What Equipment You Need To Make Great Videos as New Filmmaker
Expensive gear doesn’t make a good video…the content does. Having the right equipment definitely helps with efficiency and production value but can sometimes be what gets in the way of creating a good video.
In this article, we look at the essential equipment you need to produce high quality video without getting lost in the cost and gimmicks.
Regardless of which you choose, there are several essential features you should make sure you have when making your purchase. The first thing to look for is the quality of the video it records. Get a camera that records at minimum 1080p and preferably one that records in 4k. You also want a camera that has an input for an external mic so you can get better sound quality than what you would get from the built-in mic. If you’re opting for a camcorder, get one that has a powerful lens with the ability to zoom in and out. Otherwise, a camera that has the ability to use different lenses is a plus. Another thing to look for is the camera’s sensor size; a larger sensor captures more information and makes for a better quality product. Other features to look for are image stabilization, multi-output formats, and manual/custom color temperature settings.
Tripods are definitely not the most exciting (or cheap) pieces of gear in your arsenal, but a good one will make a big difference in your workflow and product. First, make sure the tripod is more than capable of holding the full weight of your built camera. Strongly consider investing in a good fluid head. This helps on so many levels, but primarily with capturing super smooth, slow, steady pans and tilts. The cost for some tripods are more than $10,000! The ones we hope for are around $5,000. We currently use tripods that costs around $1,000 and work perfectly for what we need them for. So, do the research and test a few out to find a good one that’s not overkill from a cost and workflow standpoint.
Beyond “sticks”, there are many other methods of camera support. Sliders, dollies, jibs, and gimbals can capture stunning images. and can also be complicated (and expensive). It pays to keep it simple. You don’t know how many times we’ve seen videos where a one-trick pony, like a job shot, gets repeated over and over because they had a fancy piece of gear on set. It can kill your video – so use with caution. It’s akin to the knife set of a chef, or a set of sockets for a mechanic. Do your homework, but don’t forget to have fun – that’s the most important part of creativity.
Most people don’t think about the fact that when they watch a film or video, 50% of their experience is auditory. You don’t notice the sound in a video unless it’s bad. Capturing quality audio is a huge factor in overall production value. If you don’t think so just watch a video with bad sound. Using the camera’s built-in microphone can work in some specific situations, but if you want professional production value you should invest in a good production audio kit. This includes a couple of microphones: a shotgun and wireless lavalier, a c-stand with sand bag, a solid boom pole (preferably with an internal cable), a pair of pro headphones, and a long and short XLR cables. If your camera doesn’t have audio inputs (preferrably XLR), then you’ll also need a recorder. As your needs get more complex, such as having to mic up more than one person at a time, it may be wise to hire or collaborate with a professional production audio operator who will have additional gear and expertise.
This is the most mysterious and complicated of them all. Beyond gear, there is simply a lot of time one needs to put in to understand and master lighting. However, like with anything else, you’ve gotta start somewhere and experience is the best teacher. Most video production experts say at the bare minimum, you should have enough lighting to set up a basic three-point lighting shot. This standard setup is useful in a variety of situations, especially interviews, and incorporates a key light, a fill light and a backlight. If you’re shooting outdoors in bright sunlight, an external key light will help keep your subject well defined against the harsh daylight. Bounce cards and reflectors are handy when you need a quick light source on the fly.Software
Currently, the two most popular editing programs are Adobe’s Premiere and Apple’s Final Cut Pro. The industry is leaning more towards Adobe Creative Cloud because of its workflow and integration. You can start out learning on less expensive options such as Apple’s iMovie or Wondershare Filmora that have fewer features. The key is to start learning the fundamentals. Eventually, you’ll want the power and versatility that comes with having a pro-level program.
Odds & Ends
There are many other pieces of gear that can make your arsenal complete (even though for most of us it’s never complete). Consider what makes your job easier and your product better. Think about how accessories can make the most out of your existing equipment or extend the life of it. Accessories include an external monitors, grip equipment like c-stands and apple boxes, expendables like bongo ties and duster spray, lens filters, and extra batteries, cables, and media. B&H Photo is great at recommending accessories for specific departments pieces of equipment.
Keep it Simple!
This is a lot of info can get overwhelming, even for us. Take it in chunks, even if you have the money for it all. Do research by watching unboxing, tutorial, and review videos online. Ask people on forums a for specific info and comparisons. Rent the gear from your local rental house or online. This is a very cost effective way to get your hands on gear to test it before you buy it. Many online rental companies have buy back programs where you can get used and refurbished gear for a lot less. We have a working wishlist of gear that we want to purchase. We list prices as well as links to more info on each item on a spreadsheet and list them in priority of what we want to get next. We always consider how much ewe’ll be using the gear and how many rentals would it take to purchase the gear.
It pays to be patient and wise when it comes to building your production arsenal. So, take your time, do your research, and remember…you get what you pay for.
Making video content is fun and challenging, and there’s never been a better time to be a video creator. What once cost tens of thousands of dollars can now be done by virtually anyone with a decent camera and a computer. Just remember that all the gear in the world won’t make a bad video good, and content is still king.