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Author Topic: Entry-level video production  (Read 13384 times)

Curmudgeon

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Entry-level video production
« on: April 14, 2012, 01:16:36 AM »
To the videographers on the forum:

My young nephew (like every other artistically inclined person under 35) has joined some fellow conspirators with the intention to perpetrate video production. They've gone so far as to hire an attorney and incorporate. They think they'll buy a T3i, a $400 zoom, a few accesories--spend maybe $1600 to $1800--and wow the world on the basis of their creativity. They have some horsepower as far as writing, on-screen talent, even marketing goes, but I don't think one of them knows an f-stop from a drive mode from a liquid head.

I'm the family photographer, and my nephew has approached me about how to best invest their limited budget. My sense is that the kindest thing I could do for these kids is to put a pin to their bubble, but I'm basically a stills photographer and I can't critique their game plan with the kind of authority and specificity that might get their attention before they make some costly mistakes. I shoot a 5D2 and I do know that it doesn't take $25000 worth of equipment to make an adequate corporate video. I also know that digital has made it relatively easy for anyone to take a decent picture and raised the technical standards for taking one that stands out. Since video is the big thing among the younger generation, I'm sure the same reality applies to a higher power.

I presume that serious video production requires at least a half-serious camera, a solid tripod, a decent liquid-damped head, a lamp (and a stand) or two for modeling the talent, maybe a basic shoulder mount , and surely off-camera audio recording capability--as well as a few other things that might not occur to a novice. But maybe not. I'd appreciate if a couple of forum members who do video full-time or part-time (say as an adjunct to a wedding business) would take 20 minutes to address a letter to my nephew--his name is Dave--about what a realistic entry-level video lash-up includes and what it costs. I'll refer him to this thread.

Thanks in advance,

      Curmudgeon 
« Last Edit: April 14, 2012, 02:04:22 AM by Curmudgeon »

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Entry-level video production
« on: April 14, 2012, 01:16:36 AM »

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Re: Entry-level video production
« Reply #1 on: April 14, 2012, 12:07:37 PM »
They might check out some of the many video blogs on the internet where successful video makers share the equipment and how-to with enthusiasts.
 
You have to start somewhere, and for utube videos, you can get by on a basic budget.  The camera body is indeed the smallest part of a video budget, sound is 50%, lenses, of course, and lighting.  Some things can be rented and some can be home made by clever people. 
 
A good way to start might be by working weddings, bar mitzvahs, and cranking any money earned back into equipment.
 
Here is a link to a article about Vinvent Laforet.  He had the good fortune to have a father who was a well known photographer of movie stars and sets, but his father did not want him to be a photographer, rather a doctor or lawyer, so he started with nothing but a camera and worked up from there.
 
http://idesignyoureyes.com/2011/01/21/one-on-one-interview-with-vincent-laforet/
 
 
Rather than burst their bubble, encourage them to learn and be clever in the use of what they have to start with.

bp

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Re: Entry-level video production
« Reply #2 on: April 14, 2012, 02:19:50 PM »
Already incorporated?  They show admirable determination.  Bursting that bubble might be fruitless

All this is just my uber-humble opinion - many may disagree.  But yes - just a camera and a lens is just barely getting started.  Unless they plan to do nothing but static shots, at the very least, they'll need a set of sticks with a fluid head - the Manfrotto 701HDV is a good low cost starter head (701 head and sticks can be had for around $300).  They can get away with not having a shoulder rig. 

