08 Apr 2019

Purchasing music for video production can be a confusing headache if you’re unfamiliar with what’s available, what’s allowed and what’s legal. There are numerous websites where you can purchase music, but sometimes they may not be clear on what you can or cannot do with a track. I want…

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16 Mar 2019

Rustic River Media presents the 2019 Outdoor Film School. Join us on May 17-19 for a one-of-a-kind film school geared toward the hunting industry where in three days outdoor filmmaker Joshua Milligan will teach you how to create a video from concept to final production. The course will be…

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31 Dec 2018

Ep. 5 – Using the Custom Dial from Rustic River Media on Vimeo. Looking for ways to be faster and more efficient in the field? Learn how the custom mode dial on your camera can change the way you work in a fast paced run & gun video shoot.

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11 Dec 2018

Sony Native or Canon Adapted?

It’s been about a year since I made the switch from all Canon L glass to all Sony glass, so I thought today would be a great day to share my experience. I hope this can help Sony shooters out there who are wondering if Sony native lenses are the way to go.

My new lineup of lenses as of January 2018

I want to start by saying that I loved my Canon lenses. They produced great images, had unbeatable image stabilization, were super easy to manual focus with thanks to their gear driven focus systems and they could be used on almost any camera system out there thanks to their widespread adaptability. With all of that going for them, why did I make the switch?

My Canon lenses before I made the switch, plus the only Sony lens I had in the Zeiss Batis 25 

For me, it was all about the autofocus. I have been a Sony shooter for eight years now, so I have been adapting Canon glass for quite some time. The adapters have gotten really good, but the autofocus for video with adapted lenses sucks. If you’re wanting usable video autofocus, you have to go native. It’s really the only way.

Autofocus is extremely helpful when using devices like a remote controlled slider

Although I focus manually for roughly 85% of everything I do, having the ability to use autofocus does help out on several types of shots. When I’m using a remote controlled slider, a gimbal, a jib arm or a car mount with a camera mounted to a windshield, I want autofocus available to help me out. I didn’t get that with my Canon lenses, so I was always in a bad spot when it came to those types of shots. Then, when you throw in the fact that I often shoot multi-cam interviews and vlogs, having autofocus on the cameras I can’t monitor is a godsend. Ultimately, this is what drove me to make the switch.

When using native Sony lenses with autofocus, gimbal work is much easier

Since I’ve made the switch, I cannot even begin to count the number of times autofocus has bailed me out. It’s helped me get shots that I otherwise would’ve needed a wireless follow focus system for. It’s also helped me shoot multi-cam interviews without needing to hire a second or third shooter. It’s actually saved me money over the past year, so to me, autofocus alone is worth everything it cost me to switch to Sony.

Using native lenses means I can film multi-cam interviews alone and still have great results

My autofocus for photography has also improved dramatically as well. In addition, I no longer have to fool with adapters which, while much better today than they were a few years ago, still fail from time to time. Plus, when you work with native lenses, every feature and setting your camera offers works completely. That is a great attribute to have.

Native autofocus for photography is another plus, making action pictures easier to capture

But, as with all things in life, nothing is perfect, and this is definitely the case with Sony lenses. First off, they are much harder to manual focus with. Since I do manual focus the vast majority of my shots, this problem is real. By design, Sony E-mount lenses are focus-by-wire which means that they use electronics, not gears to focus the glass manually. The problem with this design is that the focus isn’t consistent. With Canon, turning a lens an inch moves the focus distance the same length every time. With Sony, it all depends on how fast you rotate the focus ring. An inch with Sony lenses can focus 1 ft or 10 ft, all depending on how fast you rotate the ring. This makes manual focusing inconsistent which makes pulling focus on shots harder than it needs to be.

Although autofocus is great, pulling focus manually was far easier on Canon lenses

Image stabilization on the Sony lenses is good when handholding a camera, but when you put a long lens on a tripod and use IS to help stabilize your shots, it doesn’t really work. Professionals will often tell you to turn IS off when using a tripod for video, however it has been my experience that there are many cases where it helps tremendously. For whatever reason, though, the IS on Sony glass has to be “woken up” by shaking the camera violently on the tripod which renders the IS virtually unusable. For me, this is a big deal because Canon’s IS always took out micro shakes that I would get when running a long lens, even on my very good Sachtler tripod. With Sony, this essentially no longer works.

