We occasionally get asked from time to time about what equipment we have and use, where we find it and if we own or rent it. Well I must admit, this is not a particularly easy question to answer. I say this because some of our stuff is proprietary and we keep that kind of information on lock down for the most part.
I can start of here though; 98% of our ‘products’ are manipulated with the Adobe Creative Suite. It may seem kind of strenuous to drop $2500 on a computer program, but considering that we use that suite for all of our compositing, video editing, graphical design, audio recording/editing, photo manipulation, DVD authoring and website creation (not to mention all of our PDF forms); it’s technically really worth the price. If you don’t feel like forking out that much money, you can always do subscriptions of Adobe for a bit cheaper And I say about 98% of our animations are done in 3ds Max.
Equipment wise, truth be told, a lot of our equipment started off as home made DIY projects before we had the ability to buy the real deal. There are many times where you will either dig though patents to save a few hundred (or a few thousand) dollars and attempt to build something yourself or you will conjure up you’re own way of building and/or doing something. Seriously, experimentation is worth it; We’ve have quite a few good things come from experimentation.
Mics are definitely something that you will need to invest in. Having Adobe Audition, a 12 track mixer and OnLocation is great, but if you don’t have a decent mic, you might as well pull audio from a camcorder. Shotgun mics are generally what we like to use since they are made for directional pick up, but they can be rather expensive. I really suggest trying to rent one if you don’t have a few hundred to spend on a mic.
Lights are another big thing. And honestly, instead of lightboxes and par cans (which can be pricy and do add up), we pretty much modded our own. Fluorescent “ceiling” lights, halogen shop lights and custom light boards are pretty much what we use. Granted, we have diffused the light output and use color gels (such as CTO (color temp orange) and CTB (color temp blue)) to get the desired look that we’re going for. We also utilize bounce boards (which do just like what it sounds, they bounce light by using either a white or reflective surface towards your object) to help break up the hot spots. You’d be surprised what a run to your nearest home depot and hobby store can do for you.
Electricity and computers;
Once you get into renting or collecting a small arsenal of lights, cameras and computers, you will find out real Quick that you will need a decent amount of juice to run it all. If you can, try and keep that in mind when scouting locations for filming. The first thing that we usually hear (when filming outside and/or in a remote location) is “we can always use generators”. Well that is true; however, generators are loud. Yes it is possible to run a couple hundred feet of extension cord but it’s not always economical. Also, if you are using a lot of lights (because you are filming at night or you need to balance your lighting), generators don’t always work out very well. Example, if we used all of our lighting rigs, we would be drawing approximately 7500 watts of juice. That’s almost 100 100watt bulbs. That’s also not including running laptops, monitors or anything else for that matter. It would require us to use three 6k generators to run everything. Not to mention that if we had to use generators, 90+% of our audio would be junk.
Computers and hardware;
We had put together a workhorse computer to deal with HD video and 3D animations. To put it simple, to handle Hd video and animations, you may want to put aside a few grand.
Our main workhorse consists of the following:
Dual Xeon 3.4 ghz Quad core processors
20 gb DDR3 ram
2x 1 gb Nvidea Quadro Video cards
4 tb hard drive space
1 Nvidea Tesla GPU
2x 24″ Samsung LED monitors
42″ Samsung LED HDTV (used as an external preview monitor)
Now granted, you don’t need something of this size and power, but depending on what you are trying to do, you may need to eventually upgrade to it. iMacs are great to work with and so are Mac Pros; Windows based pcs are not bad to start out with though. In all honesty, we have just started to convert over to Apple based computer platforms from our Windows workstations. Even our “workhorse” is a Windows based pc for now.
Although I will not go into a great deal of information in lieu of our cameras, I will say that about 90% of them are HD. Actually we only have three that are not (which are the Sony VX2100, the Canon XL1, and a cheap Panasonic that we used for “high risk” shots before we got GoPros). With cameras, you want something that is good quality, versatile and good with lower light scenarios. Low light abilities are a big thing; anyone can get an HD camera from an electronics store for a couple hundred dollars now days, but the low light ability for these cameras suck. The less light, the more grainy and bad the images looks. I would also like to point out the use of DSLRs now as well. They are nice, but be forewarned, they do suffer from rolling shutter which can potentially render a shot useless depending on how bad it is and what you are doing with it.
Laythrom Production Staff