Audio is a whole other ball of wax.  Nothing can cheapen a well-shot video like bad audio.  Unless they're planning to do nothing but music videos and shoot without sound, they'll need something.  Zoom H4n or an H1 in a pinch ($100 to $300).  A decent shotgun mic to stick on the end of a home made boom pole might also be a good call.  Omnidirectional / stereo mics on the zooms are great for environmental sound but don't do very well with dialogue

A T3i (even a used T2i) actually punches above it's pay grade, in terms of video quality, but that's also highly dependent on the glass.  Just one "$400 zoom" sounds scary.  Slow glass works OK if you've invested heavily in lighting - or available/home-made lighting works OK if you've invested heavily in fast glass.  Combine slow/cheap glass and bad lighting, and they'll have a very short quick journey into bad video land.  Instead of a cheap sliding aperture zoom (zooming is close to useless in anything but run-n-gun event video where every moment counts and you don't have time to compose your shots as carefully), they might look at picking up a couple cheap but decent primes, like a 35 f/2 ($300'ish) and an 85 f/1.8 ($400'ish).  The 85 is especially good for it's price.  If they go with a used T2i instead of the newer T3i, they might make their money go farther.  Buying used in general could seriously save them some dough

There's also all the peripherals like memory cards, NLE editing software, etc...

If they really do have great writing ability and creativity... that will be the most valuable asset in their bag, and can overcome a slew of gear-related obstacles.

IMHO
« Last Edit: April 14, 2012, 02:25:29 PM by bp »
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scottkinfw

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Re: Entry-level video production
« Reply #3 on: April 14, 2012, 03:01:42 PM »
Disclaimer:  I am a stills  photographer too.

I would look at Sekonic for cinematic light meters.  They have some that measure colors etc.  Lighting is a basic, yet advanced topic, but critical to master.

sek

Already incorporated?  They show admirable determination.  Bursting that bubble might be fruitless

All this is just my uber-humble opinion - many may disagree.  But yes - just a camera and a lens is just barely getting started.  Unless they plan to do nothing but static shots, at the very least, they'll need a set of sticks with a fluid head - the Manfrotto 701HDV is a good low cost starter head (701 head and sticks can be had for around $300).  They can get away with not having a shoulder rig. 

Audio is a whole other ball of wax.  Nothing can cheapen a well-shot video like bad audio.  Unless they're planning to do nothing but music videos and shoot without sound, they'll need something.  Zoom H4n or an H1 in a pinch ($100 to $300).  A decent shotgun mic to stick on the end of a home made boom pole might also be a good call.  Omnidirectional / stereo mics on the zooms are great for environmental sound but don't do very well with dialogue

A T3i (even a used T2i) actually punches above it's pay grade, in terms of video quality, but that's also highly dependent on the glass.  Just one "$400 zoom" sounds scary.  Slow glass works OK if you've invested heavily in lighting - or available/home-made lighting works OK if you've invested heavily in fast glass.  Combine slow/cheap glass and bad lighting, and they'll have a very short quick journey into bad video land.  Instead of a cheap sliding aperture zoom (zooming is close to useless in anything but run-n-gun event video where every moment counts and you don't have time to compose your shots as carefully), they might look at picking up a couple cheap but decent primes, like a 35 f/2 ($300'ish) and an 85 f/1.8 ($400'ish).  The 85 is especially good for it's price.  If they go with a used T2i instead of the newer T3i, they might make their money go farther.  Buying used in general could seriously save them some dough

There's also all the peripherals like memory cards, NLE editing software, etc...

If they really do have great writing ability and creativity... that will be the most valuable asset in their bag, and can overcome a slew of gear-related obstacles.

IMHO
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Policar

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Re: Entry-level video production
« Reply #4 on: April 14, 2012, 04:23:32 PM »
Sounds like they have more business sense than photographic savvy, in which case they'll do fine.  So long as they can deliver a consistent and marginally better product than their clients themselves would produce and seem professional along the way they will do okay and grow and improve.  All the why-you-can't advice in the world will only dissuade, so just encourage and provide the basics.  Paul McCartney never learned to read music and the Beatles did okay.  Most producers and directors don't know their f stops or lenses when they start, either.  With a dSLR you can expose fine by eye (and btw most cinematographers don't trust Sekonic meters, Spectra is the industry standard, but you don't need anything at all for videography) and if you're shrewd you can easily pick up lighting techniques and composition by watching the competition's reels--or hire someone with more experience until you can do it yourself.

