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Fund the Latin American Tour of 2024

Podcast de Week-end ep. 225: TBD

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Current/upcoming projects

– Beciul propagandei/Propaganda Basement – Season 4 [filming in 2024 – details in ticket 182]

– Shifting Latin-American politics [TBA – 2024 – details in ticket 149]

– Khmer Empire series [TBA – 2024 – details in ticket 183 and tickets 278-288]

Recently finished projects/tasks:

– Short incursion in Rome, Italy [January 2023]

– Short incursions in Ukraine [summer 2023]

Southeast Asian communism tour [November-December 2023]

– Central Asia Featured series

Wishlist

Back in 2017, we made a significant jump from an amateurish type of videos to a semi-professional format and we gradually improved in small steps since then – first by experimenting on the Romanian-language channel and then deploying what worked best on the main channel.

Then we moved to the model of a public wishlist for rarer but more spectacular jumps. We added gopros, gimbal and, in late 2023, a more professional camera for some of the studio videos and future streams. The old list was fulfilled at least in spirit so in January 2024 we present a new one, that is more in line with the current needs.

The wishlist is presented in the order of urgency.

Microphones

1. Camera unidirectional mic for very noisy environments (conferences, middle of the street, etc.), one piece – $30. Vendor

2. Dynamic microphone – two pieces – $60. Vendor. We already have one of this (the Hama model) and it’s been serving us really well since 2017. But, in addition to being old, the one that we currently have is not enough when wanting to tape things in two people outdoors. Currently we use the resilient lavaliers (from the previous wishlist) for such situations, but the quality of the sound would be significantly improved in outdoors videos if we had two mics like this one.

3. Studio mic – two pieces – $117/piece. Vendor. For the time being, for streams and audio-only videos (like Central Asia Featured Series), we use an improvised system from a smaller tripod an which we mount the sole dynamic microphone in our inventory. It’s… good but far from great. Having two static studio mics would make the podcasts a lot easier and better. Also all future Sofa interviews – including some of those filmed away from the HQ.

Cameras

Two of our cameras are older than 4 years and one is bought in December 2023 following the death of the oldest one.

This means sometime in the next 18-to-24 months we can realistically expect another one to die and, since ideally we need 4 cameras working at all times (excluding the GoPro), we’ll list what’s needed. The price links to vendors are the cheapest available for purchase from inside Romania.

1. 4K SONY FDR-AX class – $830 Romanian vendor. We already bought one of these in December 2023. Two of these would reduce the time to edit the podcast by about one hour per episode

2. Panasonic HC-V7 class – $570 Vendor. There’s also the HC-VX class the best being this one:  $1080 Vendor. The HC models from Panasonic are today what the HDR class was for Sony in 2015: They do a lot of things, none of them excellently but all of them good enough. Such a camera (be it V7 or the more expensive VX) would be a solid replacement for one of the two older cameras.

3. JVC GY-HM250E – $2614 Vendor. Okay, this is straight up an exaggeration at this point in time. But if or when we grow to a level we could afford such a purchase, this camera (or something similar to it) would be what we’d want. Not for its advertised livestreaming capabilities, but for its state-of-the-art embedded sound and video cleaning processes. Basically, this camera allows the operator to go to a protest, start filming, plug in the mic and take interviews, shut it down and all the editor would have to do is cut some of the needless frames, add the logo, render and publish. It would cut down the workflow for such activities by as much as 50%.

In fact, that’s the point at this stage of our development. Until 2017 we just wanted to get the videos up no matter what. Between 2017 and 2021 we tried to improve the quality with as little money spent as possible with the trade-off of extra work and mental health toll on the editor. Now we’re looking slowly towards the next step: Maintain and increase video (and especially audio!) quality while decreasing the repetitive workload on the editor.

Tripods

Tripods are a messy business. Once you need more than just stable single image, the type of tripod you use becomes pretty important.

There are also trade-offs. For the sake of easy-to-carry, some camera moves on the field have ended up less than impeccable. Such trade-offs will be employed routinely for quite some time in order to save up on transport cost. But, with that said, sometimes a really good tripod is a must. Also, tripods are not only for cameras, but for lights as well (already used in most studio videos on both channels right now).

