Basic Equipment for New Filmmaking Students

Share

Your first day of film school is right around the corner and maybe you’re already thinking about what kind of gear you’ll need to make the most of it. Sure, you’ll most likely get access to a lot of great equipment through your film school, but what if you want to practice framing a shot, lighting an interview subject or capturing sound on your own? After all, it’s your passion and inspiration that brought you to film school, so it makes sense that you’ll want to work on a project outside class or during one of your term breaks.

So, how much equipment do you really need? Should you save up for a prosumer camera? Or can you make do with a consumer camera that goes for less than $300? The answer to these questions depends on your goals, your budget and your vision, but it also depends on your willingness to make the most of some basic features you should look for in a camcorder including: Full HD video, microphone jack, headphone jack, variable frame rates and manual controls.

What sort of camcorder do I need to purchase?

You don’t have to spend a fortune on a camcorder that will help you work on your filmmaking skills. While you’ll certainly want to get a professional or prosumer-grade camera once you’re about to leave school and launch into your career as a filmmaker or videographer, at this point, you can save money by concentrating on learning to frame a shot, capture it and edit it, all of which can be accomplished with cameras costing less than $1,000, and sometimes even less than $300, if that’s what your budget requires.

A camera as simple and as affordable as the Canon VIXIA HF R500 has enough features to make it easy for you to film an interview or even shoot a short scene in HD. It has an external mic input, a headphone jack and 1/4"-20 tripod mount. It won’t help you practice your manual focusing skills, but it will capture HD images that will help you practice your editing skills. The HF R500 can be used with a 64GB SDXC card and can hold roughly six hours of 1080p video.

As useful as a pencam or simple solid-state cam can be to use, these models won’t give you the chance to work with focusing on a subject or to practice zooming in on a scene for effect. Companies like Canon, GoPro, Panasonic, Samsung and Sony offer excellent camcorders in the $300 to $500 range that have more powerful lenses and that give you the ability to zoom in and out. Several of these models are also capable of capturing full 1920 x 1080 HD Video in 60p and/or 24p. These cameras are tapeless, using removable SD Cards, Memory Sticks and even internal flash memory instead. While not all of the camcorder models in this price range have headphone jacks, the majority of them do have mic inputs and tripod mounts, as well as slightly higher quality image sensors for better motion rendering and low-light capabilities. These cameras record in AVCHD and MP4 formats that you can easily transfer to your computer to practice your editing.

While selecting your camcorder, you’ll probably want to pay more attention to the sensor size, the recording resolution and the memory capacity rather than the LDC screen size. While it’s nice to have a large display, it’s more important for your work to have the largest sensor that suits your budget and your film style. Bear in mind, however, that the larger the sensor, the more information the camera will capture, which also means that it will use memory faster than cameras with smaller sensors, and it will also take a bit longer to transfer to your computer.

There are also some excellent helmet cameras available within the consumer price range, with several models designed specifically to handle outdoor sports—including automobile racing and surfing.

What about filming with a DSLR Camera?

DSLR cameras offer film students benefits that are not possible with a camcorder. Prosumer DSLRs feature relatively larger sensors, which allow for greater depth of field and a more “filmic” look. Plus, an affordable DSLR usually allows for a comprehensive set of manual functions. While footage from DSLR cameras can be beautiful, they require a higher level of expertise and they tend to accentuate mistakes more than an HD camcorder. Images tend to go in and out of focus quickly, and when you sit down to edit shots on your computer, you’ll find that two scenes that could go together perfectly may be difficult to match up smoothly. If you do shoot with a DSLR camera, you may also want to look into getting some type of support rig or stabilizer.

Do I want a prosumer or entry level professional camcorder?

Of course, if you have the budget for it, or think you’ll be able to line up some gigs to cover the cost, you may also want to look into the prosumer models at B&H. The biggest benefits of these more expensive models are access to interchangeable lenses in addition to larger image sensors. Sony has a couple of interchangeable lens models that start around $1,500. They accept E and/or A-mount lenses and use single CMOS sensors. However, if you’re interested in a camera with both interchangeable lenses and 3CCD image sensors or something like Sony’s Exmore Super 35 CMOS sensor, that will catapult you up to the $5,000 range—where you’ll also have to make sure that you budget for the cost of additional lenses and add-ons like XLR microphones (at least two is ideal).

Should I buy external light sources?