They'll do fine.  Their clients don't know what f-stops are either, and don't care.  There are a million film students who know all the technical stuff and will work for nearly free, but artistic pretensions and technical stubbornness just get in the way (and business savvy people can hire these people dirt cheap anyway).  His clients will care about a professional business approach, professional website, and reliability.  That's what I'd reinforce.  Sounds like a fine kit, btw.  National ads are shot on the 7D regularly so it's not a matter of gear, either.

The_Arsonist

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Re: Entry-level video production
« Reply #5 on: April 14, 2012, 05:23:28 PM »
I agree that audio quality is more important than video quality, especially these days. A quick and cheap way to get decent dialogue is to use a smartphone as a primary recording device.

With this setup, you can use the audio from the camera to sync each separate dialogue track in your NLE on the computer. This alone will get good enough audio to compete with most corporate video setups while spending only $50/person in a shot

But, if people are moving around a lot, as in a film, rather than stationary people talking, then this setup would not be ideal, as the mics make noise when moved against clothing. For that, a good boom mic, with an operator, is better. That means
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Policar

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Re: Entry-level video production
« Reply #6 on: April 14, 2012, 05:43:22 PM »
And some lavs for sure.  Clients love lavs because they make you look professional and they have great sound quality in difficult conditions.  Sound is crucial.  And furni pads are nice.  LED lighting is all the rage now, also carry gels, diff, etc. and a nice tripod--super important.
« Last Edit: April 14, 2012, 05:54:31 PM by Policar »

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Re: Entry-level video production
« Reply #6 on: April 14, 2012, 05:43:22 PM »

Curmudgeon

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Re: Entry-level video production
« Reply #7 on: April 15, 2012, 03:41:03 AM »
To all the folks who kindly took time to reply, thank you. It  strikes me there's a wealth of practical information here. And maybe I misworded my initial entry. I earned my living for forty years as a free lance writer, and I would never discourage anyone from a life based on pursuing your true interests . Beats the hell out of punching a time card. But you do need to know what you're getting into. What I was hoping to get--and did get--was practical ideas about gear choices on a limited budget and some words of advice about the need to be informed, ingenious and hardworking.

As a stills guy, I can't comment about the info on audio, although the ingenuity and specificity (including weblinks) is appreciated. Arsonist's suggestion to use smart phones as lavs is intriguing. As for the video end, I do think Policar's suggestion to start with two basic primes, a medium wide-angle (35 mm) and a short telephoto  (85mm), is spot on. (If I were shooting a T3i or other 1.6 crop, I'd consider a 100 mm for a long lens.)
 
What I think I'm hearing is that you could possibly break in--with luck--for $1500-1800, but for $2500-3000 you could hope to soon be competitive--if you made informed equipment buying choices and you had your other bases covered. In addition to the advice offered by other forum members, what I would say to Dave and his partners is this: if you plan to earn your living with a camera, you need one teammate (probably two) who is passionate about  solving the technical and esthetic challenges of taking great pictures--whether still or video. If it's a matter of "who wants to be camera man this week?" you have a problem.

Thanks again to all who took the time to offer advice and suggestions.

                             Curmudgeon
« Last Edit: April 15, 2012, 07:50:33 AM by Curmudgeon »

cayenne

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Re: Entry-level video production
« Reply #8 on: April 17, 2012, 10:01:22 AM »
I agree that audio quality is more important than video quality, especially these days. A quick and cheap way to get decent dialogue is to use a smartphone as a primary recording device.

With this setup, you can use the audio from the camera to sync each separate dialogue track in your NLE on the computer. This alone will get good enough audio to compete with most corporate video setups while spending only $50/person in a shot

But, if people are moving around a lot, as in a film, rather than stationary people talking, then this setup would not be ideal, as the mics make noise when moved against clothing. For that, a good boom mic, with an operator, is better. That means

Thank you for the great advice!!

I do have a question, about using the ipod/iphone....that adapter from kvconnection...looks like it would plug into the iPhone where the earphones go, I don't think that plug also adapts to a microphone..??

