, I got an SR3, and only now that I have that am I going into an HD camera to fit into a lot of the corporate industrials/lono budget music videos I am getting hired for.

Worst to worst, get a good SLR and shoot a lot of stills. Also check in your area for other up and comers and network like mad. Get out, shoot with them, even if it's for free/food, and watch/learn everything you can.
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#9 Andrew Koch

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Posted 25 August 2008 - 05:08 PM

I agree about shooting stills. An extremely important skill that a cinematographer needs is control over exposure. Get a 35mm SLR film camera, NOT a digital SLR (you can get them on ebay for a couple hundred bucks with a lens). Get a light meter. I use the Spectra Pro IVa for incident readings and the Minolta Spot Meter F for spot readings. These can be a bit expensive if you are starting out, but will last you forever. If you want something cheaper, I would suggest the Sekonic Studio Deluxe II. It is old and completely analogue, but this is good because it will help get you in the mindset of reading footcandles and translating them to f stops.

With your SLR camera and your lightmeter by some Black and White reversal film, AKA "slide film." This stuff has very little latitude, making it much more difficult to shoot than negative. You will have very little room for error. Slight overexposure or underexposure will be very noticeable. This makes for a great learning experience because you will be able to learn from your mistakes. When you get these developed, have the lab make slides. Then view them on a slide projector. If you can nail your exposures with slide film, you will have a much easier time exposing color negative film which is much more forgiving.

In one post, I read that some of what James wrote went over your head. That can happen when you are first starting out. This is why it is important to ask as many questions as you can to help clarify everything that is confusing. Everything I have mentioned in this post is stuff you will need to know, so if any of it does not make sense, please ask about it.
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#10 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 25 August 2008 - 05:13 PM

In terms of the SLR, look for a Nikon FM10. They go for around $300 new with lens and are all manual (with a built in meter). It was the first still camera I ever bought and has been true to me for a long time.
Also, that analogue sekonic is a great investment meter as it needs no batteries. I keep one with me as a backup all the time in case my L-758 takes a dump on me in the hinterlands.

Also, look into reading some books for the technical things. There is a pinned FAQ on the site (bottom of the main page) of literature on the science/art of cinematography.
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#11 Sean Lyons

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Posted 25 August 2008 - 11:35 PM

I agree about shooting stills. An extremely important skill that a cinematographer needs is control over exposure. Get a 35mm SLR film camera, NOT a digital SLR (you can get them on ebay for a couple hundred bucks with a lens). Get a light meter. I use the Spectra Pro IVa for incident readings and the Minolta Spot Meter F for spot readings. These can be a bit expensive if you are starting out, but will last you forever. If you want something cheaper, I would suggest the Sekonic Studio Deluxe II. It is old and completely analogue, but this is good because it will help get you in the mindset of reading footcandles and translating them to f stops.

With your SLR camera and your lightmeter by some Black and White reversal film, AKA "slide film." This stuff has very little latitude, making it much more difficult to shoot than negative. You will have very little room for error. Slight overexposure or underexposure will be very noticeable. This makes for a great learning experience because you will be able to learn from your mistakes. When you get these developed, have the lab make slides. Then view them on a slide projector. If you can nail your exposures with slide film, you will have a much easier time exposing color negative film which is much more forgiving.

In one post, I read that some of what James wrote went over your head. That can happen when you are first starting out. This is why it is important to ask as many questions as you can to help clarify everything that is confusing. Everything I have mentioned in this post is stuff you will need to know, so if any of it does not make sense, please ask about it.


ok. cool. I've had a 35mm film slr for a while. i started out liking photography because my mom is sort of a photography nut. So i have some of those basic tools. but i don't have light meter. Do you know where i can find one for cheap? and the spot reader? same thing?

And you said if i don't under stand something just ask, well I don't know what foot candles are and f spots. I'm going to guess that comes later in the game? haha

So... basically im going to do anything you guys tell me too haha i'm just glad i already have most of the expensive stuff i'm going to need.

and a question about the forum. Can i just reply to the posts or is it "proper" to quote the post im talking about?
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#12 Saul Rodgar

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Posted 25 August 2008 - 11:49 PM

Go FILM!!! :lol:
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#13 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 26 August 2008 - 03:00 AM

You have to keep in mind the costs of post with film, though, and you'll constantly be under pressure from shoots to keep those costs down.


That's pretty much the Indy film maker's mantra isn't it. :D Seriously though, don't waste your time with S8, you really won't save any money because S8 is just about as expensive as 16mm and S8 is a consumer format. At least with 16mm you have a slight chance of selling it should you make an exceptional film LIKE El Mariachi. If you're looking for a good CHEAP movie camera, a Beaulieu 16R can be had for maybe 3 to 5 hundred dollars, a Bolex REX reflex can be had for maybe 6 to 7 hundred, A soviet Krasnogorsk-3 - 16mm can be had for 3 to 5, a Kinor 16 can be had for a grand. All are MOS (un-blimped, mostly non-sync cameras that are generally too loud to use when recording sound) but will serve you well. The Beaulieu is a French camera and like most French machinery, is good quality BUT fragile and temperamental. I bought one to use at our non profit film school, the Del Norte' Film Institute. It is one of the few low end cameras that mostly have electric motors and can be synced using s sync cable or an external sync unit. Many models also can use external 200ft mags.