Regardless of which type of consumer (or possible prosumer) camera you purchase, you should not expect to get much use out of the onboard light. Since you’ll be using the camera to practice your shooting skills, you should set yourself up with a basic three-point lighting kit. As you’ve probably already learned, a three-point lighting arrangement is pretty much the standard for a video or photo session or interview, and it calls for the use of a key light, a fill light and a back light (see the B&H InDepth article, Lighting for Interviews, as a basic example). As the name suggests, the key light is your main light, and it will set the level of warmth and brightness for your scene. The key light will be the brightest light you use, followed by the fill light, which, as its name also suggests, will fill in shadows and add to the lighting effect of the key light. The back light will help add more dimension to your shots by separating your subject visually from the background and accentuating the physical outline of your subject.

Besides daylight, you’ll likely be shooting with tungsten, fluorescent or LED lights, so make sure that you know how to adjust the white balance on your camera to match the color temperature of the most prevalent light source before you start. Also remember that you can sometimes get warmer hues simply by using a blue card (or a blue piece of paper) while setting your white balance. While most new cameras have good automatic white balance settings, as a student of film it would certainly behoove you to know how to make a shot that looks more appealing than what an untrained person would capture with the same camera.

In order to get the best results from your lights, you might have to pick up some light stands or clamps. You could get a pretty decent light stand for around $30, and can even add to the height of a light stand by adding a boom, or even go ahead and pick up a kit that includes a stand and a boom. Of course, once you start working with lighting, you might find yourself wanting to have a set of filters, diffusers and gels and barndoors. Though you will probably have access to a lot of this lighting equipment through your school, it’s good for you to take the time to learn about the options available out there and the costs involved in assembling the tools and gear you need for professional lighting techniques and results. Eventually you may also reach the point where it’s time to invest in your own cine meter or spot meter, so take a look at what’s out there, and think about and plan for the kinds of lighting tools that might be part of your future as a filmmaker.

How can I capture really good audio?

While consumer cameras aren’t likely to have XLR inputs, many do have mic inputs that will enable you to plug in an external mic so that you can get the microphone closer to your subject and away from the camera. Even on some more expensive prosumer cameras, the onboard mic will capture some of the noise from the camera. The best way to avoid that and also ensure that you get a more professional final product is through the use of an external shotgun or lavalier microphone or even a handheld digital recorder. If your camcorder does not have XLR inputs and you want to use a mic that has XLR connectivity, you can always solve that problem with a camcorder XLR adapter.

For a decent professional-grade microphone with XLR connectivity, you’ll probably have to pay at least $200, but prosumer mics with 1/8" (3.5mm) connections can be more affordable. A professional wireless microphone can cost you more than $500. Sony, however, does offer an affordable wireless mic, the WC S-999, that’s excellent for interviews and situations in which you don’t need a long range and aren’t setting up a shot that’s susceptible to a lot of interference. This type of mic is ideal for interviews and can even be used to shoot a scene for your short, experimental video or for a Web-based project.

An external, handheld digital recorder is sometimes the best solution for capturing audio. Consumer and prosumer cameras rarely feature manual audio controls, and without a wireless microphone you will always be tethered to the camera. An external recorder will give you much greater versatility and significantly higher quality. However, one drawback to consider is the hassle of syncing audio and video in post (and placing the recorder close enough to the talent in your video to capture sound well).

Whatever type of recording system you use, keep in mind that often, what makes a film seem like a home video isn’t so much the look as the sound. A built-in mic won’t get you close to your subjects, and won’t be directional enough to focus on the sound you want to capture. Also, don’t forget that it’s a good idea to monitor your audio with a pair of headphones, so consider a digital recorder or camera that allows you to do that. Optimally, a camcorder or HDSLR with a headphone output will allow you to hear the sound in the camera; you won’t have to wait until you upload your footage, and it will help you avoid technical complications regarding audio connectivity.

What sort of tapeless media is optimal for me?

You’ll still find some high-end prosumer and professional cameras, particularly from Sony, that use miniDV, though just about all of the consumer cameras you might be choosing from now capture to SD/SDHC/SDXC cards, Memory Sticks or onboard solid state memory. The advantage of shooting to memory cards is that they can help you keep costs down since you don’t have to buy a lot of additional memory, and can you can also transfer video easily from the card to your computer, or directly from the camera to your computer or even an external hard drive, between shots.

