So you're gathering assets...

So you're gathering assets...

A lot of the projects we do are a mix of thing we create from scratch (motion graphics, filming, etc) and utilizing assets our clients provide. If you don’t do video a lot, it’s really difficult to know just what to send and what can be used in a video, so here’s a quick outline on what works and doesn’t work.


Existing Videos

Great! You have some existing video content you want to put to work or make a change to in a new video. There’s just a couple things to keep in mind. It’s always best to get the original / raw files. What does that mean? It means if you created a video and can get us the assets used to create that video then we can make it into whatever you want. That includes the original stuff that was shot as well as project files (if you have them).

If you don’t have the original files you’re not out of luck, it just depends on what you want to do. If we’re picking up stuff that was shot just to use as b-roll in another project it’s not a problem. However if you want to use say an interview, it can get tricky. The two major issues you’ll run into are graphics and music. If there’s graphics, we’d need to be able to cover them up to match the rest of the video. Sometimes that’s simple, sometimes it’s complicated. Where it gets really tricky is with music. If the existing video has a music bed under it, you might be stuck. There’s no real way to take the music and separate it from the person speaking. That means you’d either have to use the same music track (if we can find it) and put the person in at the same point, so the music matches. Or we’d have to brainstorm together on ways to think about the project differently.


Images / Graphics / Logos / Oh My!

Usually what we get is images and logos from clients. This is where high res and low res come into play. A HD video is 1920 pixels by 1080 pixels at 72 dpi. So what does that mean in practice? It means that almost all Powerpoint and Word documents you send over with images in them will be too low resolution. In short, they’ll look pixelated because we have to scale them up to fit the size of the video. At a minimum you want your short edge of the image to be about 2,000 pixels long at 72 dpi. The way to get that is to track down the original images. Find the photos people took vs the ones someone else ended up putting into a presentation. Same thing goes for logos. Vector versions of the logos work best vs JPEG or whatever you have in a PPT.

Vector vs Raster

On the logo front, we mentioned above that vector images work better than JPEG or PNG. That’s because they’re able to be scaled to any size without losing quality. A vector image is created in a program like Illustrator and we can scale it without issue. If it’s a graphic that’s been created, that also lets us go in and “break apart” the file into different layers and animate those to create a more dynamic final piece.

But all I have is low res?

This happens from time to time. Don’t fret immediately. It’s just a matter of thinking about the project. Maybe we can take the low res images and work them into a photo collage and show more than one at a time. But if you really want just one big image on screen, we’ll need assets big enough to make that work.

Why we switched to the Canon C200

Why we switched to the Canon C200


A while back we posted an article about how we thought the Sony FS5 was the best camera on the market. And while we still think that’s an amazing camera, we switched it up and bought a Canon C200. For those of you who aren’t gear heads, this won’t be the most fun thing you see today.

It’s all about the color

We used to shoot on a Canon C100 Mark II and that camera always delivered exactly what I thought it would. And a big part of that is Canon’s color science. Things looked how I wanted them to, it was a better connection between my brain. That’s not to say people don’t shoot amazing stuff on the FS5. We shot some stuff we were really proud of, but this was the right move for us.

No more adapters / monitors / recorders

This is another big one for me. I’m the kind of person who needs a backup or two. So shooting Canon EF Glass on a Sony E-Mount meant Metabones adapters. But then I needed a backup for that adapter. Then there was the thing I loved about the FS5, the ability to put a monitor/recorder on and get ProRes and RAW. But at the same time it restricted me. The setup was large. 7” monitors are huge and the FS5 LCD is garbage. With the C200 I get internal RAW with a comparable (to the Sony) internal non RAW Codec.

One other thing that’s important to note and helpful for us is that our office is 20 minutes from a Canon repair facility. With our still cameras, we get them cleaned and checked and back in our hands by the next day. That’s a huge bonus for a piece of gear like this.

But what about the C300 Mark II

This was my biggest debate. I knew I was going back to Canon but I didn’t love the non RAW codec on the C200. After looking at footage and testing some stuff I’ve come to realize that the codec issue isn’t really one. But I had looked at the C300 Mark II, only down side? To get the 10 bit 4:2:2 codec you need to spend $1k more than a C200 on a camera with way more hours.

