Starting Company - Need Advice

Discussion in 'Digital Video' started by jdechko, Mar 28, 2006.

  1. jdechko macrumors 68040

    Jul 1, 2004
    Okay. so after a lot of consideration and discussion with my wife, we've decided that it would be really great to start a videography company (among other things). I have the technical know-how to shoot and edit the video with a quick learning curve. I would have to raise all of the start-up capital myself so I'm probably looking at a loan to start off with. So I was looking for some advice on equipment. Here's what I'm thinking right now.

    17" iMac - Stock except install an additional 1GB of RAM. I can use iLife to start out with - editing and making the DVD's. EDIT: I already have a 250GB Drive in a Firewire Enclosure that will be used as a data and scratch disk.

    Sony HDRHC1 (HDV) Camera at $1500 - it's a little expensive to start with but it shoots both 480i and 1080i. I figured that a good DV camera that doesn't do HD will cost about $800. I know I can't burn in HD yet, but if I shot in 1080i and converted it to 480i (the camera can do it automatically on transfer). Then later, when the HD burners are out, I would have the original HD footage and could offer to burn it in HD.

    Since I also plan on converting old VHS to DVD, for an analog box I was thinking the Pinnacle Studio MovieBox DV. It has analog inputs/outputs as well as a DV pass through. So far that totals just over 3 grand.

    I also know that I'm going to need some miscellaneous stuff such as the HDV tapes, a tripod, extra battery, carrying case, blank DVD's, jewel cases and DVD cases, labels, etc.

    All in all, I expect to spend somewhere between 4 and 5 grand. Does this sound reasonable? Is there anything major that I've missed, and what are your thoughts on the equipment that I'm considering? Any help is greatly appreciated.
  2. lexus macrumors 68000


    Mar 26, 2006
    Depends Greatly On The Weather
    Firstly you will kill yourself trying to do video editing on a 17 inch screen. You need at least a 20 inch. Secondly the iMac is not suggested especially for HD get a PowerMac or the intel equivalent when it comes out (it has great upgradeability). Thirdly iMovie is for 12 year olds. Get yourself FCP or FCE. As for the camera that is a great choice however try the HC3 which is due out soon. Get at least 3 gigs of ram for HD.

    I hope this helps.
  3. FF_productions macrumors 68030


    Apr 16, 2005
    Mt. Prospect, Illinois
    IF you are spending all that money on video equipment, PLEASE get a PowerMac. The iMac isn't expandable at all except for the ram, check out the Apple Refurbs for some cheap PowerMac G5's.
  4. Sdashiki macrumors 68040


    Aug 11, 2005
    Behind the lens
    Basic videography setup:

    Best Apple Computer on the market to keep pace with the quickly changing digital media landscape for at least 2 large speed bumps/cycles - $3000+
    2.5-4GB RAM minimum
    minimum 160GB System Disk
    minimum 160GB scratch disk (internal or external)
    top of the line video card, again to keep pace​

    CRT monitor
    , NOT AN LCD. LCDs have terrible color representation and since video is mostly for TV, you want a CRT tube monitor. Or if you still want the tiny footprint of an LCD, you will need a TV out and TV monitor (maybe even spring for a 9" $1000 studio monitor) to check for color correctness and title/action-safe
    - $200+

    Final Cut Pro Studio - youll need Compressor, DVD Studio Pro, LiveType, Quicktime Pro and SoundTrack if you are to make serious videography

    Adobe - photoshop, illustrator

    A 3CCD Mini-DV camcorder - $1000+
    DO NOT waste your time, effort and money on HDV right now. You have no way to output HD video to DVDs or anything besides the HDV tape your camcorder came with. Stick with Mini-DV and SD, only the "big boys" are going to demand HD and you can NOT compete with million dollar studios. Your idea is a good one of archiving for later HD creation, but IMO its years off. People need burners, cheap media to burn AND the end machines: HDTVs

    Hire me
    - $peanuts
  5. jdechko thread starter macrumors 68040

    Jul 1, 2004
    Thanks for all the input.

    It's a lot to consider, and I've not got my mind made up. Trust me that I'd like to go with a top-of-the line system like you've all suggested, and I may well end up buying a PM, but at the same time I don't want to get into a bunch of debt either. They have a nice Dual 2GHz machine for 1700, and If i could get a deal on a dell widescreen display I might just do that. As for software, I'm weary about spending $1300 right now on FCS (plus Adobe CS). I might just buy FCE for now and upgrade to the full package once I get going (and buy an intel PM).

