• Carlos P. Beltran

Basic Gear to Break Into Freelance Video - Interview with Neil Brandvold


This is a transcript from THE FREELANCE JOURNALIST 5 MINUTE TAKLSHOW podcast.

You can listen to it on iTunes.

Carlos:

Hello guys. From Brooklyn, New York, this is Carlos P. Beltran. Welcome to the Freelance Journalist 5 Minute Talkshow. Today we're talking basics. Gear. What's essential in order for us to be able to tell a story and be commissioned. Joining us from El Salvador is Neil Brandvold, a freelance photojournalist and filmmaker based in Washington, DC.

Neil, I have print and radio journalist friends who want to transition onto video, but they don't quite know how to do it. What would you suggest in terms of gear?

Neil:

I originally started just doing photo, and then I switched over to video. I'm a Nikon guy, so I was shooting with a D800, basically the 5D Mark III of Nikon, with a Rode mic that I would switch over. I'd either use the Rode mic or a wireless Lavalier. I would say like a 5D Mark III or a Nikon D800 with good sound. Sound is key.

Carlos:

Right. When I started, I was using a simple DSLR, I remember it was the Canon, with a tripod, a Rode video mic for on the go, and a Sennheiser wireless Lavalier mic for interviews. Back then, DSLRs were a new thing so it was a little bit pricey for me back then. How much could you get some of this stuff for nowadays?

Neil:

That's the exact setup basically that I was shooting when I was working in like Congo and different places. You can get like an old D800 for probably around $2000, you can get the Sennheiser setup for around $500, and the video mic for maybe $400. If you do it on a budget, you really could get that under $4000.

Carlos:

Nowadays the one-person crew is a very common thing, so you don't only shoot the video, you need to know how to edit it as well. Which software would you recommend for beginners? Also, are there any resources you would recommend for people wanting to learn how to edit?

Neil:

I'm using Premiere, and I know there's like the big debate between Premiere and Final Cut Pro. It's pricey the way Adobe is doing things now, and you have to do the monthly subscription, so I'm paying around $50 a month for Premiere. The other thing that I would add, I use Lynda.com a lot, and I pay for a subscription. It teaches incredible classes on how to edit, and not only that, you get all of the Lynda stuff. It's on different gear, it's on shooting, but the lessons are totally priceless for learning how to edit.

Carlos:

Current projects. What are you working on right now you want to tell us?

Neil:

I have a few projects, but right now I'm based in El Salvador and I'm shooting a documentary on what it's like to be a child growing up in El Salvador and all of this gang violence. We've got all the children that are fleeing El Salvador going up to the US, and kind of basically just showing day in the life of a child in El Salvador.

Carlos:

Are you doing that independently, or are you doing it for a network?

Neil:

Independently, and we've got some funding to shoot it so I'll be here for like the next year shooting it, and then hopefully going to a big outlet once we have the final cut.

Carlos:

For this documentary, are you working with basic gear, keeping it minimal, or are you going more high-end with your equipment?

Neil:

I've stepped up. I've shot a lot of big documentaries and stuff with a D800, but now I'm shooting with a Sony FS5 and a lot more professional gear. I have the FS5, a series of lenses, better mics, and I'm shooting with a Phantom 4 drone as well.

Carlos:

I've heard a lot of people talk about how they want to spend extra money to get a fancy 4K-able camera, but most of the work that I do and most of my colleagues do is meant for the web, social media. Does that really make a difference?

Neil:

Really, like if you look at it, you can shoot everything on an iPhone. If you get good sound, you don't need all of this gear. I think most people are watching these videos on their iPhone. Like 4K and all of this stuff is kind of absurd. You don't need that.

Carlos:

Thank you, Neil. We have a few seconds left. Any advice for your fellow freelance journalists around the world?

Neil:

Content is king. Content is the most important thing. Don't worry about gear, don't worry about sound, all that stuff. If you have a solid story, that is the most important thing. Focus on the storytelling and the characters and the plot, and then secondary to that you should worry about the equipment. Really focus on getting a good story.

Carlos:

Neil Brandvold joined us from El Salvador. Thank you, Neil. For more short interviews and advice, subscribe to this podcast. If you like what we're doing, we would love it if you could take a few seconds to leave a short review for this podcast on iTunes. Our goal is to reach 100 reviews on iTunes by our tenth episode.

If you're looking for free, hands-on practical advice on video production and freelance journalism, head over to www.carlospbeltran.com/tips. This was the Freelance Journalist 5 Minute Talkshow. We'll see you next time.

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