It’s about where we’re going

Sure, we do corporate work and will always do that. But the RAW on the C200 and the cinema camera feels more in line with where we want our company to go.

Whoa!  I only want a few hours of filming done...

Whoa! I only want a few hours of filming done...

In the past few weeks we’ve had a couple situations where we sent estimates and the response was “I’m going to have to pass. I only want an hour or two of filming and that’s too much money.” We get it. Everyone’s budget and expectations are different. But when it happens more a few times in a week I wanted to put together a little explanation about why things cost what they do. So if you watch the video above it will give the top line view. Below it will dive in a little more.

The Project


For the sake of this example we’ll use a person speaking at a conference who wants some interviews done after or an introduction filmed before. I use this example for three reasons… we do a lot of these, they tend to be the projects we estimate that don’t go any further, and they are generally a “short” amount of filming time for a single person or a small company that typically doesn’t do a lot of video.

So for this figure filming 30-60 minutes of filming a presentation or speech and then filming 30-60 minutes before or after for either an introduction or some people’s reactions after the presentation. Generally speaking this runs about $1,500 - $3,000, depending on some specific factors (are we just filming or are we editing a video or two after, how far is it away, how long are we filming before/after, etc). We write up a detailed estimate, shoot it over and it leads to…

Whoa! I only want a few hours of filming done, I don’t have budget for that.

I get it. When you have a small business or solo practice, every penny counts. But to think it’s only an hour or two of recording and that’s all you should pay for means you haven’t really thought the project through. So here’s how the hours break down on a typical shoot.

  1. The project is going to start with a call or email exchange, then we put together an estimate (for bigger projects it sometimes includes a more detailed proposal deck). - 1 hour

  2. We check and double check everything is in the case, swap batteries on the charger, format the media, load up the car, etc. - 1-2 hours

  3. Then we have to drive to the location. For this, we’ll assume the city which means we’re leaving 90 minutes ahead of call time to be safe. - 90 minutes plus about $30 in gas/wear and tear on the car at the IRS rate.

  4. When we get there, we’ve gotta park. Usually another $30. Then we load in. - 30 minutes

  5. Then we setup. - 1 hour

  6. We film the presentation. - 1 hour

  7. We film the after interview/intro - 30-60 minutes

  8. We break down and load out. - 1 hour

  9. And then we drive back to the office. - 60-90 minutes

  10. Back at the office we off load the files, put them on our server, back up the server. - 90 minutes

That means we’re 11.5 hours to capture your 2 hours of video. Plus $60 in hard costs.


So you want us to use a camera?

Want us to use a camera, that costs money. 2 cameras, more money. Tripod to keep things steady, light to keep things bright, oh and media to record on. Here’s a rough breakdown of the costs of those things if we were to rent them. While we own them, they have to get paid for so they’re factored into our dost of doing business. This includes a camera, lenses, batteries, memory, tripod, audio equipment, cases, etc.

Most of the gear has a 3-4 year lifespan. Things like tripods, cases, and audio equipment have a longer life. All in, that equipment costs us about $250 per shoot. That’s MUCH cheaper than rental houses where the same setup would run approximately $750.

So we have to pay if a stand falls on someone’s head?

Need coverage in case someone trips on the light stand and it hits someone else in their head? We carry insurance for that, but that costs money. On a per shoot basis that’s about another $100/shoot.


You need us to save your files?

A 2 hour shoot will run anywhere from 128gb to 2tb of data depending on the setup and what codec we’re using. To make this easy let’s say we throw it on an external and back it up to another external. That’s $150/shoot for 2 drives.

Need me to send you files or have a computer to work on or a phone to call you or power or internet or software or AA batteries or ________?

It all costs money. Yes your video is only 2 hours, but without infrastructure it’s impossible to film anything. Let’s say $50/shoot for all this stuff.

So where are we?