You might also find it easier to have multiple memory cards, so that you can continue shooting while transferring your footage to your drive. Memory cards can cost you between $20 and $100 depending on the capacity and read/write speed. For external hard drives, the cost per Gigabyte is even less, as you can now get a 500GB portable hard drive for less than $100. You also have lots of styles to choose from among portable hard drives, from rugged, slim designs to models that can hold up to 8TB. Just remember that speed is important when working with video files, so get one that can handle your file transfers quickly, and that also has the right capacity for your work, and the right connection types for your laptop. Sometimes it makes sense to get two smaller external drives so you can work with one on-set while handing another off to your editor (even if it’s you).

Do I need some kind of camera support for the times I am not handholding my camera?

A tripod that can pan and tilt is a basic requirement for shooting video. A fluid head video tripod will give you the best results, but a regular photo tripod with a pan-and-tilt head can also work. Your goal when shooting, even with an inexpensive consumer camcorder, should be to get still shots that don’t look like home videos. Mounting your camera on a tripod will not only keep your camera steady, it will also help you avoid shooting from the familiar angles that scream “home-video” to a viewer. With the rock-solid framing support that a tripod can provide, you’ll end up with better, more consistent footage that aligns more with your vision. And when the time comes, you’ll be able to shoot without the tripod for more dramatic effects.

If you want to get even more traction out of your tripod, however, and plan on incorporating smooth tracking shots into your work, you should think about getting a dolly. Just set your tripod into a dolly and those three wheels will give you the freedom to track a shot and avoid the bounce of a handheld camera. You can also use a dolly with a track for smooth shots even on rough surfaces. And while it might be too early in your film career to invest in them, it never hurts to start learning about the costs of jibs and cranes and the different models that might be within reach throughout the different stages of your career.

What other gear should I have in my kit?

In addition to the camera, mic, lights, and headphones, you may also want to set yourself up with some essential tools to have with you on your shoots. B&H offers a convenient gaffer’s kit to get you started, but if you want to put together your own, you should include a few different colors of 2" gaffer tape, a multi-tool with a good blade (a serrated blade can be especially useful for cutting rope), a handful of permanent markers and a decent pair of work gloves. Your gloves won’t just protect you while you’re setting up or taking down a set, they’ll also protect your hands when you’re working with hot lights, doing things like adjusting barndoors or swapping out gels. As for the flashlight, one is a must, but having a backup on hand could really save you some headaches if your trusty torch gives up the ghost, or a day shoot lasts well into the night and there’s nowhere nearby to get batteries.

Though it might not fit into your tool kit, it also never hurts to have a small, LED book light that you can clip onto your notepad or your shooting script. While your multi-tool will be very handy on the set, you may also want to supplement it with a 6–8" crescent wrench as well as a screwdriver with interchangeable heads, and a tape measure. And, of course, don’t forget to get yourself a handy tool pouch. One last thing to note: if you’re doing any work on a film crew, whether during the school year or during a break, it never hurts to bring along your own two-way radio headset (that’s labeled with your name).

The Takeaway

  • As a film student, the basic features you should look for, even in an inexpensive camcorder are Full HD, a tripod mount and manual controls.
  • It’s also really helpful if you can find a camera with a mic input, headphone output and variable frame rates.
    On average, a decent consumer camcorder will cost in the range of $300–$500.
  • Cameras with interchangeable lenses start at around $1,500 for models with a single sensor, though models with 3 image sensors start at around $5,000.
  • You should budget for a three-point lighting setup, with a key light, a fill light and a back light, including light stands and light-shaping accessories.
  • External mics dramatically improve your ability to capture video that doesn’t sound like a home movie, and for more professional results, camcorder XLR adapters easily connect XLR mics to 3.5mm mic inputs.
  • Memory cards cost between $20 and $100.
  • Portable hard drives now cost around $100 for 500GB and less than $200 for 1TB.
  • A tripod with a fluid head is ideal, but any tripod is better than no tripod—and it’s never too early to start thinking about adding a dolly to your wish list.
  • You should also assemble a gaffer’s kit that includes gaffer tape, work gloves, a couple of permanent markers, a multi-tool, a tool pouch and a couple of small LED flashlights.

Add new comment

Great Post!

So with what you have said... what is the cheapest Camera in the market with the following traits?:

Full HD, tripod mount, manual controls, mic input, headphone output, variable frame rates and a good zoom?

I'd really appreciate the response, thanks again!

