To be a film director, there are some basic items of filmmaking equipment that you’re likely to need.
Obviously, a camera goes without saying, but which one? And what else?
Depending on the nature of film you’re looking to make, your filmmaking equipment needs might vary. If you’re producing vlog content for your YouTube channel, your equipment is likely to vary from a director with a crew, shooting on location at night in a desert.
But, there is some standard filmmaking equipment that every director needs to be familiar with. Here, we take a look at the filmmaking equipment you’re likely to need starting out as a film director.
Before we get started, we’re treating a film director as an independent filmmaker – someone with a small crew and a small cast, likely to do a lot of their own camera and editing work. All the filmmaking equipment we mention below is helpful to an all-rounder looking to progress both their skills and their career.
Filmmaking Equipment: The Essentials
#1 Your Camera
You don’t necessarily need a high spec or expensive camera to make a good film. That doesn’t mean a great camera isn’t a good tool to have, it just means that you can do a great deal with a smartphone camera, or with our recommendation, a DSLR.
What matters the most is that you know how to use filmmaking equipment. Explore your camera and learn how it responds to different lighting conditions, its resolution settings and its different modes. Smartphone cameras can have a lot of sophisticated options for shooting video. Several shoot in 4K and even have options for exploring depth of field, so there is a lot you can achieve with the camera that’s already in your pocket. Explore your settings and get to know the camera.
If you’re looking for a more dedicated camera as part of your filmmaking equipment, then we’d recommend a DSLR camera. A DLSR will offer you the best flexibility as well as image quality. A DSLR camera offers the scope for different photographic effects within your filmmaking, including focus options and depth of field. You can shoot flat or with camera effects, so you get the best possible range of options for colour work or grading in your edits. You can also swap the lenses for different focal effects or range.
In our view, a tripod is an absolutely essential piece of filmmaking equipment. We know it’s tempting to hold the camera and shoot in a handheld style. It feels closer to the action and more authentic, we know. But it also means your footage is wobbly and difficult to watch.
Including a tripod as part of your standard filmmaking equipment means you can capture beautiful aligned, steady shots that your audience will love to see. They’ll look much more professional than any hand held angles and your arms will thank you too.
Every filmmaker needs a place to store their ideas. Whether it’s a plot point, or a question for a character, a notebook will help to collect your ideas for reference later. Jot down script ideas, or draw out your storyboard. You can even get specialised storyboarding notebooks – like this one here – to help you plan your next masterpiece.
#4 Editing App
Your films won’t be complete until they’ve been edited, even if that’s just simple assembly. You’ll need an editing app (or an editor with an editing app) to put your films together.
There are some great free editing programmes available, as well as some more advanced options. We like both Final Cut Pro and Premiere Pro, but there are lots of options out there. You just need to find one that works for you.
Depending on the nature of your film productions, there are some extra bits of filmmaking equipment (connected to editing) that you’re likely to need…
- A device with good processing power, a lot of RAM and a good graphics card, especially if you’ve shot in 4K or a high resolution. Video editing takes a lot of computer power
- A high performance hard drive, with plenty of storage space
- The right cables – or a cloud based solution – to get your footage from your camera to your device
That’s it for our filmmaking equipment essentials. The most important thing is that you have a good idea and a strong story – if you do, you don’t need much filmmaking equipment to tell it.
But if you’re looking to add to your filmmaking equipment, why not take a look at our Intermediate and Advanced picks below.
Intermediate Filmmaking Equipment
If you’re a big fan of those roving, close to the action shots and can’t quite commit to the safety of a tripod, then a gimbal might be the better option – or an addition – for you.
A gimbal is a piece of grip (filmmaking equipment) that balances the camera whilst in motion. This makes it perfect for a filmmaker who loves to move and helps to achieve lots of dynamic, moving shots without a huge collection of tracks, jibs or cranes.
#6 Some Lighting
Having access to some lighting can open up a range of different photographic effects, as well as help to improve the quality of your productions. If you’re a YouTuber, then some lighting is also more or less essential.
There are some great LED lighting options available, that are both portable and flexible. Whether it’s a ring light for YouTube, or a camera mounted light, you’ll find that giving some thought to your lighting will really help to lift the visual quality of your work.
#7 Sound Recorder
Sound can be very difficult to get right, especially as an independent filmmaker who is probably wearing quite a few hats.
Your smartphone camera, or your DSLR won’t provide fantastic sound quality, unless you’re in a very controlled environment with hardly any background noise.
Collecting lots of different microphones can get expensive, as well as a challenge to set up and manage once you’re filming, so a simple sound recorder can sometimes be a great solution. It will measure background noise and interference, as well as function as a directional microphone with a much higher level of sound quality than any internal mics.
You’ll also need a pair of headphones.
Advanced Filmmaking Equipment
If you’re really looking to achieve optimum sound quality, then you’ll likely need some specialised microphones as part of your filmmaking equipment.
There are lots of different microphones out there, each one suited to a different purpose.
Lavelier mics are usually a good option to include in your kit – these are the TV presenter mics, which are worn by the person they’re recording. These are great for interviews or pieces to camera. You can also use them up close to actors, if your camera is trained up close.
Directional shotgun mics are also a good idea. These are mics that can be placed around the set to capture specific sound. They tend to eliminate any other noise than the direction they’re facing.
If you’re working with a few different microphones, then you’ll also need a multi-channel sound recorder. We like this one from Zoom.
You might also want a boom-pole.
If you’re really wanting to enhance your filmmaking equipment, then expanding your lenses can be a great way to go. If you’re working on a DSLR, you can get a wide range of lenses – and adapters – to suit your needs.
If you’re working on a smartphone, you can also get some great add-on lenses for smartphone filmmaking too.
#10 A Drone / Extra Grip
So, we’ve reached #10 of our Filmmaking Equipment list. This one was up for debate amongst the team, so we decided to include both and let you decide.
Behind Door Number One: A Drone
Drones are perfect for getting those high impact, ‘wow’ aerial shots. Aerial shots filmed with a drone can look stunning, but their use needs to be considered and fairly judicious. Their use can be quite limited, so we’ve also included another option.
Behind Door Number 2: Some Standout Grip
If you’re not too sure about the drone idea, then you might want think about some advanced grip equipment instead.
Consider adding a dolly, a slider or a jib arm to your filmmaking equipment. Or start to add even more. Using a range of different grip can help you to add some fun and dynamic moving shots to your work, which can add a real sense of cinematic flair and give a sense of higher production values.
So, that’s our complete list of filmmaking equipment you’re likely to need as a film director starting out or growing an independent portfolio. We hope it’s given you some suggestions, whatever stage of filmmaking you’re at.
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