11.5 hours and $610 in hard costs. We’ll use the low end of the estimate range because we’re not factoring in editing or shipping hard drives. So $1500 - $610 = $890. 1/3 of that goes to the tax man, leaving a $587. Divide that by 11.5 = $51.09/hr and that doesn’t include things like accountants, 401k, payroll taxes, etc. So your quick project really takes about 5 times as long as you thought and more than 1/3 in hard costs. We’re not getting rich, but we’re doing what we love!

Ken Burns Teaches Documentary Filmmaking Master Class Review

Ken Burns Teaches Documentary Filmmaking Master Class Review

I posted this on a documentary project website called “Just Go Create!” Read the original and similar stories there.

“The only thing that matters is not which is the right step one. It’s that there be a step one.”

- Ken Burns

Ken Burns Teaches Documentary Filmmaking Masterclass Review.jpg

I’ve watched many a Ken Burns film. National Parks is one of my favorite of all time. But my success rate with training classes like this has been hit or miss. I tried Werner Herzog’s Masterclass and realized I didn’t really care for his style. I did a similar class by Phillip Bloom and loved it. I tried the Muse storytelling series and it was so bad I immediately requested a refund. So when I saw Ken Burns Teaches Documentary Filmmaking I was quite excited and then tempered that for myself until I actually watched it. After 2 solid days, I’ve made it through the 26 episodes and I think I have a pretty good grasp on what it is and what it was.

What is it?

It’s a quick journey through Ken Burns’ brain from start to finish. He’s a very likable, well spoken person who spends most of the 26 classes talking directly to camera in 10-20 minute classes. Each class is broken into sub-sections. Along with that you get some communication/community thing (typical add on these days). And an incredible, on first pass, 156 page PDF of notes and things. I say on first pass because it’s something I’d like to print and read carefully. I haven’t done that yet.

Who’s it for?

This is for the video guy who has some experience in other areas but wants to be inspired to try documentary. If you’ve done a lot of filming before you’ll get inspiration and I got at least one thing I wrote down out of each class. But you’ll find yourself wanting more of the nuts and bolts of filmmaking versus his specific approach. Historical documentary filmmaking is pretty specific, and all the information is good. I just wanted to learn a little more about the technical side. Or like a class on his biggest failures could be a great learning point.

Should I buy it?

And should you buy it? Absolutely. It’s $90. The color checker card you toss in your case probably cost more and you’ll get more from this. A nice dinner with your significant other was definitely more. Ken comes across as a down to earth guy who is very successful at making interesting films, that somehow he gets funded.

So are you going to finally get started?

The last chapter didn’t have a lot of specific content, but it ended with a few heartfelt messages from Ken. The quote above is one of them. And another I noted was “All this conversation is meaningless unless you start.” If you’re one of the many [few] people who’ve stumbled upon this page you know I dream of being the next Gary Hustwit. I have the ideas, right now I don’t have the team. But I will say, watching this made me think about a few simpler ideas I have in a different way and has lead me to reorganize my notes and really get somethings going. So yes, hopefully you’ll see some new work from me here soon.

Unsplash, the future of stock?

Unsplash, the future of stock?


It's a controversial topic for photographers... stock photography.  And to make that even more complicated, in comes a company called Unsplash.  It's a newer company, in that if you ask around most people outside of the photo community aren't really aware of it.  I'd been reading about it here and there, but never really checked it out.  Then came Zack Arias.  Zack is a photographer I really respect and was very active in the "photo community" for a long time.  Then it felt like he fell off a bit.  But he was back with a splash, ripping on Unsplash.  I'll give you the 1,000 foot view, if you want to see all his comments head to here.  The headline "Why You Should Never Upload Your Photos to Unsplash" the top level read... model/property releases, rarely do you even get credit let alone paid anything, it's just bad bad bad.

He makes some great points.  As a photographer the last thing you want is to get sued because you didn't realize you needed a model release and a corporation uses an image and you get a process server on your doorstep.  Personally speaking, if you don't know you need a release you deserve said lawsuit but whatever.  The not getting paid thing is the interesting part of all this to me.  Is the exposure worth the free nature of the business.  That's a tough one because I first found photography through concert photos.  I shot hundreds of shows and ended up working my way to a world tour with a prominent band.  But if one industry has been completely destroyed by photographers working for free it's music photography.  I'll get into the details in a future post, but I feel the pain of people wanting to work in the industry and getting undercut by free.

