February 11, 2016 at 10:30AM, Edited February 11, 11:11AM


Small production house cameras

Hey there! I work in an advertising agency and I'm becoming one of the in-house directors to start a small production company that will make digital videos (content) and eventually big commercial ads.

One of my main concerns is what cameras to invest in and how they'd mix together. I've worked a lot with the Sony A7s and feel like I need that for the run-and-gun type shoots, I will definitely have those. But for big productions (TVCs, broadcast and digital film ads), I was looking at either the FS5, FS7 or even the Ursa Mini.

I'd just like to know your thoughts on those cameras being mixed with the A7s II. Is it worth it to go with an FS5 when I already have the A7s IIs? Is this FS5 even broadcast quality?

Will it be so bad if I had the Ursa Mini and the A7s II together? Or if these cameras are suitable for a small production house at all? Thanks NFS!


The first question I'd ask is: why can't you go all the way with the A7S II? What problems do you think these cameras solve that your A7S does not?

February 11, 2016 at 6:38PM


I'm not quite sure if can handle big film or TVC productions, especially with long form. And the trend that I see is that the A7s is used to compliment a bigger camera like an Arri even.

Also I'm not quite sure if the A7s 4K and image quality can match up with these other cameras. What do you think?

Kevin Mayuga

February 12, 2016 at 9:08AM

Big film and TVC productions require a lot more than a camera. When they show up at my studio, they roll in the ARRI M40 HMI lights for principal illumination and M18 HMI lights for touch-ups. Which means they need multiple 20A sockets at 240V or 40A sockets at 120V. And that doesn't begin to describe the grip required to diffuse, color-correct, and shape the light.

Here are some BTS photos of a setup for a 30-second TV commercial: https://goo.gl/photos/SPhhrmpxTARGMLTu8

In that case, the crew was 40 people. I think it was a regional, not a national spot. And in that case, the production company owned none of the equipment. The cameras, lenses and the DP were rented. The lights, generator, and lighting crew were rented. The costumes and wardrobe crew were rented. Which brings up a different question: are you aiming to be a one-stop-shop? Or are you looking to compete with other camera-slingers, ready to work with any sound and light and grip and set and wardrobe crews?

If you are looking to be a one-stop-shop, you should test carefully your competitive position before making a big outlay. Many succeed by growing with their clients, rather than just trying to enter the market.

If you are looking to win business solely based on your camera (and/or lens collection), again check your competitive position before making a big outlay. Many succeed by growing with their clients, rather than just trying to enter the market.

The A7S is a fine camera with which you can make a great reel. When you find the camera's limitations that materially affect *you* or which materially fail to meet a client's minimum delivery specifications(*), you can look for options that solve those problems. I myself bought several cameras that greatly disappointed me, until I finally settled on RED. I am very happy with my RED WEAPON CF. I didn't buy that camera to impress clients (though it does impress clients). I bought it to solve problems my other cameras couldn't solve. Which makes me happy. And a happy me seems to result in very happy clients.

(*) Netflix has gotten very particular with what they are willing to pay for as their own content. They are happy to broadcast HD quality ads, but their UHD shooting requirements disqualify even ARRI, technically speaking.

February 12, 2016 at 2:57PM


This is quality advice that's sometimes hard to find around here. Listen to this guy.

Kenneth Merrill

February 13, 2016 at 12:18AM

Could you elaborate more about which problem the RED solved for you? Thanks

Philippe Orlando

February 14, 2016 at 3:11PM

Rent for the big stuff.

February 14, 2016 at 11:57PM, Edited February 14, 11:57PM

Steven Bailey

Answering Philippe Oralndo's question ("Could you elaborate more about which problem the RED solved for you?"): I want video that looks absolutely gorgeous, both as video as as a still image. I know that lighting is at least half of the solution, and I have that well in hand. I want video that can stand up to creative grading. The RED digital negatives I get are just amazing in that regard. When I put them on a 4K monitor, people go nuts. That's what I'm going for.

February 15, 2016 at 3:25AM



Philippe Orlando

February 15, 2016 at 6:26PM

You should know that many production don't own much gear, especially for comercial shooting, as you spend a lot time for prep, post production etc and only one or two days of shooting you are better off renting gear which allow you to always have the best gear for the job. So if I where you I would stick with the A7s for now and if you have big project you can rent.
If you really want to buy a camera, then for the kind of work you want to do, the fs7 looks the best choice as you can record raw for big shoot and have a good XAVC compression for regular shooting.
Don't make the rookie mistake of investing only in the camera, you need good sound too, light, etc.

February 16, 2016 at 3:14AM, Edited February 16, 3:16AM


And there we are...full circle.

Michael Tiemann

February 16, 2016 at 5:13AM

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