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Someone gives you £12.5k ($18,800) to buy filming equipment. What would you do?


Oliver Daniel
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This isn't a wish list post - I'm actually conducting research and opinions from others with experience/knowledge for a very lucky friend who has received a £12.5k ($18,800) investment to exclusively purchase filming equipment for his existing business. (other factors are taken care of). His operation is strikingly similar to my own - but we collaborate instead of compete. 

The background is that he is a freelancer who is setting up as a company, filming mostly commercial projects such as corporates, music videos and other little bits. He rents a lot of equipment and uses it so much, he wants to buy it (under a company) and bring on additional crew members as he goes. 

He currently owns (from the top of my head)  a GH3, GH2, 70D, GoPro 3, slider, mini jib, 3-axis gimbal, 2 Kino soft lights, few spotlights, cheapish tripod, 3 year old iMac, USB 3.0 consumer hard drives, and a few vintage lenses in all sorts of brands, mostly primes. (I know for sure he only owns ONE electronic lens - a Panasonic pancake). 

He rents all the time - better lenses, bigger cameras (C300/FS7/Amira) , Arri Fresnels, LED panels with V-lock, but he understandably wants to convert these rental charges into ownership so he has the gear on hand at all times and saves money in his budgets. I think it's a good idea - I did this two years ago and it worked great!! 

The most important thing for him is to have reliable professional equipment of high quality which boosts productivity and creativity = more profit. 

I advised to update his iMac (5k?) to a new model and get faster hard drives (Thunderbolt RAID), buy the Arri light kit, buy the LED panel, fresnels and a professional haze machine, buy the lenses, purchase a new B-camera (for his DSLR compatible gimbal/slider/jib/smaller jobs), grab the accessories with whatever is left over and rent the bigger camera when its needed - and eventually buy the best suited A-camera when he's made the appropriate dosh. 

Just for a variety of opinion... what would you do with such an investment? 

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I would buy the FS7, Sigma 18-35 Art lense, Miller Compass tripod.

Interested, why would you pick this option? 

I advised against this because a camera lifespan is 2-3 years and takes up a big chunk. If he spends the money on a fast editing machine, lighting, lenses (and say the A7S for gimbal/B cam when FS7 or similar is hired) - most of these items will last a long time.

Maybe you a different viewpoint, I'd be interested to hear. Exactly why I raised this topic!  

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Calculate the predicted rental charges on 3 years of FS7 or C300 Mark II shooting then deduct it from the predicted depreciation value of the cameras in that same time period. I predict the C300 II would lose $6000, the FS7 $4000.

If the rental costs exceed that in 3 years then it makes more sense to buy them.

Not to mention, buying allows them to be used for your own personal creative work!

Lenses hold their value well.

A7S a good choice too. But in his situation I'd probably get the FS7, a Mac Pro, a 4K display & spend the rest on Canon lenses and LED lights.

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1 set of lenses (28mm) 35mm 50mm 85mm (100MM) no zoom lenses should be at least 2f stop, aim for 1,2 1.4 fstops

2 bodys of cameras (sell the GH3, GH2, 70D,) c300 is expensive get the 1DC and sony A7S,

sell mac change systems to windows. everything is cheaper there and at this point the same quality with mac...

to start off...

:)

 

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Calculate the predicted rental charges on 3 years of FS7 or C300 Mark II shooting then deduct it from the predicted depreciation value of the cameras in that same time period. I predict the C300 II would lose $6000, the FS7 $4000.

If the rental costs exceed that in 3 years then it makes more sense to buy them.

Not to mention, buying allows them to be used for your own personal creative work!

Lenses hold their value well.

A7S a good choice too. But in his situation I'd probably get the FS7, a Mac Pro, a 4K display & spend the rest on Canon lenses and LED lights.

Makes sense. 

Firstly he won't ever go PC. Ever. ;)

If he buys the FS7 (to get it working) we are talking around £7500, leaving £5000 for everything else. The Mac Pro or iMac 5k (with external HD) will eat that up easily and more. No money for lenses and lights (the two things that will last over a decade). Plus the FS7 is too big for the gimbal, slider and current tripod, hence why he needs a smaller camera like an A7S. 

