I’ve been making videos for quite a while now and in some occasions I even made some films, which unfortunately I didn’t consider good enough to be posted on my YouTube channel…
Throughout this period of time I also managed to gather together (both saving money and giving up a small portion of my social life) some very basic equipment, which I would like to share with you. Most of you will probably be reading this after watching my video about my filming gear, but in case you haven’t seen it, you can click here.
Before starting I would just like to point out that I’m not a professional filmmaker and that having good equipment doesn’t necessarily mean making good films: talent is the main element that makes the difference between an amazing filmmaker and somebody who just bought expensive equipment.
Part I: Cameras
1st Rule: Content wins over quality!
When I decided to start making videos, unfortunately I didn’t have a professional camera, nor a DSLR. I only had my Canon EOS 1000D, which unfortunately was an old model without “Movie Mode” (feature which has now been introduced even in the cheapest model of the range).
So… how did I shoot my first video/films?
Considering I didn’t have any alternative, I decided to start shooting using the only camera which everybody has always in their pockets: the one on a mobile phone.
My first videos were shot using my Sony Xperia Z and an iPhone 5 and, despite not being professional cameras, I have to say that (as a beginner) I was quite pleased with the result, especially thanks to their practicality and versatility (those were some of the first mobile phones offering time-lapses mode). Some videos shot entirely on an iPhone 5 were also uploaded to my YouTube channel as my very first videos: Posh Weekend in Venice and Vlogging at Winter Wonderland.
I have now upgraded the old phone with an iPhone 6S, which I regularly use as my vlogging camera and sometimes as a second camera in my main channel videos, usually paired with a Manfrotto PIXI Mini Tripod (See Part II: Rigs).
Eventually, I soon realised that I could not film everything on an iPhone and that I had to buy a new camera with “Movie Mode”. After having saved enough money and comparing many different models and brands, I decided to buy a Canon 7D Mark II.
There were quite a few reasons for this:
- Since I already had a Canon, I would have been able to use the old lenses on the new camera;
- I needed a camera compatible with EF-S lenses and the 7D Mark II was one of the few that could use both EF-S and EF lenses thanks to its CMOS sensor;
- The 7D Mark II offers Silent Control, which allows you to change the camera setting using the touchpad while shooting videos;
- I have never really liked those cameras with a moveable touch screen;
It’s still the most expensive item in my equipment and I think also the most expensive thing I have ever bought!!!
As far as the lenses are concerned, I still use the ones that I had on my Canon EOS 1000D, although I am perfectly aware that these are the next thing that I need to upgrade. The main one is the Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 II, which I use for pretty much everything. Usually this is the lens that is sold with an entry-level Canon as part of the pack. Unlike the one I have, they’re now sold with Image Stabilisation, a particularly useful feature for filmmaking. It’s a perfect lens for beginners and those people who approach for the first time the world of DSLRs, which I still haven’t upgraded because I’m still saving to buy new lenses.
The second lens which I have (although I use it mainly for photography) is the Tamron AF 70-300mm f/4-5.6, which I barely use to film videos because it’s really heavy and also because the final results would be really wobbly, unless the camera is placed on a tripod, monopod or Steadicam.
Whenever it comes to extreme activities, everybody know that a DSLR is quite unpractical, which is why I also have a GoPro Hero 4 Silver. I use this camera only when it’s strictly necessary because it requires several accessories to work (See GoPro Accessories) and also because despite filming in Full HD, it has a few problems with the audio especially on windy days or when holding the GoPro in the hand and not on its mount. Another problem is guessing the right settings for the right shot (e.g. lens width, ISO and fps). My video “Ziplining Off A Mountain” was entirely filmed using a GoPro, which turned out to be particularly effective in the car sequence and the zipline.
The last thing I’d like to mention regarding cameras and lenses is the kit I use to clean them. I bought on Amazon and I find it amazingly useful, especially when travelling and the lenses often get dirty. My kit includes a lens cleaning pen with 3 brushes, a microfibre cloth and the so-called hurricane blower (which many people have annoyingly mistaken for an enema…).