I would like to suggest the Canon M500 as a great low price film student on a budget camcorder. It has a large-for-it's-price range 1/3" sensor and it has a great low light image quality reputation. The zoom is 10x, perfectly fine for most uses. You can extend that range with an add-on wide or telephoto lenses. Not long ago, it was amazing for camcorders in this price range to have a headphone jack as well as an external microphone jack. The M500 does have both. It has two frame rates, 30 and 24 (for that filmic look) No manual controls really but at this stage, you should just concentrate on the other basics. And yes it has a 1/4" tripod mount.

Hello David -

The Sony HDR-CX580V High Definition Handycam Camcorder comes outfitted with several video enhancing features. It has Golf Shot, Face Detection, CinemaTone presets and 24p recording for cinematic quality video. There's also a Tracking Focus function that follows selected subjects as you record. The microphone features 5.1 channel surround sound for dynamic and vivid surround audio. There's even a wind noise reduction function that provides clear voice recording and Geotagging with a built-in GPS receiver and NAVTEQ maps. For professional shooting, the camcorder has a built-in flash, headphone jack for monitoring and a microphone jack for using external mics. The HDR-CX580V provides advanced capture and control features that are often considered the domain of professional cameras including expanded focus for precise manual focus control, zebra and peaking for precision focus and exposure adjustment.  Page 67 of the owner's guide details the many manual features of this camera.

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions:  AskBH@BandH.com

hey mark! actually i wanted to start making movies, for learning for now! so can you suggest a good camcorder? and also if you can tell me that which camcorders are used to make hollywood kind of movies?

Hello Mak -

My minimum recommendation is the Canon VIXIA HF M500 Full HD Camcorder . My colleague Dennis summed up that camera's attributes pretty neatly (see below from April 8th).

As far as Hollywood goes, typically there are large budgets available for the purchase of cameras, sound, lighting equipment, and all the skilled labor required to coordinate the successful implementation of all this gear to create a great story.

And speaking of great stories. The Sony PMW-F55 CineAlta 4K Digital Cinema Camera features an 8.9MP Super 35mm image sensor, capable of capturing 4K, 2K and HD resolution video in a variety of formats via the camera's internal recorder. The F55 is among the first digital motion picture cameras with a global shutter, which completely eliminates motion skew and other "rolling" shutter distortions. Sony has designed the F55 as the foundation of an exceptionally versatile, modular system.

Optional components¹ of the F55 system include bolt-on recording units, a series of digital viewfinders, and camera support rigs. Notably, the AXS-R5 recorder¹ can be mounted onto the rear of the F55, enabling 4K and 2K 16-bit RAW recording and high speed frame rates of up to 240 fps in 2K². In keeping with Sony's mandate on versatility, the F55 will have a native FZ-mount, which will provide an interface for Sony's SCL-Z18x140³ auto focus servo zoom lens as well as a wide range of lens adapters, such as the included PL-mount adapter.

Many digital sensors can match and even surpass traditional motion picture film for resolution and low light image quality, but with approximately 14.3 stops of dynamic range, film has maintained an advantage over most digital sensors. However, the F55's exposure latitude is rated at 14 stops of dynamic range, for truly film-like rendering of highlights and shadows. Moreover, the F55 incorporates the same color filter array technology used in Sony's flagship F65, for a color gamut that is even wider than motion picture film.

On-board 4K recording requires high-data rate recording media, and the F55 will use Sony's newly developed SxS PRO+ memory cards. A 128 GB card will provide enough space for approximately 40 minutes of 4K video in the XAVC Intra 422 format. SxS PRO+ cards will also allow on-board recording of 2K video at up to 180 frames per second².

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions:  AskBH@BandH.com

Thank you so much for answering our questions!!

Is there a Canon with good zoom, Full HD, tripod mount, manual controls, mic input, headphone output, variable frame rates and the picture quality of a GoPro? If not, is there any camera with that combination under 500 bucks?

Thank you!

Hi  -

The Canon VIXIA HF M500 Full HD Camcorder is a 1920 x 1080 high def cam with an SD/SDHC/SDXC memory card slot that supports up to 64GB memory cards. With this much storage space it's possible to record for several hours. Plus, the camera's 1/3" HD CMOS Pro Sensor and image processor work together to provide stunningly detailed, life-like images that look great on your HDTV. Of course, these two don't work alone: the HF M500 also employs a genuine Canon 10x HD video lens, optical image stabilization, powered image stabilization and a 3.0" widescreen touch screen LCD display, among other great features.

