How Much Gear Do You Need? – Ultimate Gear Guide

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So with NAB just ending and my gear lust furthering, I’m left wondering how much gear is too much?

I mean there was this video from last year. Where several artist claim that you don’t need this stuff.

You know it’s such a cliche now for filmmakers to say that it’s not about the gear, it’s about the person behind the gear. But that’s not always true. You know sometimes gear can hold your production back. Something breaks. Your fluid head isn’t really fluid and ruins the pan shot. You need more light because of your slow lens, ect. So gear can be very important. But how much do you need. Well here’s what I think that you need for gear.

Camera

Cameras are obviously one of the most popular things for filmmakers to drool over. However I think that there are only 3 levels of quality for video cameras.

So Tier Three, the lowest quality, is comprised of small sensor, fixed lens cameras. For example, your parent’s handycam, Sony EX1, ect. Now these cameras can be very useful and although I consider them the “Lowest Quality”, they can be very good. However for Film Productions, the difficulty to get a Shallow Depth of Field can really hold your production back. So I would suggest reserving them for event/videography and documentary.

I would consider Tier Two the DSLR Tier. Now not every DSLR exists in the DSLR Tier. You can decide for yourself whether a DSLR is in this category or in Tier One. But for me, all of Canon’s (excluding 1DC) and Panasonic’s (excluding GH4)  DSLRs are in this Tier. They are in this tier because despite having a large sensor and interchangeable lenses like the Tier Three cameras. They lack overall detail (despite being 1080p), lack professional features (xlr,log picture profile, headphone jack, ac power adapter, peaking). Now Magic Lantern can solve some problems…. It doesn’t solve the lack of resolution or high bitrate.

Tier One of course includes Arri Alexas, Reds and Canon’s Cinema Line but it also includes all of Blackmagic Cameras, the A7s, GH4, the Sony FS100, FS700, FS7, F3, F5, F55, F65, ect. As far as image quality, these cameras are almost indistinguishable. You can pixel peep. Find flaws. Be 4k exclusive. But in my mind. They are all good enough to shoot on. Anything on. The only difference between them is the ease that you have on your production. For example, You may have some audio problems with the Blackmagic if your doing in camera sound. But with the FS700 or C100, you will have problems if you try to push the image in post too much. (#AVCHDProblems) But if you spend more you will have less problems for example the FS7 has 4k Raw and XLR audio. Less problems on set or in post.

So pick what you want for a camera. But I would suggest something in Tier One. I use a Blackmagic Pocket. Honestly the image won’t get much better but production might get easier with some XLRs. (URSA mini?)

Lenses

Honestly… Rokinon Primes if you need declick. Sigma Art Line (Mmmm). If you want zooms- Canon L. Don’t cheap out on lenses because cheap lenses break. Put in some cash. But you don’t need Zeiss CP.2s. If you want to use Zeiss CP.2s. Please rent.

A good starting point is a Canon 24-105 f/4L. $500 used. You’ll use it the rest of your life. (or until you can afford the $2K 24-70 f/2.8L)

Lights

The gear that nobody gives enough attention. But as a gaffer would say, there’s nothing to shoot if you don’t have light.

Get enough to light an interview. Most video work will be interviews. So just a simple three light set works.Clamp lights are nice but try to at least get something with stands. I have an Impact Scoop Light Kit from B&H. It’s nice. Another option is “Pro Fresnel” on ebay. They’re cheap Arri knock off Fresnel lights.

You can get LEDs or whatever. Unless you start booking bigger jobs, I wouldn’t really worry about high power lights like HMIs, ect. But remember most big projects will want to just rent those lights so they can have insurance.

Audio

Lav and Shotgun.

H1 and $3 lav mic will work. Shotgun mics – rode vid mic, NTG 2 or 3. Depends on Budget. Don’t buy H4n, buy the H5. Much better preamps.

Bags and Acessiories

Make sure you protect your gear. You can cut corners and get some cheap gear like $20 ND filters instead of Tiffen.

Sliders are nice.

So there we have it. That’s all the gear you need. Maybe just a one more thing. Or two.

NAB 2015 Overview

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Cameras
Blackmagic stole the show again. They released a FS7/FS700 comperitor, the URSA Mini. It comes in 4 variations. EF/PL mount and 4K 12 stops DR/4.6K 15 stops DR. They also added the 4.6K sensor to the original Ursa which allows up to 120fps at 4.6K. Many however are critical of the 15 stops of dynamic range measurement considering that’s more than the Arri Alexa. Blackmagic also released two small cameras, the Micro Cinema and Micro Studio 4k. The Micro Cinema pretty much has the same specs as the Blackmagic Pocket but without the LCD in order to help it fit in more places. The purpose of this camera is to be used like a high-end gopro. The Micro Studio 4k is basically the Studio 4k camera but without a 10″ screen and really really small.
There are some other camera announcements but they honestly worth reporting. For example Sony released a broadcast 4k camera that cost tens of thousands and Panasonic tired to bring back fixed lens cameras with the AG-DVX200. However Panasonic attempts haven’t really impressed too many.

Lights
Probably one of the most exciting parts of NAB this year with new LED units and Plasma lights. But nothing over impressing that broke our current ideas about LED lighting. It’s still really expensive or has horrible color, noisy fans, poor build quality, ect. Plasma lights are an interesting replacement for HMI but still cost in the thousands. However they are about half the cost of HMIs and use about half the power.
Other
A really cool drone announcement video….

Tascam will have an 8-track field recorder soon.
Benro made some sliders.
Steadicam is going obsolete with staying in traditional gimbals.
Premier Pro & FCPX updates
Sony tries to make a new editing platform.
Blackmagic has a FullHD External Monitor/Recorder for $500
Atomos lowers some prices.
To Convince People to use their cameras, AJA is letting people try it for FREE.
Blackmagic is adding Fusion VFX software to Mac. Releases new version of Resolve
Red Weapon is a 8K Full Frame Camera.

I probably missed some stuff but oh well.

Social Media Market For Filmmaking

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Marketing is rarely thought about in filmmaking and it’s even rarer for some one to discuss it. This is one of the last places where there is industry secrets, in Marketing. However, Marketing is very important and without it, a great film could go unwatched and just as worse lose money. So how does this voodoo magic work. Well today, Robert Mockler wrote a post on NoFilmSchool (a great website) about market which you should check out. http://nofilmschool.com/2014/03/how-to-use-social-media-to-get-your-underdog-film-made/#more-78300
However there is loads to learn in marketing so hopefully this series from FilmCourage will also help you to learn more of the secret ways of film marketing.