Levels Of Cinematography - Equipment (Part 1)

Updated: Dec 19, 2018

I remember talking with a photographer at a concert and I asked him what kind of equipment he uses. Long story short, he told me flat out, "If you want to shoot videos, get a camera. Don't use a photography camera for that because it makes you look like a wannabe.". I thought to myself, "Wow, what a jerk...", but then I started noticing what he was talking about. I looked at the people around me and saw that "wannabe" stereotype in the way people act and how they shoot their videos. That's when I started looking into different equipment so I could call myself an actual filmmaker instead of just being a poser.

Whether you know it or not, there's methods in getting the right shot. As a matter of fact, the term Cinematography is the science or art of motion-picture photography by recording light through the use of a number of controllable elements. There are tons of things to take into account when trying to get the cinematic shot you're looking for. In the first part of this blog series, I want to talk about one of the most important factors that goes into creating the right cinematic shot.

You can argue that other things play a vital role in getting a cinematic shot, but you can't get the shot without the use of a camera body. That's the heart and soul of everything. Depending on what kind of camera you're using, you'll get a different result with different cameras, even if you film the same shot the same way. Some people swear that using a full frame DSLR is the way to go and others are just as insistent about using a professional grade camcorders. Let's explore what the benefits are and you can decide where you want to go from there.


DSLR & Digital Cine Cameras

DSLR has become extremely popular with the independent filmmaker. The portability and flexibility of what you can do with it makes it very appealing for those that are wanting to get into filmmaking or are dead set with shooting footage all over the world without a huge production crew. Granted, I have a DSLR myself, but even I know that there are limits to what a DSLR can do. My main thing is being able to record for longer than 30 minutes. I've been at a few weddings early on in my career and the ceremony went on for a little longer than my camera could handle. I ended up missing the most important part of the whole ceremony, the kiss. It was a rookie mistake, but it was a mistake I'll never forget. Luckily, there was other cameramen working with me so it didn't matter to much on my angle, but what if I was the only guy filming? The other limitation I don't like too much is the zoom factor. I like being able to zoom with a button rather than moving my whole camera just to zoom the lens. This was important during football season when I had to zoom in and out constantly (think of the NFL when they show the whole field when they play). I was never able to zoom and focus fast enough with some of the plays and it ended up making the footage very shaky.


Camcorders

While DSLR's are capable of producing some amazing quality videos, Camcorders offer some pretty decent video quality as well. They may not be as good in low light situations, but the ability to continuously record a project definitely helps in post production. Not only that, you can zoom in and out with one hand and keep the camera steady with the other hand. The major downfall to camcorders though is the inability to switch out lenses. Most camcorders have a fixed lens, meaning you are stuck with what it comes with so you'll have to pay attention to what your buying before you realize that you made a mistake. Because of this, you won't get the same image quality compared to the DSLR's. The ability to have such a deep depth of field with DSLR's is one of the main things that most independent filmmakers go for since it gives it a more cinematic effect. You can get a small depth of field with a camcorder, but it doesn't always look as appealing as the footage shot with DSLR's.

With both of these types of cameras, there's a lot of pro's and con's on both sides. It's really hard to determine what you'll need if you're just shopping around. You can either go for style or professional (Yes, it's one or the other. You can't always be both in the eyes of many.) My recommendation would be to get both because you'll have a wider range of equipment to work with and you'll come out looking more professional than most since you are showing clients that you aren't stuck with one brand or one type of camera. It shows that you know you can do different things with different equipment and your completed video will look the best it can be.

You may have read all this and said, "Man, this guy is extremely indecisive..", but the thing is, we all are when it comes to buying our next piece of equipment. This is one of the most important decisions to make since you'll be dropping quite a bit of cheddar for something that more than likely will stay in the case for days at a time. This either makes or breaks a project so choose wisely and as always, don't break the bank.


Next time, we'll talk about lighting and what you can do to improve your shots. Be sure to follow us on social media and sign up for our newsletter so you can be one of the first to know when the next blog gets released.


-Adam

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