View Full Version : Finally pursuing my dream of filmmaking.. what to film with?

04-01-2010, 12:16 PM
I have been letting life get in the way of a dream I've had for over a decade now (since I was 15), which was to make films as at least a hobby with the possibility of being involved in the industry if I am indeed that talented and blessed to do so. I don't care if I make 1 film or 100, I want to pursue it as it can always be a hobby if it never develops as anything more.

My question here is now that I've made this decision, I need some tools and equipment to start with. When I was in high school I was fortunate enough to take an amazing course called 'Media Technology' which allowed me to script, shoot, act, direct, edit, and produce a news or informative piece every 2 weeks.. it's probably the most fun and fulfillment I've ever experienced. Anyway, back then we used Canon XL1 and GL1s (miniDV, non-HD) and eMacs with Final Cut Pro 2\3.. hardly the standard nowadays, lol (even the XL2 and GL2's are outdated). So I have been spending most of my recent time reading up on the various high-end consumer and basic prosumer cameras available and am having a hard time making a decision. It essentially boils down to this:

Do I spend $1200ish now or do I save and spend $4000ish later?

In the $1200ish bracket I am looking at (and my understanding of the device):
*Canon Rebel T2i\550D HDSLR - This puppy has been making waves across the field with it's excellent picture quality at an entry price. It is compatible with all Canon lenses and is essentially a 7D at half the price. It also shoots 1080@24p natively. This would also allow me to explore photography and its unique aspects as well as video (which I think is good thing to do considering my goals). Limitations include no external audio jack or audio controls, limited picture\color customization, and rolling shutter "jello" issues for quick panning or whip shots. It also would require many SD cards rather than tapes (which is a plus or minus depending).
*Canon HV40 - This is the latest edition of the high-end consumer camcorder. It has a larger sensor than the 550D\T2i (which means less noise and what else I'm not quite sure), but it is limited to 10x optical zoom and does not support typical lenses (though there are a few as well as some adapters). It's form factor is more apt for filming, and it also shoots 1080@24p natively and has much better autofocus as wells as an external audio jack. I've heard a lot of good things about it's predecessors in budget filmmaking (check out "White Red Panic" shot with a HV20), so I'm wondering if this would be the best device to start with.

1 question I definitely have is if Canon makes a model similar to the HV30\40 that uses flash memory rather than tapes. I believe I'm leaning away from the increasingly obsolete medium of tapes, so if such a model exists it just might be the one I get.

In the $4000ish price range I'm considering either a Canon XH-A1 or XH-G1. These are both prosumer HD video cameras with many features used in professional productions (many manual image and audio controls for example).

For the record, I am not opposed to a different brand (in fact, I've heard good things about the Sony HVR-Z5U), but I only have experience and most of my knowledge from working with Canons. Plus they are consistently reliable and of great quality. I will be exporting to and editing on a PowerMac G5 Quad with 8.0GB RAM running either Final Cut Express 4 or Final Cut Studio v2 (havent decided yet, any insight here would also be helpful as the money-to-features ratio is killing me). I mention this only in case some of you have similar workflow experience and can offer your tips or suggestions.

Anyway, I'm at the point where I'm ready to purchase in 30 days or save for the next 300 days and start shooting, brushing up, and learning a whole lot more. I would appreciate any info, tips, guides, links, advice, etc that you guys can provide on my dilemma. Thanks so much http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/images/smilies/redface.gif

04-01-2010, 02:50 PM
hi, lwright84

I just joined the forum to answer your question... i'm in the same boat as you are.

I've been researching the same kinds of things you're asking about.

Here's my conclusion:

get the t2i! it's cheap, and you can get good glass. sure, maybe the footage won't be submittable for broadcast television for whatever reason, but if it's just a hobby type thing in the mean time, who cares? plus, and this is my personal opinion, internet distribution is the future, so your footage would be just fine out of the t2i and post processing work.

now the thing is, there's a lot of professionals on these types of forums, and they offer a LOT of help. i haven't needed to register on this forum because of the great insight a lot of people here have provided.

note though, that professionals sometimes get carried away in their advice... and i don't blame them. this is because they're coming from a no-compromise environment, and as such, they can't compromise their advice.

with that said, there's nothing wrong in starting small. i have done a bunch of research, and have come up with the following breakdown:

note, that you don't have to buy everything here at once... and note that this hasn't been reviewed by a professional yet (i've posted the same on two different forums waiting for feedback).

i don't have any of this equipment, but i hope this will put things in perspective for you:

i'll quote what i wrote in the other forums:

Hi forum,

i've been researching stuff on the interweb, and came up with a breakdown of the cost of acquiring the cheapest/best video production setup for a narrative (non-professional!!).