However, that didn't stop me from creating an account to see what it was all about.  I decided to put up 10 images and give it 100 days just to see what would happen.  I didn't get all involved in the community, I didn't promote it anywhere, I didn't even add any other images.  Just the original 10.  The results are interesting. 


I picked 10 random travel images that I thought might work for a variety of applications.  One of which was a pretty terrible picture of flags around the Washington Monument in DC.  I picked it because it is a crazy time in US politics and I thought someone might search for a flag shot. That one ended up being my most viewed/downloaded because it was almost immediately added to a collection by Unsplash.  As I type this it has almost 200,000 views and 400 downloads.  All together my 10 images garnered over 350,000 views and 1,500 downloads.


So what does that mean?  Nothing.  People searching stock go through so fast that 350k views doesn't mean someone stopped and admired my photos, it means they skimmed over them.  I did some reverse image searches of my top 3 photos and even with 1,500 downloads they were used minimally.  And in most places without any credit to me or Unsplash.  So is it worth it?  Not really.  You're better off investing your time in building your Instagram where people can actually follow and interact with you than you are trying to use Unsplash.

What should I wear for our shoot?

The big day is almost here!  You're going to be "talent" on a set.  No need to stress out, it's prety straight forward.  One of the most frequent questions I get prior to a shoot is "what should we tell people to wear?"  Most of the people we work with are not professional talent, and we want them to be comfortable.  If they feel uncomfortable they won't give their best performance.  But there are a few best practices to follow.


Sometimes the budget allows for hair and make up, but frequently with "non professional" talent that can be a little off putting.  It's already a situation where they're not totally comfortable and getting makeup when they don't usually wear it or being fussed with can hurt their delivery.  Plan to come ready to be filmed as you are.  Make sure you look nice, but are also comfortable.


Someone wearing a suit, who normally wears just a button up shirt, will feel uncomfortable and that will come through on camera.  People should wear what they'd normally wear to a meeting with their boss.  Something nice, but comfortable.

Avoid tight patterns.  Big bold patterns are okay, but solid colors are better.  Small patterns can cause what's called Moire.  Cameras have a lot of resolving power, but tight patterns can wreak havoc especially for video where there's some motion to the shot.  Stick with solid colors, and avoid patterns.

For guys that usually means solid color shirts and sometimes ties.  Try to avoid wearing solid white.  A cream or solid color shirt will work better because it will have some color there.  If you love your white shirt, it can work depending on the background, but if you're going with white wear something over it (suit jacket, sweater, etc).  

For women, something similar works well.  Solid color with something on top with a solid color skirt or pants.  Again, avoiding white is ideal so that there's some depth to the outfit.

If you have a really light skin tone, don't wear a black shirt.  We'll adjust our exposure to what's best for your skin exposure.  Black can lose all detail if we bring down our exposure for your skin.  Similarly, if you have really dark skin tone, don't wear a white shirt.  It will glow when we expose for your skin.

One last thing to consider... you're probably sitting for your interview.  Wear well fitting clothes that aren't too baggy or wrinkled.  If your favorite jacket tends to push up in the back when you sit with it on, try something else or at least bring a backup option.


Less is more in the jewelry department.  Why?  Because of audio.  Big necklaces can bump the lav mic if you're wearing one and lead to retakes.  Lots of bracelets on your wrist will bang and clank if you put your arm on a table or speak with your hands.


As we said above, sometimes there is hair and makeup, typically there is not.  For women, this means they're doing their own makeup.  It's important that their makeup reflect what they'd normally do, but not be over the top.  You want to keep with tones that complement your skin and what you're wearing.  Avoid dark colors, smoky eyes, etc.  The camera will accentuate those and we want you to look your best.

For guys, make sure any facial hair is well groomed.  We capture everything in 4k so clean looks always appear best on camera.  We may ask you to pat down a forehead or cheeks, or maybe even add a little foundatoin to help.  That will give you more even skin tones and add to the final piece.


