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Starting camera prices


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#1 Tim Madison

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Posted 31 October 2008 - 07:58 PM

How much should a highschool student plan to spend on his first good video camera if he is quasi-serious about filmmaking?

Edited by Tim Madison, 31 October 2008 - 07:59 PM.

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#2 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 31 October 2008 - 08:05 PM

Try to keep the camera cost down as much as you can and invest in good lighting/tripod/grip. Those things will last you long into your career and the camera will be outdated by the time you can legally drink (in the US.)
Some of the Canon HDVs can be had under 3000, and yield good results. I'd recommend holding off a bit and see what happens with the whole red-scarlet business; it may be worth the money, it may not, but it'll be around 3000 and certainly get you acclimated with how many people feel the industry is trending (very high resolutions and data-centric workflows). Be ready to spend about 10,000 overall to get a good start-out kit with camera/support/lighting. I know that seems like a lot, and it can be, so spread it around. Go for camera/tripod first-- or lights as EVERY shoot needs light--- and then begin picking up the pieces you find yourself missing as time goes on.
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#3 Tim Madison

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Posted 31 October 2008 - 08:18 PM

i think that pretty much answers my question, thanks, i really appreciate it.

Edited by Tim Madison, 31 October 2008 - 08:20 PM.

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#4 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 31 October 2008 - 11:16 PM

Anytime Tim.
Also, if there are rental houses in your are, or a camera shop, see if you can't go in and demo the camera before you commit to buying it. You may have to rent the camera out for a day, or find a private owner, but you can get an idea before you sink in your $$! Else it can be a leap of faith. Now I've done that before, and been damned lucky with it, but that was after watching a few hours of other people's videos on the camera let them do the leg work ;)

Always research, as you are, before you buy!

best of luck
(Btw, for tripods, see if you can track down an old O'Connor 50D head.. might cost 'round $1500 with legs, but worth it!)
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#5 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 31 October 2008 - 11:46 PM

How much should a highschool student plan to spend on his first good video camera if he is quasi-serious about filmmaking?


Hey Tim!

If you're quasi-serious about filmmaking, the FIRST thing you need to consider is what it is you really are interested in doing. The term "filmmaking" is very vague and can mean many things. The professional film industry is very specialized, in that if you want to be a Director, then you most likely would never shoot your own movies. If you want to be a Director of Photography, then you won't be "in charge" of writing the stories...you'll mostly be working within the "direction" of someone else.


So, that being the case, if you want to be a Director someday, by all means get some kind of camera just to get some experience in shooting your own scenes and invest in a halfway decent computer with editing software. You will learn a great deal about directing when you get in the editing room and realize what shots work and which don't. Having said that, keep it all on the inexpensive side at this point.

When you are really SERIOUS about making a quality short film, invest your time and effort into WRITING! Because of your hands-on experience before this, you'll be able to write a story and think about how it will look all at the same time. Writing something vague like, "there are pictures of her family on the wall" isn't as helpful as writing something like "Sara walks slowly down the hallway admiring the photos of her family that hang on the wall." Write with visualization in mind.

And when you get to the point where your story/script is what you want it to be, then go out into your community to find OTHERS who will be excited about working on a film. Visit the local university theater department for Actors. Visit the local university film department, a local tv station, or local production companies to find a Director of Photography. Do that for everyone you need to help you. What this does is allow you to concentrate on the story and you get quality specialists who are there to make your movie be as great as it can be.


If you would rather become a Director of Photography for a living, then seek out aspiring Directors in your area who are in need of someone like you. In this case, first practice with lighting and exposure on your own. You can do that with a still camera, preferably a film SLR camera that allow you to have manual control over everything. As mentioned above, being a DP does indeed involve knowing your camera, lenses, and film (or how to understand and control electronic/video cameras), but it has a lot to do with lighting. There are many great resources that can help you learn here on this site as well as at www.whatireallywanttodo.com. It's also helpful if you can obtain an internship with a local Cameraman. Ideally someone who shoots anything but straight news. It's one thing to learn theory and techniques, but it's valuable to observe a professional having to deal with real world problems and limitations. Time, resources, people, new situations... anybody can do it when things are easy and go as planned... but watch and learn when things don't go that way. How does that DP solve a problem or compromise?

