Marrying old and new…

…technologies that is.

So in my gear bags I have stuff that is more than a decade old that can be married with my new toys. We’re talking June-December weddings here folks. Analog and digital. Fresh out of the box and faded with time.

My mainstay tripod/now too heavy for everyday use (purchased in 2002) is firmly fixed to the short jib I got a year ago. Old heavy tripod is a perfect base for a jib. Can hold the twenty pound weights and give a stable platform for shooting.

Ditto the XLR cables and Electrovoice mike. Old technology…heck dating back to the seventies (not mine but the concept). It can be married to any out-of-the-box camera.

I guess what I’m getting at is that while new is nice and in some cases better, some old stuff just won’t die.

I have a Canon ZR10…picked it up on ebay a few years ago. I have fond memories of my first digital camera…same camera…that I got right after bailing from news in 2002. Just couldn’t live without a camera in hand and it was affordable at the time (on a rookie teacher’s stipend).

That little baby still works and I pull it out occasionally just for old times sake. It has an amazing zoom, audio inputs…and while the quality is most definitely NOT high def, it puts out an acceptable image.

My gear bags are a combination of new and old, fresh-faced and creaky-old. I keep what works and find ways to marry it with what is current to make images that matter.

So if you’re out there in dreamtime wanting the best and newest, realize that it’s only gear. What really counts is your vision…what comes out of using the gear. Videojournalism is NOT about having all of the toys. It is about telling the story.

Back in biz part 2…

The basic groundwork has been laid for the business. Right now it’s just me and the gear and my worksite, thinknews. But in order to make this viable I need an extended list of folks who have professional experience AND who I can work with. The latter is right up there with the experience because if I can’t work with someone…if I can’t trust them totally…they are useless.

This next week is dedicated to contacting old co-workers and friends to get their information, gear list, and rates. The purpose is threefold:

1. Want to be able to hand off jobs I cannot take due to scheduling or other constraints.
2. Want subcontractors for any jobs I get that require more than me and my gear.
3. Want folks who are lower and higher on the food chain than me – once again for referrals. Most of the folks I plan to work with are right in my range with rates and gear…a few have more/better gear and a few have less/more prosumer gear. If I get a client I feel I cannot serve due to their needs, I still want to make them happy by referring them to someone who can service their budget and needs.

So far…so good. Seems there is an overabundance of cameramen/editors but (wow) a shortage of talent/narrators. I’ve actually been eyeballing the husband (with his amazing shock of white hair) as talent. ??? Was that the sound of the door slamming and rapid retreat of footsteps???

Back in biz…

I will confess – I am a videoholic. There’s no twelve step program for this ailment, so I have to feed it every day. And I’ve finally decided to both get serious and legal. Today I got my business license. And that, my friends, is a journey unto itself.

First stop was the county Registrar’s Office to file for a fictitious business name. Of course I could have used my own moniker at no cost, but hey – I’ve kind of grown to love the “thinknews” label. Twenty-six bucks. Step one of THAT process.

Then off to the Community Development department for the actual license. Had the paperwork all filled out and slapped it down on the counter and pulled out the checkbook. And casually mentioned I might in the future be hiring subcontractors for jobs if I got lucky. BIG mistake. Counter Lady very pointedly said, “Oh you can’t HAVE employees at a home business site.” “But they’re SUBCONTRACTORS” I pointed out to her. Well, you can see where this is heading. She stuck to her guns, so I asked – what’s the difference between a home business and real business license?

Home business. First off – conducted out of your HOME. Both you and the home owner (fortunately one and the same in my case) must sign off on the license. NO clients or employees allowed on site. Well – no employees AT ALL. Unless they are members of the family.

Business license. May have employees and MUST be located in a commercially zoned property. Loads more paperwork. All this for an additional seventy buckeroos. I have to PAY for an office that neither employees or clients will ever see? Hmmmmm…

I hesitated a moment and told her to continue with the home license. Honestly – it will be just me, my gear, and a lot of email and phone connections to clients I may never see. And the little matter of “employees”? Let’s just say that I spoke with a local video production business owner (retired) who said Counter Lady had it all wrong – subcontractors are NOT employees legally. Thank you. Doled out a check for $430 with a promise I’d have the paperwork in a few weeks and be legal.

Step two of Fictitious Name: visit my local newspaper office and pay over $85 to have the notice formally published.

Newspaper friends … understand that I love you dearly, but this is an archaic system. Wouldn’t a notice on a county website more than meet the need and probably for less than half the cost? So WHO reads these notices? (Guess I’m gonna be doing it for the next four weeks.)

Final step…which I’ve been working on all week…is insurance.

Liability to cover my a** should someone decide to get injured (physically or psychically) on whatever job I’m on…or should I inflict damage on persons or property. (Note to self: buy more gaffers tape and possibly a couple of rubber throw mats to go over cable runs.) Protection basically for stuff I have a bit of control over.
Gear – some solace in the event my gear gets heisted.
Errors and ommissions – protection from what is NOT in my control. A failed SDHC card. Acts of God or stuff I can’t foresee that might totally tick off the client, who either wants a reshoot or a piece of my hide.