Part II: Rigs
The most essential item for a photographer or a filmmaker (only second to a good camera, of course) is a tripod. There is a huge variety of models with different specifications according to different uses: for example, photographers tend to prefer normal tripods, while some filmmakers require tripods with pan/tilt heads to make the footage look much smoother…
In the most expensive cases, you can even build up your “ideal” tripod by assembling different pieces.
However, a good tripod does not necessarily have to be an expensive one. Its main purpose is to keep the camera in a determined position while filming or taking pictures, in order to avoid blurred or out of focus results. Plus, not all the photographers (or filmmakers) consider the tripod an essential item. For instance, I don’t: I only use my tripod when filming indoor videos or when shooting time-lapses.
For this reason, I only have a very cheap tripod, which I bought when I got my first DSLR, and I have to say that it still does it job magnificently.
One of the other reason why i don’t use a tripod is because usually it’s heavy to carry around while travelling, it takes quite a lot of space in your suitcase/backpack and it takes a long time to set up. Whenever I’m travelling, I usually carry around a monopod, which is basically a tripod with a single leg. The one I use is a Manfrotto Compact Photo Advanced. Despite not being the cheapest monopod on the market, it’s still pretty cheap considering it’s made by one of the leading brands in the production of camera equipment.
As far as travelling is concerned, I consider the monopod a much better alternative to the tripod for its practicality, lightness while carrying around and it’s easiness. It is also much quicker to set up compared to a normal tripod.
Another Manfrotto product that I usually carry everywhere is the PIXI Mini Tripod, which I bought at the Apple Store when I returned another item. I find this mini tripod incredibly useful, especially because it is compatible both with cameras and phones (you only need to buy a phone adapter, which now is also sold with the mini tripod itself) and it can also be used as a rudimental steadicam, which considerably reduces the “shakiness” of the video.
Talking about Steadicams, I recently bought one, although I still haven’t had the opportunity to try it out properly. Since I wasn’t very familiar with steadicams, I decided to go on Amazon and buy a relatively cheap one made by Eimo, since I often realised that my videos were not as smooth as I wanted them to be. The steadicam function is essentially to absorb any shakes and make the footage look much smoother and kind of “sexier”. Despite being really cheap compared to its rivals, it worked perfectly in the video I shot as a test.
The last thing I’d like to mention is my microphone. I am currently using the Rode VideoMic Go. Describing this mic will be a bit complicated because while it’s an amazing mic, it’s also quite annoying (although this might apply only to me). The amazing thing about it is its practicality: it doesn’t need a battery, which means you just have to plug it into your camera without worrying it might turn off suddenly. This makes it perfect for any vlogger or traveller, who needs a light and practical microphone in their backpack, regardless of whether they need it for vlogging or interview people in a video. The really annoying thing about this mic (at least, when using it with my DSLR) is that it develops a really annoying hissing while filming. I suspect this is caused by the impossibility to change its settings manually, without intervening directly onto the camera audio record settings. It’s something that can easily be resolved in post-production, but I still find it quite frustrating…
(However I’d like to point out again that this only occurs with some cameras, while with others it works absolutely fine.)
Part III: GoPro Accessories
This part is dedicated mainly to those who are thinking to buy or already have a GoPro, but are not sure about what accessories might be useful to them.
The most important accessory is of course the GoPro pole. I bought mine specifically to film my “Ziplining Off A Mountain” video and therefore I wanted something quite sturdy and reliable (also because my GoPro was also brand new and I didn’t want it to fall down a 300 meters drop…). The pole is usually the accessory that will take your GoPro the furthest away from you while still holding it, which is the reason why I decided to invest a bit more money to play it safe. But as we all know, reliability and sturdiness have a price.
So, although my SP POV Pole 37″ might not be the cheapest on the market, I still think it’s a very good product which doesn’t make me worry about my GoPro accidentally falling off of it.
Pretty much all the other accessories I own, were part of a a very cheap kit I bought on Amazon as soon as I bought my GoPro. There are many different options with different numbers of accessories (sometimes even addressed to certain activities such as kayaking or rock climbing). You just need to find the one that suits your need and then start playing with all the accessories.
The one i bought contained:
- A chest mount;
- A head mount;
- A suction cup;
- A float; and
- Some spare parts and mounts;