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The Kind of Camera You Should Buy 2

Lightmeters with Modern Cameras
I read in a book that you should always use a light meter when shooting video. I asked a guy at the local photography store and he said I didn't have to worry about it. Which one is right?

Contributed by Glen Berry

What digital video camera should I buy?

This question comes up very, very often. The standard reply is to ask, what is your application? It's not a very satisfactory answer. Most people want to hear a manufacturer name and model number. However, the reason why the question is asked so often is because the answer is not a "one size fits all".

If you are planning on being a professional videographer, this is a question that you will ponder long and hard because chances are, you will be relying on this camera and you won't be able to afford another for some time.

If you are an independent filmmaker, why are you buying a camera? If you are planning on doing some shorts to build up your reel and get experience, how many shorts do you think you're going to do per year? One every three months? 3 days per shooting each? That's only 12 days of shooting per year. You'd be far better off, dollar for dollar, renting a camera. And you can rent a far better camera than you can buy and get a complete package with a good tripod, lenses, etc. Most rental houses will offer you a killer deal on a digital video camera package (or film) for your indie project.

If you're shooting a feature, how many weeks will you be shooting? Chances are if you're ready for a feature and you shoot on DV, your next project won't be on DV.

The most compelling reason not to buy a camera, if you're just getting started or you want to write/produce/direct is that there are a lot of people out there with cameras, professionals even, who would be happy to work on your project if it is any good. If it's not any good, why do you want to shoot it? They are working on boring commercial/corporate/industrial projects that holds little creative interest to them. Bring them your project and you might be able to get them, and their camera, on board.

That's not to say that buying a camera isn't smart. If you have an inclination towards camera operation and you are part of a filmmaking group light on techs, it would be a great way to log a lot of experience. However, don't let the camera be another obstacle to keep you from making movies.

Berry started his career as an editor and post production supervisor, having worked on documentaries for PBS and The Discovery Channel. Berry’s award-winning short fiction, documentary and experimental films have screened at festivals around the world. His first feature film secured a rare worldwide distribution deal and received a limited theatrical release.

The publisher of Film Underground and founder of Northwest Film School, Berry has taught production at Western Washington University and Whatcom Community College. Berry was awarded a Master of Arts in Production and Direction from the National University of Ireland and holds a Bachelor of Arts in Media and Theatre Arts from Montana State University.

Berry’s academic work has been published in scholarly journals as well as trade publications such as MovieMaker Magazine, CyberFilmSchool.com and FilmFestivals.com as well as The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Filmmaking. He is the publisher of Film Underground and has served as an expert source for international newspaper and radio media outlets. Berry twice served as the Director of the Northwest Projections Film Festival and as a panel judge on numerous festivals and competitions.

Glen Berry is the Director of the Northwest Film School where he teaches directing, producing and editing. He has specialized in creative editing and post production techniques with independent film. His interests include the cognitive functions of the mind as it applies to motion picture editing as well as new forms of communications in the visual arts.

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