News: Bare essentials for poor-ish filmmakers

Bare essentials for poor-ish filmmakers

Equipment list for the low budget crowd

Let's assume you have a script (not just an idea) and have gotten your pre production out of the way.  These are both incredibly important and should not be taken lightly, especially when you have no budget.  So you have an awesome film and all of your ducks are in a row, what do you bring with you to the shoot... or what is really necessary?

Here's what I would bring on the video side of things (we'll focus on sound in a later article):

  1. Camera - Canon 7d, obviously
  2. Batteries - 2 is enough if you aren't running the camera all day, but 3 is better. Around $80 each.
  3. Memory Cards - Three to four 4-8 GB cards are best they hold around 10-20 minutes each.  You want to spread the video over several cards.  If one card goes, you don't lose everything. 8 GB cards can be had for around $30-40 each online.
  4. Lenses - This area has a lot of options and opinions, but at the end of the day most decent lenses look pretty good.  The type of lens you use really depends on the type of shooting you do.  There are two major things to consider: Zoom or Prime and Fast or Slow.  Primes have a fixed focal length (i.e. 50mm, 85mm, 21mm, etc.), zooms can vary in focal length.  Primes tend to be, smaller, sharper, and faster (I will get to this in a sec).  Zooms give you flexibility, but are usually larger, softer, and slower.  The wide open aperture rating or lens speed, determines how much light you can let into your lens.  The faster the better (f1.4 is faster than f4, for example), in most cases.  But faster lenses are more expensive and usually bigger.  With that said, what lenses are best?  For most productions you could get by with 2-3 lenses.  For super low budget, two zooms (one wide and one telephoto) would cover most everything.  You could add a fast 50mm prime and that would cover even more.  Or you could get a few different primes that cover 18-135mm (18, 28, 50, 85, 135).  Just know that 21-100mm is the golden range for most shoots.  What focal lengths you like within that will be a matter of personal preference.  Prices vary considerably, buying old lenses with cheap adapters can be a great way to save money, because you don't need autofocus.  I bought an old 50mm 1.4 Pentax Super Takumar with adapter for $60.  But you could also buy a Canon 50mm 1.4 for around $400.
  5. Tripod - Don't skimp here, if you can.  Buy the best you can afford.  Bogen, Sachtler, Cartoni and Vinten all make good stuff.  $300-500 can get you far, but around $1,000 is going to be the sweet spot.
  6. Variable ND Filter - This is essential for keeping your shutter speed at 1/50 when shooting in bright sun.  I use this they can be had on ebay for around $100, depending on the size.  77mm is a good size, as it will fit most lenses.
  7. Step up rings - Buy one for each lens size to 'step up' to the ND filter size.  These are around $2-5 each on ebay.

That's my list.  It isn't free, but some of these items are investment pieces that will translate to other cameras.  Lenses are the biggest variable.  But you can add them as you go.  Buying used is a great way to save money, huge discounts and achieve similar if not better quality than the average modern day lenses.    

This list is by no means the end all be all, you could add all sorts of things to it.  But this is enough to shoot great stuff, and with a little creativity awesome things can be done.

[The video below was shot with a tripod, 4 lenses (all under $200, most under $100), 2 batteries, and two 8 GB memory cards]


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Great post. Just pinned it to Cinematography World!

Awesome thanks man! Lot of fun writing it. Coming up with more ideas for future entries.

How much is an adapter for the pentax to a canon t1i, and where can I get it? (I.e. the name would help)

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