September 16, 2014 at 4:39PM

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Gear recommendation for Indie

After working steadily for 5 years I feel I want to create a proper short film (not the one I intend on uploading web for free but something special :) I plan on shooting after 9 months, around end of summer of 2015. My Confusion:
1) Camera: I will not rent. I sold my 5D as the ML-RAW though great was difficult for me. I own a GH4 (will use it as a B cam with a Shogun for 10bit 4:2:2, hopefully the improvement in 10 bit would be good enough) and I plan on either getting a A7s+Shogun or working my ass and buying the FS7 (really keen on FS7). I want to shoot 4K and deliver in 2K. As there will be little green screen I need the 4K 10-bit 4:2:2. A7s does not do 10-bit and also as I plan on continuing client work for next 9 months, unless I show up with something as wow as the FS7 most clients reject anything other than a 5D or C100 (these are the only names they know).
2) Lenses: I have the Canon 16-35, 70-200 II, Tamron 24-70 VC, 50mm 1.4, 40mm 2.8, Rokinon Fast Prime kit. The film is not for pixel-peeping but I wonder about the resolving power. Every other day I read someone laughing over Canon L lenses that they do not have decent resolving power. How? If they are made to shoot a 20MP image why can't they be good enough for 2MP (HD) or 8MP (UHD).
At the same time I feel like selling all these and getting good set of primes. Sigma 35mm, 50mm to start with. Anyone has any thoughts?
Ideally I don't want to rent as I want to get the lenses I am shooting on and test them as much as I can so I know them inside out. To me they are like brushes and I can't simply get a brush for the big exhibition without having used it day & night and getting used to it.
3) Sound: Hardly anyone talks about it, I don't know why. I have a Rode NT3 and Zoom H4n which has served me well. What next? I am not too keen on investing in sound equipment as I feel I will hire someone and rent equipment because camera equipment pays off (and I DP myself anyways) with client work. Sound is a different (and even more important) beast.
As of now I have kept a budget of $15-18k (at max, ideally should restrict to $10k truth be told) for these things.

19 Comments

Update: Not sure how to edit my initial post.
For last 2 years, as I was heavily invested in EF glass, my mindset and knowledge is only around EF lenses. Having got the superb metabones for GH4 & the fact there is a new ULTRA E-mount which will be great with a FS7 (effectively making it full frame like) I feel there is no harm in sticking with EF lens as I have loved the image till now.
Also feel, maybe some magic happens, and Canon has some great 4K cameras (maybe a 5DC) I will always lean towards Canon before any other (having used it for 5 years, I am much used to the profiles and color science).
So this was my rationale.
Now that there is a very certain possibility that none of my A or B cams would be a Canon, if there are better options otherwise please recommend.
Maybe I dump all and get Nikon glass with adapters?
I am very tempted to buy the SLR Magic Anamorphot but as they work with lenses with front element smaller than 50mm only, need to see if it will be practically possible at all.

September 16, 2014 at 4:45PM

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I'm just going to preface my response with IT ALL DEPENDS ON YOUR STORY! "Blair Witch" would've sucked if it were shot on an Alexa. "Her" would've sucked if it were shot on a handycam. The equipment you're going to need is going to depend on your story. For this reason alone, I always recommend renting (unless you can justify the equipment purchase with solid client work or disposable income). Now moving on...

I've gotten to play with the A7s and used it to B-cam an FS700 shoot in August. The lowlight capability of that camera is insane and is definitely exploited to death. However, just because it can see in the dark doesn't mean it properly represents darkness. Due to the heavily compressed 8-bit signal, you easily get stepping and banding when trying to pull S-Log2 into a grade. Your 256 exposure values become significantly less than that, and you stretch those few limited values back out into 256, distorting the signal. I come from the land of 8-bit DSLRs and having watched my 8-bit footage in several theatres, it hardly ever holds up. Unless you plan on shooting without lights and shaping with shit tons of negative fill/flagging, I would not suggest the A7s (this is where that whole "it depends on the story" thing comes into play).

The reason I've heard of people laughing at Canon L-lenses is because they're "clinical"/too sharp. I've used a plethora or L-series glass on the C300 and I was only solidly impressed with the 85mm, which has the aesthetic of a deliciously creamy cinema prime. Its very hard to describe the "feel" of lenses, but I think it all depends on your style and, of course, the project. CP .2s feel MUCH sharper and "clinical" to me than Canon L-series glass, but I also love them so much more. They have this heavy contrast look that I love and like to utilise. I don't recommend investing in lenses until you get to try them out yourself and see how they react to different situations. Try contacting local rental houses to let you go play with some, or alternatively rent them from http://www.borrowlenses.com/.

