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Filmmaking Equipment Essentials for All Budgets & Setups

From microphones to cameras, here’s all the filmmaking equipment essentials you need. No matter your budget, we’ll help you create your setup!
Stephen Robles
Video & Podcast Creator
Last Updated:
April 22, 2024
10
min
Reviewed by
Ortal Hadad

Getting all the equipment ready for your first film can be daunting. If you type ‘filmmaking camera’ in the Google search bar, your screen will be flooded leaving you overwhelmed.

In such a situation, how do you figure out which camera is the best, let alone find one that fits your budget?

Don't worry; we've got you covered! In this article, we've handpicked the top essential filmmaking equipment and organized them into three budget categories: budget-friendly, mid-budget, and high-budget.

Read on to learn more!

Why does your filming equipment matter?

Your filming equipment matters for several reasons:

Easier to get the right shot

Professional video equipment lets you capture cinematic, angled, and unique shots. You get to shoot your video in creative and flexible ways.

For example, using professional lighting equipment enables you to shape and control the mood and atmosphere of a scene.

Better production value

Better film equipment leads to films with better production values, which appeal to audiences, distributors, and investors. In the film industry, reputation matters, and using quality gear increases your chances of securing funding for future projects.

Better storytelling and visual impact

Better equipment lets you create more engaging, visually appealing stories. For example, advanced cameras capture sharper images with more detail. This gives you clearer close-ups that reveal subtle emotions on the characters’ faces.

Proper lighting equipment can make or break a scene. Just think of the dramatic chiaroscuro in "The Godfather" – the interplay of light and shadow was crucial in setting the film's dark, moody atmosphere. Without the right lighting equipment, Marlon Brando's iconic performance as Don Corleone might not have been as impactful.

Better efficiency and workflow

The right equipment can save you a lot of time in the filmmaking process. For instance, using a tripod or stabilizer can help you achieve steady shots without wasting time on post-production stabilization. Using efficient editing software and hardware can speed up post-production, letting you deliver your film on time and within budget.

8 Must-Have Filmmaking Equipment for High-Quality Video

The following 8 pieces of equipment are essential for producing your first film.

High-quality camera

While phones like the iPhone 14 come close to the capabilities of a filmmaking camera, the latter will always outperform them. Compared to phones, filmmaking cameras have

  • Better overall film quality due to larger sensors.
  • Are better for low-lighting shots. They are great at exposing dark areas in general.
  • Are much better at getting things into focus or out of focus.
  • Interchangeable lenses that give you more flexibility in the types of shots you can take.

What to consider when purchasing a filmmaking camera?

Sensor size: A camera's sensor size affects the image quality, depth of field, and low-light performance. Larger sensors generally provide better image quality and low-light performance, but at the cost of being expensive.

Resolution: What resolution do you want your video to be filmed? 4K? 6K? 8K? Check for these specifications when buying the camera.

Frame rate: Different cameras offer different frame rates, a factor that affects the look and feel of your project. Standard frame rates include 24, 30, and 60 fps. Higher frame rates, such as 120 fps, allow for slow-motion footage.

Budget: Cameras drastically vary in price, and you’ll need to find one that’s more in your budget.

Lenses: Camera lenses come in varying focal lengths, determining magnification and field of view.

Panasonic Lumix GH5 II

Recommendations

Lighting equipment

Lighting is a critical component of filmmaking, as it sets the mood, creates depth, and enhances the overall visual quality of your video.

Here are the essential pieces of lighting equipment that you’ll need:

  • Lighting Kit: A versatile lighting kit comes with a few different types of lights like tungsten, LED, or fluorescent lights, along with stands, softboxes, and other accessories.
  • Softbox or umbrellas: Softboxes and umbrellas are used in filmmaking to modify and control the quality of light. They create soft, even lighting that reduces harsh shadows and creates more natural lighting.
  • Reflector: Reflectors redirect light to a subject. These come in all sizes and colors, the most common being white, silver, gold, and black.
  • C-Stands and mounting equipment: You’ll need to position your lighting equipment appropriately to get more creative control over your project. Plus, you’ll want to secure your equipment to keep them safe. Century stands and other mounting equipment help with these.

