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Upstarting a Video Production Company


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#1 Chris Durkee

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Posted 09 October 2008 - 01:27 AM

Hi everyone. I am new to this forum. I have been a videographer/editor for a couple years now, just doing freelance work and my own short films.

I finally have the resources and ability to get some new equipment. I am currently shooting SD on a DVX100.

I am looking for advice for a all around equipment (lights, sound, tripods, etc.) to jump start my production company. I want to go HD and will mainly be shooting Documentary work and some short films stuff.

What would you recommend on a 20,000 dollar budget??

If you have any other questions feel free to ask.

Thanks for your advice.



In short if you had 20,000 dollars and was looking to start a small production company, what would you start of buying?
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#2 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 09 October 2008 - 09:43 AM

Well, $20,000 isn't really going to go very far, particularly with HD.

I guess my question to you is, if you're starting a "production company," are you really starting a company or just trying to sell yourself as a "Full service" guy?

The difference is this: If you're looking to be a freelance Cameraman/Editor/Producer, then you'll have to look toward what kinds of projects and clients you really want to work for. How "high end" or "low end" do you intend to be? To work for clients who do high end work means shooting at the level of HDCAM which mean having grip/lighting equipment that will run you between $3,000 and $5,000 and a camera package that will cost upwards of $80,000.

This is possible, as you would gain clients who don't know that you don't own the camera and who don't care. You'd likely take SOME of the money you do have and rent the camera package from a rental house for about $1,200 a day (plus or minus, but you'll charge the client $100 or $200 over that). You'll also need to buy insurance. Over time, you'd earn enough to buy the camera for yourself.

However, if you're serious about being a "production company," there's no need to be a defacto "rental house" too. Instead of investing in equipment, you'd invest your capital in gaining clients. You'd be hiring Owner/Operator Cameramen to do that work for you. Yes, you'd pay them for their time and the equipment, but that money will come from your budget. If the Cameraman/Sound Mixer/Equipment costs YOU $2,500 a day (ten hour day), then you might charge the client $3,000 for that portion of the job. Then you need to be able to post whatever format the project is shot in, so you could invest in your own edit system or, again, go somewhere else that it already set up and use that facilities expertise.

Renting from others doesn't make that "equipment rental" for you, but the upside is that THEY take care of maintenance and upkeep. Plus, once you buy a camera or edit system, it more or less locks you into a certain kind of client. Buy a cheaper camera, you'll be working for lower end clients. Buy an expensive camera, you'll attract higher end clients. Don't buy anything, and you can have all kinds of clients because you won't be choosing work that you need to pay off your investment.

So, first, figure out what exactly you'd like to be doing with your life in terms of work, then spend your money wisely in pursuit of that. If you want to be a Producer with a Production Company, then do that. But if you want to be a Cameraman/Editor/Producer, then know that $20,000 won't buy much in terms of gear and could force you into seriously low-end work.
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#3 Michael LaVoie

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Posted 09 October 2008 - 01:19 PM

Brians advice really depends on where you're located. And whether you have easy access to renting whatever gear is required and whether there really are qualified freelancers around to hire. Assuming that it's a yes to all of that, I have to agree with Brian that you should build a client base first and foremost and pour all energy into that. Sales professionals are really the best tool to a start up company. However, I may be stating the obvious and if you're already set up with that and you really don't have rental options or trustworthy crew nearby, I'd purchase a midlevel camera like the HVX200. It will afford you the option to buy lighting as well. I'd start off with some used HMI's and used grip & electric gear. Hunt around on Ebay. Used HMI's and Kino-flos are better to have on hand than brand new tungsten. You'll have the option to shoot day for day which is cost prohibitive for the average startup.
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