    What's a good camcorder to get? is the Panasonic PV-GS500 good?
    And sorry, I'm not looking to take on any employees yet.

    Thanks for the help everyone, keep the advice coming.
  6. jelloshotsrule macrumors G3


    Feb 7, 2002
    i think for your plans, fce would be a fine start. and far and away better than imovie. the time you'll save with the various features and ease of use will make up for the $ in the end.

    idvd is probably plenty for burning the dvds.

    i would also back up the powermac suggestion. surely you can get a lower end or an older one for the same or less than the imac. especially the 17" imac. and then go with a cheaper crt or if need be a cheaper lcd.

    best of luck!
  7. sigamy macrumors 65816

    Mar 7, 2003
    NJ USA
    Well first of all, good luck on your new business! I've wanted to do similar things but never had the guts to go for it all the way.

    I just have a few points...While I understand where you are coming from with the HC1 I don't know if it is the right choice for you. What type of events will you be shooting? Weddings? Sports? Corporate/commerical?

    I was reading a few months back and from what I found nobody was requesting HD. Most people still don't even care to get 16:9 content. You need to know your audience/customers and know if they even care about HD content. I know it seems stupid to buy an SD cam these days but HD is still a bit away.

    Also, once we can author in HD, will the iMac be able to handle it? I'm not sure how the Core Duo will work of now it seems that even high speed dual G5s where having trouble with HDV and H.264.

    Depending on what you'll be shooting you may want to consider a prosumer SD cam vs. the consumer-level HC1 HDV cam. Some options would be the Canon GL2 or XL2, the Panasonic DVC30, DVX100A or DVX100B, Sony VX2100.

    You'd be getting a much better cam (3CCDs, each 1/3") over the HC1. These won't do HDV but again, you really need to figure out if that is a requirement.

    Bogen tripods are great. Get a fluid head and good set of legs. Don't skimp on the tripod. Basic Bogens start at $180. If you can, spend $300-$500 and it will last a lifetime.

    You'll need to look into audio. Again, depends on what you are shooting. For weddings or speeches you'll need wireless lavs or iRiver MP3 recorders. iRivers are very cheap and you can sync up later. Rode VideoMic is $150 and is a great on-cam and boom mic for the consumer cams (mini plug not XBR).

    Not sure about the Pinnacle box. Does it do real time MPEG2 encoding? You can also use your MiniDV cam with passthru to just send analog from VCR into your Mac...but then you would need to encode. I've read that some people have moved to the set-top DVD recorders for simple VHS to DVD transfer. You can get one of these for $200 or so.
  8. LethalWolfe macrumors G3


    Jan 11, 2002
    Los Angeles
    First off, I think a good forum for you to hit is over at (especially the "Taking Care of Business" section near the bottom). Secondly, why would you pay a premium for a camera who's features you won't use? If you can spend $1500 on a camera get a good MiniDV camera for $1500. If down the line your clients start asking for HD then you buy an HD camera (and because the clients are asking for it you'll have no worries about paying it off). Expect to spend at least another $500-1000 dollars in camera accessories, mics, lights, and other misc gear. Another thing to consider is client perception. If you hired a videographer would you feel good about your choice if he/she showed up w/a Handicam from Best Buy? Thirdly, an LCD screen is fine as neither CRT's or LCD's look like TVs, but you should get an NTSC monitor (at the very least a TV from Best Buy) to hook up to your computer to judge image quality. A PowerMac (refurbs are great) is a better choice than an iMac, and I would at least get FCE if you can't swing Final Cut Pro/Studio (eBay can be your friend for software). Lastly, what is the market like in your area that makes you think you starting a videography business is viable?

    That's my 2 cents.

  9. jdechko thread starter macrumors 68040

    Jul 1, 2004
    Thanks, sigamy.

    I'm not going "all the way" quite yet. I've reassured my wife that I won't quit my day job at least until the initial loan has been repaid. I'll probably be shooting weddings mostly, but also church events such as concerts and plays. Maybe a little commercially: I'd like to do some advertisements. Perhaps you're right about people not wanting HD just yet. I guess in the future, the cameras will be better and cheaper if people want it. I'd also thought about an external mic, and will definitely look into that.