In a business environment big logos are branding aren't really an issue typically.  But if you wear your favorite team's hat every day or love supporting Nike, that's great.  Maybe try something different for the shoot.  If you really want to wear something, just remember that the video isn't about that brand, it's about your company.

If you love having your employees wear shirts emblazoned with your logo, those are okay.  But try to keep it subtle.  You want the video to be about the story, not the logo.


We want you to be comfortable on camera so you give the best performance.  That is most important.  Don't over think things too much, and if you are... bring a backup outfit along.

Is Vero the Facebook / Instagram / Twitter Killer?

Is Vero the Facebook / Instagram / Twitter Killer?

By now you've seen the name Vero in one form or another.  The past week has seen instagram feeds fill with "follow me on Vero" posts.  So is it the killer they tout it to be?  Maybe.  We'll take a look at a couple of the key features that differentiate it and the main ways it falls short.

Signing Up


First, if you want to sign up for Vero... good luck.  Their servers clearly were not built for the amount of traffic they're currently getting.  When I signed up last week it took almost 12 hours to get a code texted to me.  When I went to sign in this morning, it couldn't connect to the server for almost an hour.  When I finally did connect I had to re-send the post I tried to make 5 times before (I think) it went through.  It's the growing pains of a new social network that suddenly got hit hard.  If you want to try it out, just have some patience.

The People

While you've undoubtedly seen people asking for you to follow them, there's not really a lot of people on there yet.  That's literally changing by the hour.  I've been getting a few notifications an hour this morning about new people joining.  Until you get some more people on there sharing, it's a little sparse.  But that also offers opportunity if you're looking to grow quickly.  Some quality posting will help that going.

The Experience


Outside of the server issues, the experience is interesting.  It feels much more 2018 design than most other social networks, which is to be expected.  But along those same lines it feels over designed in a very 2018 way.  There's a slider for who your posts get to, that WILL be a problem.  It's easy to accidentally share something with more people than you anticipated.  But it's an interesting way to set up sharing.  You can have people follow you, or set them as an acquaintance, friend, close friend, etc.  It's a nice way to keep a big network but limit who sees what.

Posting music / links / movies is interesting.  It pulls up graphics already in their system and does an overlay of your comment as well if you're watching it or recommending it or whatever else.  It's the same thing people do with Instagram, but it takes out the user photos.  I don't know if that is a pro or a con.  It's much cleaner looking but it takes out a little personality.

A Killer

So is it a killer?  Who knows.  That's not really helpful but there's not enough people on their yet.  That's where it's a little weird.  Facebook, twitter, instagram all grew organically.  I got on FB and Twitter early and I loved it and became an evangelist for it.  Vero seems like it's growing exponentially just because people don't want to be left out.  So it's tough to know if it will last or just be a flash in the pan.  They're claiming no ads, no algorithm, a better experience.  But until it reaches critical mass it's difficult to know if they'll follow through on their promises.

Should have trusted my gut

Should have trusted my gut


I was talking to a former colleague and friend the other day.  We've both been working in the advertising / marketing industry for a long time.  While reminiscing about the past and current state of the industry, I realized something.  I came through about 10 years too early.  What does that mean exactly?  It means that the stuff I was proposing to people at the time was just too new for them to understand.  Here's the perfect illustration...

I'm not sure of the exact year, but it was a while ago.  Facebook was in it's infancy and limited to only a couple colleges in the North East.  I was dating a girl who went to NYU so she had an account and showed it to me.  My mind was blown.  The amount of information people put out there was crazy.  I immediately got a meeting on the calendar with the head of strategy at the agency I was working at.  McDonald's was our main client and I saw an incredible opportunity here.  I put together my notes, borrowed my girlfriend's log in, and went into the meeting.  Laid it all out about how we had to get in on the ground floor here and just from a data standpoint alone there was a lot our clients could do with it.  But if they were one of the first brands on there it'd be incredible for them.  I saw the potential for huge growth.

The "senior management" person I was talking to looked at me.  Looked at the screen.  Looked back and me and said something along the lines of "I guess it's interesting, but I don't see a future here.  I don't see anything we can do with it."  I left the meeting feeling a little dejected.  I was a super junior level person who just loved technology.  Maybe he was right and I was wrong.