I was wondering if you meant to put some kind of link on there for a iPod/Iphone dock connector to mic adapter? Is there such a thing? I've not come across it yet with my searches.

I saw the Blue Fire app. and they appear to want you to pair it with their iPhone/iPod mic, which is just a normal style mike and I didn't see a lavalier option on the "mikey" they sell....

But these are great ideas and wondered if you had a little more info on that lavalier to iPhone/iPod adapter...which looks to require some type of dock to mic adapter...

Thank you,

cayenne  :D

The_Arsonist

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Re: Entry-level video production
« Reply #9 on: April 17, 2012, 03:08:56 PM »
Thank you for the great advice!!

I do have a question, about using the ipod/iphone....that adapter from kvconnection...looks like it would plug into the iPhone where the earphones go, I don't think that plug also adapts to a microphone..??

I was wondering if you meant to put some kind of link on there for a iPod/Iphone dock connector to mic adapter? Is there such a thing? I've not come across it yet with my searches.

I saw the Blue Fire app. and they appear to want you to pair it with their iPhone/iPod mic, which is just a normal style mike and I didn't see a lavalier option on the "mikey" they sell....

But these are great ideas and wondered if you had a little more info on that lavalier to iPhone/iPod adapter...which looks to require some type of dock to mic adapter...

Thank you,

cayenne  :D

The pinout on the iPhone headphone jack has an extra connection for the microphone; that is one of the reasons you need an adapter. That is why you see iPhone headsets that have a built in mic for talking on the phone with the earbuds in. The adapter from KVConnection uses only the microphone input on the headphone jack. They also make adapters that add a headphone jack, so you don't have to unplug the adapter to listen to the recording, as well as adapters with a standard professional microphone input (XLR)

http://www.kvconnection.com/product-p/km-iphone-43f35f.htm
http://www.kvconnection.com/product-p/km-iphone-xtrs.htm

There are options that use the dock connector, but they are generally more expensive and bulky, with most being in the $100-$200 range. I've never used any of them, but here is an example

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B005DNAB12/ref=pd_lpo_k2_dp_sr_2?pf_rd_p=486539851&pf_rd_s=lpo-top-stripe-1&pf_rd_t=201&pf_rd_i=B0064RMV9G&pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_r=1JRCQQZT5TV1ZWMS5X4A

Blue fire works fine with any microphone. It can even use the built in microphone of the iPhone. There are other apps as well, but I found Blue FiRe to be the best free option.

I have made several videos using this method. It's especially useful when I make videos with my 50D, as that camera doesn't have any audio capabilities. I just grab the lav, my iPhone, and the adapter and I'm set.
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bluegreenturtle

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Re: Entry-level video production
« Reply #10 on: April 17, 2012, 10:49:59 PM »
I'm quite sick right now so don't have the stamina for a real reply. 

I will say that I did basically what they've been looking to do - started a video production company out of nothing, really (well, I had one client) and that supports me today. 

People have chimed in on the gear.  It both matters and doesn't - at the end of the day it's about the ideas and story telling; the quality of the gear needs to be sufficient to not get in the way of that.  You can go way beyond that but ultimately your clients will judge you on how engaging the storytelling is.  The more experience I get the more I realize this is true - nobody worth working for gives a crap what you're shooting on - they care if their ideas are being expressed correctly and if you have good ideas of your own.  I second the audio remarks - a crappy shot will be forgiven - a poorly recorded interview will not. 

Other advice - somebody on the team that has a very good grasp with after-effects or other similar software is invaluable.  Editorial skills are invaluable, and required to do *any* work.  Shooting is the easy part.  Making meaning out of what you've shot is far harder.   

Expect to get screwed on a few jobs.  Don't take on clients you don't trust.  This is true in any business. 

Ultimately your own experience as a free lance writer should be informative about video production, because we're really talking the same language.  Somebody with a fancy typewriter and a good grasp of sentence structure will get some jobs, but only some, and only for a while.  It comes down to creativity, ability to work hard, and ability to interpret the desires of clients, and maintain relationships. 