What to consider when purchasing lighting equipment

  • Portability and setup: If you plan to film in various locations, get lightweight gear that can be easily transported and set up.
  • Power source: You may need battery-powered lights or a portable generator for outdoor filming. And if you plan to film indoors, make sure you have access to sufficient power outlets.
  • Budget: Lighting can range from affordable and basic to very expensive and professional.

Recommendations

Lenses

Lenses are like the eyes that allow the audience to see the story. They can change the perspective and mood of any shot – every scene in the movie is directly affected by lens choice.

What to consider when purchasing lenses

  • Focal length: Changes in focal length determine how much of the scene will be captured and the magnification of individual elements. A shorter focal length provides a wider field of view, while a longer one narrows the field of view and magnifies the subject.
  • Aperture: Aperture refers to the lens opening size that allows light to enter the camera. A larger aperture lets more light pass through and results in better low-light performance, plus a shallower depth of field. A smaller aperture may not be great in low lighting, but gives a deeper depth of field and sharper focus across the entire image.
  • Lens mount compatibility: Your lens must be compatible with your camera’s lens mount. Common lens mounts include Canon EF, Canon RF, Fujifilm X, Sony E, and Leica L-mount.
  • Image quality: High-quality lenses can vastly improve the quality of image and production.

Recommendations:

Viltrox camera lens for filmmaking equiment
Viltrox

The lens you choose will depend on the type of camera you buy and the mount it uses. Here are some good lens recommendations for the cameras we’ve already suggested:

Tripod

A tripod is a three-legged stand that supports the camera. These are important because:

  • Stability: Shots taken by holding the camera by hand can be shaky and unstable. A tripod keeps your camera steady and gives you clear and sharp images.
  • Precision: A tripod allows for precise camera movements and framing. Filmmakers can easily adjust the camera's position, angle, and height to achieve the desired composition. This precision is crucial for capturing specific shots and maintaining continuity throughout a scene.
  • Long exposures and time-lapses: A tripod is essential for long-exposure shots or time-lapse sequences. These techniques require the camera to remain fixed for an extended period, and any movement will ruin the shot.
  • Lets you create panoramic shots: Create panoramic shots by providing a stable base for rotating the camera smoothly.
  • It reduces fatigue: Especially during longs shots, as you don’t have to support the weight of the camera with your hands.

What to consider when purchasing a tripod

  • Weight and portability: If you plan to travel with your tripod, consider its weight and size in the collapsed position.
  • Height: For different shooting situations, you'll need a tripod with a wide height range, so consider the minimum and maximum height.
  • The right type of head: Tripods have different types of heads: pan-tilt, gimbal, ball, and fluid, with the first one being the most budget-friendly.

Recommendations

Microphones

We’ve mostly focused on video-related equipment so far, but a good film cannot do without good audio equipment. Cameras alone aren’t enough to capture high-quality audio, which is why you’ll need an external microphone to drastically improve the quality of your recordings.

What to consider when purchasing a microphone

The best kinds of microphones for filmmaking are shotgun and lavalier mics. The former is usually mounted on boom poles and used on film sets and TV productions. The latter is typically attached to the actors' clothing to capture consistent audio even when the actor moves.

Recommendations

RODE NTG1 filmmaking microphone equipment
RODE

Green Screens

All those cool CGI effects you find in your favorite films laced are only possible thanks to green screens and chroma-keying technology. This technology removes a solid-color background (typically green) from the photo and replaces it with another background or computer-generated imagery (CGI).

Chroma keying and green screens have revolutionized filmmaking. They’ve enabled filmmakers to create scenes that would be difficult, expensive, or impossible to shoot in real life, such as fictional, alien, historical, or futuristic settings.

What to consider when purchasing green screens

  • Material: Aberrations on the green screen will show up on the special effects. So find a material that prevents wrinkles and ensures even lighting across the screen. Spandex and nylon are good choices.
  • Size: Based on the type of project you’re working on, you may need a larger size of green screen.

Recommendations

Drones

Drones let you shoot hard-to-capture shots like aerial shots, chase scenes, tracking shots, and any shots that can’t be filmed through usual techniques.  

