I have been reading and listening to podcasts, talks and all the buzz around NAB and all the new releases being predicted and one thing is certain among our industry… You will never be ahead of the curve, you can only hope to give your clients more than they expected and they call you back for more work down the line. It has been a crazy year for us here at Setla Films as I moved from the San Francisco Bay Area to the suburbs of Detroit. What amazed me was the fact that the work didn’t change as it never seemed to be in the Bay Area or very rarely and now I am working more than ever on corporate shoots. This told me something about what I was willing to invest in. I have been using the Sony F55 for over 2 years now and have felt pretty comfortable in the image I was getting both HD and 4k, but sometimes your gut tells you it is time to diversify your experience.
Most of my clients wouldn’t care if I showed up with a DSLR or ARRI Alexa, all they care about is if I can put together a cohesive story and based on the videos that were done before me I can safely say that it truly doesn’t matter what camera I use as I know I can light better and tell a better story than my clients are used to. So the question here is why did I invest over $50,000 on a new camera system?
Well the big question when you own your own business is why buy vs renting for gigs? About 5 years ago when I was on a shoot with a DP who had over 20+ years experience he was getting ready for the first part of the gig and the client asked him “Can I get timecode on the monitor?” and since the camera the main DP was using was mine he came over to me and asked “Hey, can you figure this out?”. I knew right then that if I was ever in a position with a client and there was a need for me to know the camera enough to get through any troubleshooting I had better own it to get to know it. From there I couldn’t bring myself to rent a camera for a client.
Most DP’s I talk to spend a good deal of time comparing cameras before they buy. While price starts the analysis i.e. $5000 – $10,000 range etc then they have narrowed their search to around 3-4 cameras max. I went into this with the idea if I had all the money in the world what camera matches my shooting style i.e. weight, manual lenses, docustyle, interview, travel a lot, mostly a one man band etc. While I narrowed the search to RED, Panasonic Varicam, ARRI and Sony I wanted to make a decision based on the 2 factors. 1st if the camera can produce an amazing image given an educated user and 2nd what is the customer service aspect of the company. I called ARRI to discuss with them the financing package they had going and I got a really rude answer from the receptionist “I’m sorry I was just told to have you email firstname.lastname@example.org to get more info”. REALLY? I am about to spend $50k and this is the response I get? I was floored and immediately went on twitter to show my disappointment. it wasn’t 1 week before I received some shwag from ARRI apologizing for the experience and calling me directly to give me all the info I needed. I couldn’t have been more surprised by the effort they showed even a small company like mine.
Once I realized that this is what I was going to get when I needed help I was convinced that the ARRI Amira was going to be my camera. The funny thing is when you extend yourself like this to buy equipment it becomes a motivator to make sure you find the clients and projects needed to pay the bills. If you ever have any questions about my experience with ARRI don’t hesitate to contact me and I only wish happy shooting for all you that know how important camera choice is!
I knew that I wanted bigger and more diverse clients since most of my initial clients were in the healthcare space,