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2018 DMAA Holiday Gift Guide for Filmmakers

Happy Holidays DMAA students and parents! We always get asked about what cameras, computers and software people should buy. Well, for the most part, our DMAA students don’t need to buy anything yet. Seriously, our programs are able to provide ALMOST everything that students need to create and complete their projects at school. More importantly, if your kids aren’t already taking pictures all the time, or trying to make movies at home on their own, don’t get them anything. They aren’t ready.

But, maybe you are looking for a last minute gift from Santa, or a way to spend all of those holiday gift cards, or maybe you just really like to spend money. There are often small to medium priced items that can really be helpful if you have a little extra cash.

  1. ADOBE SOFTWARE - This is our gift to you. The DMAA and our school district have purchased licenses for ALL OF YOU to use the entire ADOBE CREATIVE CLOUD SUITE of programs when you are enrolled in our DMAA classes. This is a gift worth about $29 per month. You are welcome! This includes the full versions of Photoshop, Premiere, In Design, Lightroom, Flash, Dreamweaver and all the other 22 programs offered by Adobe.

  2. SD CARDS - SD Memory Cards are not the most glamorous of gifts, but are an essential item for photographers and filmmakers using certain types of cameras. Having your own card at school means you don’t have to share with 100 other students and lets you keep your work safely on your own SD card. And, they are cheap (by comparison with other fancy photography items.) Cards like the SanDisk Extreme Pro 64GB SDXC UHS-I Memory Card (SDSDXXG-064G-GN4IN) will work in 95% or our school cameras and costs only $24.

  3. PORTABLE HARD DRIVES - First of all format your portable drives with ExFAT if you want them to work on both Macs and PCs. The prices for portable hard drives have fallen dramatically in the past several years to the point where you can now buy an external USB 3.0 2TB (terabyte) portable drive for about $65. Search for “portable hard drives” if you are interested. Hard drives allow students to keep massive amounts of digital work with them at all times, moving it from home to school and back. This can be helpful for video students wanting to move large video files or continue editing on their Adobe software at home. It is also a good way to move or keep full quality versions of your files to save for your portfolio. The faster and more reliable versions of hard drives (SSD) solid state drives are still significantly more money, with 500GB USB drives costing about $95 with an enclosure. A similar 500GB bare drive will cost around $60. But, they are much faster and far less prone to data loss. Search for “portable SSD Hard Drives.” Remember to format your drives with ExFAT if you want them to work on both Macs and PCs.

  4. CAMERAS - Oh boy. Don’t buy a cameras unless you really want one right now for your own family, or unless you or your DMAA student are really filming and/or taking pictures all the time. Otherwise, just wait and use the school equipment until you figure out what you really want. The camera you already have (on your phone) is probably better than all devices up to the mid-range DSLR category. Our current entry level photo cameras (Canon T5i) and our entry level video cameras (Panasonic G7) are both available for about $500-$550 with a small kit lens. They’re nice because they are interchangeable lens cameras, so they get much better results with better lenses. In reality, new cameras come out every year (Canon now has a T7i) and it is costly to always chase the latest technology. If you buy quality lenses, they will last forever (if you take care of them.) You may go through 4-5 cameras over 15 years but still be using the same lenses.

  5. LENSES - Lenses are just crazy expensive. You are welcome to email me if you have any serious questions about buying professional lenses for your cameras. But, if you want to have some fun, try buying an older manual prime (no auto focus) lens on eBay, and adapt it to your camera. Canon FD, Nikon Ai, Pentax, Russian Helios, or even older Zeiss lenses can be found for between $30 and $100. Adapters are available for just about any camera for about $10. A good starting point is a 50mm prime lens. My favorite bargain lens is the Pentax 50mm SMC M f1.7. It has what is called a k-mount (Pentax) and it is ridiculously sharp, fast and cheap. I just saw one on eBay (used) for $27 with free shipping. Mint versions may cost $50 or so. There are lots of review sites for old lenses out there on the internet if you are curious.

  6. MAKE A MOVIE OR TAKE PHOTOS RIGHT NOW - Instead of buying something that you may or may not use, consider making a movie right now with the equipment you already have, even if that is just your iPhone. Push it to the limits. Be creative. Write and tell stories about the things that are all around you. Make a cheap DIY stabilizer at Home Depot. You will be surprised what you already know how to do. There is no better training tool than making amazing art with mediocre equipment. It is far better than making mediocre art with expensive equipment.

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