What to consider when purchasing drones

  • Camera quality: For vibrant and sharp images, you’ll want to choose drones equipped with cameras capable of capturing 4K resolution or higher.
  • Flight time: Get a drone that can fly at least 25-35 minutes.
  • Stability: Choose a drone with advanced stabilization systems, like gimbals, to prevent unwanted vibrations and shaky, blurred videos.
  • Portability: If you plan to travel long distances, you may need portable drones that are lightweight and compact.

Recommendations

Video editing software

Video editing software lets you assemble, manipulate, and enhance footage to create a polished final product. It lets you import raw footage, audio, and other media assets and arrange them in a specific order. It also lets you trim unwanted sections, add transitions and visual effects, add color grading, correction, and more.

What to consider when purchasing editing software

  • Operating system and hardware compatibility: Check if the video editing software is compatible with your operating system (Windows, macOS, or Linux) and meets your computer's hardware requirements. Some software are quite intensive on hardware and may require a powerful processor, ample RAM, and a dedicated graphics card to get them to run smoothly.
  • User interface: Some software has a steeper learning curve than others. Make sure to get one that’s right for your skill level.
  • Features: Make sure the software has the particular editing features you’re looking for.
  • Budget: Some editing software are catered more towards beginners on a budget, whereas others are costly and more suited for larger productions.

Recommendations

Bonus: Filmmaking Tools for Remote Recordings

Remote filming is less suitable for a blockbuster movie. But this setup can work well if you’re just filming a YouTube or online talking head video. It can even save you time and money.

For remote recordings, you can use the same equipment as above. You’ll just need to make sure each person joining the recording has their own equipment.

In addition, you’ll want to use specialized software for recording remotely. This lets you capture audio and video remotely without having to be there in person.

What to consider when purchasing a remote recording app

  • Reliability: Can the app be trusted to record high-quality video without losing out on recording material due to fluctuations in the internet?
  • Resolution: Can the recorder film in 4K? Or can it only record in low-resolution 1080p and 720p recording?
  • Collaboration: Does the software allow you to collaborate by audio and video remotely?
  • File formats: Can the software record in lossless and uncompressed file formats that don’t sacrifice video and audio quality for size?

Recommendations

Riverside a high-quality remote recording platform ideal for any talking head content.

You can record in 4K video and 48kHZ audio resolution and not worry about internet fluctuations. This is because Riverside uses local recording. Everything records directly on each person’s device so your internet connection can’t get in the way of ruining your resolution.

The platform also supports multitrack recording for up to 8 participants. You’ll capture each person’s audio and video on a separate track for easier editing.

Riverside remote video creation software

Once you’re done recording with Riverside, you can use the editor to seamlessly polish your recordings. You can trim your video is as easy as editing a transcript with our text-based editing.

Alternatively, try the color-coded video editing timeline for easy splitting and splicing. Finish off with captions, text, and a variety of customization tools. There’s even AI audio enhancement!

Start recording with Riverside
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Best practices for your filmmaking equipment tools

  • Continuously update your skills and knowledge. Stay informed about the latest filmmaking equipment and techniques so you use the tools effectively and efficiently.
  • Manage batteries effectively. Properly charge and store batteries to prolong their life and performance.
  • Check your equipment. Test all equipment and gear before shooting to avoid technical issues on set.
  • Don’t film everything from eye level. Film shots from different angles and directions.
  • Control your audio: Monitor audio levels and make sure they don’t do too high or low.
  • Apply color grading to your footage. This enhances the visual aesthetics and create a consistent look throughout the film.
  • Apply smooth transitions: When changing your shot, use smooth movements rather than jerky ones. Try slow panning motions that feel smooth, natural, and easy – not jerky or robotic.

FAQs on Filmmaking Equipment Tools

What equipment do you need to film a video?

To film a video, the main equipment you’ll need are a high-quality camera, lenses, tripod, microphone, lighting equipment, headphones, and video editing software. Additional useful hardware includes batteries and chargers for the camera and other equipment like audio recorders and memory cards.

What is the most important tool in filmmaking?

There’s no single piece of equipment that’s useful in filmmaking. The process involves plenty of tools that have their own role to play in the filmmaking process.

However, the absolutely-cannot-do-without equipment includes a high-quality camera to capture the best quality video; microphones to capture the best quality audio; and lighting equipment to set the atmosphere for the story.

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