It is a very precarious situation for a newbie filmmaker to jot down the essential filmmaking equipment list for himself. Precarious, because you are a beginner and then most often you are lighter in your pocket. If you are not studying any film school, you have to have some essential equipment for hands-on experience.
Beginners usually delve with the camera first, which is a correct approach. Get the gear which shoots good quality video and slowly grow from there. However, when you start making your short films and want them to have a cinematic style like any other mainstream feature, you need to itemize a filmmaking equipment list for the shooting or the production.
The list can be exhaustive or need-based. Every filmmaker has his unique way of telling a story. Hence, suggesting a specific filmmaking equipment list will be useful for few but can be of no use to others. It depends on many variables like budget, production needs, locations, time of the day, region-specific laws and regulations, etc.
Filmmaking is an expensive business and owning the equipment are not cheap either. It is advisable to rent out the gear first as it is affordable, and you can utilize the money in other streams. You can slowly acquire as per your affordability and convenience. If you can own them, you can always keep testing out new things, and it will come in a lot handy to brush up your skills faster. You can also lease them out, and over time they become assets for you.
Depending on the various needs and skills, we have created a standard and essential filmmaking equipment list for beginners. You can create your list by picking up what you find is necessary for your film.
The digital camera market is highly competitive, and almost every month there is a new launch. Getting any state of the art camera is the one that we suggest. But, which camera is not state of the art today? It is tough to spot differences between them You just pick what goes with your gut feeling, and it won’t disappoint you.
Leave alone the digital cameras; the smartphones have given them the run for the money. With some incredible apps which can modify them to match the DSLR or Mirrorless camera functionalities, the digital war is good for the newbies. We get quality stuff at a lesser price.
If you are raw to movie making, your smartphone is the best option. These phones have 4K HD resolution and can replicate most of the stuff a DSLR can do. iPhone 8 and iPhone X are phenomenal. Hollywood has started flushing out some iPhone feature films. So as a newbie, your primary tool is right there in your hand, and you don’t need additional investment.
But, it is also true, the smartphones have still time to catch up with the DSLRs/Mirrorless, regarding their large sensors, greater depth of field, various lens options and manual controls. The output is far cinematic than the little camera phones.
If you are into shooting adventure sports, then you should also look out for helmet cameras dedicated to racing, biking or surfing type sports.
Here is the Camera we recommend by the way for beginners . This is our affiliate link on Amazon.
Also, check out the post on the best camera for short films
A camera is nothing without a lens. It’s the most potent element that makes the imagery rich in depth and colors. Lenses are expensive too, but at least you should invest in a prime and a zoom lens. Where wide lenses are useful for establishing scenes and maintaining uniform focus throughout, the long lenses adds more character to the screen and make the visuals more cinematic.
The smaller the aperture, faster is the lens and adds more depth of field. They are excellent for low lights or available lights. Another exciting aspect of investing in a lens is that they don’t drop significantly in value. So, if you need to buy or upgrade to better lenses, you can always liquidate it for a reasonable price.
Nowadays you can do some crisp color correction during the post-production process. So, using filters for a beginner seem unwanting. But, it is a well-known fact that post-production filtering reduces the image depth more than the camera filters. Also, it is not the same cinematic look what a color corrected video achieves.
My personal preference is to take advantage of what a camera can achieve in the shooting. May not be all, but some lens filters are extremely valuable to produce fabulous imagery.
One of them is the ND filter. The neutral density lenses block the light without affecting the color. They help in controlling the exposure without compensating on the shutter speeds, aperture, and the ISOs. It helps you get that proper exposure by either stacking them in layers or getting a variable one. IRND filters also help in blocking the infrared spillage on the image. They are very useful for digital cameras. They are also able to provide an excellent dynamic range. Here you get both the highlight and the shadow details better.
Polarized Filters are another excellent filters to possess. They cut unnecessary reflections, glares and light sources without silhouetting the subjects. Polarizers are instrumental when you shoot with shiny objects or through the glass and reflective material. They are also popularly used for capturing the richness of colors in the sky and clouds.
Diffusion and color filters are also used to add effects to the scene. You can achieve most of them on the post, but you may use it if you want to avoid the post route.
SUPPORT & STABILIZERS
The fundamental necessity for the shooting is to have camera support that can pan and tilt smoothly. What better than the tripod. For steady pans and dollies, tripod saves a lot of hassle for beginners. They are the extended arms of the filmmakers, and with some experience on the various tricks it can perform, it will quickly replace the need for expensive and cumbersome jibs and cranes.