I have no idea why they incorporated.  Pointless at this juncture.  A lot of people are more in love with the idea of starting a business than actually doing the work associated with the business.

Margins can be good in video, but it depends on the area you're working in.  I've been in the fortunate situation of having every single check get bigger over the years, even as I hire more and more subs, but at some point I'll plateau out, and I stress about every penny.  I try to do 2 or 3 big jobs per year.

bluegreenturtle

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Re: Entry-level video production
« Reply #11 on: April 17, 2012, 11:45:16 PM »
Looking over my post I think it's a little scattered and more positive than I meant it to be. 

I have a niche.  If they want to succeed in video production they must find a niche.  Very few people who don't have established relationships in niche markets will go anywhere.  There's just too many people with a camera and a semblance of understanding how to use it, which is 1% of success.  With due respect to still photographers (which is a rough and tumble business for sure) videography is an entirely different animal - it just happens that we use cameras too, but otherwise there's not a terrible lot that is in common between the two.  Too many still photographers don't understand that, and seek to flesh out their business by joining the video biz. 

"What do you mean I don't get it?  I've got a (insert camera here) which is the best you can get (in still photo budgets).  I've got all these lenses which cost me a fortune.  I learned how to frame and focus perfectly.  I know color, I know angles, I know exactly how to capture a subject in a great moment.  I even upgraded my little POS tripod that I rarely use to one o' them fancy heavy ones that you video guys use."

When it comes to having an effective video CAREER all of those things, including the learning the hard way all of the skills (framing, color, space, DOF) that go into still photography are basically equivalent of wanting to become a writer and having 1) a pencil 2) a piece of paper 3) being able to read and write.  You've got the tools, now you need to learn a whole lot more, some people will never effectively master the "whole lot more."  You have to learn story, editing (and by that, I mean not just cutting something together, but how to turn 2 hours of people talking about a subject into 30 seconds that are effective) how to move the camera through space, how to move your subjects through space, music (and how it works with images) audio editing, recording, fixing, etc etc etc.  It's a complex biz, just learning and keeping track of the basics.

I tell my clients this: if you were starting a car magazine, who would you hire as Editor in Chief?  Somebody who really knew how to write well, or somebody who knew cars inside and out and was passionate about them?  It's the same with video - you can't just want to start a general video production business, or you're just another slob with a camera.  You must have an area, an area that you are expert in or at least passionate about, or all you'll ever be doing is making pretty moving pictures. 

PictoPete

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Re: Entry-level video production
« Reply #12 on: April 19, 2012, 03:46:12 AM »
Recommend them several T2i or 60D bodies from the Canon Loyalty Program.

http://www.overclock.net/t/1088761/canon-loyalty-program-faqs-originally-from-potn

$384 for a refurb T2i?
$640 for a refurb 60D??

I recommend Magic Lantern for additional dSLR video features on the popular Canon cameras:
http://magiclantern.wikia.com/wiki/Unified
Check out what it has to offer.

I avoid the T3i because of the noisy preamps. However, if you use an external recorder and sync in post using PluralEyes plug-in, then that shouldn't be a problem. T3i doesn't allow headphone monitoring with ML either (but 60D and T2i do..) Bummer.

Amazing.
I realize people may sometimes shun refurb units for being "used" or potentially a ticking time bomb, but that's not how I see them. If anyone, I trust Canon to bring these back up to grade. Plus, Canon some of these cameras were only used a few times or not used at all.. and they replaced the batteries too and all that, so it's essentially "as new". Canon would no doubt sell these units as new units if the law allowed it. ;) I would honestly not worry one bit.

14-day return policy; 90-day warranty. If the 1-year warranty matters to them, then buy all means buy new from an ESTABLISHED, authorized retailer. If they intend to buy used anyway, redirect them to the CLP. Win-win in any case!

Squeeze every penny. Tascam, Zoom, and Sony make some great audio recorders. Zoom and Tascam have high end portable recorders that have XLR built-in if that matters for up to about $300.. otherwise, you can get by between $70-$200 for their other recorders which record audio in just as great quality.