Canon T2i/550D $800
Subtotal $800

Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 $600
Fader ND filter 77mm $100
Sigma 30mm f/1.4 $440
Fader ND filter 62mm $100
Rokinon 85mm f/1.4 $260
Fader ND filter 72mm $100
Subtotal $1,600

Davis & Sanford ProVista Airlift Tripod with Pneumatic Centerpost with FM18 Fluid Head & W3 Dolly OR 055XDB Tripod Legs (Black) with 804RC2 3-Way Pan/Tilt Head - Supports 8.8 lbs $215
Subtotal $215

Follow Focus
D focus + 3 lens gears $200
LCDVF $160
Subtotal $360

Support rails
indiRAILSpro DSLR $150
Manfrotto 323 RC2 Rapid Connect Adapter with 200PL-14 Quick Release Plate $40
Subtotal $190

Zoom H4n $300
Clapper $10
Tote Vision HS-1 Hot Shoe Mount for Tote Vision LCD Monitors $20
Windscreen $35
Subtotal $365

EDIT: alternate sound setup (better/more expensive/less hassle in post?) (stip's suggestion)

juicedlink CX211 Adapter, XLR Cable, and RODE NTG-2 Mic $400 (ebay)
juicedLink DN101 $140
Subtotal $540

Grand Total $3,530 OR $3,705
1. This is not a run and gun platform
2. The dolly might be useless without an external monitor (focusing issues)
3. You can get cheaper normal and medium tele lenses (with an adaptor)
4. You can get one lens gear with the D Focus totaling 160 instead of 200
5. You're looking for the best performance to price solutions
6. I am not a professional! There might be a major error in the assumptions
7. You are not a professional!
8. Products chosen based on reviews/price
9. You have a capable computer for post work.
10. You have some sort of script

1. You can find the t2i/550d body only
2. You can find the tokina 11-16mm
3. You don't need AF on your 85mm lens
4. Light gathering and sharpness are equally important for lenses
5. You need three focal lengths for a narrative (wide, normal, medium telephoto)
6. You want new lenses
7. Lens hoods instead of matte box is just fine
8. You need the ND filters to shoot wide open in bright daylight
9. Both tripods got good reviews on B&H, and you shouldn't spend less than $200 on a tripod
Follow Focus:
10. You can live without an external monitor
11. Three lens gears are better than one for the sake of practicality
12. You can sync in post
13. You can do without a dedicated mic


don't forget that audio quality is just as important as (if not more important than) video quality.

hope this helps :)

PS. of course this assumes that you have a script to shoot, actors, etc... and also assumes that you have a capable computer to do post work.

04-01-2010, 04:51 PM
don't forget that audio quality is just as important as (if not more important than) video quality.

I completely agree but then H4n won't do a good job on it's own.

There's a pretty good deal at ebay selling the Juicedlink preamp bundled with a Rode NTG2 mic, you will need a shot gun mic anyway if you're serious about making a movie and this setup is good enough for advanced stuff.

http://cgi.ebay.de/Juicedlink-CX211-Adapter-XLR-Cable-and-RODE-NTG-2-Mic_W0QQitemZ180479489964QQcmdZViewItemQQptZLH_Def aultDomain_0?hash=item2a056a77ac

Check this test comparing H4n and juicedlink along with other options:


04-01-2010, 05:59 PM
^^thanks for the links, stip

i just wonder, if you'd need a juicedlink dn101 in addition to the cx211 to disable the AGC.
from what i've gathered, you do...

so, going off the ebay link, the setup would cost $400 + $140 (for the AGC disabler dn101) = $540

that's not too bad ... i'll update the post to reflect that

thank you

04-01-2010, 07:02 PM
ok, here's a revised version... and a simpler calculation of the costs (distributed over a period of a few months)...

for example, let's distribute the costs over a period of a few months... spending no more than, say $900-ish a month...

first month

Canon T2i/550D Body only .... $800
16GB SDHC Class 10 .... $45 <-- forgot to include this in the initial calculation ... oops
subtotal ... $845
(get a nifty fifty or something to get you through the month)

second month

Sigma 30mm 1.4 .... $440
Rokinon 85mm 1.4 .... $260
Tripod .... $215
subtotal ... $915

third month

D Focus + lens gears ... $200
LCDVF .... $160
Rails ... $150
quick-release plate ... $40
2x Fader ND filters .... $200
subtotal ... $750

fourth month

Tokina 11-16mm 2.8 .... $600
Fader ND filter ... $100
subtotal ... $700

fifth month

juicedlink cx211 ... $190
juicedlink dn101 ... $140
rode ntg-2 .... $260
subtotal .... $590

optional extras....
sixth month

lilliput monitor HDMI input ... ~$260
battery pack (phantom power?) ... $~$50
glidecam 1000 ..... $400
subtotal .... $710

There are some miscillaneous parts that i've probably missed (cables, monitor mount, etc.) i'll factor them into the grand total as an extra $150 (high estimate)...

