If you’re new to the profession, here’s a rundown of some of the essential equipment you will need on your shoot.
The digital camera revolution has changed the world of video production in many ways. It’s turned an exclusive trade into an accessible hobby with the advent of a new “prosumer” class of cameras and videographers.
Okay, here’s the thing. We must address the elephant in the room, and that’s the fact that this article initially had “camera” listed as the first piece of equipment you needed.
So, duh. Yes, to make professional videos, you need a camera. To make any video, you need a camera. In fact, while updating this article, I felt queasy about the sections and information. Everything feels completely obvious and incredibly basic, but then, is that because I’m a millennial who’s been surrounded by cameras since I was a young boy?
Of course, this information is going to seem elementary if you’re a professional working creative, but for someone who has run a bakery business their entire life, the fundamentals of filmmaking may seem incredibly difficult. Or, perhaps a young teenager wanting to move from smartphone to movie camera may not have the notion of where to begin.
So, now that we got that out of the way, let’s dive a tiny bit deeper into the best camera options right now for the type of work you’ll be doing.
We entered the camera revolution, had a good time inside, and now we’re out on the other end with pretty much endless resources and gear—on the cheap—that can produce silver-screen-worthy images.
Every camera released now is legions above what we had to work with ten years ago. Heck, even five years ago.
So, here are four of the most exceptional, approachable cameras currently on the market. If I could recommend starting anywhere, it’d be with one of these cameras.
While these cameras will not break the bank entirely, they will be more than capable of whatever work you start with. Figuring out how to tackle these cameras is simple, as their interface is straightforward and manageable.
Don’t fear! If you want a refresher on how cameras’ many different tools operate together to create a moving image, check out these tutorials:
You also know that you’ll always need a tripod. Whether you’re setting a shot, setting up audio or lights, or working with your subject, you’ll need to know exactly where your camera is and where it will stay. It’s such a staple of filmmaking that owning one is inevitable.
Unless you’re working with a high-end camcorder, many prosumer cameras (notoriously DSLRs and mirrorless cameras) don’t supply professional-grade audio options. By that, we mean there’s no direct XLR input, and the in-camera audio is rough—leaving you to work with the 3.5mm audio jack.
This should give you an idea of how important sound can be to your film and how it just might be the savior to your low budget production.
Lighting is another area that can drastically separate a professional video from a novice one. But, similar to audio, if you don’t know how to use them properly, they can drag you and the final product down.
It takes time to learn how to light scenes, and that’s why good cinematography is such a valuable asset for a production to have. Lights are more powerful and more accessible now than ever.
So, let’s go over a few lights that are a good place to start with:
If you want a rapid-fire crash course on how to approach lighting your subjects in a scene, Todd Blankenship with Shutterstock Tutorials made this genius breakdown of how to think about light.
Check it out:
Also, remember that the cheapest and most effective way to learn how to work with light is to use natural light. Study how it differs at different times and expose it to different lighting situations.
Cover image via Alejandro Ramoshots.