Inexpensive tripods are actually of no use to filmmaking. You need a fluid head and a powerfully built tripod. It provides better stability than the lighter ones. The better ones last longer. Always buy a tripod based on your future needs. They should carry enough load. Don’t consider only the weight of the camera while deciding on the tripod. The camera is also attached to heavy lenses, recorders, and various accessories. Avoid the center columns ones and the ones made of aluminum. Carbon fiber tripods may cost more but are quite sturdy and durable.
We recommend this Video Tripod System ( Amazon Affiliate Link)
Monopods is an amazingly versatile camera tool. It adds punch to your cinematography by devising some swift dynamic movements with it. Unlike Tripod, they have only one straight leg. They are less cumbersome than a tripod and are perfect for beginners as it replaces a lot of expensive jibs and tracks if you use them smartly.
You can create astonishing dollies by mounting it on skateboards or any rollers. To shoot interesting dutch angles, just lock of the monopod feet and slowly swing the pod from one side to the other. Similarly, you can replace the tracks, drones, and Steadicams by using your imaginative ways. Manfrotto Xpro Aluminum Video Monopod is our choice.
Gimbals are revolutionizing the image stabilization landscape. They are the new entrant and have taken the world by storm. It is a much better option than a Steadicam. The results are stunning. Gimbals work with its motors, sensors, and software to negate the cinematographer’s movements, resulting in a very steady camera hold despite some shaky moves and turns by the cameraman. They work on all the three axes.
The gimbals come in various styles and sizes. They are not very cheap too. For newbies, it is a bit cumbersome in the beginning to set up a gimbal. Every time you set it up, you need to get the right balance. It is a bit fidgety in the beginning, but with practice, you can set it up in few minutes. Once you fix the right balance, leave the rest to the gear. It produces some unbelievable results.
They come both for the DSLRs as well as the smartphones. They look light, but over time they start to feel heavier. Also, you have to adapt yourself to its style. It will come with practice but is an effective tool to demonstrate great production.
We will come out with a post on the Best Gimbals on a budget soon.
07- GORILLA POD:
Gorilla pods provide excellent solutions to filmmaking problems. These little pods that look like spiders can grip anything with their flexible three arms. The arms wrap around objects, and you can mount your camera or cell phone over them to capture new perspectives.
A gorilla pod is a highly intelligent tool to quick fix productions issues. You can mock it as a camera rig, Steadicam, a slider or a jib. It can be wrapped around any moving objects to give dynamic imagery. You can mount the camera on these pods and place them in tricky spots to get a unique POV shot. It works best if you use wide angle lenses.
Other than the camera, you can mount LED panels or microphones, and they serve correctly as the stands. The Gorilla pods are relatively inexpensive. As they come in handy, you should always keep one with yourself. But buy a better quality one as it needs to hold you expensive camera without the fear of falling.
Joby New GorillaPod Hybrid is the best one for all cameras including smartphones.
08- SUCTION MOUNT :
Rigs usually are fascinating custom-made modular structures for the camera. It is an extension to accommodate different shooting styles. They allow additional accessories to be safely mounted on the camera ensuring stability and smoother movements. The best part of rigs is they come in various shapes and sizes serving a specific purpose.
The most inexpensive and utility mount for a newbie is the favorite suction mount. It can fix into cars or any flat surface, and you can capture some stunning and dynamic visuals through that. The most popular brand is the GoPro. The best suction for it is JOBY suction Mount with gorillapod (Amazon Affiliate Link)
09- SHOULDER RIG:
If you are using DSLR for shooting, the shoulder rig is the one you should get into your arsenal.The stability it gives cannot be comparable to a handheld. It is useful when you want a replacement for the large pods. It fits on the shoulders nicely and is smoother for following the subjects.
Before buying one should check out for how comfortable you are with it and the shoulder support. The shoulder rigs are great to build upon your camera if you want the add ons mounted on the camera.
Sliders came into prominence when the DSLRs became popular with the filmmakers. The add light subtle movements in the camera to add some professionalism to the shots.The actions are very smooth and give a professional feel. The unnatural shakes of the newbies get negated by the slider moves.
Camera Sliders are the best bet for the subtle, slow moves. They deliver to the T. The installation is relatively simple, and then anyone can use it. They are pretty affordable for the newbies too.
