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How to Shoot an Indie Film: Essential Equipment

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  • The rise of high-quality, low-cost filmmaking equipment means everyone thinks they can be a filmmaker. After all, all you have to do is stage a scene and hit the red button, right? Not quite!

    While some budding filmmakers can make captivating films solely using a smartphone, for instance, most first-time filmmakers require a more extensive set-up for an aesthetically pleasing, professional result. Different aspects of the filmmaking process, including how you light a scene, the camera you use to shoot the film, your sound recording equipment, and the software you use to edit your film can all dramatically affect the outcome and make or break your final cut.

    To make a quality indie film, ensure that you have the right equipment, including:


    Filmmaking Cameras

    There is no film without a camera which is why the camera you use needs to be ideally suited to your shooting location and the challenges it presents. For instance, if you’re shooting outdoors, you need to make sure your camera has the right light sensitivity specifications to ensure you achieve the colours you want and don’t end up with heaps of unusable blinded footage. There are hundreds of cameras on the market for different budgets and filming styles so take the time to compare the various options, including exploring which cameras other filmmakers recommend.


    Camera Lenses

    As a filmmaker, it’s exciting to experiment with different camera lenses, however, when creating a professional-quality indie film, you need to have your primary lenses in place. The general principle when choosing filmmaking lenses is similar to photography: if you want a full shot, use a wide angle lens; if you want a close-up, use a macro lens; if you want to play with the light, use a polarising lens, and so on. Find out which camera lenses you need for the best aesthetic outcome.


    Camera Stabilisers

    Once you have your camera and lenses, you will need to purchase the right stabilisers to keep your camera from shaking, causing your scene to jitter and be out of focus. Handheld cameras are fantastic for low-budget horror sequences, for instance, however, the effect is lost if you have a shaky picture throughout your whole film. Steadicams are a more professional option for a clean-cut finish. To stabilise from other angles, consider what cranes and jibs you may need.


    Film Lighting

    It isn’t “lights, camera, action!” without the right lighting. Some filmmakers will try and rely purely on daylight or the lighting present at the location, such as a brightly lit mall or restaurant, for instance, but in most cases, you will need to add your own lights and use reflectors for the best results. The type of light you use can dramatically change the overall feel of a scene, as well as its believability. To get started, explore Premium Beat’s cinematic lighting tutorials.


    Recording Equipment

    In most cases, you won’t want to rely on the camera’s microphone to pick-up sound. Instead, you need professional recording equipment to ensure you can pick-up the sound you want, including dialogue and the sounds of the natural environment such as birds, trees, cars, and background chatter, for instance. After all, awkward, offbeat and unprofessional dubbing is never a good look.

    To find out more about the different types of recording equipment, explore Learn About Film’s guide to sound equipment for film, including microphones, audio recorders, and headphones.


    Extra Batteries

    Batteries may seem obvious; however, you’d be surprised how many filmmakers forget them when filming. Always take extra batteries and chargers for all electronic equipment with you on set, especially if you’re shooting outdoors where you won’t have easy access to powerpoints.


    Hard Drives for Storage

    Once you have captured your footage, and sometimes during filming, you will need somewhere to store it safely and securely. In which case, make sure you have high-capacity hard drives and SD cards available so you can free up space on your camera, keeping the process progressing swiftly.


    Film Editing Software

    Capturing your footage and sound is just the beginning. Once you have everything you need for your film, you will need to piece it together to create a full story that’s ready for viewing. To edit a film, you will need professional film editing software, including software for sound editing.

    The above covers the basics of what equipment you will need to create a quality indie film. To recap, make sure you have a stable camera setup, great lighting, plenty of spare batteries, and the right tools to store and edit your film once you’re complete. With time and experience, you will gradually be able to upgrade your kit until you have equipment of a truly professional standard.