Filmmaking Equipment For Beginners

Filmmaking Equipment For Beginners

Do you think you’re ready to become the next Steven Spielberg or James Cameron? Before you start sweeping award shows or even before you begin making cinema magic, you’ll need the right tools.

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.

– Camcorder

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
  • Headphones
  • Extra batteries
  • External hard-drive
  • Spare memory cards, film or whatever type of storage your camera requires

CLICK HERE to Check Out The AmazonBasics Backpack for SLR/DSLR Cameras and Accessories – Black

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.

13 Comments

  1. Yikes! That’s a lot of information. Actually that was a fun read, though I got completely lost by DSLRs (I had no idea what that was and had to look it up).

    I have a cousin into this sort of stuff, but I’m really a ground-zero beginner. So, acronyms are a stumbling block… I could have done with a 1-liner to introduce me to the term DSLR (digital single-lens reflex camera apparently) and a snippet as to why it’s better than a camcorder (so I don’t sound like an idiot if someone asks me).

    Also with respect to professional gear… I was wondering if hiring options are worth talking about? It might be a lot more cost-effective. Just a thought. Otherwise really interesting article 🙂

    • Hiring is always a good option as long as you find a decent vendor Robert – some guys will recognize a newbie and try their best to scrape every penny out of them ( sad but true I’m afraid! ). If you are looking to go into this ‘big time’ then I suggest investing in your own equipment ( much better in the long run! ).

  2. Hi Chris,
    I’m really wanting to start doing regular face painting tutorial videos because I think doing videos is really important in promoting myself nowadays. So I am definitely looking into my options right now. I did 3 videos back in June using the camera on my phone and the quality is so poor I haven’t done it since 🙁 I cannot afford even a thousand dollar camera right now so I will take your suggestion and take a look on Amazon for something that is a couple hundred instead. The lighting is also an issue in my house so I will have to do some more research on that too, so if you would do a review of some affordable lighting kits I’d be interested in reading them. Feel free to email me if you do such a post so I can check it out. Thanks!

  3. Ok, so I want to do a short music video featuring a ‘zombie apocalypse’ theme, with the band cutting to found footage of the initial outbreak. Imagine “REC: The Musical.”
    I’ve never done any of the actual filming though, so this page is kind of like a checklist for me. Do you know anywhere that can set me up with everything here as a package deal?

    • Wow a package deal seems like a bit of a long stretch mate! Amazon is always my first port of call due to the prices being reasonable ( most of the time! ). I would say that most package deals are probably not going to be that cool – I can’t imagine companies including top of the line items within them!

      I would definitely try to build up your arsenal piece by piece – you are more likely to hit a bargain that way!

  4. Hi Chris, thank you for putting so much care into presenting your information. I’m actually interested in film for promotional content, and a found footage piece just seems really cool to me. I realise I’ll need some pretty decent gear, but what is the minimum level camera you would recommend?

    • Well to be honest it depends upon what quality level you are looking at film-wise. I know of many indie filmmakers that still make use of the iPhone camera! It all depends upon your budget at the end of the day!

  5. Hey, Chris! I have a relatively old Canon T2i camera, and I have shot some stuff with the 50mm f/1.8. My movies always tend to look somewhat grainy. Is this how it usually is, and should be dealt with on post production, or maybe there’s some setting I have that is off? I usually go for 1/60 (shutter speed) for 24p, as I’ve seen that you should use about twice the shutter speed than the frames/second.

    • Age and time of release can play a big part in the overall quality of your filming Daniel. There are programs that can clean it up a bit – Adobe have an awesome line ( but are very expensive…unless you find a cracked version somewhere! ) 🙂

  6. It’s interesting that you list DSLR Camera as one of the pieces of kit for making films. This just goes to show, modern digital SLRs have come a long way in recent years. I bought my digital SLR – a Nikon D50 – in 2006, and it doesn’t have any video function on it at all, but I understand that this is a common feature now? I used to have a point-and-shoot digital camera back in 2004 which could record video, but it was poor quality.

    Anyway, there are so many possible pieces of kit here, there’s a lot to get your head round. But I assume that once you have got all this kit and learn how to use it, it does get easier, right?

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