    As for the pinnacle box, it may change if I get a PM. I'd really like to have something to capture video as I wouldn't be doing simple VHS to DVD transfers.
    I'll have to see if the camera that I buy does pass thru.
  10. jdechko thread starter macrumors 68040

    Jul 1, 2004
    That's probably the thing that I've thought about the most. There aren't really a lot of videographers around where I live. I've looked in the phone books and on the internet and there's really only one or two within 25 miles of my house. I also talked with a guy at my church. He's a pretty successful photographer. He shot our wedding. Anyway, I asked his opinion on the subject and he said that it would probably be a pretty good idea; that there was a market for it, but not many people trying to capture it. In addition to weddings, I know that there are church events that go un-filmed (professionally, that is). Starting any business is a risk, I know. It's part of the reason I'd like to minimize the initial investment/loan for the company.

    Sorry about the double-post.
  11. Flowbee macrumors 68030


    Dec 27, 2002
    Alameda, CA
    Sorry to be a downer here, but starting a business in a field where you have little or no experience is a bad idea.

    Before you invest in all of this equipment, you may want to take a class or two in filmmaking or videography. Your clients will expect better than home-movie quality, and proper technique for video shooting, editing, lighting and sound don't come without training and practice. Maybe apply for a part-time job with a company that shoots wedding videos, just to get a feel for what the business is like.

    Once you have a reasonable amount of experience, then you'll have a much better understanding of which equipment you should buy. At that point, you may be ready to start your own video business.

    Good luck with everything.
  12. Keebler macrumors 68030

    Jun 20, 2005
    do some more research

    Hi there,

    Firstly, i think it's great you have the initiative to try this.

    Secondly, do more research :)

    I spoke to a colleague of mine who has been in the video world (documentaries, commercials, video transfers) for the last 25 years. He said you wouldn't believe the amount he's spent on technology. he's come out ahead, but not as much as you would think. he's fairly well known amongst other companies with whom i've had chats with.

    also, get a powermac. expandability and i believe, still more powerful. just by adding the RAM alone.

    if you're going to do video transfers as well, you'll need a betadeck probably, what will you do for 8mm transfers? (i get alot of calls for this); a good that will do universal tapes (ntsc and pal) etc...

    in 3 years, i've spent nearly $30000, after hardware, software, website stuff, and office supplies. i'm set to make a profit this year. it's fun, but can be challenging.

    take care,
  13. sigamy macrumors 65816

    Mar 7, 2003
    NJ USA
    I own the GS400 which is the 2004 model. The GS500 is actually a step down from the GS400 in terms of features. They do have the same optics so you should get the same video quality. Some of things missing in the GS500 is the multi-purpose zoom ring and some quick buttons for manual controls. I believe you still have all the manual control on the GS500, you just have to go into the menus to get to them.

    The GS500 is smaller, which is nice for a vacation cam but may not be great if you need that "professional" look. Hate to say it but this does matter sometimes.

    If you can find a GS400 I would definetly consider it. I didn't put it in my first message because I was pressed for time and just wanted to list the traditional prosumer cams. The GS400 has 3 1/4.7" CCDs and does a decent job in low light. Again, if you are looking to shoot weddings this is not the cam for you. The GS400 offers tons of manual controls, great image quality, hi-quality 16:9, and a frame-mode called ProCinema for 30p "like" film look. It is one of the best high-end consumer cams out there.
  14. OutThere macrumors 603


    Dec 19, 2002
    Don't waste money on stuff you won't use yet.

    Having an expandable computer will be the most important part. The last thing you want is to have to buy a new computer just for more RAM/internal hard drive space.

    Get a used G5 tower off of eBay. You can DP 2.0's for less than $2k now. Say, $1400 if you get a good deal: $1400 link

    Fill it all the way up with hard drives as your budget allows. Say $290 for 500gigs more space. $290 link

    Get a CRT...they're cheap and have good color representation. $180 link

    You should have at least 1gb of RAM. Assume $100 for an upgrade, if necessary.

    Total: $1970 so far.

    Okay, so that's a pretty slick computer so far. Now for video equipment.

    A decently good prosumer camera will run you about $1500. Panasonic and Canon make some good ones. $1500

    Final Cut Express will run you $300

    That leaves you at $3,770

    You'll need the cash left over for lights, tapes, extra batteries, tripods, cords, and I'd suggest a tiny TV and TV out card, for previewing your work.

