Not sure what to buy? Take a look at the list we’ve compiled below of essential filmmaking equipment for beginners.
7 Essential Pieces of Beginning Filmmaker Equipment
1) Video Camera
First things first, in order to begin making films…you’ll obviously need something to film on. But not just any old camcorder will do – the type of video camera you require will depend on your budget and the type of films you intend to make. In order to help you decide, we’ve listed some suggestions below.
If you will be doing a lot of interviews or documentary-style shooting, a basic camcorder is a pretty solid investment. It’s small, compact and incredibly budget-friendly.
A camcorder is also great to learn on – you can figure out how to frame a shot, capture images and perfect your editing skills all without investing a ton of money up front.
The majority of camcorders cost less than $1,000, and sometimes you can snag one for just a few hundred bucks on Amazon.
– DSLR Camera
A cut above basic camcorders but much more affordable than pricey, professional-grade cameras, DSLR cameras have become a staple for indie filmmakers.
Image quality is much higher – but they also require a greater skillset to operate as they shift in and out of focus quickly. However, that’s not to say that a DSLR can’t be easily mastered with ambition and practice.
With a starting price around $1,000, DSLRs are expensive…but you get the image quality that you pay for. The most widely-used DSLRs on today’s market are the Canon 5D Mark III, the Nikon D800 and the Panasonic GH3.
– Prosumer Camera
If you’re ready to start making studio-worthy films immediately, it’s worthwhile to invest in professional equipment right now. The biggest benefits of professional video cameras are that they afford access to interchangeable lenses and come with larger image sensors.
With different lenses, it’s easier to capture images throughout various lighting and locations and create different visual effects without changing out all of your equipment.
However, they are expensive – the cost of a prosumer video camera like the Sony PMW-300K1 HD camera will run you over $7,000.
2) Tripod With Fluid Head
After selecting recording equipment, you’ll need to invest in a tripod stand for secure, steady filming. If possible, opt for a tripod with a fluid head which will allow for more seamless, fluid pans. Without this type of tripod, you run the risk of everything you film turning out like The Blair Witch Project.
3) Lighting Kit
If you plan on doing a lot of inside or studio filming, you will need a solid lighting setup. Typically, a properly illuminated scene requires a three-way lighting configuration. But conveniently, you can usually buy the lighting needed bundled together in kits online.
Look for lighting kits that contain a key light, a fill light and back lighting. The key light should be your strongest light source, while the fill is a softer source that helps eliminate the shadows cast by the fill light.
Lastly, back lighting helps create a three-dimensional effect by separating subjects from the background or scenery.
4) Shotgun Mic and Boom Pole
When it comes to effective filmmaking, capturing the audio is often just as important as nailing the visuals. So to make sure no meaningful lines are lost in translations, you’ll need to pick up both a shotgun mic and boom pole.
Shotgun mics are versatile and may sit on top of your camera for on-the-fly filming or positioned on top of boom poles for group interviews or loud, crowded settings.
There are many different mic manufacturers – but Rode is one of the most renowned. The Rode Videomatic and the Road VideoMic Pro are both consistently ranked as some of the best shotgun mics in the film industry – and either would be a solid choice for entry-level or even expert filmmakers.
Along with the shotgun mic, you’ll need a boom pole and accessories. A boom pole is a long, broomstick-looking entity that has space to hold a microphone at the end. You can secure your shotgun mic to it using a shockmount. This will help keep the mic steady and prevent it from picking up excess noise when the pole is around.
5) Wireless Microphone
The wireless microphone is essential if you plan on doing documentaries, news stories or basically any type of filmmaking that requires interviews. The Sennheiser EW 112P is a great wireless mic system – and it’s available on Amazon for less than $800.
6) Audio Connector Cables
While microphones are essential to capturing sound, they usually aren’t enough to do so all on their own. If you want the highest quality audio, you’ll have to configure a professional audio plan to sync your microphones to your video camera.
XLR audio cables are the best way to bridge the gap and can be purchased online for around $20.
7) Camera Bag
Once you have all your gear, you’ll need somewhere to store it. Look for a sturdy camera bag that’s waterproof or – at the very least – water resistant. After all the money you’ve just spent no your new equipment, the last thing you want is for it to be ruined during an outside shoot in a rainstorm.
Ample storage compartments are also something you should look for when investing in a good camera bag. And here’s a list of stuff you should consider storing in your bag at all times to ensure a successful shoot:
- A variety of different lenses
- Extra batteries
- External hard-drive
- Spare memory cards, film or whatever type of storage your camera requires
Summary: Filmmaking Equipment For Beginners
The initial list of equipment you’ll need to start filming is pretty extensive – and can honestly be very intimidating. But if you don’t have the cash to purchase it all right now, don’t worry; you can build your filmmaking arsenal over time.
Start with a basic camera, a microphone and some decent lighting. After you get some good practice shooting footage, you’ll have a better grasp on what other equipment you actually need to master your craft and make the best films.