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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

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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.

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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.

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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!

Unsplash, the future of stock?

Unsplash, the future of stock?

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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. 

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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.

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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.

Client Gifts Are Always Fun

Client Gifts Are Always Fun

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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.  

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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.