    You'll also want money for advertising, because you won't be able to put all the goodies to use without clients. :D
  15. Kingsly macrumors 68040


    For the Camera I would go with a Canon XL series. They can be had for cheap if you find them used (I got mine in mint condition for $1500) and are generally excellent cameras.
    Do not even think about using iLife if you plan on getting return clients.

    Manfrotto makes the best tripods... you will also need lights (at least three) and stands/gels/diffuse/ for them.
  16. corywoolf macrumors 65816


    Jun 28, 2004
    I was close to starting my own a few months ago, but changed my mind after researching the competition in my area. First of all, equipment is essential, but the business plan is more important. Ask yourself a few questions:

    What am I risking financially? Can I afford to make mistakes?
    Who is my competition in my area? Can I compete?
    Who are my potential clients? Are they realistic?
    What experience do I have, is it enough?
    Who do I know that can cover for me if I can't make a shoot?
    What are my immediate goals, what are my long term goals?
    Do I have anything (demo reel) to show potential clients?

    I say go for it, start small and build your company at a comfortable pace. I would recommend a refurbished Dual 2 Ghz Powermac G5 with 2 GB RAM, Dell 20" LCD, sub $800 Tape Deck, 2x Canon GL-1's (used), 2 Bogan Tripods, 100 tapes from, lots of blank media, a good printer that can be used to print DVD covers, and I ran out of time...

    Don't get equipment for looks or because it would be an excuse to have, get only what you NEED. Oh and HD is a poor investment at the moment, don't bother with it.

    Good luck

  17. Les Kern macrumors 68040

    Les Kern

    Apr 26, 2002
    You BET there is, but I'm not going to comment on the "gear" as that's pretty much covered.
    I started a business last year (CoachStat Inc.)... thought it would be easy. I wanted to do it the "right" way, so I decided to incorporate. I learned a lot about how things work n that respect, and all I am saying is do your homework, and do it right. Check out the state and federal requirements and such. The GOOD news the first year, if you do an S-Corp, is writing off the losses you WILL have in the first year. I spent about 1500.00 getting it started, and it saved me over 200 bucks on my personal taxes. DON'T do an "LLC"... but don't listen to me, find out how to do it yourself! Good luck man!
  18. jdechko thread starter macrumors 68040

    Jul 1, 2004
    Yeah, I know the difference between the "right" way and the "wrong" way to start a business, at least in theory. I went to school for business, and video has been a hobby of mine for a few years. So it kinda makes sense for me to do this.

    coorywoolf, what are your recommendations for tape decks? I can't seem to find one. Thanks.
  19. asuidrok macrumors newbie

    Jun 22, 2005
    Editing Other People's Boring Stuff Isn't Fun

    When I got out of high school, my friends and I started a little production company thinking it was a great market. We already had all of the pro-equipment since it was always a hobby of ours. It only took editing a few weddings to get sick of other people's boring stuff. Honestly, everyone I know in the non-commercial business has been through the same thing...That's why so many little production companies come and go... and probably why there aren't many in your area.

    The only kind of work you can really get with consumer or prosumer grade equipment and experience is usually really low paying. People don't have tons of money to spend to have their wedding shot, etc., but it is still a lot of money to them so they expect A LOT. If you really want to be profitable you'll need to get into the professional market and to do so you'll need a lot of experience and good connections.

    That is just my opinion. If you do end up going through with it, I'd like to hear how you feel after a year or so to see if you have the same problems.

    Good Luck
  20. Keebler macrumors 68030

    Jun 20, 2005
    a good point, but it depends on the situation

    This is a good point, but it also depends on the person's situation.
    ie. you were out of high had different aspirations

    i'm a stay-at-home Dad, having worked in the hi-tech world for 7 years, made some good coin, wife has a secure job in sales so potential for growth is huge. not easy, but i do video transfers and editing jobs for folks. Definitely wouldn't pay the mortgage all by myself, but it sure helps pay grocery and other bills. i spent ALOT of family time getting this going and learning and perfecting procedures, but now, it's fairly easy to do a transfer. all depends...
  21. corywoolf macrumors 65816


    Jun 28, 2004
    This is an awesome and very hard to find deck (my college uses them).
    It's the Panasonic AG-DV1000.
  22. LethalWolfe macrumors G3


    Jan 11, 2002
    Los Angeles
    You mentioned talking to a local pro photog at church. Any chance he'd be interested in taking on a videographer partner? The hardest part is building a client base and if you can partner w/someone who's already established that will help smooth out some of the bumps in the road.

