WHICH CAMERA SHOULD I USE TO SHOOT MY MOVIE?
Down the rabbit hole you go. I’ve been there. So many choices, so much information. Should I shoot DSLR or mirrorless? Should I be shooting in full frame? What about Blackmagic, should I purchase one? Maybe I can rent a Red or ARRI? Do I need to purchase insurance to rent? What lenses should I use?
For the love of god, stop. You’re giving me a fucking headache. Let me walk you through my journey and see if we can determine what is the right answer.
THE EARLY DAYS
My first film, I bought a Panasonic HCV700K. This little handheld camera shot in 1080 (this was before 4k was a thing) and it had no lens attachments. It’s literally a camera someone would use for their home videos. I’ve since made good use of it by recording auditions for future projects. But is it a good camera to shoot your movie with?
For me, it wouldn’t have really mattered. I shot without any lights so NO camera was going to be the right camera for this project. With that said, if it’s the ONLY camera you can get your hands on then shoot away, otherwise, you may want to look elsewhere.
Let’s move on.
MY SECOND SHORT FILM
The Canon 5D Mark 2. The game changer. This little DSLR made it possible for independent filmmakers to get an image closer to that of a professional system. Still coming with a bit of a price tag on it, once you add in lenses you were probably closing in on $10,000. That’s affordable right?
Luckily for me, I had a DP(Director Of Photography) who had a full 5D setup. We were able to use it at no additional cost. This made it the right price and the right camera for the job.
THE FEATURE LENGTH FILM
We struck gold on this project. The Red Scarlet. I believe the price on this little baby was between $15,000 and $20,000 at the time and this doesn’t include lenses.
Sean...Did you buy a camera for $20,000?
The DP I was working with (from the second short film) had access to this camera. We were able to utilize his Canon cinema lenses which gave us a VERY professional camera setup. Again the price was right and thus, so was the camera.
We shot on the Red system...We shot on it real good…
For the last film in my catalog we shot with the Canon 60D using a single pancake lens. Entire setup is around $1,000 and it did a very nice job.
So you bought this camera setup?
Nope! I was collaborating with a new artist at the time and this is the setup he had. Again with the price being right, that’s what we used. It was the right choice for this project.
WHICH CAMERA SHOULD YOU USE TODAY?
DO NOT, go spend a bunch of money on a camera system to shoot your independent films, it’s not worth it. You should be resourceful and utilize any camera you have access to. Especially if you are just learning like I was, you don’t need anything fancy. Hell, for the film I’m planning to shoot this October, I’m going to be using my iPhone. It’s the right camera for the project because it’s the one I can get.
There’s so much more that goes into making a film than just the camera. Lighting and sound are equally as important, if not more so, than the camera you use. If these other two elements falter, then your final product isn’t going to be that great anyway. Let’s not forget about the story! A shitty story is a shitty story. Doesn’t matter what you film it with, so maybe focus on that?
Look, to be honest and raw, it doesn’t fucking matter which camera you use. In fact, none of the equipment you use is going to matter. Unless you’re working on a Hollywood feature with big budget talent, odds are nobody WANTS to see your film anyway and I mean that. It’s nothing against you as a person, it’s just the reality of things. Why do I watch a movie starring Dwayne Johnson? Because I’m a huge fucking fan, not because they shot on an ARRI.
So do the smart thing, the sensible thing. Use the camera you can get your hands on. Use the camera that’s available to you. When the time comes that you have access to someone’s $100,000 rig, then you can use it.
I’m shooting my next movie on the iPhone. Which camera are you going to use?
To see results of the cameras I used, see My Failed Films.