May 18, 2017

Budget Friendly Filmmaking - A List Of Cameras And Tools To Get You Started

By: Ben Farnham

So it is snowy out and I have been browsing around for a couple of days now for a second camera for myself that I could use for a backup shooter and in my search, it dawned on me that I was leisurely searching for camera's in a much larger price range that I had only dreamed of years back. Now, I am not saying this to sound like a pompous a-hole, in fact, I am trying to share with you the opposite. I remember what it was like to search for the first camera that may fit in your budget especially when trying to start your film business in the first place. And from what I remember... it sucks. I feel so lucky to be able to look for tools with much less concern for price than what I used to. And to even get to this point took a LOT of work but... It all started with a single step.

So I wanted to list out some products I feel would set a new filmmaker out on the right track. So first let me list it out as essentials first, and then I will list out some tools that will really help. And I will try to keep explanations to a minimum but, if you know me, I can ramble on about my personal experience and why I would choose this.

** Full disclosure, the links in this blog post are affiliate links (Amazon.com) and any purchases of this product will help enable us to continue writing and teaching here at Pure Presence Creative. We appreciate your support and help. **

Essentials

1) The Camera - Pansonic Lumix G7 4K Mirrorless Camera (About $600)

Ok, if this camera were out when I first started, I have a feeling that things would have been much different because of the video quality it produces, and the flexible lens selection you have with it. First off, it comes with a kit lens that has image stabilization (smooths out hand-held / shaky footage) and the clarity that the lens offers is pretty darn good for the price. Actually, not pretty darn good, AMAZING for the price. I recently was able to test this little guy out and I was extremely impressed. The video quality is pretty close to that of it's older brother the GH4 (my go to still for run an gun filming).

So why this camera / lens kit out of all of the others available? Well, let's list out some specs / features which in my personal film style have been a life saver.

  • 4K Video - Even if you are only rendering out 1080p videos for YouTube or for web usage only, shooting 4K will allow you to crop in without losing much clarity. Also, if you are just starting out and are using a LOT of handheld shots, then adding a post production stabilizer (such as warp stabilizer in Premiere or Davinci Resolve's stabilizer) will give you the freedom to smooth footage out as well because most stabilizer's crop in.
  • The lens comes with Image Stabilization (again, smooth your hand-held shots before post production)
  • Built in intervalometer for time-lapse video.
  • Bright, swivel screen that is touchscreen (you can touch to focus to if you need to create rack focus effects).
  • Built in Wifi to connect to your smart phone to use as a monitor or external controller should you need.

That is just the beginning of the incredible features this camera packs but should you want to read full specs, go ahead and check out the link above. 

Please do note that as this is a 'Micro Four Thirds' camera which means the sensor is small and will crop in. Should this limit you? Not at all. It just means that your lenses will be zoomed in much more than many other full frame sensors. For example a 25mm lens will equate to roughly a 50mm lens on a full frame sensor. Simple stuff but not limiting in any way.

2) The Mic - The Rode VideoMic On Camera Microphone (About $150)

Audio is in my professional opinion, one of the biggest components to making a quality film. Whether it be a short film or a corporate event, audio is key. So please don't just use the built in camera mic for the G7 (if you took my recommendation on a camera).

This mic is affordable and sounds very clean, and will help take your audio up a level especially if you are filming documentary type interviews. It is easy to set up, and comes with what is known as a 'Windjammer' that will cut wind noise down. Really not much more to it. It's a great mic! 

To hear it, I did use it in one of my videos. Check it out here.

** Quick note, if you know your going to be filming and need audio that may be slightly further away, I would recommend the Rode VideoMic Pro (About $230). This mic comes with a small switch called a pre-amp which basically amplifies the sound coming in so it isn't overly quite and gives you more space to work with inside the audio wave. It does cost more but In my opinion, is well worth the investment. **

3) Editing Software Davinci Resolve - Completely Free For The Basic Version

Ok, I have recently wrote an article on why I am ditching Adobe's Premiere Pro and you can read my overview on how awesome Davinci Resolve is there but should you not want to read that, I will summarize for you.

  • Very easy workflow and no need to bounce between programs.
  • Incredible tools to color correct / grade your footage. With these tools, you can create your own unique film styles and looks and easily replicate looks seen in Hollywood blockbusters.
  • Powerful masking and tracking engines.
  • Built in video stabilizer.
  • Built in / dedicated audio tab.

Again, those are just a few of the powerful features packed into Davinci Resolve. Now, I will say that with the basic version, you are limited to rendering 1080p videos. Should you want to render out 4K video, you will need to purchase the full version of Davinci Resolve Studio which, as of writing this article, is only $299 which isn't bad at all for the features you get. And I mean it. The full version is even more incredible and packed full of powerful features! (If you are considering purchasing the full license and looking at the reviews, please also read the responses to the 1 start review. The guy who wrote the 1 star didn't know what he was doing.)

Essentials Overview

And those are it. That is really the basic tools (and high quality tools) you need to start your video career. No joke. In fact I started with less. I started with a Canon T4i and the MacBook Pro's movie maker. I didn't even know Resolve existed back then.

Non-Essentials But Would Greatly Help Your Production

So here are some additional tools that would really help up your production and again, I am going to try and make them as affordable as possible.

Lighting - Genaray LED 7100T On Camera Light (About $190)

When it comes to video and photography, lighting can either make or break a shot. No joke. Lighting is in my opinion one of the biggest components if you are looking for that 'cinematic' or even just high quality look. So to get started, I recommend some on camera lights. Not to actually put on only your camera but to actually place around your scene because they are small, portable and powerful. If you grab a few of these lights, you can work wonders as they come with the ability to adjust the color tempeture in your actual light. I have one of these still and it works beautifully!

Additional Lens - Rokinon Cine 12mm T2.2 Prime Lens (About $375)

In my professional opinion, you should always have a wide angle prime lens on hand for any occasion and this lens... has to be one of the BEST for the price. Now, this is a manual focus / aperture so it does require you know the basics to your camera but the quality of shots that this lens has to offer is again... amazing! Really not much more to say. Clean images on video tend to equate to higher quality productions meaning you can get paid more!

Utility - 5 In 1 Reflector / Light Diffuser (About $40)

Like I mentioned above, when it comes to film / photography, light can really make or break a shot. So, with these light reflectors / diffusers you can really enhance your 'film look' when you learn to bounce light and properly diffuse light on your subjects face. These guys are affordable, big and fold up beautifully for on the go purposes. Plus, they are affordable too.

Should you need to attach your reflector to your tripod, check out these clamps.

Utility - Ravelli AVTP Professional 75mm Video Camera Tripod with Fluid Drag Head (About $160)

Now why isn't a tripod mandatory? Well, because there are a lot of ways to get around using them. BUT they definitely have their place in the filmmaking world. 

Now, when it comes to filmmaking, you want a solid tripod that won't wiggle or adjust if the wind picks up. No no... you want something sold with what is known as a 'fluid head' that will allow you to pan / tilt your camera with that silky smooth, cinematic motion. And that is where this beast comes in.

First off, $160 for a tripod / fluid head combo is ridiculous. Really. Setups this good can start to run you in the $700's minimum. This tripod is a tank, has a great fluid head, and is beautifully built. Yeah it isn't super tall but again, we are just starting right?

Utility - GorillaPod Flexible Tripod (About $60)

This bendy mini tripod is not only great for smaller mirrorless and DSLR cameras but I have found them to work the best when lighting a scene or client or even a short video. I have also used this some quick timelapses (which again you can do on the G7) and it really gives you the freedom to set up where ever. It is a really versatile tool and I still carry one with me at all times. 

Stabilization - Neewer Foldable Rig (About $43)

Last on the list, we have a small little rig to help stabilize your video shots. Now, when it comes to stabilization, it can really be as simple as either:

  1. Pulling the camera as close as you possibly can IN to your body or
  2. Keeping your hands relatively far away from the camera itself.

Now, this little rig takes on aspect number 2 and again, I have personally used this. What I loved about this rig is one, the portability and two, the amount of different uses I could find for this little thing. I could get some pretty darn stable follow shots and could fold it in 2 seconds to get a low tilt shot. I will admit this rig takes practice but once you figure out how to walk with this thing while shooting, you will be able to create some beautiful shots!

Benjamin - Teacher At Pure Presence Creative
Post Author

Benjamin (Creative Dork)

I am true nerd to the core, believer in quality design, Horde player, and an all around creative dork. I create films, photos, websites, and music and honestly believe that the saying 'Jack of all trades, master of none' is an excuse. I do what I want really.