There are SEVERAL non-reflex 16mm cameras available. B&H 70 (the newer models as the older ones used 2 perf, "silent" 16mm film which is limited), The B&H 240 which I also got for Del Norte", the Bolex non reflex, some others. These are less expensive (I picked up the B&H for literally under 30 bucks in PRISTINE condition.) BUT they have a parallax viewfinder which means you are NOT looking directly through the camera lens so you have to be very careful about exposure, framing and focus. I'm not sure it I completely agree with relying on a still camera to teach you cinematography. I think you should HAVE a still camera but I think you should learn to shoot on a motion picture camera. There are too many variables with motion pictures that you just have to experience to learn and understand. You WILL need a light meter. What I would do for now is shoot daylight film and just find an old Norwood "Director" light-meter.It was the predecessor of the Sekonic. They're pretty cheap usually under 50 bucks. Or an analog Spectra.

Shoot MOS and try and learn to tell a story with pictures instead of dialog. Remember a movie is told in moving images, a PLAY is told in the dialog. When you can do that, then move onto sound. Again IF you have 2 to 3 grand to spend, very much consider getting an Arri 16 BL because the same camera will work for both MOS and sound shoots and unless you abuse it, you should be able to get your money back out of it at any time. Sound, of course, adds a whole other list of problems to deal with so we won't worry about that now, BUT realize you WILL be going to it relatively quickly so why not plan ahead equipment-wise IF POSSIBLE. If not, go with the best you CAN afford. as far as lights go, IIIIII would start out wit a basic 4 light, 3 point lighting set-up OR even simpler, use the sun and reflect the light using foam core and aluminum foil reflectors which costs you virtually NOTHING. Believe it or not, half the stuff we shoot is lit in just this way except we use fancier reflectors to do the exact same thing. Little by little you can add gel, scrim flags ect. until you've built up a nice little set up.

Now I KNOW you won't know what a lot of this means which brings us to our most important lesson, NO ONE IS GOING TO HAND THIS TO YOU, SO YOU GOTTA GO OUT AN GET IT YOURSELF!!!! First thing, get a glossary of film terms to study. Here, I'm gonna give ya that one:

http://www.wvfilm.com/glossary1.htm

Second find every book on film making you can. Here I'm gonna give you one to start with:

Moviemaking Course: Principles, Practice, and Techniques: The Ultimate Guide for the Aspiring Filmmaker by Chris Patmore

This is a High school level book on film making so at 18 you should have no trouble understanding it. It's the one we will be using at Del Norte' for teens.

Third watch every video on film making you can find including the "making of" sections on DVDs. let me give you 2 to start with:

Visions of Light (1992)
The Cutting Edge: The Magic of Movie Editing (2004)

Visions doesn't really get into the nuts and bolts of cinematography but it does show how it is used in an artistic way to help tell the story samt thing with Cutting edge but both are a good place to start. Both also play frequently on cable so you may no even have to pay to rent them.

Fourthly use the Net. There are litterally thousands of film making sites out there loaded with information. Kodak had a virtual lighting "game" on theirs. This place has tons of information. Here's one just for fun:

http://www.exposure....lood/index.html

Here's the main page:

http://www.exposure....ejit/index.html

and here's a couple of others:

http://www.raindance.../index.php?home

http://www.studentfi...hive/index.php/

http://www.likeastory.com/

The rest is on you Buddy. Ask as many questions as you like and don't worry if they seem a little elementary, EVERYONE here asked those same questions as some point in their past. It's the only way to learn. B)

Edited by James Steven Beverly, 26 August 2008 - 03:03 AM.

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#14 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 26 August 2008 - 06:50 AM

and a question about the forum. Can i just reply to the posts or is it "proper" to quote the post im talking about?


It's nice to quote but only when you're replying to something specific or referencing something elsewhere on the thread IMHO.

As for F stops and Foot Candles, well the basic thing you need to know is they relate to exposure. F stop is a measure of the opening of the lens iris; same as your eye. It's a numerical measuring system, where the smaller the number is, the larger the opening is and the more light reaches the film. Foot Candles is a measure of the amount of light from which F stops can be derived asthmatically-- newer light meters do this math for you. It'll make a lot of sense if you can get your hands on just a lens and move the F stop ring (maked, for example, 1.4, 2, 2.8, 4, 5.6, 8, 11, 16, 22). while looking into the lens you'll see the iris closing down and opening up.

F stop later on plays a part in Depth of Field calculations, inasmuch as the smaller the opening is, in general, the more you have in focus (and the more light you need to properly expose an image). The Larger the opening, the less will appear in focus and the less light you need. How much light you need for exposure is based on the sensitivity of the film or computer chip you are recording information on. Film is marked in EI, or exposure index, which is the same as ASA and ISO. The larger the EI of the film, e.g. 250, the more sensitive it is. For example, a 500 "speed," film will have exactly 1 F stop more sensitivity than a 250 "speed" film, or 2 stops more sensitivity than a 125 speed film (see a pattern there?)
So, if on a 500 speed film for a given amount of light in a given scene requires an F5.6 for exposure, a 250 would need an F4, and a 125 would need an F2.8.

Again, it can be a bit "odd" to think of this abstractly, but as soon as you get your hands on a camera and start playing with film/exposure it'll make sense pretty fast.

Another good book to look into would be Cinematography by Kris Malkeiwicz and David Mullen ASC. It'll go into a good bit of detail about all things cinematographic.
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#15 David Sweetman

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Posted 26 August 2008 - 03:41 PM

I just noticed David Sweetman has an Arri BL 16mm package with a Tobin Crystal sync motor and a zoom lens for sale in your price range in the classified section. You outta check it out.

I know I'm a horrible businessman, but personally I think at this stage he should stick to video, and lots of it :ph34r: film is the next step and I don't think he's there yet...Sean I think you should pick up a decent 3ccd miniDV camera, it's the best way there is to start learning today. And while you're learning, tape stock is cheap.
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#16 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 27 August 2008 - 12:36 AM

Dave, you know yer my buddy but I gotta TOTALLY disagree with you on this one. Film breeds discipline and good film making habits. It is what most professionals shoot on and in my opinion is is the best medium for narrative story telling. I think video should be saved until the professional habits of film making have been learned and become second nature. Then and only then should one venture into video making and this comes from someone who started with video. My first camera was and is (I still have it) a JVC GY-500 mini DV camcorder. I bought it because it was the least expensive professional grade digital camera available at the time. Some smaller new stations were using them. It cost me 6 grand what, 6 years ago and is now obsolete. The HD cameras Lucas shot the second trilogy on which were a what a hundred grandl are now worth 15k and are fast becoming obsolete. and even with the advances, video still is not up to film standards. Film is the way to go if you are looking at becoming a professional. B)
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#17 Sean Lyons

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Posted 31 August 2008 - 02:47 AM

Dear all,

I just want to thank everybody who has responded to my questions.

you all (trying not to use my texas "yall") have been very helpful and im going to take all of your advise and put it to use. yes that means im buying 3 cameras and many books lol

just also wanna add that im happy i stumbled upon this site... its been a very nice experience so far compared to previous forum experiences i have experienced in my forum experience exploration... (sorry i just noticed that i was typing experience a lot so i felt like dragging it out of proportion

thank you,

Sean Lyons
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#18 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 31 August 2008 - 10:59 AM

Sean, anytime and welcome aboard!
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#19 Michael LaVoie

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Posted 05 September 2008 - 07:19 PM

You've gotten some great advice already and I know you're probably overwhelmed but there's one more thing to keep in mind, even if you were shooting on 35mm, without a mattebox and filters you're not going to understand how to control the image you're taking in through the lens. This is critical. It's going to be tough to do with a bolex 16 or super 8 camera cause you'll be hard pressed to find matteboxes for those.

Without a mattebox and filters you'll be at the mercy of shooting the ASA of the film stock and you won't be able to keep your iris open and practice shooting at the 1.4-2.8 F stop range which is where you want to set your iris 90% of the time while shooting a film. Whatever camera you do eventually get you want to make sure that those two functions of focus and exposure are fully manual and you also want to try and set some money aside for the mattebox and a small assortment of Neutral Density filters. These will help you cut the amount of light coming in through the lens and therefore you won't have to close down your iris to F16 while shooting outside. Keeping things in the T2 range will ensure you selective focus and your images will take on that cinematic look. But again, it will be extremely tough to do this without filters. A really good tripod is also essential for smooth panning and tilting. If I were you starting out, I'd put the money into these accessories and go really cheap and basic with the camera because the accessories will outlive the camera. Matteboxes haven't changed much in decades. Not nearly as much as the cameras. But a good one will cost way more than a cheap camera. Then again, it will also retain its resale value.
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#20 Ira Ratner

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Posted 05 September 2008 - 07:31 PM

Sean, the one thing I can contribute here is that you're totally on the ball:

For 18, you've demonstrated not only your ability to express yourself beautifully, but there wasn't one damn typo or misplaced comma in any of the posts. This is a rare thing for anyone, let alone at 18.

Know what I'm talking about?

There are skills you'll need for any profession you go into, but the skill of communication is one that will benefit you in ALL of them.

And you got it, kid.

GOOD LUCK!!!
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