Designed with advanced users in mind, the camcorder also comes with headphone and microphone jacks. These connections make it possible to capture high quality audio to go along with your movies. In addition to using an external mic for audio, the HF M500 features an enhanced internal microphone, which gives you the choice of 4 different recording directions, including monaural, stereo, wide, or synced with zoom. This feature also allows for adjustment between low, mid-range, and high frequencies.

This camera also allows manual control of focus, aperture, shutter speed, exposure, white balance, and audio.

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions:  AskBH@BandH.com

Actually i have Canon Eos 550d DSLR Camera, I want to do Shoot with my Camera , Which Equipment i used to live shoot?

HI -

Equipment choices will depend on many factors including subject, story and budget.  Obviously the choices are plentiful and confusing. Send us an e-mail and we will be happy to discuss the best options for your particular shooting style, and the specific films you want to create.

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions:  AskBH@BandH.com

I'm thinking of getting the canon t3i as my first camera. I'm mostly going to be making shortfilms and music videos. Do you think this is a good camera to start with?

"The camera in your hands is better than any that is on a shelf." The T3i coupled with a 18-55mm, 55-250mm and a 50mm lens kit is a very good start for video making. You will get very good image quality in both video and stills. Do keep in mind however, that there is no Auto Focus in video with this camera. (For the best AF in video the new 70D would be the answer for that.) As a video starter kit, it would be hard to beat this one.

I'm considering the Canon 5D Mk III or the 70D as my first camera. I'm using it for short (edited) clips (3-4 min) and longer interviews for some documentaries. Plus, I'd like for the videos to have "cinematic" quality to them. (I'm hoping to show these clips on near theatre-sized screens.) Is one better than the other?

Hello,

For "cinematic" quality, the larger sensor of the 5D KkIII is the better choice. Larger sensors allow for more shallow depth of field and for large screen viewing will have better image quality.

I would like to get a camera to shoot festival films. I was looking into DSLR and was thinking the t3i or t2i. Recently though I've been thinking about just going camcorder. I definitely want the ability to change lenses, any thoughts on Canons HF G20?

If you definitely want the ability to change lenses then a camcorder will not be the way to go. The Canon HFG20 is a very good quality consumer level video camera but does not have the ability to change lenses. For a film look you would be better off looking into DSLR more.

What would be your opinions on the Sony Handycam DCR-SX85 16 GB Camcorder? I'm looking to shoot short films for mostly learning purposes but also to put on the Web.

Hi -

Although this is a simple camera, it is more than equal to the task of video story telling.  The videos you  will create can be easily posted to the web.  Good luck!

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions:  AskBH@BandH.com

I'm planning on making some documentaries to publish on the web, and potentially for cinema screening. The Canon XA20 seems to tick all the boxes, except that it does not seem to be able to record 1920x1080/24p.
Is that correct?
Also, what does the XA20 do that the XA10 can't?
Thanks!

Hi Rico -

The lens has a 20x zoom ratio and a 35mm equivalent of 26.8-576mm, which makes it significantly wider and longer than XA10’s built-in lens. Perhaps most notable, the XA20 feature built-in Dual Band, 2.4/5 GHz Wi-Fi and wireless FTP file transfer, which allow journalists in the field to upload footage directly to the studio’s server. Camera settings and operation can also be remote-controlled via compatible smart devices.  The XA20 is also the first Canon video camera to feature an Organic LED electrostatic touch screen display. This 3.5” OLED display has 1.23-million-dot resolution. Other features include a 1.56-million-dot EVF, Dynamic SuperRange Optical Image Stabilization with Powered IS, an 8-blade iris, a detachable handle with XLR audio inputs, infrared shooting mode and advanced display features including color peaking, zebra pattern, color bars and test tone.  The XA20 feature a 2.91MP CMOS sensor and Canon’s DIGIC DV 4 image processor for capturing 1080/60p video in 35 Mbps MP4 and 28 Mbps AVCHD. Users can also record and transmit lower bit rate (3 Mbps) MP4 video. Dual SD memory card slots support simultaneous recording with built-in down-conversion, and relay recording enables prolonged continuous recording times.

 The audio quality and access is improved and better integrated into the handle.  The OIS is improved as well.

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions:  AskBH@BandH.com

Hello!