Obviously, that wasn't the case.  But when I think back, I learned a lesson.  Trust your gut.  I KNEW Facebook would be huge, but I just filed it away in my notebook as an inspired thought not acted upon.  Now a days, I'd say screw that guy and find someone who could have done something cool with it.  That's one of the reasons why I left the agency life and started AV Collective.  I can control my own future, and act on great ideas.

Client Gifts Are Always Fun

Client Gifts Are Always Fun


Like many companies, we send out Christmas gifts to clients around the holidays.  In the past we've done gift cards and thank you notes.  But this year we wanted to mix it up.  We wanted something that was kind of cool and that people might put on their desk and show off to other co-workers.  Why?  For two reasons.  One, we always think something cool is better than a run of the mill gift card.  Two, we want to be top of mind.  When someone thinks about a potential video project they have, we want them to look at their desk and say "oh yeah, AV Collective would be great for this!".  To help that along, we stuck one of our brand new AV Collective stickers to the back.  We didn't break the bank, but we found some fun "My Cinema Lightboxes", ordered up some stickers for the back, added in a USB plug so the people receiving it don't have to come up with 6 AA batteries, and we mailed them off via the good ol USPS.

So what will come of it?  Hopefully it will make someone smile and let them customize their desk a little bit to show off their personality.  And if it makes them think of us for a new project, that's an added bonus.  


CASE STUDY: NAR Fair Housing

We want to start sharing some case studies to give you a glimpse into our workflow and projects on a more regular basis.  So here's a look into a recent project for the National Association of Realtor's Fair Housing Anniversary.

The Project Start

A lot of our work doesn't come directly from the end client, but rather through an agency who's doing other work for them and the project has a video component.  This one went that way.  We started by doing an estimate for us to go out to 5 cities and do a photo shoot and video shoot in each location.  Then we waited a while.  And a little while more.  That happens a lot where there's an idea but the project doesn't start for a while.

The Project Itself

So after a wait, we got the green light.  But the project had changed.  Instead of us heading out of town to capture everything, we were going to be using a hybrid approach.  The number of cities was cut to 3.  The client engaged a Miami company to do the filming / photos there.  They were also going to pick up video from a different project for the Chicago talent, but we would be doing a photo shoot with them.  And then we'd be traveling to Grand Rapids to film and photograph talent there.  Then we'd handle the editing of all the photos and executing post production on the video.  It's less than ideal for a few reasons.  One... video from 3 sources means three different codecs, three different lighting setups, and three different approaches.  With the photography it has less of an impact because they're stand alone ads.

The Talent

Before we jump into the shoots, I just want to say a quick note about talent.  Like most of our projects, the people we were featuring were not professional talent.  They were real people who'd done amazing things.  It takes a special approach to work with non-professional talent and we've been doing it for a long time.  You have to keep people comfortable in an inherently uncomfortable situation, while getting great content.  While these people weren't pros, you'd never know it.

The Shoots

Once we got a thumbs up, we had a couple days to set up a shoot in Chicago.  All we knew was we'd have a conference room to shoot in.  That can be problematic with big tables and lots of chairs and such.  But when we got there we were pleasantly surprised... they were able to clear EVERYTHING out.  Leaving just a HUGE room.  We were only looking for a simple solid color background as the talent was likely to be clipped out.  Frank got there right on time and was great to work with.  His office had been broken into, his phone lines tied up by people in the community and his house was even fire bombed.  For what?  For selling homes to black people where the predominantly white community didn't want them.  Crazy.


The Miami shoot was the one that the client hired out.  We handled preproduction calls with the company, but in the end we had almost no control over the outcome or approach.  They shot on a DSLR with minimal lighting which wasn't ideal but we were able to edit to get a quality end piece.

The Grand Rapids shoot was one we handled.  We traveled out and did a photo and video shoot with the talent there.  We were in a tinnnny meeting room with a huge table we had to work around.  But we got some good stuff.

