Thursday, November 10, 2011

So You Want to Make a Movie - Getting the Gear

You’ve caught the bug, and you’ve decided to make a movie. But where do you start? The good news is today there are fewer barriers to overcome in order to produce a film. Thanks to digital filmmaking, the costs have dropped dramatically. In reality, practically anybody can become a filmmaker.  No one article can answer all of your questions or take you through the entire process; however, I want to offer you 20 key steps that will at least steer you in the right direction. Think of these steps as the big picture or the 30,000 foot view

Step 13. Getting the Gear

Almost every seminar I have taken part in or have attended, the number one question asked the most is, what kind of camera should I use to shoot my movie. Undoubtedly this is an important issue. But if you don’t have a great script, the right cast and crew, the type of camera you use will not make a difference. I only share this with you so that you get your priorities in the right order. I’ve seen too many producers and first-time filmmakers put all of their money into fancy equipment but are unwilling to bring in a second screenwriter to help with the script or hire competent crew members who know how to use the equipment.

With that said, let’s talk about the right camera package is right for you. When selecting a camera, you want a one that is easy to set up and not complicated to operate. Your Director of Photographer and camera operator should be familiar with the camera package that you choose to use. And most important you want a simplistic work flow that offers easy file transfer and conversion. The last think you want are ugly issues to pop up in post-production.

As a low-budget filmmaker, you can thank your lucky stars that technology has evolved to digital video and filmmaking. You no longer have to break the bank by using a film camera to capture high-quality and cinematic images. Even major Hollywood studios are switching to digital filmmaking. There’s a wide range of cameras that are well within your price range.

There’s no point going into detail because it seems like every month there’s a new camera on the market. However, I will give you two cameras that are widely popular. The Red Camera is all the rage today. It’s expensive to rent and hard to use, but it offers incredible images at 2K or 4K resolution. A lot of younger filmmakers prefer Canon’s 5D which is essentially a still camera or single lens reflex camera which is capable of shooting at 1080p resolution. The 5D offers one of the best dept- of-field I have seen on any camera. Your Director of Photography should be able to give you expert opinion on which camera package is appropriate for your movie.

Following is a list of other equipment or gear you will need for your production: tripods, camera support system, lighting, generators, dolly, tracks, mics and booms, monitors, rigging and grip equipment, and C stands. Your department heads can help you to choose the proper equipment that meets your specific needs.

Knowing that money is tight, where do you find the equipment at a rate you can afford? One place to start is to hire crew members who own their equipment. It’s like getting two for one. Most DPs own a camera package that will include a camera, lenses and tripod. Most grips own their own production truck that includes grips, rigging, mounting, and equipment necessary to set up and support camera and lights. The sound mixer should have his own audio equipment.

Another option is to look for places that may donate equipment to use during your shoot. You’d be surprised of the number of churches which have purchased high-end equipment for their media ministries. It’s worth making a few calls. It could save you thousands of dollars. Just remember, if you break, you own it.

The next option is to either buy it or rent it. Sometimes it’s just cheaper to flat out buy a piece of equipment. If you decide to rent, you definitely need to know what the going rates are. Call around. Get competitive bids. Practically every major city has a production house that rents everything you would need to shoot your film. Try to make a deal by bundling your equipment rentals. If you don’t like the rates, look for alternatives. Your local universities and colleges may have a TV or film program. Chances are they will be willing to rent their gear to you at a substantially lower rate than a high-end production rental company.

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