In this installment of Free Film School, we’re going to discuss a subject that Independent Filmmakers will often wax rhapsodic about when given half the chance. And most of us would rather fight than switch. It’s sort of similar to a boozer expounding on the virtues of Single Malt Scotch to Anejo Tequila. We’re talking about Video Equipment Addiction. Yes, that’s right. Cameras are our technological drug of choice, and receiving a delivery from the FEDEX man is like the Big Score. I get the shakes, just thinking about it. Some Gizmoholics even go so far as to film “Unboxing Videos”. They film themselves unwrapping the newly delivered camera and trying it out. Then, they post the video on YouTube for all the world to see. Ah, the sweet smell of polystyrene packing peanuts in the morning! There is nothing that sets us all a-twitter like unpacking a new camera or filmmaking accessory! Sick, huh?
Of course, some of us are just recreational users. Maybe we just browse the internet camera shops only on the weekends. Now, there is nothing wrong with that, right? Sure, sure, except that’s exactly how all full-blown addictions start! And let me tell you, some of us slide quickly onto that rather slippery slope of trying to make our addiction self-supporting. When we do that, it’s all down-hill from there.
And, it’s a sad fact that some of us will invest more money into our video equipment than we will ever make with it. Why? Because buying new equipment is so much darned fun, it truly is addictive! Once the equipment-geek-bug bites you, you’ve got a monkey on your back the size of King Kong! See, it starts out slow and gradual. First, you start researching what kind of equipment is the best value, for what you need. You’re in the experimental phase. Maybe you’re just trying it out, you know, for kicks. In my case, I knew that I wanted to make a documentary. I knew that I wanted a shoulder-mount camera so I could go mobile and still achieve a steady shot, at the same time. Plus, they look really cool and professional!
I also had a specific budget in mind. I only wanted to spend a couple of grand. You see, I had already made this amount from my first DVD sales, and I really wanted to grow my little side-line videography business organically, rather than spending money earned from my day job. The money from my day job, I give to my wife to pay all the household bills. That money is like MC Hammer, Can’t Touch This! The money to support my habit, I make from my habit. Sounds cool, huh? Yeah, but it can turn into a viscious cycle. Can you dig it?
I started picking the brain of my filmmaking buddy Eric, and he turned me on to a very popular on-line photography store, which shall remain un-named. This is like the kid in high school who gave me my first funny-smelling hand-rolled cigarette, after I asked him “What’s all this stuff about Mary Jane, who’s she?”. Innocent, right? Let me warn you. Once you become addicted to camera equipment shopping, this New York based photography store is like the drug dealer in the movie “Pulp Fiction”. You know, they guy in the bathrobe named Lance? Well, just like Lance, this photography store always has the best stuff in town. In short they are my gizmo pusher. A very orthodox-observant (their website closes on Jewish holidays and the Sabbath) camera gizmo pusher. Let me tell you, if you’re looking for a gizmo fix, they’ve got everything you need, baby!
Once you start browsing around for camera equipment, it can be bewildering. But, the good folks at this photography store have a good deal of technical info on their website, including video tutorials. They will take you by the hand, tie the proverbial rubber cord around your arm, and line you right up for that first fix. They even have a buy now, pay later option. It’s almost too easy.
One of the reasons that the camera suppliers of the world will always be guaranteed a steady flow of hooked customers, insatiably craving another high, is the complicated and changing nature of video technology itself. The learning curve is not only steep; it curves back around on itself, like a Mobius strip. This is because videography equipment is always evolving. Once you learn about one thing like, oh say, 3 CCD HDV Video Cameras, BAM! They come out with CMOS Sensors, or the super large DSLR type chips that are all the rage right now. First you’re learning about 1080p and you think you sort of understand that, then, BING! You’ve got to learn about 3D anaglyph stereoscopic imagery. Soon, you’re drooling over words you can hardly pronounce. You find yourself chasing after that newest thrill; after all, you’ve got to keep up with the Jones’, or James’, or Camerons.
Well, anyway. My first purchase was a 1000U, HDV shoulder mount camera. This was a pretty decent camera (for the money) to start off with. To the uninitiated, it looks very professional. It’s huge. This might not be a very good criterion for judging what is or is not professional, but that’s the way the world is. Walk into a shoot with a big-booty camera on your shoulder and you da man! For my purposes, it worked just fine. It records to mini DV tape which is an inexpensive recording media (roughly about two or three bucks a 60 minute tape). It captures in High Definition 1080i (which means 1080 interlaced lines as opposed to 1080p or progressive lines of video).
I bought this camera as a package from my gizmo-pusher store. It came with a good bag, an extra large battery, some tapes, and a lens filter. I figured that I might as well start trying to drum up some business right away, so I advertised on a classified ad site as Videographer for Hire, before it was even delivered. My camera was still in transit on UPS when I got a call right away from someone in need of my “services”. He was shooting a segment for a TV pilot in Waikiki on Halloween night. His cameraman had flaked out and he desperately needed someone to fill in at the last moment. I explained to him that I didn’t even have a camera yet, and in fact, had never actually operated one yet. He was so desperate, he said “no problem”, he had a camera, he just needed me to hold the camera and monitor sound. He would show me all I needed to know to operate it. How cool is that? He paid me $ 90 bucks cash to teach me how to use a camera for three hours! Not bad, huh?
Well, anyway, back to the 1000U. When it finally arrived, I was as happy as a swine in fecal matter. I started shooting everything with it. My wife, my dog, our cats… whatever or whoever would let me, I shot ’em.