The Photos

These came out great IMHO haha.  We captured what the client requested and then got some stuff we thought would be a better fit.  Photo shoots are always a push and pull.  You need to accomplish exactly what the client expects, but sometimes you have a creative idea you want to try and think might work a little better.  In the end, they went with the setups we thought might better tell the story.

FHA_makes US stronger_Ad_FW_r4sm.jpg
FHA_makes US stronger_Ad_PC_r4sm.jpg

The Video

The edit came out great as well.  It was a mix of stock, and footage from the three shoots.  But we were able to combine it all to tell the story in the best way possible.  The video was posted and sent out to NAR members around the country to get them excited about the anniversary of the Fair Housing initiative.


While this project had some unique challenges, we were able to execute final pieces that blew away client expectations.  Which is always our goal.  We love working with real people because they lived the stories they're sharing and that really comes across.  While the shots needed to be a more serious tone, we have to share our favorite photo from the project...


Why the Sony FS5 is the best camera for the money right now.

Why the Sony FS5 is the best camera for the money right now.

This is a technical post for those folks who are making videos.  So if that's not you, come back next week for some less technical info.  With that said... The Sony FS5 is the best camera for the money right now.

The Competitors

Whenever you talk about the best in a category you have to look at the competition.  The Sony FS5 has been out for a while so there's a lot to compare it to.  The closest comparison is the Sony FS7.  It's a GREAT camera, we used one for a long time.  But it's very big, it's more expensive and adding RAW costs a ton.  What you get with that is a better codec but you can match it with the RAW > ProRes upgrade on the FS5 (more on that below).  The Canon C200 is another option.  But the non RAW codec for that is not usable for professional applications (in our opinion), plus it shoots CFast and those are expensive.  Blackmagic makes some great cameras if you only need RAW but it doesn't have the flexibility.

So then you're looking at stills cameras that double as video (GH5, Sony A series, Canon 5d Mark IV, etc).  When we first started we went that route.  You can get some great results, but in my professional opinion a hybrid isn't a great option as your A camera.  There are too many variables with audio connections, etc etc that can go wrong on set.  And they don't save you that much over the FS5.

Why It's Great

So then why is the FS5 so great.  Well, in my opinion it's the flexibility.  There are tons of sub $4,000 used FS5 on the market.  So already you're in about $3,000 less than the FS7.  Throw a $500 RAW upgrade on it, add in a recorder (like $1200 new) and you've got all your bases covered.  For events, quick turnarounds, small file storage, you've got the internal codec recording to cheap SD cards.  For something where you need broadcast quality 10bit 4:2:2, you send the RAW out to a recorder and go to ProRes.  For spots and high end work where you need RAW, you record that same RAW output as Cinema DNG and you're covered there.  You have flexibility and that's the key.  Throw a lens converter on it and you can use Canon, Nikon, or Sony lenses.  You can scale as the project needs it.

If you're looking for a video camera right now you'll be able to cover any project needs, save some cash, and have a camera body you can sell off and keep the peripherals when you want to upgrade.  To us, it's a no brainer. 

What Goes Into a Video Shoot

What Goes Into a Video Shoot

So, I sit here killing time as my footage from the last shoot imports.  And I'm realizing that people don't really know what goes into a video shoot.  Beyond the actual shooting (which I'll cover too) there are lots of tons of other things going on and being planned.  Wonder what?  I'll use a recent shoot for a client (see the finished product below).


Every project starts with an email, phone call, or text.  It usually goes like this "Hey, I've got a project we're thinking about doing a video for.  We're talking to a couple people, but can you put together an estimate together and do you have time for this project?"  There's usually a call to go over what ever assets they have (script, storyboard, etc) so far.

The estimate is pretty easy at this point.  I know, pretty accurately, how much it costs me to have my office open for an hour.  That includes the office space, electricity, internet, computers, cameras, audio gear, lights, software, even the desk (it's called the Cost of Doing Business).  So it's a pretty simple calculation... how much time will it take X CODB + hard costs (VO, music, stock) = The total cost of the project.  There's some profit factored into my CODB, so if a client comes back and says "can you work with us on this?" there can be some flexibility.  But it makes zero sense for me to take a project way below my costs, so I pass on stuff from time to time.


