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I could use some advice filming a pilot


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#1 Drew Weininger

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Posted 06 September 2009 - 12:14 PM

Hello Everyone.

I am a first time poster to this website as I recently found it. I'm sure this question has been asked on here before and I've found a few article but I thought I would post my questions as... they are specific to what I want answer for.

I've been researching this topic for a while... and cannot find much information. I don't know if it just varies so much that the topic is too broad to really discuss or maybe it's just not proper to talk money and numbers... but ultimately that is where my question leads.

I am a very small video production company. In this economy- I own it and wear almost all the hats to cut corners. I hire freelancers to help where I need them. I've filmed weddings, business videos, promotional videos and a few low budget TV shows for broadcast on small cable networks. It's not much but I love what I do and I do that best I can and more than anything... I want to grow and this is a good opportunity to do just that.

Recently I was asked to film a TV pilot for a client and it's out of the scope of anything I've done before. I use Final Cut, Motion, Photoshop, Maya and SoundtrackPro for all my video editing, and I shoot on Standard Def Sony cameras. I have a couple of questions I am hoping to ask and get help with. This client is a good client and I have worked with him many times in the past.

The shoot. The Pilot will end up being a 22 minute episode. It's a reality show. We will be filming 5 days in 1 week. 8-10hrs a day. The video footage totals could be up into the 30,40 maybe 50hrs. I then have to sort through it... and edit the video down into basically a 1/2 hr pilot demo. Everything takes place on location, so there are no studio costs.

#1. I would like to shoot this in high def. I am thinking about getting two Panasonic HVX-200s... Which would be an upgrade I've been wanting to make. I've been researching and looking at them for a while but there is a lot I do not know about cameras as I come from and editing/animation background. I've been reading up on limitations of the HVX and see that filming up to 50hrs could be an issue. Especially on multiple P2 cards as I would have to use a bunch of them and they are expensive. But I assume there is a HD DV tape option as well..? I need to research it more. Anyone have any tips on that? I could shoot in Standard Def with current cameras but... I'm ready to upgrade and think the production would benefit as well.

#2. I have access to a studio but all this filming would be shot on location so... no studio costs. I will need about 2 extra cameramen to help out which isn't a big deal. I would however like to utilize a backdrop and light kit that I've got and get some good dramatic interviews.

#3. I will be housing all the footage and editing it down into a 22 minute show. I use final cut... I either capture from miniDV or use my Sony Anycast and capture right to my GRaid HDD FW800 (great hard drive by the way). For this shoot the Anycast is not going to work so if I stick with my sonys.... I could have 50 freaking tapes to digitize and sort through! UGh... what a nightmare. If I switch to the Panasonics.... I imagine will have to do something similar.

#4. This all happens over 4-5 days of shooting 8-10 hrs a day.

#5. I own some nice equipment but as a business I think this is a good opportunity to charge this guy a fair fee but also need to make money and from that money I want to sink a chunk of it into new equipment.

#6. Final out put will be broadcast quality NTSC.

Stuff I have.
Good Audio equipment (AKG 414 and a few boom and shotgun mics)
Prosumer Sony 2100's
Sony Anycast
Mac based PBPro
2 TB of external Space.
Some good and accountable freelancers
Great software

Does anyone have any advice on what to charge...?

Also....

Here is the list of things I'm charging for.

Filming,
Equipment,
Props and Lighting,
Audio,
Post Editing (Editing, graphics, animation)
Capturing,
Camermen,
Travel,
Buring and DVD production,
Creative skills and services

I would love to discuss this. If you have ANY advice, thoughts, questions, comments... please let me know.
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#2 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 06 September 2009 - 12:52 PM

Well, that sounds like quite a workload.
How to approach the editorial section of this will depend on how quick of a turn around you'll need.
That being said, I'd not look into buying HVXs, as that'll run you easily into the thousands once you get all the bits and bobs you need. Plus, shooting on card/firestore might not be the best of ideas in terms of archival storage etc.
I'd recommend looking into a different shooting system, but that on the high end, Varicam (tape based if you can still find it) or HDCam (really high end and perhaps too much so) and or something simpler like HDV on something like a JVC250U (better ergonomics than other HDV Cameras).
I'd say you'd want to be on tape, and while the HVX can record on tape, it's SD, not HD. HD is only on the cards on an HVX camera. The main reason to go with tape would be because you will have a lot of footage to go through and on the cards you either take it all over to a hard drive, and then reuse the card, or just selects. Problem is once you format that card, it's all over. And, on a show such as this, you never know when you'll need that footage again. Also, with reality tv you can get away with the "look" of HDV.

Depending where you are will dictate what type of lighting kit you'd need, if any. As for backdrop, that's an aesthetic choice, but you could just use the background you have (for example if you have a base camp or whatever, or a kitchen area-- depends on the show of course).

