1. A Camera
To start at the beginning, you’ll need something to shoot your film on. But it’s easy to find yourself lost in ever-escalating costs; the art of filmmaking does not require the most expensive camera, but simply something that can capture and record.
And while digital camera tech has resulted in some of the most impressive and expensive optical instruments ever made, it has similarly opened the field to filmmakers on any budget:
- No Budget: though it might seem glib to say it, a smartphone is camera enough to shoot a film. Tangerine and Unsane are two mainstream examples of this burgeoning mode of shooting; that these films both received critical acclaim should be evidence enough that quality does not rely on an expensive camera.
- Low Budget: Sony A6300 – Capable of delivering a more classically cinematic look, this Micro Four Thirds camera has interchangeable lenses and shoots in 4K. Can be bought for under £800 new, or cheaper second-hand.
- Best Value: Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K – At a relatively steep £1200 it might seem a substantial investment, but the Blackmagic Pocket is gold dust for videographers and indie filmmakers alike. It might take a while for the pre-order backlog to die down, but for good reason: there isn’t another camera in its price range that comes close (including: Sony A7S Mkii, Lumix GH5, Canon 1D X etc.)
Like a good director with a bad script, a great camera cannot overcome a mediocre lens. So before blowing your budget on a camera and moving on, think about what lenses you might be interested in using (and remember that certain lenses are only compatible with certain camera bodies, unless you use a specific lens adaptor):
- To achieve that shallow depth of field you see so often in big budget features, a good place to start is a 50mm f/1.8 prime lens. For most cameras it’s the cheapest lens available, but that isn’t to denigrate it’s quality – legendary Japanese director Yasijiro Ozu shot almost all of his films on a 50mm alone* £129
- For a little more flexibility, a zoom lens can be handy. The Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 is a great all-rounder £289
- To approach a more cinematic look, a good option is the wider Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 £588
- If you’re looking to cover all bases with a professional sheen, a Samyang prime lens set is fantastic value for high-quality lenses £2199
Often the bane of low-budget filmmaking, sound should not be skimmed on. Make sure you remember that both recorder and microphone are essential – there’s no point saving on one to the detriment of the other
- No Budget: Zoom H1n – cheap, small, and sounds a lot better than anything in-camera £80
- Low Budget: Zoom H4n – excellent value all-round, though should be accompanied by a good shotgun mic £17
- The Audio-Technica ATR-6550 is a solid and affordable option £70
- If not, the RØDE NTG 2 £162
- And if camera mounting isn’t an option, a boom pole is invaluable: RØDE’s BoomPole 3 is a high quality option without being too expensive £89
- A pair of good headphones also doesn’t go amiss, especially to make sure you’re getting the sound you think you’re getting – Sennheiser HD 25 are very high quality for a relatively low price £145
Also not worth forgetting, a good tripod can make all the difference for smooth pans and stable shots:
- Manfrotto is the gold standard, a tripod for all seasons £299
- Cheaper but still respectable, Velbon £75
Those gliding Steadicam shots that were once the province of high budget and high expertise are now far more affordable and much easier to use – a gimbal can be a great addition to an indie filmmaker’s arsenal
- For those using their phones, an Osmo is a good option £139
- For larger cameras, the ZHIYUN does the job £399
- At a higher price, but even more stability, is a Ronin £849
With that said:
Though it can be tempting to own as much equipment as possible, much of what you need can be rented for the length of a shoot for much cheaper. So while personally owning kit has its upsides, it isn’t necessary that you own absolutely everything, particularly if you’re already on a slim budget.
*Keep in mind crop factor if your aim is to emulate Ozu – on most DLSRs and Micro Four Thirds cameras the equivalent would be closer to a 25mm