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Oliver Daniel

The Effect Of Owning A Very Expensive Camera (for business)

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I thought this could be an interesting topic inspired by another thread about buying gear for business. 

Personally, I believe in ideas and how they are executed - that's how I sell myself really. Most clients never really question the camera, and if they do, they are usually clients who can't see that a production is much more than a pretty camera. 

Let's just assume you know what you're doing, you have talent and have the money to spend on a RED package. You not only sell yourself on your ideas and current portfolio, but also the fact you shoot on RED. Because you are skilled, have talent and resources, the images you provide will quite likely look stellar. 

In your view, do you think this knowledge by the client that you shoot RED would create more business?

Certainly in my local arena of competition, you would have an additional, very distinct USP. But generally I do feel with current technology, that the camera is much less important than the people behind it. But having better image capabilities really does help. 

There's a lot of different people doing different things in different areas. What's your perspective? 

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Someone can drive to the office in a Tesla Model S, a very respectable car and an eco-friendly choice.

Or someone can show up tire screaching, engine reviing, rims spinning in some fancy ass exotic car.

Unfortunately people are likely to be more wow-ed by the latter. They might even ask if they can join in for a ride. Also, putting up that kind of display is a kind of status symbol. It says 'hi, I do well for myself, I can afford such equipment, I run a business that is successful, it is because I'm awesome at what I do, so you can trust me to deliver'. It might also be less likely that people will dare to nitpick. If you show up with a GH3 and shoot your thing, they'll find some things that dissappoints them (even if there's not really). Shoot with a RED and they aren't looking for reasons to fault it.

I like this kid's mentality though:

But you know, running a business is something else, and taking it to the next level will include marketing yourself. You can't just take your own perspective anymore. You'll have to see things from a client's stance. It's not what you'd be happy with, it's what they'd be happy with. And unfortunately the world is superficial enough that people will look at what you camera shoot with, because it's in their interest to have the best. Now... better and more expensive might not make up for lack of creativity, but it's what trumps lack of creativity in combination with lesser stuff. So then again we get to the fact that gear reflects status. Would someone who doesn't know what he or she is doing really shoot a RED? Or would they still be shooting with a GH3? Sure people will look at your showreel, but I also think they'll compare you to others... just on plain paper. And maybe someone got tasked with selecting a few production companies and then present the options to the person is charge. Maybe the shots caller only gets to see the comparison on paper and decides to go with however shoots the fanciest camera... unless you do not need to market yourself, because you already have the status, reputation and word of mouth going for you, I think having a very expensive camera business-wise can't be a bad thing. Creatively and practically... that's a whole other thing.

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Guest Ebrahim Saadawi

 It says 'hi, I do well for myself, I can afford such equipment, I run a business that is successful, it is because I'm awesome at what I do, so you can trust me to deliver'

That's exactly it. 

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Very interesting topic. I have no experience with cameras in this aspect, but have a personal experience with another piece of equipment.

Quite a while back I made my living as a director and had my own small production business, where I produced mostly commercials and corporate image stof.  I didn't invested in any kind of production gear at all. I rented the gear we needed for each project, as these often needed quite different setups, - 35mm or S16mm or video, different amount/quality  of light and sound, maybe/maybe not dolly/crane and so on. I also hired all the people needed from job to job.

Quite a few of my customers were advertising agencies. At a time I had tried a few times to get projects from one specific - a big one - agency. Had a few meetings with them and got a few smaller projects, but the day I showed up to meeting with a brand new Mac T-Book, all the doors opened up to the bigger projects. I got one of the first T-Books in my country and it was extremely expensive. This really impressed the good people at the agency. The T-Book sent the message that I was very trendy, (an important aspect in the advertising/commercials world), and was a succesfull director/business owner (otherwise I would not have the financial strength to buy this thing). The truth was I took a chance with my last savings. 

To me the moral of this is, that you probably won't get better business by showing up with a new/better camera. These can still be rented and this might easily be cheeper in the long run than buying "the latest camera on the block" too often. In my experience it is more valuable to "know" the way your clients acts and thinks. By that I don't mean you should crawl on your knees. Of course you need to stay the person you are. 

 

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I have a friend who runs a small production company with a RED Scarlet. I just emailed him to ask his opinion.

Cool! :)

 

To me the moral of this is, that you probably won't get better business by showing up with a new/better camera. These can still be rented and this might easily be cheeper in the long run than buying "the latest camera on the block" too often. In my experience it is more valuable to "know" the way your clients acts and thinks. By that I don't mean you should crawl on your knees. Of course you need to stay the person you are. 