I wasted lots of tape too. Some of it was horrible. Shaky, poorly framed, poorly lit, grainy, poor sound, lot’s of bad stuff. But, some of it was ok. As I continued reading the owner’s manual and looking up tutorials on YouTube, I became more proficient. Over time, I used that prosumer (not really consumer, not really professional) camera to get paying wedding gigs, commercials, and… I shot two feature-length documentaries with it. These two docs; “Olomana Gardens Permaculture & Aquaponics” and “Lono’s Bounty”, actually went on to win several film awards and sold very well on DVD.
So, back to my compulsive camera equipment purchasing addiction; during the course of my learning to use the 1000u, I discovered that I needed an on-board video light. So, I bought one. The microphone that comes with the 1000u is pretty good, but it’s not an XLR Professional mike. Then I learned that there was a gizmo called an XLR Adapter which could fix that. So, I bought one. Now I needed a pro microphone. I bought it! I needed XLR cables. I bought two. I wanted to film some underwater footage and surf footage, so I bought a mini underwater camera with all the bells and whistles. The postal delivery man and I were really getting to know each other! I needed a boom-pole, but they looked pretty pricey, for what it is. I found a tutorial on how to make a DIY (do-it-yourself) boom-pole with a long painter’s handle. So I bought a painter’s pole and made one. (Note: DIY Camera Equipment addiction is one of the final steps past the point of no return. If you’ve started to make your own equipment, please get professional counseling NOW!)
Well, it’s been almost four years now since my addiction began. I would say that I’m a functional addict. I’m not stealing money from my wife’s piggy bank, or begging money on the street,…yet. But I do get a little itchy when my videography trade industry magazines arrive every month. I finally sold my old shoulder mount camera through an internt classified ad site for $ 500 bucks less than what I paid for it, but only after it had made some pretty good money for me. I’m proud of the fact that the products that I made with it, those first DVDs, are still making money for me.
With the money from selling the 1000U, I turned around and bought two smaller cameras (HV40s) so that I could do two camera shoots. Yep, I finally got over my Freudian “larger equipment envy”, and went with two smaller rigs that can shoot in variable frame rates. The low light capability on these little cameras is pretty decent too. These little work-horses, although technically “consumer” cameras, have been widely adopted by the Independent Film community because of their ability to shoot at 24P (24 frames per second, progressive). This is the frame rate that actual film is recorded at and it gives a beautiful cinematic look to footage. Due to the evolving nature of video technology, this little camera can do much more than my huge 1000U could do, at half the price.
I must admit that I’ve had to accessorize…just a little. I’ve added a couple of stabilizer rigs, more microphones, field recorder, lens hoods, tripods, lenses, hard shell carrying case, backpack, monopod, long life batteries, professional three-point lighting kit, clapper board, wireless mikes, underwater housing, beefed up desktop computer for editing, enhanced graphics cards, dual monitors, external hard-drives, the newest version of professional editing software, with special effect plug-ins, soundwave synch plug-in, tons of royalty free production music, special effects clips, stock footage, a new DSLR camera with battery grip, fill light, etcetera, etcetera… Whew!
The delivery man and I are on a first name basis.
Now, I think I’m all set. No, really. I’m all good. Don’t think I will need to buy anything for a long time!
Well…., there is the possibility that I might need to go tapeless at some point, but for now, I’m convincing myself that Mini DV Tapes are good for archival purposes. If something works, you stick with it, right? Plus, I’m still researching the newer AVCHD compression vs MP2. Maybe check back with me in another year. I’ve kind of got my eye on this new tapeless video camera with a super large image sensor and an eight bladed iris for incredible bokeh. Man, a couple of those would be sweeeeet! That is, until I can afford one of those new…..
Albert J. Cloutier has won high praise and recognition for his contribution to the independent film industry. Some of his achievements include being nominated for best documentary at The Bare Bones Film Festival, Winner at The Honolulu Film Award, Mulitiple wins at The Accolade Awards, Winner at The Indie Fest, Green Apple Award Winner at the Green Lifestyle Film Festival, and many other kudos too numerous to mention.
Founder of World Class Productions LLC, a complete digital production company head-quartered in Honolulu, Albert, along with his wife Jayne, produce Commercials, Viral Media, Music Videos, and Independent Films. Together they over-see every aspect of pre-production, production, and post.
As Writer, Director, Cinematographer, and Editor, Albert says he is really just indulging his penchant for spinning yarns and telling stories, a trait he blames on boyhood camping trips around the campfire. Or maybe to getting caught too many times sneaking out of class without a hall-pass at high school…
Albert was born and raised in New Hampshire. He spent 20 years in Texas, kayak fishing in the Gulf of Mexico quite successfully, and riding horses very poorly. Thankfully, he no longer uses a cane and seldom smells like dead fish.
A Star Studded Magazine.. For the Independent Community. www.wix.com A Captivating Photography Studios www.wix.com Fan Page www.facebook.com Edgen Films www.justindurban.com
Question by avantgarde: Do I still have a good chance of getting into a good college?
I was pretty much a slacker in my first 2 years of high school. I got a 3.2 GPA freshman year and a 3.5 sophomore year. I think that’s unweighted. But if I busted out jr. year and got a 4.2, and kept consistently getting good grades during Sr. year, would this get me into a good college? Also if I got high SAT scores? Like UCLA or UC Berkeley? Cos my dad wants me to go there. But I am not sure if I can. I do lots of community service and am editor of the literary magazine and am in lots of other clubs at my school. I am also an artist and am pretty good at drawing/painting/photography/filmmaking (not to blow my own horn). I am going to apply to art schools but I would like to apply to top-tier liberal arts schools too.
Answer by NewCentury
I got a 2.7 cumulative GPA in high school and an 1860 on my SATs. I still managed to get into a tier-1 school. You have a chance, just write a good essay.
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Video Rating: 5 / 5