As for what to charge, hell, that varies so much so as to be primarily what you can negotiate with the client and also depends on where you are. The "acceptable" rate for a 10 hour day here in Philadelphia is different from what it would be in NYC. Also, you should get a 3 or a 4 day week rate, if possible.

Again, don't think too much about buying kit just for this, as it'll blow the budget. Rather, rent the kit this time and if they show goes beyond pilot, then it makes more financial sense to purchase the kit (I mean you're talking 13 weeks of shooting as opposed to just 1 if you're doing a 13 episode series of 4-5 day shoots).

of course, as you mentioned, this is all incredibly variable. The needs for "John and Kate Plus 8," "Hells Kitchen," "Survivor," and say "What Not To Wear," are all different though they're all "reality TV"
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#3 Drew Weininger

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Posted 06 September 2009 - 01:18 PM

Agreed. It is a workload.

Thanks for the tips. I live and work in Dallas. So the market is pretty big. Renting sounds like a good idea and I will look into other cameras. Do you have any advice on where I can rent cameras for 4-5 days?
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#4 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 06 September 2009 - 01:24 PM

Not out in Dallas, it's a few hundred miles from my stompin' grounds ;)
I'm sure you can find a few places though, consult with mandy.com which might have some local listings and also perhaps the Dallas Film Office. http://www.filmdfw.com/
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#5 Jason Davenport

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Posted 10 September 2009 - 10:35 PM

Agreed. It is a workload.

Thanks for the tips. I live and work in Dallas. So the market is pretty big. Renting sounds like a good idea and I will look into other cameras. Do you have any advice on where I can rent cameras for 4-5 days?


Call MP&E in Dallas, Mayo Production & Equipment, top notch stuff.
http://www.mayovideo.com/

Edited by Jason Davenport, 10 September 2009 - 10:39 PM.

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#6 Drew Weininger

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Posted 10 September 2009 - 11:20 PM

Excellent!

Thanks!
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#7 Serge Teulon

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Posted 11 September 2009 - 05:38 AM

Hey Drew,

Although it contradicts Adrian's advice (which is sound advice!) due to it shooting on cards....when you go to a rental place ask them about the EX3.
I think its the best HD pro-sumer camera out there at the moment.
As I've mentioned it shoots onto cards(which in your situation might be better in cost lowering) but the image quality is FAR superior to the HVX200 and as you are shooting a pilot you're trying to impress....also, you might find that the difference in rental price is minimal, if not the same.

Remember to back it up twice!
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#8 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 11 September 2009 - 06:31 AM

I've got to say, I don't really rate the HVX-200. It's soft and noisy.

P
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#9 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 11 September 2009 - 06:45 AM

I certainly agree with Serge/Phil on their camera notes. The EX1 or 3 are both great little cameras (My EX1 is chugging along nicely after 'bout a year) the only problem comes in the card-dumping stage. It depends on how big of a crew you're going to have on this show and how mobile you need to be. The card dumps will slow you down slightly, so that extra time is something to factor in and whether or not it works for this shows production style. Off to top of my head, I think it takes me about 5 min per 8gb card to dump over to my macbook pro through the express slot. That'll be a little bit faster if you have a 7200rpm macbook pro hard drive as opposed to my 5400 rpm (damned being "thrifty) drive.
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#10 Rob Vogt

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Posted 11 September 2009 - 10:01 AM

I will agree with Adrian, you can find a nice AJ series Varicam (DVCPro HD)on ebay for around 10k which is about the same as an HVX or EX3 once you get all the cards, monitor and so forth. If you are looking to expand your business this is the way to go for sure. But also a lot of the major networks are embracing the mini-hd cams too. When I freelance for some networks we intercut the Varicam with the Sony Z1U, which is really an obvious step down in quality, even though the Varicam is 720p and the Z1U is 1080p only. If you need to ramp or get any slowmo work you cannot go to an F900 HD Cam, you will need to get a Varicam. If you need to get just some slowmo or some fast motion I'd recommend the EX series. For the cost, and the fact its a reality series I'd recommend the Z1U simply for the archival advantage of tape. Also I'd recommend this tape for it.

Also, what version of Final Cut do you have? I believe there is a plugin, but if you don't get that you'll need studio 6 to edit HDV

Edited by Rob Vogt, 11 September 2009 - 10:02 AM.

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#11 Drew Weininger

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Posted 11 September 2009 - 02:25 PM

Excellent information.

Thank you all. I have been looking at the EX3 so I'm glad you brought it up. It does look like a great camera. I was wondering what kind of lenses can I put on the EX3 since it has a removable lens system?

Rob. I'm using FCStudio2 FCPro 6.6
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#12 Serge Teulon

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Posted 14 September 2009 - 08:21 AM

I was wondering what kind of lenses can I put on the EX3 since it has a removable lens system?


With an adapter.....the world is your oyster!
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