Even with my Sachtler tripod, long lenses are prone to shake, which Canon’s IS would eliminate

With Sony lenses you also don’t get to use speed boosters which was a neat trick to have when running a camera like the FS7 or FS5. Speed boosters give your lenses an extra stop of light and a wider field of view, essentially giving your APS-C crop camera a full frame look. Since you are no longer adapting your lenses when you shoot native, you don’t get to have access to that trick anymore, so you need to keep that in mind before you make the jump.

A speed booster helps you capture better lowlight images with adapted lenses on crop cameras

Sony E-mount lenses also can’t be used with any other camera brand out there with the exception of Kinefinity which isn’t quite a mature camera brand yet. Plus, with Kinefinity cameras you do not have electronic control of your Sony E-mount lenses, so it really only works with fully manual lenses. This means that if you’re a professional shooter who is thinking about making the jump to Sony lenses, you must understand that you are essentially locked in with Sony for life, or at least until another camera company starts offering E-mount cameras that work electronically, or unless you’re willing to switch back again in the future.

My previously owned Canon 18-80 Cine Servo Zoom lens with a bolt-on handgrip

Another issue with Sony lenses is their 18-110 Cine Servo Zoom lens. It’s a great lens and I’m glad I have it, but when I was shooting with Canon, I had their phenomenal 18-80 Cine Servo Zoom lens and, while it was adapted and had a shorter range, I actually preferred that lens. The reason is because of the bolt-on grip they sell for it. With that grip bolted to the 18-80 lens, when I put it on my FS7, it made that camera system a dream to run. It was comfortable, had a servo zoom, had a great range, had very good IS, had great optics, had a great manual focus system and had all the qualities you would expect from a professional cine lens.

The Canon 18-80 was a dream to use with the FS7 thanks to its bolt-on hand grip

With the Sony 18-110 you do get a lot of that, plus a larger zoom range and autofocus, but Sony doesn’t make a bolt-on grip for their lens like Canon does, so you’re stuck with using the FS7’s handgrip. This isn’t the end of the world, but the reality is that the Sony FS7’s handgrip with this lens isn’t anywhere near as comfortable to use as the FS7 is with the Canon 18-80. The FS7 and 18-80 was a combo I could run for hours on in, but the FS7 and 18-110 is a package that I have to set down from time to time thanks to fatigue. So if you’re an ENG shooter who wants a great cine servo zoom lens like this, that’s something to keep in mind.

The Sony 18-110 is a great lens, but with the FS7’s handgrip it’s not the most comfortable to use

The last problem with switching is the cost. I was able to sell all of my Canon lenses to contribute to the switch, but since I was selling used lenses, I still had to come up with several thousand dollars to make the whole thing happen. This is something you really should think about before you jump to all native Sony lenses.

Before switching, you really have to think about the cost and whether or not it’s worth it for you

So after reading this blog, you’re probably thinking that their are more cons than pros, so maybe you shouldn’t make the switch. That’s a very real possibility and is something you should definitely consider. Adapting isn’t fun, but doing so does have its benefits. You get better manual focus, better image stabilization, the ability to use speed boosters, the ability to use almost any camera out there, you save money and you have the ability to work with Canon’s great 18-80 Cine Servo Zoom lens.

If you are working with a big crew or with a variety of cameras, adapting may be the way to go

With Sony, you have to give all of that up, but you get access to some great features that are hard to argue with. Sony’s lenses are just as good optically as Canon’s are, and they aren’t too dissimilar in price. You get outstanding video and photo autofocus (camera dependent of course) and all of Sony’s great features work like they should. You also gain reliability by taking out the risks that come with using adapters.

Reliablity, autofocus & access to all of your camera’s features are solid reasons to switch

So what should you do? That’s the point of reading this article, right? I think it really all depends. If you’re a part of a big production crew who uses a variety of cameras and who has the ability to put different people behind each camera when shooting multi-cam shoots, then I think you’re probably best off staying with Canon. If you’re like me and you often work independently, hiring subcontractors when you do need help and you run all Sony cameras for your projects, then I do think it’s worth the switch. I miss all of the great features that Canon’s lenses offer, but the autofocus is too good to pass up on. It literally has changed how I work.

