Texan living abroad in the Pacific Northwest.
I avoid variable ND like the plague. I don't meter through the lens except on some documentaries, so it's too much a hassle. You don't know what you're getting, even though some are marked.
Another problem with a variable ND on the 11-16 is that wide angle lenses in general require more out of filters...you can shoot with a dirty filter on a telephoto and sometimes not even realize it, but not wide angle---you're doubly screwed with variable ND on that particular lens...it shows the problems that are always there with all variable ND.
Right...b/c people looked awful in the even bigger 15-perf IMAX Dark Knight Returns/Dark Knight Rises footage.
The Hobbit looked awful b/c of the frame rate, not the resolution.
65mm sensors are great b/c the bigger the image sensor size, the less you need a perfect lens to get incredibly sharp imagery.
Ugh...please add editing of comments?.. Damned autocorrect. "brain", not "Bain". Sorry.
I don't ever recommend having a mnemonic way of remembering focus. It's by feel. Turn your Bain off and follow your fingers. If Nikon is tripping you up, micro rehearse between takes so your body learns it. If you're trying to learn it with your mind---too late! You already blew the take.
Lots of good comments... I don't think anyone has mentioned one of the best, budget solutions...china balls. I've seen whole movies and whole reality shows lit with them. They're super cheap, versatile, and lightweight. Some of those and some hand squeezers work perfectly for whatever...key light, ambient light (the way space lights are used for a base exposure)...background lights...
The arri kits are nice, and having everything all together has some appeal, but I'd piece together a package to get the best of everything and build up a more rounded arsenal.. Get a kino flo 4' fourbank or a Diva 400 as your main light. And get an arri or mole tweenie/650 fresnel...and a small fresnel for a 3rd light, like an arri 150 or 300 or the Inbetweenie (300w mole fresnel)...
And then get c-stands (not crappy lightweight light stands or blade stands, which come in the kits). The diva 400 or 4-bank needs a full stand, and the full stands and gobo arms can be used for many other things. Even just for holding a light, it will do it better, such as getting a hairlight/backlight in there without having a stand in the shot.
Someone said get cheap dirt. Never get cheap dirt. They break and gravel gets everywhere...or when they don't break, the weave and/or stitching isn't always tight enough and dust gets out. It's very annoying. I've never replaced a MSE bag.
LED: no. Not with $3k. The only LED's that are dependable are very expensive, like the litepanels...and you get such a small area of coverage with them (note: I reverse everything I've said if you're primarily doing interviews and that sort of thing.) LED's don't have the throw of fresnels, nor the large soft source of kinos.... It's starting to change...but not just yet. And not at the level that's cheap enough with only $3k. Save that for additional gear later.