So, in the order of urgency:

1. Workhorse tripods. Three pieces – approx. $84/piece. Vendor.

There are three of those in our inventory at this point. One is 10 years old (so before Freedom Alternative), the other two are 8 years old (likely the first thing bought after 20 videos). Of those, only one is still fully operational in the field. The plastic parts of them are slowly wearing off. We will need to gradually replace all three of them as we fully expect at least one of them to break entirely in 2024.

[Update January 24, 2024: One workhorse tripod has arrived in the inventory.]

2. Powerwin PW-180C profession tripod, one piece – approx. $174 – Romanian vendor. We still don’t have a tripod for press conferences, international summits and other events. We compensate with the workhorse tripods currently in inventory and a lot of wizardry during editing. Still, something like this would provide impeccable image stability and, again, reduce the workload (and your waiting time) between shooting and publishing.

Video stabilizer

Video stabilizers are one of the expensive pieces of equipment whose existence the viewer doesn’t notice. But whose non-existence is immediately and annoyingly visible to the viewer right off the bat.

Gimbal for Hero 8/9 – one piece neeed. Approx. $118 – Vendor. We already have a gimbal in the inventory but it’s for GoPro Hero 5/6. We sometimes use it with an improvisation with the Hero 8 but it’s a risky one. The sooner we get a compatible gimbal for it, the better.

Our own server

While this is not an emergency, as things are progressing, we will need at least one Enterprise-level server that we physically own by the end of 2025. This is both because of increased need for storage and also a decrease of the level of trust one can put in “official” services.

Owning an enterprise-level server used to cost thousands if not tens of thousands of dollars but, more recently, refurbished servers with some warranty have come down even under $1000 even as inflation climbed up. So it is no longer the prerogative of rich enterprises but something which is now within the reach of small operations as well.

This website can stay hosted on a VPS somewhere in a datacenter of a corporation. But, ideally, our internal system, our torrent distribution and other dedicated services should gradually be brought entirely on-shore in the next two-to-three years.

Proposal: Dell Power Edge. Approximately $1020. Vendor.

Other accessories

One thing not visible to the public is how much it goes into accessories that make these things work. Now, some accessories are more important than others. Here only the more vital ones are listed.

1. Extra GoPro 5/6 batteries. Four pieces minimum. $16/piece. Vendor. The two GoPro 5/6 have been running on their original battery from the moment they entered our inventory (2018 and 2019 respectively). Those are slowly running out. Besides, using the GoPros in the field required multiple spare batteries.

“Experts” suggests we stop using them because they’re pasée as equipment. We suggest continuing using them for as long as they work (and they do) and just get more batteries.

2. Extra GoPro 8 batteries. Two pieces minimum. $47/two-piece-set. Vendor.

The GoPro 8 in the inventory came to us with 4 batteries. One nearly blew up while in Laos and two others are in an advanced state of degradation. They must be replaced during 2024.

3. Extra battery for the new camera. $76/piece. Vendor.

In the field we always carry extra batteries. And a charger so that we can use power banks. Sometimes it’s not needed. But oftentimes it is – like during protests held in winter, or long protests/conferences or other events longer than 45-60 minutes where you can’t easily access a power outlet. Not having extra batteries for this new camera limits its potential use in the field.

4. Studio light set. $105 – Vendor.

While not exactly an emergency, the lack of a semi-pro light set is a source of headaches, particularly in videos/interviews filmed away. At Sofa HQ we can adjust some of the imperfections in post-production because while the current light set we use is inappropriate, at least there is enough light. A semi-pro portable studio light set would alleviate some of these headaches.

5. 12TB Hard Drive. $280 – Vendor.

We already have one of this in our inventory. It’s almost half full. This should last for our backup needs for the entirety of 2024. But it will become critical going into 2025. In the past, we’d buy a 4TB hard drive every 4 to 6 months. But it’s clearly a better use of money to buy a top-shelf bigger HDD on a rarer basis. Per annum it is simply cheaper and more efficient.

Once an element on this list is bought, it will be marked as such in the list. For members of the Donors’ Circle there is an internal system in place for transparency of expenses.

Last update: January 4, 2024.

To see the old wishlist, click here.

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