As far as what mount to invest in, I'm also currently torn on this. I wish more companies would adopt a swappable mount feature like Zeiss has.

Final point would be about sound! I'm not a film sound designer, but I dabble in the live sound world (and my creative mentor is a sound designer), so maybe take this with a grain of salt. Unless you meant NTG-3, I suggest you look into a shotgun. My workhorse is a Sennheiser MKE-66 but I've heard fantastic things about both the NTG-2 and NTG-3. If you want to go beyond that, I suggest looking into Earthworks short shotguns or Schoepps shotguns. However, all of that is kind of pointless because I believe its best for you to hire someone who does this for a living. Obviously you have the money to fairly compensate a trained and experienced professional and they will almost always get better results than you will be able to. If you're lucky, you can probably find one who has equipment they will rent to you as well.

Hope this helps! Feel free to reply with anything that you want cleared up!

September 17, 2014 at 10:53PM, Edited September 17, 10:53PM

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Aidan Gray
Director of Photography Assistant Camera | Gaffer
1491

Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Yes, it does depend on the story, at this point I have many ideas so the decision will go hand in hand but I am trying to not think of a story that will require me to "steal" shots and want to be in a controlled environment (if there is such a thing in filmmaking :) )
I have not even tried the A7s but you validated my thoughts about 8-bit. I am planning to buy Shogun for the GH4 and my friend felt I am crazy when it already does internal. 8-bit 4:2:0 vs 10-bit 4:2:2 is going to be pretty worth it (of course will wait for some tests).
What are your thoughts on 4K for 2K delivery? I feel investing in non-4K system now will be a waste especially when something like FS7 looks to be good for at least 2 years to come.
For the sound, you caught me, I meant the NTG-3. But yes I will probably try and get someone skilled and with all their stuff on hire.

September 18, 2014 at 2:36AM

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I'm currently editing a film shot in 4K ProRes/RAW on the BMPC for 2K Scope DCP delivery. I think the ability to add subtle camera movement in post is amazing. I generally hate the idea of cinematographers relying on aspect ratios and resolution to let them "reframe" in post because it leads to sloppy shooting and gives you a massive crutch. However, its a very nice safety net. We have a shot of our two main characters on a bed arguing and its a very long single take without a lot of motion, but the 4K allows me to gently push in, separating them from each other.
http://i.imgur.com/2Ov31Fe.png

Only a few major festivals will suggest 4K and have the ability to screen them. Often times, even 4K projectors are running at 2K scope/flat.

Also, about the FS7, just look at how long the FS700 has survived and continues to thrive. That camera is the perfect example of Sony future proofing. Hopefully they'll follow suit with the FS7 and I believe they've finally gotten their act together (which is funny considering Sony was the original innovator of digital cinema).

September 18, 2014 at 1:05PM

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Aidan Gray
Director of Photography Assistant Camera | Gaffer
1491

Archie, bro... what was the last thing you shot? Please dont be defensive and at least be honest with yourself.

There was a period in my life where I thought my equipment is gonna shoot the things for me. Then I said I just filmed a friend as she sat there smoking with the equipment I had. Then I filmed her doing yoga. Then I filmed another friend, and then I filmed a stranger.

Then people started emailing me to be a DP on their student film productions. My camera is a t2I (ML'ed), I sold all my lenses keeping 85mm f/1.8.

The only two things that matter are my lights -- 5 LEDs and a slider. Oh, and an audio kit. But see, my first productions were silent -- there was only music playing.

So, my point -- don't fall into a trap of accumulating the gear. It won't shoot for you.

Instead see what you can shoot with the gear you have.

Good luck!

September 18, 2014 at 9:56PM

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Alex Zakrividoroga
Director
3822

Yes agreed. For my first 2 years I was totally happy with my 550D/T2i, 50mm 1.4,1 LED, H4n+ cheap lapel mic. That is all I needed at that time. But after some experience and desire to do client work, 5D was something that became a "qualifying criteria"
Once I picked that up (but frankly never really liked the detail of the image) and I started renting higher-end stuff I loved the flexibility with color grade and felt whenever I do my indie project, I want to shoot it the best possible I can.