Agree. 

In my experience of meetings etc, the camera is never mentioned. The people buying the video trust my judgement as they think I'm better than I actually am. They look at my previous work, pick my brains for ideas and finalise a budget.

During recent research, clients are most concerned with ideas. They know you can provide the quality, it depends if you have the right ideas to suit them. I recently finished a job with a sports company who approached me (exclusively music video production) to do their advert. They didn't want a traditional corporate video, but they came directly to me because they loved the ideas in my videos, such as location choice. No mention of equipment, ever. 

It can be very superficial to sell yourself on the toys you have, and I'm glad in my area that is never the case. It's interesting to hear other stories/views where ownership of very expensive stuff is a business advantage, and how marketing that ownership is actually a great benefit.

 

 

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Obviously skill matters more than gear, but when clients don't know your skill they go with what they see. Like a cool package for a product, expensive suit in business, fancy car to impress girls...so is high end gear to impress clients. The sad part though is: just like the bad product in cool package, dimwit in expensive suit, playboys in fancy car, we also have clueless DPs showing up in high end gear. But, yes expensive gear can be a great marketing tool if not anything else.

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From my friend Jesse:

 

"High end clients appreciate the RED but "first time" video client don't know the gear at all and don't know the difference. But when you show up with it on set and it's all built out they feel really important. :) the camera doesn't really close the deal on the front end for "budget" clients.  
All that being said: I love mine and am glad I bought it."

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It depends on the 'client' you're talking. Producers hire Cinematographers based on talent, knowing full well they're going to have to hire a camera system. This is usually budgeted for. If the Cinematographer in question happens to own their own camera that the production can use, in this case it's generally used as a win-win for the production and the DP - the production pays a discounted rate for camera hire, and the DP gets more money as a camera hire rate. At this level, the DP is rarely chosen simply because of the gear he owns (and I have many friends who were making good money before buying cameras - they realised that 9 times out of 10 they were hiring Alexas for jobs, so they decided to buy one and take the camera hire rate themselves).

On lower budget productions, having a decent camera can sometimes help to secure work. However, in this case, clients are generally looking for someone with a full package - usually camera, lights, lenses.

A friend of mine is a Gaffer who works on high budget films, but also owns a RED, and tries to shoot low budget stuff (decently paid), and his gear always gets a hammering on the low budget stuff as you just can't afford the crew you regularly work with, and the general wear and tear that happens on every shoot is less likely to be compensated for than on something that has a bigger budget. He shoots quite nice looking stuff, but a DP he works (who also worked their way through as a Gaffer) said to him 'if you really want to work as a DP - sell all your gear' 

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Yes, in a fair world, you'd never have to part with your T3i to get better business, as long as you know how to tell a story and create something visually interesting. But guess what? The world's a messed up place. If you can manage to get about without ever having to drop brands and people knowing or hearing of you, thats the best. But in a crowded and talented market, looking for new higher profile clients, you have to appeal somehow. And be it fair or not, having a RED lying around people won't assume you suck, because if they would, that would only make him or her suck in the most EPIC of ways. But the image that people will have is that someone with a RED probably has worked his or her way up from something smaller. Again, status... and 'status' is not just social standing, it's 'the situation at a particular time'. So if you have a RED you also give off that you have quite a bit of experience/are quite far along. And too be honest, they probably do have the talent and experience. Because I'm pretty sure you're going bankrupt in notime if you make those kind of investments, but can't see any return on that, because you are crap, lose clientele, never getting recommended and having a bad rep...

Anyways. Like I said. It can't hurt to have something saying you shoot on a RED. That doesn't mean that I would actually go and get one. Like Oliver says, for him it's hardly a topic when talking to clients, because he can sell his ideas. That's a great position to be in. And as long as that is the case and business is blooming, why not go with that URSA Mini 4.6K/Sony FS7? You need to smack a RED label somewhere? Ok. Sure. Who says you can't still do that? You can still mention clients can have their productions shot on a RED. Just rent one, if the demand is there, which in Olli's case is hardly so. You don't have to use it exclusively. Although I get owning one would make you super familliar with the RED system and workflow, allowing for smoother turnarounds.

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All else being equal gear can make a difference. Not sure why everyone keeps bringing talent into the equation. I believe the assumption is that the person buying the "high-end" camera is a professional who is capable of delivering pro level work. And if this is the case other factors now come into play. 

If not all movies would be shot on $197 camcorders purchased at best buy.

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All else being equal gear can make a difference. Not sure why everyone keeps bringing talent into the equation. I believe the assumption is that the person buying the "high-end" camera is a professional who is capable of delivering pro level work. And if this is the case other factors now come into play. 