Grand Total .... $3,800 + optional extras + $150 = $4,660

phew! ok, i hope this all made sense (i just got home from class)... tell me what you think?


04-01-2010, 07:03 PM
Fahad, yes you're right - the tests from the vimeo link however were made without the dn101 and as far as I remember they didn't use the magic lantern firmware when using the juicedlink with the 5DkmII, so AGC wasn't disabled and still results are great.
However, there's a workaround to disable AGC just posted in another thread


As far as I remember Beachtek uses the same method for it's DSLR preamps, throwing a tone in one channel, although it's said to not be the best solution, the dn101 has a different (obviously improved) method.

For recording dialogues / voices you'd want to record mono anyway.

The H4n is also good as a preamp, but you'll definately need external mics for narrative filming. I'm not too sophisticated with audio recording, so maybe you ask the guys in the "audio" section, they know better than me.

But you're absolutely right, audio is essential for a movie. Audience will forgive visual shortcomings if the story is good, but bad audio will distract everyone throughout the whole movie.

04-01-2010, 07:14 PM

Look at it that way: in europe you'd pay almost twice as much for that :)

If you have the camera and lenses (maybe you can borrow some first from a friend to get familiar with the ranges) you'll soon figure out what you need or also don't need, so your list might be changing a lot :)

04-01-2010, 07:21 PM
^^ haha yeah, i'm glad i'm not paying for this stuff in europe...

as far as lenses go, i'm pretty much set on those three (ultra-wide, normal, medium tele), as i've some experience with photography and know what i prefer... but yeah, buying a bunch of lenses because someone tells you to isn't smart....

it's kind of interesting, while breaking down the costs, the most expensive item on that list is the bloody camera! but yeah, i guess it's like buying a computer (because that's what it is)

i appreciate the feedback... this might not come to fruition for me for a long while, but i hope it'll help someone else needing a bit of perspective


04-02-2010, 06:29 AM
Ya I don't have the $4000 to spend now, nor do I have $900 a month to spend afterwards... I would need it much more granularized.

I'm leaning towards the T2i with the IS lens kit for $900, a UV filter, a wide-angle lens w/ hood, and tripod. :huh:

04-02-2010, 12:22 PM
^^that's what i'd start with if i had the money :)

04-02-2010, 01:44 PM
I'm not sure where you are located Iwright84, but many communities in the states and Canada have free or cheap rental of gear. I have a t2i and am happy with it so far. In my home town it has a public access tv station that is completely free if you live in the county and have a library card. At the moment they have pd150/170 but are upgrading. I took a free class on a saturday and am able to borrow a camera or cameras for a couple of days for no charge (no fees whatsoever). They have some lowel light pkgs and some mics also (at mics not the greatest, some lavs). They have final cut and pro tools to use also. Point is you might have resources in your community that are cheap or free to supplement your own gear purchases. Best of luck.

Noel Evans
04-02-2010, 03:38 PM
Wont sift through your list and give you a grand lecture, except to say I would make sure the following items were at the top

Singh Ray Fader ND
CF cards

Now youre ready to take pretty pictures. That Davis and Sanford tripod is junk, in 6 months youll be wishing you didnt pony up a bit more on this to begin with.

The Rode mic, is a solid performer for price, though its a shotgun whose main purpose is exterior locations, thus it needs wind protection. Do a search on the Oktava mics for something well priced and usable on interiors.

Oh and good luck guys. Hope you can realise those dreams.

04-03-2010, 05:18 AM
I would say get the Rebel T1i too. Of all the ultra low budget choices out there, it seems to have the most going for it.

When I was 20 years old, both acquisition and post production was done entirely in the traditional film work flow. Meaning I shot on film and edited on a giant steenbeck that I rented out by the month which sat in the corner of my tiny one bedroom New York apt.
So both production and post production was not only expensive, but much slower.

Now that both cameras and digital video and computer based post production are so much cheaper and faster, I ask myself why I completely lack the chutzpah to make my own films anymore. There's really no excuse but lack of ambition/passion/drive.