Equipment suggestions for starting Production Company.

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    • #96316


      I’ve been a videographer for the past 6 years, shooting mainly with my GH4, some LED lights, and an H4N for sound. I’ve shot mostly short films, music videos and web series. I just came into some money and my wife and I have decided that we are stable enough with our jobs that this is the time for me to finally take that money and start up my own production company that will be a side job for now and that with a lot of hard work could one day become a full time job.

      I have been writing, shooting and editing so I can do most things by myself, but also know gaffers, grips, ACs, etc, that I can hire for specific jobs should the need arise.

      As I said I have some LED lights, some stands, sandbags, Zoom H4N. I also have a brand new editing system with both Adobe suite, AVID and Pro Tool.

      I am looking for suggestions from others who maybe have their own companies or gear that can give me ideas on how they would use $20,000 (US) to start a production company. I will be looking for about any kind of work to start with but will be looking for more narrative/creative work like music videos, short films, etc, but would also like to be capable of picking up corporate work, weddings or creating branded content as well.

      A solid camera package will likely take up most of that as the two cameras I have been researching the most are FS7 II and the BM Ursa 4.6k. I know that by the time I purchase the body, a couple cine lenses, tripod, batteries, cards, rails, follow focus, matte box, I am looking at around $15k on the camera alone. That would leave about $5k for more lights, a boom and mic, and extra grip gear.

      I need what I buy to be able to get me up and running so that I look at least somewhat professional to prospective clients. Is there anything I’m forgetting or does anyone have any suggestions on what they would with those funds? I’m located in L.A. so does anyone have any suggestions on where they would go to buy stuff that might get a deal on a larger purchase?

      Also, I’m not looking to just hold onto the money and save it until I have a job come up and then rent for that specific purpose. Filmmaking is my life, to the point I joined the Army as a combat cameraman after graduating from college and spent a year in Afghanistan with an infantry unit shooting video every day and continued shooting in Alaska where I was stationed. I want to start building up a serious reel and I would like to have my own equipment that if nothing else allows me to shoot projects for fun in my free time, since again, I will still have a full-time job that I will continue to be working.

      Sorry for my first post being really long but this has been 10 years of work to get to this point and I would like to do the most with this opportunity and get the best bang for my bucks!

      Thanks for any suggestions.


    • #278006

      The advice everyone always gives is HIRE – at least until you hire the same thing three times, and it’s also the most ignored advice too! As my store of equipment built up over a very long time proves. I just took to the local dump a portable production unit with 4:3 monitors, SD composite inputs with really expensive switcher. Nobody on ebay wanted it, and I couldn’t even give it away – so it is now in land fill. Been used 4 times in 12 years of ownership. I’ve got an HD one now and so far that has been out on a job twice. I have loads of grip kit I bought, including a big jib and my accountant says I should never have bought it. However, I like to own things. I hate hire, but owning kit – with the world going so fast is really stupid money wise. Your key equipment – the everyday stuff is good to buy, like your cameras, but anything vaguely one-off will lose you money. I have so much lighting that never gets used, it’s crazy. I really needed the red heads. No, I didn’t – one job and then back in the case. I use others now. Two soft lights – never used once! An expensive tripod and head. Used once, because my older Vinten still does it better despite being ten years old and scratched to hell. Two prompters. One never used at all, and the other just a few times a year. Monitor loudspeakers that I just didn’t like the sound of. Microphones that are the same – nice, but rarely out. The story goes on and on.

      I really should stop buying – but I know I won’t. I cannot advise on what to buy. My history proves I’m useless at saying no ti a new toy.

    • #278009

      I have to agree with Paulears. Renting can be much better than buying. After nearly twenty years in the business I’ve come to realize that buying gear for a one-off shoot, hoping that it will be used again at some later date, is probably a wasteful expenditure. We have the same closet full of lighting and sound equipment that he has that is seldom used. Couple of NRG lights we’ve used twice in the past five years; a Lowell light kit that’s so outdated it would be embarrassing to take to a shoot; couple of huge soft boxes collecting dust and a Chinese lantern that was used once. I can rent a LED light kit or an audio tech and all his gear if needed, and pass the cost along to the client.

      As for cameras, I’m not sure why you want to go for such high-end boxes until you’re sure you need them. Take a look at workhorse tools like the Sony NX5U or R, or the Sony X70 or comparable cameras from Canon and JVC for a start. We use the Sony X70 for legal depositions and construction documentation and two NX5Us for corporate shoots and for shooting theatre productions and dance programs. They shoot beautiful pictures and are robust enough to use under fairly adverse conditions. The NX5Us are excellent in studio work as well. You can certainly go with all the bells and whistles from the start, but with a startup business you may be buying a great deal more than you’ll need for some time to come.

    • #278032

      Video Camera
      Camera Light
      Three-Point Lighting Kit
      Shotgun Microphone
      Shock Mount
      Audio (XLR) Cables
      Wireless Microphone
      Portable Digital Audio Recorder
      Light Reflector
      Lenses: Wide Angle, Clear “Protective” Lens, Polarizer, Zoom Lens, Macros, etc.
      3-4 Extra Batteries
      Video Tapes, Flash Memory Cards or DVD’s (depending on your camera)
      External Hard Drive
      Video/Photo Camera Bag
      DSLR Shoulder Mount Rig
      Specialty Gear for the “Cool” Shots.

    • #278033

      I like the list – and have that lot – but for me, oddly perhaps, the reflectors have never been used, the camera light maybe once on the camera but quite a bit off it! The three point kit is still in the box, but rarely gets an airing because I now favour other kit.

      The most used lighting I have are 3 Arri Fresnels – two 1K and 1 650W, and these just work better than the redheads. Very little of what I do has subjects close to the camera, hence why the camera light for me is a pointless accessory. A remote zoom demand is one essential thing for me, and I have one permanently attached to each of my tripod pan bars. Both my main cameras have a wireless receiver in the bag, and loads of odds and ends.

      Maybe as the OP already has been using kit for a long while, his own current list is the same or very different? It’s taken me a long time to resist blowing large amounts of money on individual projects. I think it used to be called ‘gear lust’ by the audio people – where they’d spend huge amounts on a wonderful mic, then go back to their old one because it sounded nicer – but NEVER sell the expensive one. Their hobby, in essence, as collecting. If you have a local hire company, then the pick of their investment makes more sense – but it’s taken me a long time to realise this.

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