Firstly, I am so impressed by BH. I have been browsing the web for this type of info for aaaages now, and your website and staff seem to truly know it ALL!
My question is slightly off topic but I am still going to give it a go. I have budgeted $2000/2500 for both a camcorder and labtop. I am looking to start a career in the film industry. (my first projects will be documentaries and music videos) I will be teaching myself and taking a few online courses along the way. If possible I would like the footage to look proffesional. So in that light, how much money would you recommend spending on a camcorder vs a labtop? I have friends with large editing systems at my disposal but would like a labtop that I can edit my own footage on without being a nuisance.

Do you have any labtop camcorder duos that come to mind in that price range? I have a feeling both are very important parts of the film process so I am a bit stumped as to where to spend more money.

Thank you in advance for the advice

Hi Susan -

 The Apple 13.3" MacBook Pro Notebook Computer  is a powerful notebook computer with an innovative aluminum unibody design. It is loaded with advanced power management features and an integrated battery, which work together to provide up to 7 hours of wireless web browsing.

Product Highlights

  • 2.5 GHz Intel Core i5 Dual-Core
  • 8GB of 1600 MHz DDR3 RAM
  • 1TB 5400 rpm Hard Drive
  • Integrated Intel HD Graphics 4000
  • 13.3" LED-Backlit Glossy Display
  • 1280 x 800 Native Resolution
  • SuperDrive
  • 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0
  • Dual USB 3.0 Ports, Thunderbolt Port
  • Mac OS X 10.9 Mavericks

The Panasonic AG-HMC40 AVCCAM HD Camcorder & AG-MYA30G XLR Mic Adapter / Holder is a kit including an AG-HMC40 Camcorder and a dual input XLR Microphone Adapter and Holder.

Product Highlights

  • 3MOS Sensor
  • AVCHD / 1080p / 24p
  • 10.6MP Stills
  • 12x Leica Lens
  • Optical Image Stabilization
  • Dual XLR Input Mic Adapter / Holder
  • XLR Switching to Mic or Line Level
  • Mono or Stereo Signal Capturing
  • Adapter / Holder Mounts Camera's Handle

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions:  AskBH@BandH.com

You write "... Prosumer DSLRs feature relatively larger sensors, which allow for greater depth of field and a more “filmic” look."

My understanding is different. The advantage here is a *Shallow* DOF that provides the "filmic" look.

Thank you.

Dear Reader,

Thank you for your response. Your comment is accurate - one of the benefits of a larger sensor is that it allows you to get a shallower depth of field. We will remove the word “greater” and replace it with “shallower”. Thanks for your input.

Im a new filmmaker and need some help with buying some things. note I do not have much knowledge on the subject for im only a Jr. in high school. though i know enough to get started. First off great article really helps me out. But I wanted an opinion on the subject. I would say my budget is around $2,000 MAX I want to keep it under $1,500 if possible. which DSLR camera(30mm lens)would be a good buy? Id also need a audio capture device preferably something I could insert into the camera in order to get rid of audio syncing though its not necessary. (id be working on documentaries as well as short films mostly) Also a stabilizer would be good. Anything else that could work thats in my budget let me know. THANK YOU FOR YOUR HELP!

Keeping with the low budget, the equipment I would recommend to start out with would be:

Canon EOS Rebel T3i DSLR Camera with EF-S 18-55mm IS II Lens Kit

This will be a great starter camera. Full HD and includes the kit lens.

Bower 35mm f/1.4 Lens for Canon

The Bower 35mm prime will be a great option for a go to lens. It is a fast lens that delivers great quality.

Tascam DR-60D 4-Channel Linear PCM Recorder

The DR60D is a high quality audio recorder that mounts under the camera itself. It has 2 XLR inputs for mics and can be looped out to record into the camera as well for easier syncing.

VariZoom Stealthy Camera Support

The Stealthy is a very versatile handheld stabilizer.

Magnus VT-4000 Tripod System with Fluid Head

Sturdy entry level tripod system.

Hello, thank you for the article it was extremely informative. Now, on to my question. I have a Nikon D3200 w/ 18-55mm & 55-200mm lenses. I have used it mostly for photos and to film video auditions. Although I love the quality of the video, the audio is obviously not up to my standards. I am currently preparing to shoot a couple of short films and would like to use this camera to do it. So, can you give me some options of low-budget lighting, options to use wireless audio into the camera and any lens changes or additional items I would possibly need. I am literally doing this on a shoestring budget and a newbie behind the camera, so any advice you can give would be optimal!

Hello,

Not knowing what subject you are shooting, I'll assume they are some form of interviews since audio is also a concern.

