When it comes to the world of film making these days the type of gear used ranges anywhere from more high tech than a sci-fi film to your parents old super 8. There are many contributing factors to what gear is used including budget, style, and accessibility but when even your mobile phone is enough to start making a film straight off the bat it’s hard to tell what kind of gear you should have when starting out.
In my experience there are a couple of main pieces that will not only help capture your film but make sure it’s of a quality that you’ll be happy with. Let’s shed some ‘light’ on the subject shall we? 😉
I think it’s safe to say that without a camera you won’t be making a film but which camera is going to be the right one? Walking into a camera shop can be a bit daunting if you don’t know what you are looking for. These days most DSLR or Mirrorless cameras come with video functionality. Some brands are better suited for video such as Sony and Cannon as opposed to Nikon, which is mostly a photography camera.
Something important to consider when looking to buy your first camera is your budget. Try not to get to sucked in by the aesthetics of the more top end cameras if there’s a cheaper one you can get that does pretty much the same thing. What you really want from your camera is the ability to manually adjust settings like white balance, ISO, and shutter speed. Anything else is down to you to decide. For example whether 4K is really something you need and are willing to pay for.
You can also check the web for second hand cameras on sites like Gumtree and eBay.
A Camera is great but you will need a lens in order to shoot anything. This is the beauty of getting a DSLR or mirrorless camera as they come with a large range of varying lens lengths for you to pick from. Now, lenses drive me crazy and it has taken me a while to wrap my head around the specifications so if you don’t fully understand what all the numbers mean straight away, don’t panic. The best rule of thumb I learnt was the smaller the number the wider the lens.
For a standard medium lens length you want to be looking at something between 35 – 70mm. A zoom lens that covers this range will most likely serve you well enough to get started. If you are interested in exploring the options there are loads of articles on the web and a camera shop attendent will probably be down for a chat.
#3 SOUND RECORDER & MIC
Do NOT underestimate sound. People always do and it lets down even the greatest of film projects. Whenever you want to be reminded of how important sound is just watch those videos on Youtube where they take the music out of music videos. Sound is important people!
Ok now I’ve gotten my rant out of the way I can tell you about recorders. Having a boom mic and a recorder like the Zoom H5 is going to do wonders for your project when compared just the camera recorded sound. Some might also suggest lapel mics as well. These are the mics you see attached to peoples jackets during interviews. Whilst they are good for getting close to peoples mouths they can record a lot of fabric rustling and are tricky to hide if you don’t know what you’re doing. For your first project a boom and a recorder will most likely be enough to get you some clean dialogue and an atmos track to stick in your film. Just make sure you don’t forget to slate the shot with a clap at the start of each take so you can sync the file to the footage later on.
I have put lights after mics because most of the time an audience will forgive the look of an image much more than compared to something like sound. Lighting serves two purposes within film making; functional and aesthetic. You need to be able to see your subjects theoretically, unless it’s part of the scene that you shouldn’t be able to to see something. The aesthetics of light can add to the mise en scene and create a different feeling and tone and therefore is much more subjective.
For beginners getting some standard lights to play with is a good place to start. LED’s these days are a lot cheaper and more versatile that other lights on the market. A pair of soft boxes are also good, but are less easy to control. If you are planning on filming outside and reflector can help bounce existing light where you need it. A piece of white card can also do the same thing for a tiny fraction of the price.
#5 EDITING SOFTWARE
Once you have your footage and your sound you will need something to put it all together. Granted this is more software than gear but it comes under the essentials for putting a film together. These days Adobe Premiere Pro is pretty standard. It functions via a cloud based subscription, which you will need to fork out around $30 a month to use but if you are using it regularly eventually you will see it’s worth. It’s fairly user friendly and there are a tonne of youtube tutorials out there to help you figure it out. There are classes available a various institutes to show you the ropes as well.
Other editing software you may consider is Final Cut Pro, which is an apple exclusive along with iMovie which comes free on apple devices. This one isn’t as advanced but if you are just stringing footage together it’s gonna get the job done.
The other thing to note is a lot of places hire out gear these days and not just big fancy Hollywood standard camera’s either. If you are still unsure here are a couple more websites that go into more depth: