Broke filmmaker post #1
Posted by Robert
on Jan 9th, 2012 in blog
So you wanna make film?
I’m here to tell you about inexpensive film gear and tips that can help you raise the production quality of your indie projects without raising your debt.
So your parents, loved ones or minions have just bought you an inexpensive Canon DSLR T3I (or T2I if they’re really cheap) with a Kit Lens. They even got you a memory card, a cheap case and a cheap tripod!
What next? What would I buy, if this was all I had?
- The first thing I would buy is a UV filter for my lenses. UV filters are key; they cost around $30 and they protect your lens from scratches. About every year you pop off your old one and get a new one. This is an excellent habit to get in to with even your cheap lenses.
- The next thing I would pick up is a $100 50mm lens with its own UV filter. The Canon 1.8 50mm lens is a fast prime lens, proving you sometimes can have it fast, cheap and good. If you check online sites like craigslist or ebay you can get lucky and find someone upgrading to a better lens. Often, used lenses come with UV filters. The second 50mm I bought was only $80 and it came in the original box and had a UV filter. I also bought it from someone who looked to be about 12. A prime lens means you have to actually pick up your camera and move it close or further away from your subject if you want to change the zoom. Prime lenses don’t zoom. They do, however, look sharper, and are faster then zoom lenses. Sharper and Faster? What does that mean? The image looks better then the equivalent from other similar lenses, and “fast” means it can be set to a really low f-stop, like 1.8, which is really handy in low-light situations. The “Nifty 50,” as many people call it, is a lens that beats out far more expensive lenses. This lens is fantastic for closeups – with the narrow depth of field on that low f-stop it blurs the background behind the talent, helping the viewer focus on the subject instead of being distracted by the Banthas and Stormtroopers walking around in the background.
- The next items on my list for this starter set is a 58mm ND fader and the 58-52mm adapter ring to use the fader on your 50mm lens as well. An ND filter allows you to shoot with a narrow depth of field in bright situations, which is key to most day shoots. A ND fader gets darker and lighter as you twist it so you don’t need to get several thickness of ND. Before I got my ND fader, I had several ND filters of varying darkness, each costing around $40-$80 each. I can get rid of all of those for just one ND fader at around $50, and the stepdown ring is only about $15.
- Another important and cheap accessory is a monopod. These are cheap ($30) and provide a lot of versatility. These videos inspired me to pick up a monopod: http://vimeo.com/28517046 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7NMBK30hHM8
With your lenses, filters, faders, monopod, and tripod go out and shoot a music video, or a video with only visuals and music. Once you’ve shot a few things, you’re ready to move on. Now you will want to record sound, and dialogue! This is what I recommend.
- The Rode Video Mic is the best mic for a beginning filmmaker to own, and it’s less than $200 (http://www.long-mcquade.com/?page=products&ProductsID=5861; http://www.leoscamera.com/product_info.php?manufacturers_id=62&products_id=514).
- Getting someone to put the mic on a boom so it can be as close to the actors as possible is key (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=83d3qLHaAN4). We had to replace our Rode Boom pole in the middle of filming Standard Action Season 1. We ordered a sweet-looking pole off the net for $200. When it showed up, we realized it was way shorter then we thought, and I made one out of a painter’s pole. It works really well, and I would only upgrade for something in the $400-$500 range. It will be a while before we have the budget for that.
- Since many cheap DSLR cameras have issues with audio, it’s best to plug your mic in to a separate audio recorder. We use the Zoom H4N, but for a long time we didn’t have a Mic good enough to use all the fancy jacks on it. The Rode video mic has a tiny stereo-out mini jack, so you can get away with a much cheaper recorder. Check out some of them here: http://www.long-mcquade.com/?page=search&SearchTxt=audio+recorder&x=0&y=0. To make matching the separate files possible, you really need to use a slate so you have scene and take numbers on the audio file and the movie file. Make one out of something, since it’s damn hard to find anywhere that sells ‘em for a reasonable price. A mini white board from the dollar store works well, and you can use it to white balance the cameras. Don’t forget your dry erase markers!
- Earphones: get something good, and always monitor your sound while shooting; wind can kill a good scene, and planes are hard to notice without your earphones on.
- Get some better editing software. Check out Adobe Premiere Elements, and tell me how it goes (I’ve seen it bundled with Photoshop elements for as little as $100) - http://success.adobe.com/en/na/sem/products/premiereelements.html?kw=p&sdid=EQDGP&skwcid=TC|22180|premiere%20elements%20adobe||S|b|8526329114