It's great that you're starting to think about this so early! Go out, practice and have a lot of fun. And as soon as you can, try to figure out as soon as you can what you really want to do in the industry. The earlier you can begin to specialize, the more you can concentrate on developing those skills and the quicker you'll find yourself living the life you want instead of waiting for it to begin.

Good luck!



When you're ready to volunteer your skills to someone else's project,
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#6 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 31 October 2008 - 11:51 PM

It's one thing to learn theory and techniques, but it's valuable to observe a professional having to deal with real world problems and limitations. Time, resources, people, new situations... anybody can do it when things are easy and go as planned... but watch and learn when things don't go that way. How does that DP solve a problem or compromise?


This is probably the most over-looked part of the "aspiration" of being a filmmaker. Dealing with the real world while creating an illusion can be a pain in the ass!
Today I had to get equipment through the Philadelphia Phillies parade, to an 11th floor of a building, into a "studio," and light scenes... for which there were no props, no script, and too many windows down the hall to keep the "actors," from disappearing while I'm trying to set up their blocking with the "director."
But hey, it's what makes each day a unique pain in the ass that I'd gladly under-go for the rest of my days. Almost like a rubic cube that I get paid (this time modestly,) to solve! Honestly, I can't much complain about that.

p.s. I also find it very important to have a good sense of humor about life's curve-balls!
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#7 Glen Alexander

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Posted 01 November 2008 - 11:19 AM

I would suggest get an old Super 8mm camera and projector. You don't need a big crew, expensive grip gear, etc.

You can easily and cheaply shoot, develop, edit, and project.

You can learn what it mean to push, pull, bleach bypass in a physical sense not some abstract digital sense. Negative film is a 'living' thing, a few seconds here or there, a different chemical "soup", can change the entire look. Do you need to go to "film school", IMHO, no. Have a vision or a mission then get out your hob-nailed boots and hit the trail.

You can waste a lot of time editing digital. I hear many stories of how people who shoot only video, just let the camera run and shoot fcuking EVERYTHING. "Fix it in post" is lazy and uninspiring. You will waste a lot of time editing, editing, editing, it's a lack of vision.

With film, you have a finite amount of time, make the best of it, there are no mistakes, keep trudging on, keep the momentum going, don't stop until the end credits roll. Shoot film, learn to make the best of what you have, without expensive reshoots or tons of razzle dazzle SFX which lend nothing to the story.

Super 8 projectors are cheap, you can show them on your wall, get your friends and relatives over to watch, there is still nothing like getting a group of people to watch your "film". Watch and listen to their reactions, you'll know right away if your story telling is getting through to the audience.

Edited by Glen Alexander, 01 November 2008 - 11:21 AM.

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#8 Edward Roberts

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Posted 02 November 2008 - 08:06 PM

I agree that what ever camera you are going to buy today is going to be outdated in about a week and a half the way its looking.

I started off by shooting stills and taking a photography course. It taught me the basics of film and gave me a better understanding of what the craft really was. to this day i still use my still camera, when i go on tech scouts to locations that i might be shooting, story boarding, blocking, looking at exposures,. my still camera still a very use full tool to me. If you were looking to go in that direction, There is the Nikon D90 its a still camera that doubles as a Hd video camera. You might find it weird to shoot on an SLR photo camera, but i have a feeling this is the way digital recording is going. and i myself am thinking of upgrading to this camera. However i don't know what the workflow might be as far as post for video. also If you went this way you would still need lenses i would go with the nikon mounted Ziess which is going to run u about $500 to a grand a lens. The fact that there primes means you'll need 4 or 5.. the glass is worth it tho..

http://www.nikonusa..../25446/D90.html

View on Vimeo

The panasonic HMC150 is another good option to a low cost HD camera. It records to affordable reusable SDHC cards. An 8 gig card is $50
there calling it the new DVX, which was a great starter camera for many of first time film makers.

http://www.bhphotovi..._Camcorder.html
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#9 Walter Graff

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Posted 02 November 2008 - 08:46 PM

If you spend more than $1000-1500 you are wasting money.
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#10 Tim Madison

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Posted 02 November 2008 - 11:04 PM

a couple of you guys mentioned still photo. and i am interested in this as an art form also (where as any video work i would do would possibly just be documentary type work)
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