Everything starts with an idea and it's a good thing to know what you're getting into ahead of time.  Hopefully there's been a script or storyboard developed, but a lot of times we'll help with that side of things too.  It's important to get that idea down on paper so the right people can approve it.  For the shoot the other day, they were really buttoned up.  Beautiful storyboards and script.


This is the planning stage.  Most of the time, it's the most important part of the whole project.  It's when you go through EVERYTHING in the project and plan it all out.  For the shoot I was doing, it included two big things.  A call to go through the storyboard and put together a shot list with the client.  And the biggest part... finding a laundry room we can shoot in.  Sounds easy enough, right?  But think of your laundry room.  It needs to look perfect first and foremost.  But then you need room for a tripod and big camera, 2 or 3 lights, props, me and an assistant, a person to be "talent" (from the agency), and 2 or 3 agency people to approve what we're shooting.  It took a while to find.  I hit up every person I know, the agency went through people they know, I searched dozens of Airbnb listings.  Finally we found a great laundry room.  It was a little far from the agency's office but timing was tight.  We had like a week and a half for all of the pre-pro.


Before I get into the actual production, the other part of pre-production is identifying what it will take to get the shoot done.  I also firmly believe in having a back up for everything.  Here's a list of what we brought...

  • Sony FS7 Camera - we were shooting 4k and needed slow motion
  • Canon 5d Mark III - brought as a backup and for stills if needed
  • Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L USM II
  • Canon 24-105mm f/4L IS
  • Canon 70-200m f/2.8L IS USM II
  • Metabones Speedbooster EF > Sony
  • Metabones EF > Sony - backup adapter
  • Kinoflo Diva - key light for the shoot
  • Astra Lite Panel BiColor LED - back / fill light
  • Lowell DP 4 Head Lighting Kit - backup lighting
  • Small HD 5" monitor w/ LUT support
  • Sachtler Tripod
  • 3x C-Stands
  • Leatherman
  • Gaff Tape
  • Lots of Batteries & accessories


The day of the shoot went pretty smooth.  My assistant showed up early and we got out to the location around 8am.  I like to show up at least an hour prior to the client arrival so that we can get stands, lights, cameras, everything up and checked before they walk in.  This is good for 2 reasons.  Primarily, I get to check everything before someone is looking over our shoulders.  We test before we head out, but it's a safety so we can solve any problems without the client being alarmed.  Secondly, it leaves less time for the client to sit around.  We want them to be in and out as smoothly as we can.

Client walked in, we tweaked lighting for the product they brought and got to the shooting.  During pre-pro we had set up a shot list and I'd ordered it into the most effective sequence for what we needed to get.  But we're always open to input and additional shots.  For this, we had a lot of those to make sure we were covered.

We shot for about 4 hours and sent the client on their way while we broke down.


So now the fun begins.  Most clients think you can jump right into the editing process.  In fact there's a half day or day of things to do prior to shooting.  Here are the steps...

  1. Take all the cards (which are well labeled for what order we shot in) and import them into the job folder.  Depending on how long we've shot, this can take a while.
  2. After that, I make disk images of every card.  If something gets corrupted during import or an emergency happens, I have an exact copy of the card we shot on and I can re-import.  I hold onto those until the project is completely wrapped.
  3. Once all that is done, the imported files are then renamed to match the project.
  4. Then everything gets backed up from my main working NAS to a backup NAS and an offsite NAS.  To lose something I'd have to have 2 drives in each of those fail all at the same time.  That's why I back it all up first.
  5. Then the footage gets imported and sorted into Adobe Premiere and we're ready to edit.

At that point I assemble a rough first cut that goes to the client via Wipster.  I can't say enough amazing things about Wipster.  Clients can comment directly into the video and it's matched to the time code.  It's amazing.  We go through a number of rounds of revisions and then we're wrapped.  When it's wrapped I send the clients MP4 and MOV.

So that's some of what goes into each shoot.  There are a million other little things, but if you're thinking about a video project you'll know most of what goes into it.  Here's the finished piece...