It can be overwhelming to figure out which pieces of gear you need to shoot a film, especially when there’s a ton of info out there urging you to get the newest high-end equipment to make your work shine. But you don’t really need expensive gear to make a great movie.
When it comes to filmmaking, the most important aspect is story. The gear you are using is simply a tool to help you tell that story.
In a new YouTube video below, documentary filmmaker Luc Forsyth explains the five things filmmakers shouldn’t worry about when it comes to their gear. Or, in other words, this is the stuff you don’t really need to buy to shoot a quality film.
Ultimately, Forsyth believes that if you are a filmmaker without an endless cash flow, it makes more sense to invest your money into your production budget, rather than splurging on a piece of premium equipment. Here are five over-hyped pieces of gear he thinks it’s okay to skip buying for your next film. (Watch the full video at the bottom of this story to see more of his explanations.)
Gimbals take a long time to set up, they’re uncomfortable to shoot with for long periods of time and that buttery smooth footage they produce doesn’t always serve your final product. Forsyth is primarily a documentary filmmaker, which means he’s often shooting hours of footage to create his final product. Shooting with your camera on a gimbal for an entire day gets tired fast. In the time it takes to get your camera on the gimbal and balanced, you might also be missing important moments that could be crucial to your story.
Finally, Forsyth believes a handheld shot can sometimes add feelings of intensity to a project that aesthetically make more sense than the smooth footage that shooting with a gimbal produces. If you really want that smooth look, renting a gimbal for your project rather than purchasing one is the way to go.
Up until a few years ago, autofocus on most cameras was so bad it wasn’t usable for video—filmmakers were trained to manually focus their shots because of this. Although having a camera with incredible autofocus can be helpful when shooting, having a camera that lacks it isn’t a dealbreaker. Ultimately, even the best autofocus can get confused by fast moving subjects and start focus hunting. When a camera can’t find a focal point, it doesn’t feel organic, and audiences will notice. Plus, when you are using manual focus when filming you simply have more control over your shots, which will help the storytelling.
#3 Full Frame Sensor
No one had access to good full-frame sensor video cameras until very recently and the majority of big budget films are still shot on super 35 cameras. A nice lens is going to make a much bigger difference in how your footage looks, and so if you are tight on cash, spending the money on a quality piece of glass makes more sense than splurging for a camera with a full frame sensor. Shooting at super 35 also gives you more options when it comes to lens selection.
#4 Output to an External Recorder
Most beginning filmmakers don’t actually need this high-end setting on their camera. Higher quality footage offloaded to an external recorder means it will eventually be taking up more hard drive space and slowing down whatever program you are using to edit. If you are working on something that requires you to shoot large amounts of footage for your final product (documentaries, event coverage, music videos) it may actually serve you better to have a camera that doesn’t have the ability to shoot such high-grade footage to an external recorder.
#5 8K Footage
Shooting in higher resolution won’t necessarily make your footage look better. Plus shooting in such a high-resolution format requires larger capacity memory cards, a more powerful setup for editing, and it typically means you are going through camera batteries at a much faster rate on a shoot. All these things ultimately drain more money from your budget. In most cases, shooting in 4K or even 1080p will be plenty if you are just starting out with filmmaking.