I had a friend recommend this fluid head. You can't use a standard photo tripod for video if you intend to do any kind of panning.. Gotta have that fluid head.
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B003HNJ5HQ/ref=ox_sc_act_title_1?ie=UTF8&m=ATVPDKIKX0DER

If they're doing "run and gun" work, then I suggest a mid-range zoom lens like the Sigma 17-50mm/f2.8 OS or Canon 17-55mm/f2.8 IS. Otherwise, you can make do with several primes.. the 35+50+85 set seems to be popular. If they really wanna crunch some dollars, then they can purchase some adapters for older non-EF mount lenses and essentially get "every lens you need" under the sun for a few hundred dollars. You lose AF and have to take into consideration some other sacrifices that I don't know firsthand having not used them..

Any other questions? I'm just throwing in my two cents.

EDIT: There's a high-quality $50 follow-focus going around?? Anyone have experience with it?
http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2120229387/50-dollar-follow-focus
« Last Edit: April 19, 2012, 03:48:34 AM by PictoPete »

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Re: Entry-level video production
« Reply #12 on: April 19, 2012, 03:46:12 AM »

cayenne

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Re: Entry-level video production
« Reply #13 on: April 19, 2012, 02:45:45 PM »
<snip>

I have no idea why they incorporated.  Pointless at this juncture.  A lot of people are more in love with the idea of starting a business than actually doing the work associated with the business.

<snip>
Actually, if you're at all serious about doing  any kind of business....I think one of the smartest things you can do, it incorporate.

I formed my corporation (is cheap to do on your own, not that much more if you want to get a lawyer to do it for you).....and opted for the subchapter "S" corporation. I do contracting work through this..single owner, single employee.

This has MANY advantages. First off, they (if they do the S corp) can start writing off all kinds of stuff, especially the equipment. Even if they don't bring in a cent the first year...they can show good losses/expenses and will reap the benefits on their taxes.  Write off mileage (keep a log book in the car). Also with this type of corp...you only get taxes once on the funds that come through...they all fall through to personal taxes at EOY....

Another VERY nice benefit to this set up is, you can save a great deal on self employment taxes (FICA, Medicare/Medicade).  You only have to pay yourself a 'reasonable' salary...read up on it and having a CPA isn't a bad idea either (you can write them off too)...but for hypothetical example.

Say you bill and bring in $100K. Without taking into any account deductions.....
Let's say you pay yourself a 'reasonable' salary of about $60K.  You pay state, local, federal, SE taxes on that $60K.

At EOY, the remaining $40K falls through to you...and you pay state/fed/local taxes on that too...however, you don't have to pay employment taxes on that (SS, Medicare...etc).

If you don't incorporate, or just go normal LLC and the like...you would have to play employment taxes on the whole $100K.

See the savings there?

But also, incorporating...if nothing else, gives you limited liability...if you get sued, the company loses, but you can't get sued out of your  house and savings...it is just good legal shelter to have in today's litigious society.

And again...it is also about the last way a person can keep more of their hard earned $$ from the tax man.

HTH,

cayenne   8)

bluegreenturtle

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Re: Entry-level video production
« Reply #14 on: April 19, 2012, 04:13:04 PM »
I've formed many corporations.  The only benefit to the S corp structure if you don't have employees is the owner draw benefit you mention, although that falls away after $106,000 of income anyway.   The rest can be utilized by LLC's and sole proprietors just fine.  If you have employees the S corp is helpful because you'll be doing payroll anyway. 

I'm just saying it's pointless for people that this juncture to do this - it sounds like they don't have a clue.  There's only 2 rules in partnerships: 1)all partnerships end 2)see rule one.  I wouldn't get legally entangled with a bunch of people, especially very young people, in a corporation before they even started working.  80% chance after the first year some of the people don't want to be involved anymore with each other, 90% chance that after a year of doing video production some of them never want to touch a camera again. 

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Re: Entry-level video production
« Reply #14 on: April 19, 2012, 04:13:04 PM »