11- FOLLOW FOCUS :
Focus doesn’t seem very tricky initially when you shoot with tripods. But when you follow a subject on a random move, do a handheld move or switch between subjects, focusing becomes a bit of a pain especially, when you are shooting with a shallow depth of field.
The follow focus (find on Amazon) is a rig where the many parts work in unison to make manual focusing easy.The kit has a knob and a gear to control the lens’ focus. It is ultra light and can comfortably fit into your top pocket. They usually fit every lens and are reasonably affordable.
12- QUADCOPTERS (DRONES):
The quadcopters popularly known as drones have changed the landscape of aerial filmmaking. The quadcopters have presented themselves as the best alternative to the expensive helicopter and jibs. They add more dynamism and control to the aerial perspectives.
The drones have not only replaced the non-affordable copters and cranes but also have become an integral part of every newbie’s filmmaking kit. There are very affordable and can add that x-factor to your films. You can even shoot with smartphones on these flying objects.
Gone are the days when you need thousands of dollars for drones. Now you get them for few hundred dollars. For filmmaking we recommend the DJI Spark.
13- CAMERA BAG:
When you invest in buying expensive equipment, you need a bag to safeguard them from damages during transport. Camera Bags or backpacks hold many accessories other than the camera. It is a useful and convenient gear to carry things around in one set.
They come in various styles, shapes, and size. You pick the one that suits your needs and can accommodate as many things as you can without causing friction to each other. The size obviously will depend on the range of things you own and are more comfortable to carry. But, you should have an estimate as to how much it can hold and how heavy it becomes.
The bags come in many styles. The popular ones have a lot of small pockets and attachments. You should check out the shoulder or the messenger bags and the backpacks. There are sling types and the rolling cases as well. Small and compact pouches come in handy as well to carry little tools which can fix your belt. Also, that reminds me of the waist belt holsters. You pick your style as per your comfort and needs.
14- SOUND RECORDER:
The sound is fifty percent of the film. Such is the power of sound in cinema. In the black and white era when the movies were without audio, filmmakers realized that sound is an intrinsic part of the medium. It is the most potent weapon to engage their audience. They staged live orchestra to enhance their storytelling. Then they started recording sounds and music. Slowly dialogues found its way too. With substantial technological leaps sound, today has gained a respected position in the business of movie making.
New filmmakers usually tend to ignore this space and up making great visual videos with crappy sounds. Lousy sound alienates the viewer from the story, and the whole movie experience goes for a toss. The existing DSLR cameras record sounds but they are weak, and the results fall short of expectations. So, investing in sound devices is a wiser choice. A crappy video with good sound is much better than a good video with bad audio.
There are some excellent sound recording devices (Check on Amazon) in the market, and the external digital audio recorder is one of the best options to capture sound. These provide a better quality of sound and more versatility. But since you are recording audio separately, make sure you use clapboard for syncing the audio to the video in the post-production.
The cameras come with built-in microphones. But, it is tough to record through them as you can’t get close to the subjects or can’t point the microphones in the direction of the subjects to focus on its sounds. The audio is full of ambient noises, and there is no clarity or quality of the sounds from each person. The only advantage of the camera microphone is the audio is synced perfectly to the video. Also, you don’t invite the technical complications which come from professional recording.
The portable sound recorders can record sound, but it is advisable to use external microphones.The microphones come handy when you want clarity in voice sounds from every actor in the scene. They cut down the background noise. Your audio reception is much better.
There are primarily two types of microphone devices. Directional or the shotgun Microphones and the lavalier microphones are popularly known as the Lav mics. The quality of the audio is what separates men from the boys. The shotgun mic is the one which makes you face any situation. You can set them on the top of the camera or hide it under and above the camera frame. The boom poles come in handy during a relatively wider shot. For a newbie, always go for the XLR wired microphones. There are wireless ones too but avoid them as they are expensive and unreliable.
The lav microphones are useful for its small size and convenience in handling. They comfortably fit on the actors or subjects can hide conveniently. Also known as the lapel mic, you can adorn it as a jewelry piece around the neck. These are hands-free, and the actor doesn’t have to chase the mic, and the sound recordist doesn’t have to run after the actor. They are reasonably cheap too.
Headphones may seem to be an insignificant gear but have a relevant role to play. While recording sounds, it is always mandatory to do the process wearing good quality headphones. When you register sounds, you may not be aware of what your microphone is catching. They are sensitive devices. They pick some nondescript sounds reasonably clearly what your ears will short of recognizing them.