If you often work independently like I do, the switch to Sony lenses just might be worth it 

I hope this blog has provided insight from someone who has worked with both lens mounts extensively. If you have any additional questions about my journey to the dark side, feel free to email me directly at josh@rusticriver.media. You can also follow my Facebook page at Rustic River Mediaor my Instagram at rustic_river_media and be sure to join my new Facebook group, Filming with Joshto learn more about filming and photography. Thanks for taking the time to read my blog and I’ll see you all next time!

Be sure to join my new Facebook group Filming with Josh

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06 Jun 2018

How to Price Your Video Work

So you’ve started producing videos, but you haven’t quite figured out how to price them. Boy do I remember those days. Figuring out how to price yourself and your product is a challenging proposition and knowing where to start can be daunting. There are really two ways to price a project. One is by a day or hourly rate (day rate is more common) and the other is by the project itself. For me, I price my work both ways depending on what I’m doing. When someone contacts me asking me to field produce an outdoor show, I quote them a day rate. If someone contacts me asking me to create a video for them from concept to final production, I usually quote that by the project.

Old photo of Keith Warren and I while working day rate jobs for two seasons of The High Road

Let’s start with the day rate first, particularly for the hunting and fishing industries. If you get asked to shoot an outdoor show or to film someone’s hunt, a day rate is a great way to price yourself. It allows you to be straight forward in your cost and lets that person know how you compare price wise to other people they may have spoke with in the industry. When you price your day rate, you need to base it on how much experience and knowledge you have, what kind of gear you’re using and what the industry standard price is. Someone who’s only been shooting for a year and is working off of a Canon XA10 with a single microphone isn’t going to be able to charge the same rate as someone who’s been shooting full time for six years and is working off of a Sony FS5. Knowing where you stack up is important.

Earlier in my career, filming with a Panasonic GH4 and Lumix 12-35 2.8 lens

If you’re relatively new to filming and have entry level equipment (i.e. Canon XA10), you should expect to get somewhere between $100-150 a day. If you’ve got a few years of experience and have some pretty decent gear (i.e. Sony A6300/A7SII with lenses), you can expect to make between $200-350 a day. If you’ve got 5-10 years of experience and have invested in high-end equipment (i.e. FS5, FS7, C300 MK II), your rate will often fall between $400 and $750 a day, depending on where you are in that spectrum. If you’ve got over 10 years of experience and own a RED, a VariCam LT or something along those lines, you won’t be reading this article and your rate will be hitting the $1,500 plus range per day. There’s obviously different variables than just these, but this should give you a ballpark idea on where you are.

Getting ready for a shoot with my Sony FS7 and a Canon 18-80 T4.4 Cine Servo Zoom lens

Once you’ve determined what day rate you’re comfortable with, you next need to figure out what your expenses are. When traveling, I charge the state per diem when driving in my vehicle, all airfare (flights, baggage, airport parking, etc.) when flying and any rental cars plus gas if needed. I also charge for hotel expenses, film permits (if necessary) and anything else that comes up as a cost. You should do the same as it’s part of the cost of production that your client should expect to pay in order for you to be there. Some people also charge half days when traveling, but I don’t. I charge a full day when traveling as what you’re paying for when you hire me is my time, and if I’m gone for 7 days (5 days shooting, 2 days traveling), then you should expect to pay my rate for that time. Not everyone works this way, so how you price your travel days is up to you, but you should at the very least expect half day pay for traveling.

I always make sure to charge for all travel expenses as it’s part of what it costs to get me to the job

One thing to mention about day rates for the outdoor world specifically is that some people, such as myself, dictate our rates based on where we are going and what we are doing. For example, if I’m asked to film a three day turkey hunt in South Texas about an hour’s drive from my house, the price for that project will be significantly different than what I’m going to charge per day for a two week ibex hunting trip in the Himalaya Mountains. The ibex trip involves a much higher risk on gear and on me physically and is in general a much more demanding job. Plus, it’s going to require me to fly to some Asian country to do it, therefore my rate for something like that will usually be at least twice what my rate for the turkey hunt would be, if not more. I personally don’t have a single day rate for all of my outdoor work these days as I’ve learned that each hunting or fishing related job is unique in its own way. I take a look at the job I’m quoting, get a sense of where it’s going to be at, how physically demanding it’s going to be, how hard on my gear it will be, how much risk is involved, how challenging the story will be to produce, etc., and offer a rate plus expenses for that specific job based on the value I place on it. Not everyone works this way, but for me this is the best way to put a day rate on outdoor related projects.

