So you want to get started and start shooting? Fine with me. Let’s have a look at the must have gear you need to make your own cinema. #must haves
The best camera is the one you have access to. A 4k high-format standalone camera or a top end DSLR is what all the cool kids are using – but new smartphone technology is kicking butt. Just remember, you need a good Smartphone with a big hard drive to fill up and constantly backup. Cheaper in the long run to buy a dedicated smartphone or HD camera and use that instead of the one you use to call your crew and family. That’s how they shot Tangerine, the Sundance hit this year. It’s available on DVD and Streaming in November. PU a copy here.
Get a dedicated sound recorder (like the Zoom H4 or H6) to record audio to. As above, you will need to backup your sound files every shoot. There are great high-end recording devices to use as well – including interfaces for your laptop if you want to use that – but it’s always better to have a standalone tool & operator. Zoom has a super-duper professional new recorder here – the F8!
Additional Hard Drives
It’s critical that you back up sound and picture master elements to a hard drive for storage. You will use a second drive for editing and mastering purposes – and all of this info should be backed up on Dropbox or on your Google Drive. It’s not a question of if your hard drive or card will fail – but when. Never edit original materials. Always use digital copies. Back it up DAILY or you can lose stuff easily.
Essential Peripheral Camera and Sound Gear
I use a Rode boom microphone on my DSLR when I’m shooting fast and dirty. I use a boom microphone attached to my sound recorder via a boom pole and cable when I’m shooting with a bigger crew. My camera has a low-cost matte-box to keep those stray reflections of the lens and all of these tools are critical to maintaining the best quality picture and sound. Don’t leave home without them – ever. I don’t. #essentialkit
A fluid head tripod is an essential bit of kit to keep your shots steady and provide a platform for your camera. A monopod is great when you have to go fast and for handheld – it’s a one-legged aluminum stick providing a point of contact with the ground making for steadier shots. Drop the wiggle. Support that camera.
Check out Amazon for AC and battery powered LED cine lights that can now be used anywhere. We carry a full range of these great devices and use light stands, gaffer tape and even handhold them just outside of camera to get the light on the subject. Pick up the Chinese knockoffs instead of the big budget ‘movie approved’ gear and expect to go through a ton of batteries if using in the cold. Lighting is so critical to a good-looking no-budget film. Make sure you get the actor’s eyes illuminated and bounce the light off walls, the floors and other reflective surfaces as possible.
Support Grip & Electric Gear
Get a camera slider appropriate to your camera’s weight – it’s a long aluminum rail that fits on your tripod and emulate sexy dolly moves all day long. Remember to slide in front of a foreground object to really get the effects of a moving dolly shot. Gaffer tape is always good to have along with a small stepladder, clothespins (for gels if you use them on your LED lights), a reflecting disc or panel (to bounce light off) and extension cords that wind up on a reel. Fit all of this ‘gack’ into a sealable tub (except for the ladder, of course) or heavy-duty carrying bag.
Craft Coolers & Support
Fill one full of drinks and the other one full of sandwiches and snacks. Don’t skimp on quality or assortment. Add a big boy coffee pot if you want java on set. Film crews run on their stomachs so you gotta keep ‘em filled. I buy 2 cases of bottled water and make people write their names on them. Add garbage bags to police your own trash and you’ve got a mobile food wagon that is fuel for the team. Don’t forget a basic first aid kit in case of boo-boo’s and Band-Aids, suntan lotion, mosquito repellant and allergy pills depending on the climate or time of year.
Hardcopy Master Script /Schedule & Call Sheets
Yeah, we live on our phones and tablets – but what do you do when you run out of juice? I always work hard copy – and it’s important to have a ‘Bible’ on set (with a DO NOT REMOVE tag) by the Craft Area. Print all Schedule overviews, ALL script elements and Call Sheet Intel so you (or any member of cast & crew) can check out a quick detail as needed. Believe me – you will use this more than you think.
Cast & Crew Smokes
I know, it’s deadly, dangerous and stinky – but crew smokes are essential when you have no money. Doll out smokes freely after a successful scene and ‘take five’ to sit down, have a smoke and enjoy the fact you’re kicking ass. Relish the joy of being free, footloose and fearless as you shorten your lives together. Nothing bonds a set like a mutual activity. Replace cigarettes with anything else you want – just don’t lose track of time. Your break is as long as a cigarette. 5-7 minutes maximum.