Aspiring filmmakers who are on a budget, this one’s for you. With your handy camera and the drive to pursue an artistic career, you need to start gearing up for your next level and aim for these equipment and software upgrades. Read on and learn how these add-ons can make your world more vibrant, and make you the filmmaker you ought to be.
Tripod With a Pan Head
A sturdy tripod with a pan head is an absolute must. Even when you want to go avant-garde and shoot films with a handheld feel, you still need a tripod with a good pan head.
For one, camera shake is bad for still photos, and camera shake footage is a downright sin when shooting a motion picture in most cases. A sturdy set of tripod is essential for any aspiring filmmaker. For the legs, you want something that’s going to be extremely stable and as light as possible. Carbon fiber is nice, but not entirely necessary. Stability and portability are your top priorities.
The head is where things get a little more specific. If you don’t plan on moving the camera while it’s on the tripod for pan shots, any kind would be fine. However, you’d eventually outgrow the static shot and start to long for other cinematographic techniques for your next projects. Getting fluid heads for this point is a great option because the movement is damped to make it much smoother. Plus, they rotate on flat planes, making them more practical than many ball heads.
Neutral Density Filter
Having a neutral density filter as a must-have is arguable, but it can definitely stretch the possibilities of what you can do with your camera. More commonly known as ND Filter, these filters reduce the amount of light passing through the camera lens without changing the color of the scene.
They are especially useful in bright light conditions to help prevent overexposure. Neutral Density filters also allow proper exposure at a wider lens opening for reduced depth-of-field to highlight a key subject by making the foreground and/or background out of focus. ND’s are must-have filters especially if you are thinking of doing more landscape and nature photography. Plus, this neutral density filter guide can help you determine the best neutral density filter for your situation. ND filters are definitely essential digital camera filters.
In terms of application for motion picture, ND Filters are still very important. The main reason is that shutter speed can be a bit tricky when shooting motion. You’re almost always limited on the slow end by the frame rate at which you’re shooting. When your shutter speed gets too fast, your footage starts to look jittery and unnatural. A neutral density filter helps keep that in check.
It serves the same purpose as it would in a still photography scenario, letting you use a wider aperture in bright situations. This means that you can have more flexibility with your aperture settings, which helps you become more creative in coloring your shot. It also lets you slow down your shutter speed under similarly bright lights to keep things looking smooth.
You can buy variable neutral density filters that change strength as you rotate them, but they’re often very expensive. You can also buy a few different strengths and stack them if you need to cut more light before it hits the sensor.
Good (Meaning Big Storage, Fast to Read) Memory Cards
This is an absolute necessity. Perhaps when you were just starting with the craft, you were able to get away with cheap memory cards. Now, you just can tell when you might actually need a high-quality one. A day might come when you wish you had a better memory card simply because SD Card errors have left you unable to record, ultimately forcing you to postpone the shoot. On average, when you get cheap memory cards, you can get three to five hours of good footage, then you’d eventually encounter problems along the way.
More importantly, HD video footage (which you will be using 97% of the time) takes up a lot of space on your memory cards, so you need to make sure you have the space to handle your files. That part alone is obvious.
Speed, on the other hand, is equally as important and a little bit tricker to understand.
If you’re shooting with SD cards, look for a class 10 card. It’s fast enough to keep up with that heavy data stream. You can likely get away with a class 6 card, but faster is better. Period. You would also notice that it’s quicker to upload your footage from a fast card. Plus, it might even help you squeeze more burst rate out of your camera in still photography mode.
Alternatively, CF cards tend to be faster. Pro cards can record at 600x or even 1000x, which can keep up with your video recording with no problem. The only penalty for faster cards comes with price, so look at your budget and get the fastest, most reliable cards that you can afford. Then again, you’re probably doing that already anyway.
Video Editing Software and Applications
Of course, a complete video editing software should also be on your list. Complete means you can do almost everything the you need. You can have several editing software that can do different tasks for you, or one that can do most of the basic stuff so that all your bases are covered. Extra applications like one-size-fits-all video converter is also something that you need to take note of, because it is important that you are editing footages with the same file type.
Editing a video file straight from a DSLR is quite complex but very easy to learn and also easy to execute. Compared to film editing (especially before), it’s almost a walk in the park. However, once you start trying to get serious about editing, the amount of complexity you can add is limitless. For example, you may be satisfied with simple fade in or dip to black transitions before. Now, you might find different transitions to be more effective for a certain shot or message you want to convey. Practically, the expansion of what you can do is limitless.
Starting with a simple solution rather than jumping into a full-on editing suite can often be a good point of entry for a novice. Simpler programs like Adobe’s Premiere Elements are much cheaper than full-on suites and can make simple edits much easier. Jumping headlong into editing with pro software can make you feel a bit lost and even make you give up, which is the worst case scenario.
Dollies and Rails
Dollies and rails can be considered a luxury, but definitely something that can maximize the number of shots that you can do. If you think that you’re going to use a lot of camera movements that need different panning motions, then go for a rail. However, these rails are notoriously expensive for starters.
Camera movement is crucial for making compelling video, but it’s also one of the trickiest parts for still photographers to cope with when making the transition. Rails help a camera move smoothly in ways that a panning tripod head can’t facilitate. They’re good for tracking subjects as they pass, adding movement to otherwise static scenes, They can also be used to go tighter or wider on a subject without zooming.
You can get a basic set of rails on which you actually need to push the camera, or you can get much fancier and opt for a set-up where the camera moves automatically. Then again, they’re very pricy. Unless you’re shooting at a high level, you likely won’t use this much, so look into renting first to get a feel on how it works for you before you do buy one.
Of course, there is that choice for Do-it-Yourself (DIY) equipment. DIY options are available throughout the internet. If you really want to get a dolly or rail and you don’t have the money but you still have the creativity to make one yourself, then go look for DIY dollies in the internet. There are many content creators out there that can help you out.