Call it what you will – low budget, bare bones, or down and dirty – it doesn’t matter if you’re an amateur who’s learning by doing or a seasoned pro, you simply must have the right goods to make the goods. Whether shooting a documentary, music video, short, or feature, without the proper equipment and editing tools, you’re doomed to producing something that’s not as good as it could be – or worse, something substandard.
So what do you REALLY need to produce something of quality that’s going to set you above all the wannabe Spielbergs out there? Here are the absolute basics to have on hand to create something that can truly be considered “pro.”.
A Video Camera
Get the best one you can possibly afford. Make sure it has XLR inputs for capturing audio. HDMI, USB AV, headphone, and remote ports are also highly recommended. A quality viewfinder is also essential. Don’t forget a complete cleaning kit and always have the proper tools on hand to keep the camera maintained. As for different lenses and filters, you’ll want at least a wide angle, and an ND or polarizing filter. Become “one” with the camera’s operating manual and never leave home without it.
Even if you plan on going hand-held, get a fluid head tripod. You’re going to find it indispensable no matter what your subject or what style you shoot. There’s nothing that screams “amateur” more loudly than a shaky shot that wasn’t intended to be.
Go wireless. Much more versatile and convenient than a hand-held, or even a boom. If shooting an interview or scene in which more than one person speaks, make sure you have one for each of them.
A Digital Audio Recorder
The second biggest thing that screams “amateur” is bad audio. If you do decide to record directly to your camera (with XLR inputs, remember?) you could forego this item but would then need a preamp audio box. Be aware that using a DAR will mean you have to sync the audio and video when you begin editing.
You want to hear the audio that’s being captured exactly the way your camera or DAR is hearing it. Just make sure they’re comfortable, because you’re going to be wearing them a lot.
A Lighting Kit
If you’re shooting exclusively outdoors, then you could possibly get by without one. Still, you would need a light reflector to bounce the light where you need it. If you’re shooting inside, it is a must. Also, it’s a good idea to have an on-camera light available for quick interview situations.
As for editing software, it depends on what type of system you’ll be cutting on, but Cyberlink has some great products and there always seem to be discounts available when buying them. Here’s a video that intros their PowerDirector software that helped sell me on it.
Very often, it’s the little things that can ruin even he most well-planned shoot. Double check (and then triple check) that you have all the proper cables, batteries, and media storage you’ll need before heading out. A good rule-of-thumb is to estimate the number of batteries and SD cards you’ll need, then double it. Consider bringing along a portable hard drive to download your footage to serve as a backup.
Oh, I almost forgot something – See? It happens - you’ll need cases and bags to carry all your gear. Get something that’s easy to lug, and waterproof. Best of luck on all your creative endeavors!
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