So you’ve decided to make your first movie! Filmmaking is an exciting hobby and a rewarding career. But just as an artist must collect their paints and brushes before they sit at the easel, you must invest in the right tools for your trade. Before you start shooting, run through this handy checklist to make sure you’ve got a solid beginner’s set of professional filming equipment. Here’s a quick rundown of professional video gear to start your filmmaking career.
You’ve probably already got one of these, whether it’s a smartphone, a DSLR, or an old-fashioned camcorder. Will it be the right choice for the type of movies you want to make? When choosing a camera, think first about what shots you’ll want to execute with it. Your video camera should be compatible with the other equipment you plan to use. Consider how you’re going to distribute your movie, too. Online-only exclusives are a whole different animal from movies shown in theaters. No matter which camera option you choose, make sure it captures stellar audio.
Do you need fancy effects and colored gels for your first project? Probably not. Get used to setting up movie lighting with a three-point light kit. The key light provides general illumination to the scene, usually off to the side of the camera at a 45-degree angle pointing downward. The fill light acts as a counterpoint to the key light, filling in the shadows it creates. The backlight, positioned above and behind the scene’s focal point, gives a sense of depth and separation between the focal point and the background.
Your video camera should have a microphone built into it, but avoid relying on it completely. A shotgun microphone offers a narrow, precise pickup pattern to get you the audio you need without excess background noise. Shotgun mics are easy to mount on top of your camera, but work best on a boom pole. The boom allows even more precision in picking up audio from a discreet overhead location. While you’re shopping for professional filming equipment, pick up a high-quality pair of headphones so you can monitor the sound quality as you shoot.
You’ll need a way to store and transport both your video gear and the footage you’re shooting. Avoid running out of recording space by keeping a healthy supply of memory cards, DVDs, or tapes, depending on your camera. An external hard drive will come in handy, too.
Meanwhile, invest in a padded camera bag for your camera and lenses. For the bigger equipment, look at hard plastic containers cushioned with foam egg crates. It’s better to be too careful with your equipment than too cavalier.
When you compile your video gear shopping list, make sure these four categories are at the top of your list. It’s the most essential professional video gear to start your filmmaking career, so get a strong head start with the right equipment.