Filming an ibex hunt in the Himalaya Mountains has a different value than a turkey hunt in Texas

For day rate film jobs in the outdoor industry, this system works, but you can price even higher than this for day rate jobs when working outside of the outdoor industry. For example, if I get hired to shoot all-day interviews for a plastic surgeon, my day rate will be much higher due to the nature of the job and the industry it’s in. I have to get there early, setup the entire room for the shoot, get all three of my cameras ready and get out my remote controlled slider, lights, boom mics and more in order to do the shoot. After the interviews are over, I then have to break all of my gear down, pack everything up and put the room back together. There is an incredible amount of work and expertise involved in a high-end interview shoot like this, therefore my day rate is often 2-3 times the price it would be for an outdoor or hunting related shoot. Plus, the industry itself expects to pay more than other industries, so try to price accordingly. Knowing the scope of your project, as well as the industry, will help you further determine your rates.

Filming high-end multi-cam interviews for a plastic surgeon takes a lot of time, gear and experience

As I mentioned earlier, I price many projects, if not most, by the project itself. What that means is that rather than give a day rate, I give a total price for doing the entire project. For example, if I get asked to shoot a 4 minute promotional video for a school, I will give them a set price which includes all costs. I put that information into a proposal and that’s my official bid for the job. This allows the school to know exactly what they are paying for, how long it will take and what the overall cost is.

Shooting aerials for a promotional video with my DJI Phantom 4 Pro+

When pricing a project like this, I first estimate how much time I think it will take me to shoot and edit it, as well as how long I think it will take to write the script, location scout, get the people, find the props, etc. Once I’ve determined roughly how many days it will take, I then multiply that number by my day rate and lump this together as one cost, say $5,000. Next, I determine what expenses are involved. These expenses are travel costs, storage space (based on roughly how much hard drive space it will cost me to store two copies of the project), film permits (if needed), music rights, actor fees, voiceover expenses (if a VO artist is needed), graphics (often for After Effects templates), sound effects, props and additional shooters or sounds guys if needed. Any additional expenses or rental costs, if specific equipment is requested, is added here.

When pricing by the project, you need to price in expenses, including locations, props and actors

Once I have the overall cost of my time as well as the expenses required, I am then able to determine the cost for the project, say $6,500. Once I have that together, I can officially build my proposal and send it in for the bid. If the client likes my work, experience and bid, then there’s a dang good chance I’m going to get the job. How much you charge to do a project like this again goes back to your equipment, experience level and overall knowledge of video production. The further on that scale you are, the more valuable you are, so the more you can charge for your services and product. Keep this in mind as you move forward in your business.

What equipment you have plays a large role in what you can charge

Overall, pricing is a never ending, always changing target that constantly moves based on where you are in your career. However, knowing where you stack up as well as what all to charge for will make pricing your projects much easier. You may end up asking for too little and regretting it, or asking for too much and getting a no, but that’s ok as it’s a learning process that every person has to go through. Just remember to charge for expenses and to price yourself according to your experience level, knowledge and equipment.

Filming a day rate project for eBay with my Sony A7RIII & Zeiss Batis 25mm 2.0 on a Movi M5 gimbal

My last piece of advice is to not be afraid to ask your worth. I know far too many talented video producers who charge way too little because they are afraid to ask for more. You must not forget that you are offering a service that’s valuable and that not everyone can do. When you have good gear and a solid understanding on how to use it, then you certainly should be able to charge for that. That’s the whole point of offering a service to people that they don’t have. Never forget that you can always go down in price, but you can never go up. That perhaps could be the best advice I ever received when starting my career and maybe it will be for you too.

Shooting interviews with my Sony A7RIII, Zeiss Planar 50mm 1.4 and SmallHD FOCUS monitor

Thanks for taking the time to read this blog and for visiting my page! To check out my work and to see what kinds of projects I do, click on the Home tab. If you have any questions about this article or about filming in general, send me an email at josh@rusticriver.media and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. For more vlogs and blogs just like this, follow me on Facebook at Rustic River Media and be sure to join my new Facebook group, Filming with Josh. Until next time!

Join my Facebook group, Filming with Josh, to learn more about filming and the business behind it

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