The SpectroLED SpectroLED Three Light Interview Kit by Genaray includes one 9.0" and two 14" LED lights, diffusers, cables, power sources and 3 light stands. A 5.4" Mini Boom and a 5/8" stud adapter are supplied so that you can use one of the SpectroLEDs overhead or at an offset angle. All of the fixtures offer 0-100% dimming and a 60 degree beam angle. Each light comes with a 100-240VAC power supply but if you need to shoot in out of the way locations you'll find its DC (battery) capability handy. A cigarette lighter adapter cord is included for each light to that end. Just add your choice of optional 12V battery.

The H4N On-Camera DSLR Audio Kit is a B&H Kit that provides the new breed of "DSLR" videographers a means of attaching an audio recorder to their camera for dual system audio recording (also applicable for mirrorless cameras).

The H4n features onboard true X/Y stereo microphones to pick up clear, natural sound without phase shifting. The mics can be rotated to select a 90° or 120° recording pattern for terrific versatility. The digitally-controlled preamp, combined with the high-quality microphones, allows you to capture Linear PCM audio at rates up to 24-bit/96kHz. The recorder captures audio to SD or SDHC cards with capacities up to 32GB. A USB 2.0 port allows you to quickly transfer files to a Mac or PC, or use the H4n as a live audio interface.

For connecting your own microphones or instruments, the H4n features XLR/TRS combo input jacks with phantom capability. A 3.5mm line output is provided, and a reference speaker is built-in for quickly reviewing your recordings.

The Audio-Technica ATR288W VHF TwinMic System is a portable, versatile VHF wireless microphone system ideal for video applications, general PA applications, aerobics and fitness instruction, worship and more. The TwinMic system consists of a camera-mountable VHF receiver, bodypack transmitter, ATR35 miniature lavalier and ATR20 dynamic handheld microphone.

Both included microphones are wired, and connect to the bodypack for wireless operation. Connect the ATR35 lavalier for completely hands-free speech, and the ATR20 handheld for applications that require a handheld microphone. A 9V battery (each) keeps the transmitter and receiver powered for up to 8 hours.

To fulfill the needs of digital photographers owning Nikon cameras with DX-sized sensors, Nikon produces the 35mm f/1.8 AF-S DX Lens.

This lens produces an angle of view similar to what a 50mm lens would produce on a full-frame/FX camera and thusly functions as a "normal" lens. Prior to the digital explosion, most shooters would begin their exploration into the world of photography with a "normal" lens with a large maximum aperture.

A lens of this type is the traditional standby for low-light shooting, careful composition, and street shooting. This 35mm f/1.8 Nikkor lens recreates that experience for DX format shooters who have been seeking a comparable "normal" lens.

Hi there! I'm a beginning film student with little prior knowledge about the intricacies of cameras. However, from you article (which was extremely helpful by the way), I gathered that I should start by investing in a decent DSLR. I'm looking for something in the $400-600 range that has manual controls and a headphone jack at the very least and I will be using it to shoot short films and documentaries. What models specifically would you recommend? Thanks:)

Unfortunately, no DSLRs in that price range have a headphone jack. The least expensive DSLR option with a headphone jack would be the Nikon D7100. Without a head phone jack in the $400-600 price range, you might look at the Canon T3i. It’s a great introductory DSLR, and would be a good option for video.

Hi there,
I have never attended film school, but I am passionate about learning and getting into this industry. I currently do event planning and want to expand my business to capture the events live (live streaming) and produce video edited versions via my website.
I live in New York and would like feedback to get my journey started. I am looking for a recommendation for film making/videography classes. Most importantly,what specific equipment will I need to get this venture underway with a $2500 budget?

I would recommend looking into NY Film Academy. They have a variety of courses that will help you to learn the craft. For event video in the budget you mentioned I would recommend looking into the Canon XA20 for the camera. It is full HD, has dual XLR for pro audio and a long 20x zoom range.

With that you will have $500. left over about to spend of accessories. You would need recording media, an additional battery and a tripod for starters. That will get you started with shooting.
If you have further questions, please feel free to email me at AskBH@BHphotovideo.com

Hi! I currently run my set up with my Panasonic Lumix GH2 which i recently purchased. Since film is the main reason for the camera, i need a wide angle lense. As of late I have been renting lenses, the 9-18, 25mm Leica and the voigtlander F/.95 and the pentax 50mm F/2 all of which are great, great (and expensive, save the pentax) lenses. However, for a lot of my movies i need wide establishing shots. I know that since the GH2 is a M43 camera is has a 2x Crop factor, that being said i have been looking at the 14mm (28mm/35mm equiv.) 2.5 from panasonic because it is pretty fast, wide and its a prime. But do you think that it is wide enough for what i need? Is it worth it to buy it? and also, do you have any other suggestions? something in the same price range preferably.