If you can believe me I do not put my stuff online but this was my last client work done on a very low budget (max spending was on catering)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rj6z8M7ybio hope you will not be too harsh (and yeah I am not from the US :D )

September 21, 2014 at 5:51AM

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It sounds like you`ve got all the camera gear you need for the moment...

Story and good lighting are going to help you make a better film.

September 19, 2014 at 10:31AM

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Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
30810

Thanks..

September 21, 2014 at 5:52AM

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Ntg3 is a beautiful sounding shotgun/outdoor mic, but you also need a beautiful interior hypercardioid - AT4053 is nice.

The Zoom H4n is adequate, but plenty of other options are better. I think the tascam DR-680 takes some beating for the money, though I think the irig pro into an ipad is underrated and awesome, though no good if you have more than one source and wish to mix...

September 19, 2014 at 1:51PM

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Ian Garforth
Filmmaker
181

Thanks I think I will keep it noted, once I am in pre-production I will see if I should buy it or rely on the sound team I hire. When I used to study about film Fostex were said to be the best for people like me but now I do not see any popular product with them. Any thoughts why?

September 21, 2014 at 5:55AM

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The great thing about the dr-680 is that you can also put a used 442 or psc alpha mix in front of it and get a significant sound upgrade since the line level inputs bypass the preamps. You can get a new dr-680 and a used 442 from trew audio with cables for under $2000 if you find the right deal.

September 29, 2014 at 11:54PM, Edited September 29, 11:54PM

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Will Youngman
Sound Mixer
231

The GH4 and A7S are good combination to use together...

http://eriknaso.com/2014/09/04/gh4-metabones-ef-to-mft-speed-booster-a7s...

September 22, 2014 at 11:50AM

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Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
30810

If your filming an important short film keep the camera department single unit. Lighting will be sacrificed if you set up a B cam, and you will need more crew. It can actually be more work not less.

The reason you hear that canon lenses are not sharp is because their sharpness is not very consistent edge to edge and throughout all the apertures. The chances of a photographer shooting at 2.0 with the subject at the far right of the frame is unlikely, but very likely for cinematography. Cine lenses are sharp edge to edge and much sharper wide open. Even the cine version of the canons, at least by my testing, are sharper wide open. Especially when you look at images in 4k, the high pricing of cine lenses start to validate themselves.

September 23, 2014 at 2:10PM

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Indie Guy
1312

Honestly, the most precise and insightful explanation regarding sharpness of Cine vs Photo lenses. (And the lust for Cine lenses begins).

September 28, 2014 at 4:10AM

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Also, yes I plan on shooting the piece on single camera setup. Initially thought will use the GH4 mainly with Atomos and A7s depending on any night scenes (so I can shoot like f5.6/f8) or something really calling for DOF that I can not achieve with the GH4+Metabones.

September 28, 2014 at 4:17AM

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I would suggest not to spend almost all of your budget on a new camera, no matter how attractive every new one seems. There are many other aspects that are much more important in every film than the camera itself. Mainly you would like to spend those money in talent in front and behind your lens (cast and crew).
So if you decide to get a new camera, do it as a business investment as you suggest and not for your short film. Then you may want to check the Sony FS700 which recently got a price reduction http://nofilmschool.com/2014/09/sony-fs700-now-just-6000
You will use your current set of lenses, get super slow motion which is very useful in commercials and proper camera functions (NDs, XLRs etc). Since it's not brand new, you will not face any early adopter problems, plus you will get the opportunity of 4K if and when needed with the addition of the 7Q.
Concerning you lenses, if you decide to keep all of them, during your tests try to check how well they much to each other, so you won't spend too much time in post trying to match your shots.

September 25, 2014 at 9:41AM

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Stel Kouk
Filmmaker
3105

I was wondering if I should check the used market for an FS700 and get the Odyssey 7Q. Will keep in mind, thanks

September 28, 2014 at 4:12AM

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Hi, forgive my possibly naive post because I'm relatively new to film making, but have been photographing things for many years.
but with regards to glass?lenses have you looked at http://www.rokinon.com
or Samyang?
now some among you here might say they are rubbish but i have read many good things about this glass, and iif you want to spread out your budget they look like a really good way of getting cine primes at a very good price point.
anyway like i said who am i to suggest this from my limited time spent filming thing.
regards. : )

September 28, 2014 at 5:19AM, Edited September 28, 5:19AM

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Sacha Hayward
Photographer/Videographer
81

In the page Thecinecity.com have indi gears cheaper.

September 29, 2014 at 2:41AM

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Ragüel Cremades
Film producer and director
7606

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