We have to remember what effect this equipment will have on the proposed business. You need a reliable machine, that's priority. There is no use having a camera without enough lights and lenses - although you can rent these - every filmmaker really needs these essentials on hand. That's where the majority of the look comes from. In my experience I could be shooting a video in hours from now for some quick cash - not possible if I don't have the tools at hand. 

The FS7 would admittedly be a fantastic investment and can be rented out when not in use - he actually wants a C300 Mk II but I think that's a massive stretch. There's also that new JVC camera and other stuff.... to be honest it's a fantastic dilemma to deal with! 

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It's ashame he won't go PC. I've been able to build systems with more power than a Mac Pro at half the cost. No problems at all either.

If he does alot of music videos and commercials I would agree with FS7.

I'm also intrigued by Arri's new line of LEDs. Fully dimmable with color controlled panels, and fresnels.

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Interested, why would you pick this option? 

I advised against this because a camera lifespan is 2-3 years and takes up a big chunk. If he spends the money on a fast editing machine, lighting, lenses (and say the A7S for gimbal/B cam when FS7 or similar is hired) - most of these items will last a long time.

Maybe you a different viewpoint, I'd be interested to hear. Exactly why I raised this topic!  

 FS7 is a more professional form factor for serious use. Being shoulder mount lends well to a mobile shooting style, making a gimbal less necessary. 

The Sigma 18-35mm Art Lense is a very sharp piece of glass. So sharp it  can replace a set of primes. This saves both time and money.

Miller Compass - the quality, strenght and smoothness of Miller is well known. It was in fact Miller who invented the fluid head. Their compass series can handle a wide range of cameras from as light as 4.4 lbs to around 20 lbs. 

This setup is a serious pro kit on a budget.

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Guest Ebrahim Saadawi

I suggest a big camera as an A body for a business investment like this one. Just my advice. FS7 ia covered easily by an 18K budget. Any big A camera, even an 2500$ FS100 or a C100 mkI is a a must have in a camera company. This is a marketing advice not a technical one. 

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I definitely agree with your assessment not to invest in a camera body right now. Maybe a GH4, A7s or NX1 (or a pair of any) for those projects that don't require a $5,000+ cam. Cameras are easy to rent and easy to work into the budget. A grip truck much less so. 

Lenses are a great investment, but the lens you need can vary wildly from project to project. I would recommend getting three great primes at focal lengths he commonly uses and just continue to rent when projects call for something different. OR, he could go with something like a 24-70 and a 70-200. Those lenses have you covered for the corporate stuff and you can rent more specific, cinematic lenses for projects that call for them. 

An Arri (or Mole) lighting kit + good grip equipment will last literally decades. Getting a good LED kit for smaller setups is also a good idea, but the tech is advancing so rapidly at the moment that I probably wouldn't advise spending too much there. I personally love the Westcott Ice light, and they just came out with a new version. Paired with some Lite Panels, you've got a great interview setup going. In fact, he already has the Kinos, so one or two more lights gets him to a good place.

Another interesting option might be to look into an HMI, like a Joker. They're so flexible- you can put them in a chimera, a fresnel, a leek, whatever. The also put out insane amounts of light and don't run too hot. Expensive, but very rentable if he has a good network of fellow filmmakers out there.

What does he do for sound? This is a good opportunity to invest in some great equipment on that front.  $5,000-$7,000 or so on three wireless wavs, a boom + mic, field mixer + recorder, and now he can get hired to do location sound, which puts him into a whole new world of opportunity. Or he can hire crew to do sound for him without having to pay equipment rental costs. That might be too much for your friend, especially if he doesn't do much sound-critical work. If the most he ever does is 1-person interviews, I'd still recommend spending at least $2-$3k on audio equipment. It's the most overlooked aspect of filmmaking and can make the most difference. A good kit will allow him to expand. 

 

He's definitely going to need to upgrade him computer + storage setup, but I won't bother getting into that. 

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One more suggestion. Canon is doing a 2 year 0% financing (I just took advantage of this). If he was looking to get a C300 or C100 he could put down half up front, and spend the rest on other gear. Pay off the remainder as jobs come in the next couple of years.