  23. Sdashiki macrumors 68040


    Aug 11, 2005
    Behind the lens
    One company asked us for a DVD to use during presentations.

    Basically an animated Power Point of sorts.

    We quoted them about $2500-3000 dollars.

    We got an $800 down payment.

    Worked on it, and finished with a bill of $2000, leaving $1200 unpaid.

    They said "we arent paying for this! thats way more than you quoted!"

    and yet it was $500-1000 LESS than we quoted when they had said, "Thats all? Thats cheap".

    We never got paid and I had to move 2000 miles back home because I couldnt pay my bills.

    Lesson learned: all clients MUST SIGN A CONTRACT!

  24. Keebler macrumors 68030

    Jun 20, 2005
    contracts and email backups

    i agree with this. contracts are a must. if you don't feel comfortable with contracts, then get an extra external HD just to back your email and documents.
    i recently had a disagreement with a client (thank God only the 1st one). they were angry that this has dragged on and basically blamed it on me. it was their fault b/c they don't communicate at all between them so i re-forwarded emails that i had sent both of them outlining my previous request for them to make a decision on something. haven't heard from them since, which sucks, but i believe they realize it wasn't me.

    it's terrible to think, but protect yourself. especially if you are in the US. this isn't supposed to be a shot at the US, but they seem to sue real quick. if i lived/worked in the US, i would be paranoid and have contracts and disclaimers out my ying yang :)
  25. PegasusMedia macrumors member

    Mar 29, 2006
    Jacksonville, FL
    another 2 cents

    Hey jdechko,

    A couple thoughts to throw in the mix for you.

    First of all, any discussion, in my opinion, about what specific equipment you use only matters to a certain degree. Yes, equipment is important. Sure some cameras are better than others. But much more important in the video production business are your skills on the artistic side. Can you edit? And I mean, can you edit WELL? Properly? Better than the other guys? If I gave you and the other guys copies of the same tape and asked for a finished production, will your's be the best? Will the flow be better? Will the graphics enhance the message? If I send you & 9 other guys to shoot the same thing, will your footage be better? If so, you may make money. If not, well, it won't matter what camera you buy, frankly.

    One thing that drives me nuts is when people ask me what I edit on...because it doesn't necessarily matter. OK sometimes it does, but for the type of business you are after, it matters less. My favorite analogy...imagine you walk into the Sistine Chapel. You look around and marvel at the work that Michelangelo created. Do you ask the tour guide whose paint brushes he used? No. Because it doesn't matter. It's the skill of the artist using them that makes the work great, not the manufacturer of the paintbrush. You need to be a skilled artist to succeed in video.

    I'm being longwinded, but my point is this. The success of your business will not hinge on whose camera you buy. Or if you use FCP vs. Avid Express or whatever. Think more about your skills and where they fit into your target market. If you feel good about it after reflecting on that..then go for it.

    Now, having said that...I have a very high end rig at my day job, and a very low end rig at my home business. I can crank out reasonably similar product with either...just takes longer at home. I make plenty of money at home shooting DV with a Sony HVR-A1U ("pro" version of the HDR-HC1--adds XLR audio, timecode, more manual controls) and editing on a 17" imac. I assure you, it can be done. You can be up and running on around $5,000 but just barely. $7-8k is more realistic. Depending on your first few projects, I would be prepared to quite possibly spend more. Don't underestimate the cost of good audio gear (esssential), lights(more $$$ than you think), and nickel-dime items.

    asuidrok gave great advice too. I'm fortunate to know LOTS of people in the business to call for help. Just last week, I had to call for help getting a shoot done on 1/2 day notice. Without those kind of connections, you may find yourself in trouble. Invest some time in creating those relationships. Also, have a backup plan for broken gear. IF your camera goes down, do you have another? Can you call a friend? What if you 'puter gets fried the day before your deadline? Can you still deliver product via "plan B?" Questions worth thinking about, cuz I guar-un-tee Murphy's Law will getcha one day. I suggest networking with freelance pros from your community (or the nearest big city) who may be your way out of a jam one day.

    I mean to be encouraging. Hope it comes across as such. PM me if you would like more info. Having bought lots of stuff recently, I may be able to help.

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