filmequipmentRecently, I was talking with a friend about what I'd need to make a short film. I was whining that I didn't have enough time or money to make any of the short films I had in mind.

To cut it short-  I was making excuses.

After discussing this, and promptly being told to get my butt into gear, I realised that to make a short film, or any film at all, the first thing you need is the drive to do it, and once you have that, you need the equipment to help you materialise your imagination.

1. A Movie Camera

The key here is: Basic. Basic. Basic.

Forget about the RED ONE or BLACK MAGIC (unless your budget is £25,000 upwards)

Indie filmmakers sometimes forget that the whole point of making a film isn't about spending top dollar on equipment, or necessarily making the film look expensive (but this is a very easy thing to do). It's just about telling the story, and especially for first-timers, the last thing you should be worrying about is the way it looks compared to the latest flick at the cinema.

Cameras to consider in order of budget, low to high:

1. The Canon Powershot Series

Simple point and shoot cameras with great recording capability. In fact, the 2010 documentary CATFISH was partly filmed using the Canon PowerShot TX1 which you can pick up for around £250 - £300 maximum.

2. DSLRs: NikonD90 or Canon 550/600D

A little more on the pricey side, but fantastic and versatile cameras that have the wide range of capabilities, and potential for real cinematic looking stuff.

You can pick up a new NikonD90 kit, the Canon 550D and Canon 600D all for under £500, and here are some examples of how beautiful (and professional) they can make things look:

Nikon D90 Video Test - YouTube

Canon 550D Video Test - YouTube

Canon 600D Video Test - YouTube

3. Panasonic HVX200

The most expensive one I'd ever consider at around £1,200, and looks the most professional. Ideal for low-budget filming as its relatively small and lightweight and records great HD footage.

Test footage 1

Test footage 2

2. A Sound Recorder/Microphone

Often cameras will have their own in-built sound recorder, and while a lot of the time this will suffice, sometimes a separate recorder is what will really polish the overall production of your film. There are two affordable sound recorders out on the market which I have tried and tested and would recommend for any filmmaker on a budget:

Zoom H1 Recorder and the more expensive Zoom H4N.

With particular mention to the H1, Zoom's smallest recorder, ever, this makes for super handy film equipment. It gives great quality sound, stereo recording and really really easy-to-use functions. You can't really go wrong with one of these.

Zoom H1 Test and Review

Zoom H4N Test

And for reliable microphones with a range of difference prices to fit your budget, check out the Sennheiser G3 series.

3. Slider/Glidecam Equipment

The biggest giveaway of an low-budget film often are the little shakes and 'guerrilla' style movements, and unless this is the look you are going for, investing in a slider or glidecam will eliminate this and give your film a professional, neat and expensive look.

A slider and glidecam are very similar, so it wouldn't be necessary to get both. The glidecam can do everything the slider can and then some, however the slider is appealing for its ability to go smoothly back on forth on the same track.

The choice is yours friends - the handymen and women of you all could have both for a minimal budget by making your own, following this video or these instructions!

Purchasing a used/new slider or glidecam would cost anywhere between £150 - £300.

Glidecam HD2000 - Video Test - YouTube

Konova Slider Dolly K2 100cm - Video Test - YouTube

4. Jib/Crane

This nifty piece of equipment will not only make your film look professional, but it will also make you look somewhat professional while you use it. It's not a necessity with every film of course, however it is good practice in terms of expanding your cinematic technique and artistry.

You can pick up a ProAM DVC crane for £30 - £100 depending on the size of the extension you go for and whether you go for a used or a brand new one. Alternatively you could again, BUILD YOUR OWN!

5. Willing and supportive friends and family

In other words, your crew.

It is possible to make a film on your own, but it will take double the time, and cause double the stress, potentially leaving you with an unfinished film and a disheartened ego. Gather your friends, pull in your family, and get together and make a movie!

Likelihood is, you'll have a group of friends interested in films and film making who are wanting to start making awesome movies, just like you are. Collaborate!

So that's it, the only five things you need to make your first movie.

But just remember, at the end of it all, to quote a friend of mine..."We're FILMMAKERS DARLING."

All we really need when it comes down to it, is a camera, a plan of action.

Check out Stebs Schinnerer's (of Paper Fortress Films) essentials.

Mikaela Cumbers
Mikaela is a freelance writer and content creator, traveler, unapologetic netflix-addict and budding screenwriter. She currently spends her time juggling jobs and a painful gym membership.

Like Film Reviews? Check out her ramblings on wordpress, here.


11 thoughts on “Top Five Pieces of Equipment Every Independent Filmmaker Needs

  1. I am surprised that you didn't choose lighting over Jibs and sliders. Honestly, for no budget filmmaking where time is of the essence, those things take way too long to set up, and for nothing other than the pride of having a moving shot. Story first. If you have the time, lighting should certainly come before a fancy (often non-motivated) moving shot.

  2. Because jibs, cranes, sliders and glidecams are far more important than lights, right? This is stupid.

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