Checked out a couple of agencies and am going with one recommended by a number of folks over on b-roll.net. Brad at Buell Insurance was helpful and direct. Waiting for the request to pay…and I’m covered as of 1/1/12. Cost? Well, you’re gonna hafta get your own quote. It all depends on YOUR gear, location, estimated income, travel expectations…let’s just say that it was a bit more than the biz license and let it go at that.

My little end-of-year adventure is (nearly) over. The loose ends?

1. Pay insurance
2. Wait for arrival of (approved) home business license
3. Fictitious business name/the final step. Once the legal publishing requirement is met, the paper will send me some official paperwork which I must then forward to the Recorder’s office along with a(nother) check for $7.00. THEN I’m finally and totally legal.

Is it worth all of this trouble? In my case, yes. While this is a part time retirement gig, I do want to bid on local and state contracts and other opportunities I can’t even consider without flying above the legal radar. Besides, when folks ask what I do, now I can say I’m businesswoman!

Pimp my gear…

This is the posting formerly known as “Impressing or getting it done…

A friend dropped by a while back to borrow some gear and bemoaned the fact they couldn’t afford the gear wanted/needed to do video productions.

So I showed off my Canon HV10…and got the immediate response, “but THAT won’t impress anyone.”

Hmmmm…

So now impressing the client/public is important? I’ve heard that before from still photogs, some of whom think that bigger is better (so, apparently, is black, so forget silver) so that folks KNOW they are pros.

I’ve gone through the whole “lost my impressive thing” business years ago…when I downsized out of news into teaching and went from a Panasonic DVCPro to a Canon ZR10.

So…stand by until I return with a way to ‘press your gear up…

…and here’s a way to dress up your gear. My reason – to make it more versatile. For those of you with self-esteem issues, these add-ons will bulk up your little “nothing” camera so that it will be sure to impress.

Let’s start with the basic camera – a little old Canon HV20 (and this, by the way, can work with any of the small prosumer/consumer models).

First, you need a bracket to attach all of your add-ons.

Practically speaking, here are ways to improve both your visuals and audio.

Small portable light – I’m using a Readylite 20. My dream is a Litepanel and it’s on my Christmas wish list.

Audio add-on so you can use pro XLR audio. A Beachtek, which allows me to use my Electrovoice 635 and Lectrosonics wireless.

Lens extenders for both telephoto and wide angle.

Scary….almost a Frankenstein of video production. But in bulking up or “pimping,” I’ve both improved my ability to get visuals and I’d say increased the BS (oops impress the client) factor by at least 7 out of ten.

But at a cost. Got the tele lens as part of an old VHS kit…dumped the camera, but kept the lens. Wide angle cost around $100. Beachek another $100 used. Bracket was $15. Light probably $40. The XLR cables/mike I already had. But lets add on another $300 for the tele lens, cables, mike (and that’s conservative). Another $550.

Is it worth it? If you want to impress, you can get it all for a lot less or just add that on to the cost of a bigger camera. Something…bigger…longer…

But it’s definitely worth it as far as extending your ability to be creative.

I feel a digital daze coming on…

It’s been a few years since I hosted a Digital Day. Right now I’m waiting for a new “toy” – a betacam deck, which should be here by next week. Old technology you say? Not me – with a pile of my own tapes and a whole slew of Willie Kee tapes that need to be digitized, I call it current tech. Plus it’s a draw for old comrades who want to spend some time together watching themselves bumble around in their youth.

So if you’re in the area, the (fifth???) somewhat annual Digital Days are coming up – date to be determined, but I’m guessing later this month or early next month. What do you bring? Your enthusiasm and your toys. I show you mine, you show me yours. There’ll be folks who still struggle with turning on a computer to experts and everything in between. This is NOT a public event – just like-minded spirits converging in time and space for a few hours of companionship.

New toys and old toys…

Hardware and camera stores are bad for my budget. Yesterday I wandered into my local camera store (Wolfes…the only full service camera store around since Gluskins went out of business a few months back), intending to pick up a filter for my HV20.

Wouldn’t you know they don’t carry what they call “camcorder” filters. Which means my little buddy with its 43mm thread wouldn’t be getting a facelift today.

But – oops. I did need a few batteries for my lav mike. Done.

And a lens cleaning kit – good idea/something in a nice hard case I can toss in my bag.

Hey – what’s that? A mountable grip that will hold two accessories! Wow. Gotta have that.

So for the price of a good filter, I got off cheap and escaped before I started looking at cameras…hmmmm.

Today I’m playing with putting old toys together with the new toys. I haven’t been able to easily use my wireless with the HV20 because there was no real way to mount it. With a little work I can glue a shoe to the receiver and run a short XLR to mini-jack plug to the camera.

I can also add an on-camera light or shotgun. The camera itself has a shoe holder, but since the wireless receiver is longer than the camera…well, that sure won’t work.

Now I can add up to three accessories! Wheeee! For about $15 it might make sense to get more of these for the Elura 100s we use in the classroom.

The nice thing is that the grip and accessories add heft to the camera…it feels more real. And hopefully it will impress the heck out of my hapless victims and I won’t be mistaken for Grandma Green – again.

Photos added later…gotta run to prep for the 48FP.