What Equipment Do You Really Need to Get Started Making Video Movies? The Inside Scoop for Filmmaking Students

14.06.2013 18:03

Basic Equipment for New Filmmaking Students

courtesy B&H PhotoVideo

  • What sort of camcorder do I need to purchase?

  • What about filming with a DSLR Camera?

  • Do I want a prosumer or entry level professional camcorder?

  • Should I buy external light sources?

  • How can I capture really good audio?

  • What sort of tapeless media is optimal for me?

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

  • What other gear should I have in my kit?

  • The Takeaway

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 R300 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 R300 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.

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