If not all movies would be shot on $197 camcorders purchased at best buy.

That's because nobody with a strong viewpoint/conviction ever wants to talk "all else being equal" because it's just inconvenient. The same thing played out in the (too) long discussion on whether education is important and most recently in the discussion you started on digital cameras and film look. Talking about some other extraneous confounding factor is an easy way to deflect.

IMO it is disingenuous to say that clients don't weigh the gear when picking a DP, "all else being equal." To those believing that, I have a thought experiment. Imagine two new forum members you know nothing about. One talks of his work with Alexa and the other with t2i. If you were forced to select your next DP with no other info (i.e., all else being equal), would you pick the t2i guy? I didn't think so.

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been lurking around for a few years but this topic piqued my interest so much I decided to register and reply...

we have a pocket, a GH2 and a GH3. We rarely get asked about our cameras during pitching/pre-production meetings, though clients do sometimes get a bit concerned with the size of the cameras on set but we carry some of our best work around in our mobile phones or iPads which was shot with those cameras. I have had enquiries too from clients asking if we shot on Canon (I didn't get the job eventually. Not sure why they asked that either)

 

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Depends, 

I ask t2i guy what he thinks of my idea for a commercial. He then comes with a great new perspective additional ideas and our creative process takes of.

Alexa guy suggest SDOF and a Drone.

I think I hire t2i guy and rent him an Alexa. 

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Depends, 

I ask t2i guy what he thinks of my idea for a commercial. He then comes with a great new perspective additional ideas and our creative process takes of.

Alexa guy suggest SDOF and a Drone.

I think I hire t2i guy and rent him an Alexa. 

I would do the same. But both you and I, - and most other posters in this thread , - are not the average client.  We think as "filmmakers", while only a few clients will think like a "filmmaker". If they did, they might as well produce their films themselves and not hire you or me :-). Don't make the mistake and think your clients necessarily "think" and reason like you do. 

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Depends, 

I ask t2i guy what he thinks of my idea for a commercial. He then comes with a great new perspective additional ideas and our creative process takes of.

Alexa guy suggest SDOF and a Drone.

I think I hire t2i guy and rent him an Alexa. 

Again, you didn't understand the question. Or did you miss the "all else being equal" part?

 Why not just say you find out the guy with the Alexa is a zombie and ate the last person he worked with? 

Honest opinion much?

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Depends, 

I ask t2i guy what he thinks of my idea for a commercial. He then comes with a great new perspective additional ideas and our creative process takes of.

Alexa guy suggest SDOF and a Drone.

I think I hire t2i guy and rent him an Alexa. 

OK, you clearly didn't get my point. Which was that we'd pick the Alexa guy if WE DIDN'T KNOW ANYTHING ELSE. Once again, the point is to consider with all else being equal when making this analysis: ceteris paribus. 

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I do believe having expensivier gear will send out a dif. message than with cheap gear, regardless of the quality.

I've been working professionally with a Canon 600D, and have plenty of works, but I have lost works because I didnt have 4k for instance. Where I live, fortunately, most clients dont know about camera brands (i'd be surprised if anyone knew what a Red epic was), they care more about resolution (hence my NX1 aquisition).

I think a good photographer/videographer can make amazing works, even with cheap gear, but I cant stop feeling bad, when Im at a wedding and see people with the same camera as me, even though I dont use kit lenses.

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I would do the same. But both you and I, - and most other posters in this thread , - are not the average client.  We think as "filmmakers", while only a few clients will think like a "filmmaker". If they did, they might as well produce their films themselves and not hire you or me :-). Don't make the mistake and think your clients necessarily "think" and reason like you do. 

That's true, but as a producer one of my main tasks besides being the creative director is to sell the idea to a client using any sort of jedi mind trick required :)

I allso blame it on bad producer if the client isn't convinced that the gear is good enough if it is. Even if it's a t2i.

Again, you didn't understand the question. Or did you miss the "all else being equal" part?

 Why not just say you find out the guy with the Alexa is a zombie and ate the last person he worked with? 

Honest opinion much?

Again you didn't understand the answer. Or did you miss the "me not quoting" part?

Why not let people post their thoughts and opinions on various subjects without the constant nitpicking and Negative Nancyism?

Humble opinion much? 

OK, you clearly didn't get my point. Which was that we'd pick the Alexa guy if WE DIDN'T KNOW ANYTHING ELSE. Once again, the point is to consider with all else being equal when making this analysis: ceteris paribus. 

Zzzzzzzzzz nothing will ever be equal.

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