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Cost Effective Equipment Option For A DOP's

Published : 14th August 2003


I’m a DP interested in attracting more moderate+ budget productions (features, music videos, commercials) and would like to start a debate on the advantages and disadvantages of a DP owning their own camera in today’s 35mm, 24P HD market.

Here are my questions :

1) I would like to hear personal experiences in whether or not owning your own camera got you enough additional work to pay it off? (If so, how long do you feel it took? Did you rent it out as well?)

2) If so, what’s a better investment right now for A)features, B)commercials, C)music videos and D)shorts: 35mm camera or a HD 24P camera? (please do not turn this into a debate on visual quality between these formats - we all know their differences)

3) The cost of keeping up with HD camera technology and what the market demands V.S. The professional life/value of a 35mm camera to medium to high budget productions in this changing market (for features? music videos? commercials?)

4) Is there anything else I should consider?

Thank you ahead of time for anything you can offer.

Brett Erskine



Hi,

I think one of the most expensive lesson I have ever learned is that kit does not buy you work.

Phil Rhodes
Video camera/edit
London



There isn't a single right answer to this question... I ask it every time I'm considering an equipment purchase.

The most important thing is for you to know your market. If you've been living and working in a city for a number of years, you should already have a good idea of whether or not there's enough demand for a camera package to justify owning your own.


If you don't have a real feeling for this in your area, then you're probably not ready to make that big an investment.

George Hupka
Director/DP, Downstream Pictures
Saskatoon, Canada



Guy Livneh wrote

>I have been tempted many times to buy my own camera package >however I chose to focus on doing good work and not investing time, >money and tons of energy into equipment.

There are many times I wish I had taken the money I spent on cameras and had spent it on shooting some spec work to improve my reel.

Blain
DP
LA



Blain Brown writes :

>There are many times I wish I had taken the money I spent on cameras >and had spent it on shooting some spec work to improve my reel.

And there are times I wish I'd taken my camera package money and invested in Treasury Bills!

Mitch Gross
NYC DP



Blain Brown wrote :

>There are many times I wish I had taken the money I spent on cameras >and had spent it on shooting some spec work to improve my reel.

Mitch Gross wrote

>And there are times I wish I'd taken my camera package money and >invested in Treasury Bills!

I wish I'd bought more eggs...


Roderick
Az. D.P.

www.restevens.com



>debate on the advantages and disadvantages of a DP owning their own
>1) I would like to hear personal experiences


All of the video cameras I bought paid off. I still have an Ikegami 79EAL which cost almost $75,000 and is now a door stop. I'm hoping to take it to Antique Road Show in 2010. My Aaton package paid off many times.

>2) If so, what’s a better investment right now for

There are 2 good reasons to invest in equipment :

1) For work you know exists, or
2) To get work you want low balling prices or working for free/deferred.

>3)The cost of keeping up with HD camera technology


If you don't have work in this market owning the equipment doesn't make any sense.

>4) Is there anything else I should consider?

We live in a time when anyone with $4,000 and some chutzpa (sp) (a Yiddish word for balls) calls themselves a "DP" with a camera package. I always thought that a DP was someone who communicated a directors intentions and his own vision to the lighting/grip crew while running the camera department. Owning a prosumer video camera is now all a client seems to require. For someone starting out this would seem to be a fantastic opportunity. With some exceptions, the cream will rise to the top irregardless of what equipment you start out with.

In this business there are more good camera people than shows to work on. (If you're reading this list that should be obvious.) Owning the right equipment may give you an edge over someone who doesn't. Having good luck, a great attitude, and most importantly your own "vision" may get you where you want to go.

Dick Fisher
DP/USA



Brett,

I have been tempted many times to buy my own camera package however I chose to focus on doing good work and not investing time, money and tons of energy into equipment. This way you are also not biased towards using the equipment you own rather than the right format for the project. The pressure of paying off the gear could push you into projects that you would otherwise not touch with a barge pole. On the other hand, If you are established and regularly working on high profile shoots you could have a rental house maintain your gear and deal with the less enjoyable side of owning gear. This way you would also have a backup system and a source for accessories etc.

Guy Livneh, DP
Los Angeles



Years ago I bought a ¾ inch portable camera and editing system. Just about the time I paid it off ¾ sp came in and my thousands of dollars of investment became is useless. ( It can be used as a boat anchor now) That was then… Today’s world of electronic capture changes too fast too keep up. Meanwhile I’m shooting another feature film with my good old Arri bl 4 and Arri 2c and I am guessing that I have at least another 15 years of being able to shoot film. (let the naysayers reply) My feeling is that video (remember the V in HDV is "video") is an ever changing process and as an INVESTMENT it is not a good one.

Video producers for the most part want what is the newest /hottest camera on the market. If you buy a video camera (vhs/dv/hd/etc) today it will be passé in a few months and you will need to buy whatever is the newest/hottest one to stay viable. On a personal note I have found that in the feature world, video producers tend to be on the cheap side, they seldom are willing to pay “rate”.

So, if you ask me, I am one voice in thousands of my peers. Film cameras are still the way to go as an investment I really agree with Vaughn...

If I were in a position to buy right now, I would probably buy a good grip truck set up with lights

Good luck

John Lazear, SOC