This article was very informative, and thank you so much for writing it. I would like to start a tv show for a public access channel and would like something similar to (and hopefully cheaper) to the Pan AVC Ag-HMC80P. In the past I used a hd camcorder and ppl criticized the production part, saying it look "low budget" so I want to alleviate the issue with better production.

So I guess the question is: I need cheap equipment very similar to the Pac AVC Ag-HMC80P. All help would be appreciated.

Hi -

With professional cameras you will get exactly what you pay for in terms of image quality - no more and no less.  The  Panasonic AG-HMC80 3MOS AVCCAM HD Shoulder-Mount Camcorder is an excellent entry level  pro camera. I would be reluctant to recommend a lesser product for you.  Paramount to great filmmaking is the audio.  Selecting a quality microphone will contribute greatly to the professional quality of your production.

The Panasonic AG-MC200G is a camera mounted condenser microphone with superior directional characteristics than that of standard unidirectional microphones. The focused pickup of the AG-MC200G eliminates audio at the sides of the microphone, greatly reducing ambiance and potential feedback problems. The AG-MC200G uses +48V phantom power and features a standard XLR output. The microphone is ideal for camera use, as well as portable recording devices and field mixers.

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions:  AskBH@BandH.com 

Hi,

I purchased the Canon XA20,tripod and additional battery like you suggested, for live streaming, but I am unable to live stream with the cables provided. (HDMI & USB) What additional accessories will I need to Livestream with the Canon XA20 from my pc.

Also, what will I need to go in the field or walkaround with the Canon XA20 wirelessly? (example:Encoders,hardware,software)

In order to stream the video you will need a video capture device that will use the HDMI video and capture it for Live Stream to host.  If you do not have any video capture devices you can also use a Livestream Broadcaster.

res.sir.
It will help me a lot . But i need to know about focus . And about its shifting .. i wanna shoot from my mobile (Samsung grand ) my movie. is this possible? Or it takes sm affect on it

Looking for a camera for my son, sophomore in HS. Wanting to upgrade from his regular camcorder. Information was very useful.

Good information....

Hi

Interested in acquiring equipement for multimedia use... able to shoot and record indoe movies, live music of musicians and singers etc...and singers using tracks

Please email your request to AskBH@BHPhoto.com and we will happily put a formal quote together on the gear needed.

Awesome post for filmakers who just want to get started,

but I have one question. For the audio equipment, what would you recomend for microphones? What is better for amatuer filmakers, on-camera mics or shotgun mics and which one is for what use? Also, if you did choose the on-camera mic, what would you recommend?

Hi -

Depending upon the camera, your budget and the project, you might consider a shotgun mic that could be used on a boom pole or with a camera mount:

The Sennheiser MKE-600 Shotgun Microphone Complete HDSLR Kit from B&H provides everything you'll need to capture quality audio on your HDSLR camera.

The Sennheiser MKE-600 takes on video-sound challenges with its high level of directivity, attenuating off-axis sound. The switchable low-cut filter adds additional wind and handling noise attenuation. The MKE 600 can be phantom powered or operated on an AA battery for about 150 hours. The rugged and all-metal housing means the microphone will function perfectly in outdoor recording situations.

The K-Tek KE-89CC Avalon Series Aluminum Boompole provides a lightweight solution for ENG, EFP and other field recording applications. It's tough enough to endure the rigors of road use while remaining travel worthy. This pole features an internally coiled cable and XLR connection at the base of the pole. The captive-collet coupling system locks each section in place for even further reliability.
The shockmount features a four-point suspension. It is easily angled with its rubberized adjustment knob. There is a built-in shoe for camera mounting and a 3/8"-16 thread connection at the base.
Additionally, this kit includes a Rycote windscreen, a low to high impedance transformer, short and long XLR cables.

For a simple on-camera shotgun you might use:

The VP83 LensHopper Shotgun Microphone from Shure is a compact camera-mount condenser that provides detailed, high-definition audio with DSLR cameras and camcorders. An integrated Rycote Lyre shock mounting system provides isolation from vibration and mechanical noise.

Please contact us via e-mail if you have additional questions:  AskBH@BandH.com