Filmmaking / Directing : Dslr by Lance D. White

Lance D. White

Dslr

I want to start building my equipment, so to speak. What type of DSLR camera do you suggest I purchase? I don't have much experience with producing. In addition, besides the camera, what other pieces of equipment or programs should I look into purchasing?

Parker Reeve

DSLR's are excellent cameras for motion picture work. More and more movies and TV shows are being made with them. Look into the Canon line of DSLR's. All are good and the one you can afford will be the best one for you. In order to give you a usable answer you need to offer a little more info. In most cases you will not need to purchase a camera and all (or most) of the pieces of equipment needed. You can rent on a project by project basis. Are you planning on making five or more movies a year? Do you want to be a DP? Do you want to direct? Even if you want to do it all it is sometimes a good plan to find other people to work with. Find a good DP who already owns a camera and work together.

D Marcus

I see that a few days ago you posted a job in "Development". I think that's the way to go. Put together a team of people rather than buy a camera and equipment.

Lance D. White

Well, I want to get my feet wet and start producing shorts first. Nothing fancy... just something to get me used to shooting scenes.

D Marcus

An excellent way to start producing shorts is to put together a small team. Just enough to get your feet wet. A DP with a camera, someone with a small audio rig, a couple of general crew. Put your money into food for them and rent a few needed pieces of equipment rather than buy. One your feet are wet, then you can wade in deeper.

Parker Reeve

Of course I must bow and humble myself to the exceptional Alle Segretti who teaches a masters class in lighting and knows far more about cameras and lenses then I could ever hope to know. In my humble defense Lance did say he is just starting. And I thought that starting with a DSLR and a stock lens would be a fine way to get started. I see now how foolish my suggestion was.

Mike Milton

D Marcus gives excellent advice. You can likely find people (like me hehehe) who would be happy to come out and play, have lots of gear, and will demonstrate the points Alle makes. Perhaps they will make an even better demonstration if they have less gear. The best way to start is by learning from others 'mistakes' If your primary goal isn't (or does not include) still photography you have better choices. (Perhaps a Blackmagic Production Camera 4K with a Samyang Cine Lens and associated kit. That is not radically more expensive than a 5Diii with the same lens and kit although you might want to shoot HD only if you don't have a more capable machine to grade and edit on. I actually am primarily a still photog so I'm very happy with my 1Dx (although I'll be interested to see the next generation of Blackmagic bodies) To be fair, it is worth noting that one can mount Canon Cine Lenses to any of their DSLRs (and you can probably even afford to mount Samyang EF Cine lenses which also work). You will still need the rest of the kit. Add an external monitor with peaking, zebras and false colour to the items above.

Lance D. White

What advice would you give for film maker, who is just starting. I've seen short video productions that were made with a Canon T3 that looked amazing! That's the stage I'm on right now. I just want a camera to start out with and get started with production, but I don't want to sped a lot of money right now.

Parker Reeve

If you want to be a DP then starting out with the T3 is a good camera to start with. As D and Mike said, if you want to write and direct then you should find a DP with a camera and get started with production that way. You will learn so much from someone like Mike (or me) who is dedicated to knowing cameras and the right gear for the right production. You can find many dedicated DP's who are willing to shoot a good project. But go ahead and buy the Canon T3 and a stock lens. Start your learning process. If you find cinematography is for you then you can expand you camera, lenses and equipment. for now you don't need to buy much.

Prashant Sehgal

I would have to agree with Parker above. DSLR's are indeed a GREAT way to start out! I started filming my shorts on a Canon 550D (T3i) using the kit lens, and now shoot features on the Canon 5D Mark II & III using much more expensive lenses. The truth is that the camera is just one part of the equation. If you have a great script, the audience often discounts the visual quality in favor of the overall experience. On the other hand, I've seen people shoot with a Red Epic or an Arri Alexa, and their footage often looks worse than what I used to shoot with my T3i using the kit lens! As I said before, the camera is just one part of the equation!

Kelly LaRosa

Why buy when you can rent and always have the latest equipment with any film you make? Digital cinema technology is advancing at such a rapid pace. Every few months there is a new, more advanced, higher quality camera made available by any given manufacturer. I say, spend the money on good insurance coverage and you're set for life.

Simon © Simon

I would not buy a DSLR to make movies. I would for stills. I would buy instead a good camcorder, used, and a great mic. People will ignore no or slight DOF before they will ignore bad sound... It always boils down to what do you want to do with it? Be DP and someone else handles sound? Be Director and have gear that can run on the fly and record sound?

Mike Milton

Lance, On re-reading your original post, I'm going to jump back in here and suggest that the reason that what you saw was amazing had less to do with the camera body and more to do with the accessories, planning, and skills of the people involved. Everyone here has made good points. If you can afford that camera body and a few things to go with it, you will be immediately confronted with the planning and skills issues which are the real hurdles you want to learn about. You will have a fine blank piece of paper, a good pen and have to figure out what to write and how to tell the story. From your post, it sounds like that is what you wanted?? Since you asked, the 'few things' I'd add are: - one or two prime cine lenses (Samyang / Rokinon / Bower are cheap, adequate, and the same lenses rebranded). The iris is continuous, they are already geared (some both for focus and aperture) - A baseplate, rails and follow focus (buy more rig stuff as you need it. go sturdy but do not over-spend) - A good tripod with a good video head. You won't be happy if you go cheap on this. If you go big here, they will serve you for years. (basically, you can't over-spend. The quick connect needs to have a safety mechanism and a lot of stability. My still ones just don't cut it) - An off camera sound solution and mics (I use a TASCAM 60D with some expensive mics but you can surely do good work with one of the Zoom products that have built-in mics. Consider a mid-side setup vs XY Optionally (or next steps) - A field monitor (assuming the body has an HDMI out??). This really helps and will give you peaking, false colour, and zebras. - A slider ( dolly and tracking shots really can be more interesting than panning and you might be able to do your own focus pulling I suspect you can do the above for about $3-4,000 with the bulk being non-camera body. Perhaps this list is just what you need to point you towards renting, or teaming up but it is also a reasonable starting point. One key take-away is that other than the camera body (which is basically disposable on the used market for close to what you bought it for there) it is worth buying good accessories that will serve you well going forward.

Doug Nelson

Lance, you ask for opinions and I’m sure you’ll get a boatload from people who believe they’re helping – I’m one of ‘em. I mean no harm. First, what kind of filming do you want to do? That tells you which basic parts you need to have on hand. I started filming wildlife and skiing action so lights weren’t much of an issue. Now that I’m doing short comedy films in an int/ext setting, lights and audio is more important. Basically, most of the newer DSLR cameras are fine for festival circuit use. I use Nikons (D 610) because I started with them (and have a drawer full of old manual lenses.) But I’ve worked with Canons and others also. You’ll need lenses. My preference leans toward manual, fixed focal length. My go to lenses are a 50mm 1.2, a 105mm and a 135mm. I stay away from zooms. Interior lighting is next. At a minimum, you’ll need some soft box with fluorescents – at least enough to do some basic 3-point lighting. Later, you can add some Keno panels and other stuff… bounce cards, green screen, backgrounds, on & on. Now you can take moving pictures but I’m assuming you might want to add some sound. All the DSLRs have crummy little microphones. So you’ll need an off-camera mike (you can record to the camera) but eventually you’ll need a separate audio system. A good quality DSLR body is going to cost about $2,000. Look for used manual lenses – you can get a couple (maybe 3) for under $1,000 and you’ll spend $1,500 more or less on lights (maybe used). So for less than $5K, you can become a filmmaker. Find someone else for the writing and editing. You don’t need that expense yet (but that day will come.) It really doesn’t matter much which camera you go with but whatever you select – learn to make it sing.

Elisabeth Meier

I would rent stuff and try everything to figure out what matches best my expectations. Try in smaller steps, film a 3 minute short film or even shorter with each camera. Maybe you even have people in your family with a DSLR, maybe one of your friends have and would like to film with you and explain what s/he knows about it. That's the easiest and fastest way to learn. Even if you just goof around on your videos. Enjoy the process!

Desiree Argentina

Following this thread. I am also looking into equipment.

JD Hartman

@EM This a two year old zombie thread. Notice how the OP hasn't reported back, posting about the remarkable success he had shooting a feature with a DLSR?

Elisabeth Meier

@JD zombie thread. lol. Did't see the date. Okay, but what remarkable success are you talking about? He didn't say he will shoot a feature with a DLSR. Guess you're talking about "zombie success" meaning this thread is of no interest at all?

JD Hartman

@EM The remarkable success that buying a DLSR to shoot his own screenplays brought about. He hasn't posted in two years, doesn't that say something to you?

Elisabeth Meier

@ JD I didn't check his profile, but yes, of course it tells a lot... Thanks.

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