So, it is advisable always to use headphones to record sound. You will surely catch the sound of vehicles passing by or distant noise of construction going on or a bird’s shrieking squeal completely overlapping a critical note. So get a good headphone for that.
When it comes to lighting equipment, the beginners should not invest in buying them. Every shot has different demands.You will burn your pocket soon if you buy lighting equipment. Hiring lights are relatively cheap. The latest digital camera sensors are sensitive enough to catch good images in low light conditions. Hence, it endorses my suggestion even more.
However, if you wish to own lights, you should ponder upon it with getting a basic kit. The basic kit should involve the three-point lighting. It is the standard lighting arrangement and suffices to all essential indoor lighting. The key light is the leading light determines the intensity of the brightness and the temperature. The next is the Fill Light to fill up the empty parts or the shadows on the frame. The Rim light or the backlight adds the depths as it defines the separation of the subject to its background. These are primary lights. However, professional cinematographers go beyond it to create some breathtaking imagery with many or available lights.
Always make sure to set the white balance before you shoot. It should match the color temperature of your tungsten or LED, that you are using for the shoot. Usually, the latest digital cameras automatically correct the white balance, but as a newbie, you should be aware of that.
18- LIGHTING TOOLS:
Light stands and clamps are an essential part of the lighting system. They are fairly affordable. If you can add up to your lighting arsenal, they can also serve purposes for holding props too. Always pick up sturdy stands and prefer the kit which comes with a boom. Also, try to find few add-ons like the diffusers, barn doors, filters, and gels, etc. as a package. The other valuable lighting tool is the light meter or the spot meter.
19- LIGHT REFLECTORS:
Bouncing lights become useful to soft fill the subjects so that they don’t get high unnatural contrasts on screens. They add more definition and depth to the visuals. There are various ways to bounce or reflect lights for enhancing creative lighting. The inexpensive light reflectors come in handy in doing those jobs.
These reflectors fill up the dark spaces or the nooks and corners of the frame. They are the best tools to have full control on lighting individual subjects. They can be hand-held or can be clipped anywhere where it fits. You can even mount them on stands. It cuts down your lighting costs if you use them smartly.
Reflector or Bouncing boards come in different shapes and surface styles. They are usually white and silver. White reflectors bounce uniform and balanced light without disturbing the color balance. Whereas, the silver provides higher intensity in the bounce. There are gold reflectors too, to produce a warmer bounce.
A poor storage system can run havoc for a newbie filmmaker. But the new SSDs have improved with time. They are much faster. Portability is the most significant factor in choosing them. However many prefer the hard drives for storing backups. The SSDs are small and are hence vulnerable to getting lost. So, they need to be copied and managed well. They are little expensive than the hard drives but very handy. They can fit the faster USBs ports.
If you are on outdoors with no access to immediate supplies, offload the footage into the portable drives. You can’t trust the camera memory cards for storing the footage. Also, when it comes to saving the post-production files, the older hard drives are much more preferable like iBook for Macs and Seagate for windows.
21- POWER SUPPLIES:
Always check out for the power supplies whenever you are shooting in unknown locations. Studios usually have their power setups, but when you are shooting on sites which are out of your domain, it is advisable to have a backup plan. The lights and the production appliances consume the most power. The camera and the recorders use significantly less energy than the demands of the lighting sources.
But, for independent filmmakers, small LEDs are the order of the day. So, hiring the low to medium power generators make more sense. For the cameras, recorders, and other electronic devices carry 5-6 batteries in stock so that you don’t run out it in a remote location shoot.
Also, don’t ignore the power banks. They come in real handy when for charging an electronic device. You don’t want your gadgets to die out in the middle of a stressful shoot.
22- MULTI TOOLS:
There is a range of tools which are proficient in doing small intricate work and saves time and money in a big way. They are incredibly cheap, but they are priceless when it does those unbelievable jobs for you. I will do a separate article on these items but just want to mention them here as they are lifesavers for a beginner.
They range from clamps to a Swiss knife. Listed below are the few useful ones you can grab on Amazon.
Lens Cloth, Clapboard, Camera safety strap, Gaffer’s tape, Multicolored electrical tapes, Card reader, Memory Card pouch, Sliders, Butter papers, Mount bubble level, Viewfinder, Dust cleaner, Utility 6 in 1 tool, Chroma screens, Swiss knife, Nasty flag clamp, Graph gripper pattern holder, etc.
They are very handy, and most of them can fit into your jacket pockets.