​That's not bad at all! I'll put it forward. 

Lots of opinions and suggestions - very interesting how there are many differences but i've noticed a big push for a major camera body in the league of an FS7 from most. 

My own business doesn't own a "Big A Cam", we normally rent when it's needed and we do just fine. An FS7 for example is £130+VAT per day, good value for a days shoot. (although plans are in place to get a Big A Cam soon).

My own opinion is simply not to cannibalise his budget for investing in a huge item, and use the money more sensibly. Get some lenses for corporate work (as suggested by some) and boost the vintage set for more creative purposes. Make more money and THEN invest in the Big A Cam, especially with cams like the URSA Mini on the horizon. 

What I've learnt from running my own business is that efficiency is key to being successful. If your Mac starts playing cheeky buggers, things get bad quickly and deadlines are missed. If you don't have bare essentials on hand for quick bread and butter jobs, you lose money. If you don't have decent storage cases, gear gets wrecked and repairs are costly. 

Another way of looking at it is if he buys something like the FS7+Mac+lenses, then hires more lights if needed and uses some profits to purchase the lights he needs. He can make money off the rental fee for the FS7 when not in use, undercuts rental houses. Sells his other camera bodies and unused equipment to get the A7S as B-cam for current gimbal, slider etc. That's another nice solution.

Now my head hurts......I should really get him to sign up to the forum and do this for himself! I like helping out though!

 

 

 

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This isn't a wish list post - I'm actually conducting research and opinions from others with experience/knowledge for a very lucky friend who has received a £12.5k ($18,800) investment to exclusively purchase filming equipment for his existing business. (other factors are taken care of). His operation is strikingly similar to my own - but we collaborate instead of compete. 

The background is that he is a freelancer who is setting up as a company, filming mostly commercial projects such as corporates, music videos and other little bits. He rents a lot of equipment and uses it so much, he wants to buy it (under a company) and bring on additional crew members as he goes. 

He currently owns (from the top of my head)  a GH3, GH2, 70D, GoPro 3, slider, mini jib, 3-axis gimbal, 2 Kino soft lights, few spotlights, cheapish tripod, 3 year old iMac, USB 3.0 consumer hard drives, and a few vintage lenses in all sorts of brands, mostly primes. (I know for sure he only owns ONE electronic lens - a Panasonic pancake). 

He rents all the time - better lenses, bigger cameras (C300/FS7/Amira) , Arri Fresnels, LED panels with V-lock, but he understandably wants to convert these rental charges into ownership so he has the gear on hand at all times and saves money in his budgets. I think it's a good idea - I did this two years ago and it worked great!! 

The most important thing for him is to have reliable professional equipment of high quality which boosts productivity and creativity = more profit. 

I advised to update his iMac (5k?) to a new model and get faster hard drives (Thunderbolt RAID), buy the Arri light kit, buy the LED panel, fresnels and a professional haze machine, buy the lenses, purchase a new B-camera (for his DSLR compatible gimbal/slider/jib/smaller jobs), grab the accessories with whatever is left over and rent the bigger camera when its needed - and eventually buy the best suited A-camera when he's made the appropriate dosh. 

Just for a variety of opinion... what would you do with such an investment? 

With that budget I would no questions ask buy a Sony Fs700 with Odyssey7Q+ and a backup Sony A7s. At most that would cost you around $10-11K and still leave you several left over for lighting/lenses, etc. He can also upgrade to a better iMac/Mac Pro for $3-4K and still have money left over.

 

Now on the flip side the new  Ursa Mini would be excellent if you're able to light all of your scenes!

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No one seems to have asked a really important question: how much revenue is he expecting to generate following this investment? Equipment choice isn't just a question of depreciation. You also need to have an idea of ROI. Big budgets don't always mean big profits. 

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And, while you may be able to build a PC more powerful than a Mac for less money, it's very hard to beat Apple for repairs if anything goes wrong with your machine. 

​I buy custom PC's through a company in my area that offers 2 year support. Basically if anything goes wrong they fix it for free.

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