23- EDITING CONSOLE:
They are usually your desktops or laptops nowadays. Gone are the Steinbeck day’s when an editor used to grind scanning through every frame of the films physically through his magnifying lens. You can now have Non-Linear Editing (NLE) setups can now be done on your speedy laptops. Technology has simplified it further that some can do basic editing on their smartphones using specific apps.
All you need for smoother editing experience is a computer with good processing power, higher GBs in RAM ( min- 8GB), a high-speed graphic or video card and substantial storage. The storage can be external but when you edit on compressed videos for rough edits, make sure you have disk space to handle them. You can always upgrade your edits on the professional systems later.
Apple’s MacBook Pro is the best system to handle edits for your film. If you are a loyal Windows user, you can opt for HP or Dell desktops with the configuration mentioned above.
Editing software is not equipment, yet I thought of including them here. Otherwise, it feels incomplete not to mention them. Editing software is video editing and sound editing software.
While Final Cut Pro is the best option for Mac, it is a paid one. There is no harm in checking out the free alternatives – Apple iMovie and OpenShot video editor. As a beginner, you should try out the basic stuff and upgrade to the professional ones later. Adobe Premiere Pro CC is a good paid option for the Windows user, and the best thing is its integration with Adobe After Effects and Photoshop. Windows Movie Maker is the best free option.
For 3D Animation software, you have Maya and 3DSMax with their later versions, but my pick is the free open source software called Blender. You should have a peek at it, and it gives all the paid ones a run for their money.
For Color Correction, DaVinci’s Resolve has come with a free option. The best part is that it has an editing program embedded inside which is excellent for beginners. So you get a unique marriage of color correction and editing in one. Similarly, HitFilm is also one software with Editing and compositing option.
If you are into visual effects, then nothing better than the Adobe After Effects.
When it comes to Audio editing software, SoundForge Audio Studio 10 and Adobe Audition are an excellent professional option for beginners. There are some outstanding free options too like Audacity and Wavepad.
25- DISPLAY SCREEN:
You need an additional display screen to edit your film to have a full-size view of your footage. You do have preview windows on your software, but they look somewhat small even on your big screen computers. Especially, if you edit on our laptop, a separate display screen is essential. You can check various good monitors for this job here.
How to Make your Filmmaking Equipment List?
The above is a spread out list of 25 filmmaking gear which is essential for a newbie to make a film. We may have listed too many or may miss out on few ones. But this is more or less an exhaustive filmmaking equipment list which covers all aspects of filmmaking from the production and the post-production point of view.
You choose and pick your list out of them. It should be the one which is not heavy in the pocket and can help you in learning the filmmaking techniques in the long run. One advice here is, don’t go for the expensive and the savvy looking ones at once. Figure out what you should need regularly and what you can hire. I prefer not to buy gimbals and lights immediately. Instead, I will go for audio equipment. I won’t even go after buying a camera. Alternatively, I will play with my cell phone to learn the basic storytelling techniques. But I won’t mind buying a tripod and a gorilla pod.
Initially, learn the art of telling stories and then improve upon your visual and sound design skills one after the other. I would try my hands at making short films or shooting a scene to figure out my techniques. Then, probably I will go for listing out my buying preferences.
So, it is better to make your list and go after it one by one. You can bookmark this page if you need to revisit for reference.
Should I Buy Filmmaking Equipment or Hire?
Filmmaking is an expensive profession. If you are not a film school student, learning on your own, it can become costly if you choose to buy the filmmaking equipment. But I always consider buying filmmaking equipment as an investment in a film school.
Now, you may wonder – how it can be an investment. Yes, it won’t grow into wealth as the stock market rises, but you can surely rent them out to earn some extra dollars for your film. After all, you will not need your equipment every day. So, might as well rent them out to fellow filmmakers for few bucks.
You can buy the film equipment on loan. The installments may be little costly than getting them on hire, but the money you spend goes into your stuff. If you hire, you give the money away. Once the final payment of the installments is over, you own the thing, and it stops the outflow of funds. Shortly, you can make cheaper films.
If you feel the need to upgrade or buy new gear, you can avail the exchange discounts for the new model by returning the existing one. If you don’t need them, you can sell them. So the equipment will always return some value to you. You can, in fact, sell camera lenses at higher costs as they become expensive day by day.
If you buy equipment, you will never be a loss. It doesn’t mean you buy all of those at once. Pick according to your needs.
If you wish to add few more to the list, please feel free to comment below: