The next stage: The gear. The most essential element is the camera. Will you need more than one camera? What is the best camera for filming? The answer, as always is: it depends. Let’s look at some options for filming and what works best in each situation.
Cameras now fall into a few basic categories:
- Cell Phone
- Web Cam
- Professional Cinema cameras
If you’re filming you’ll want an “A” and “B” Camera. Yes, that’s two cameras. The “B” Camera can easily be a cell phone if you’re so inclined but I’d recommend if you’re serious enough to film properly, Don’t use a cell phone for interviews or anything other than quick actions shots, pans or spur of the moment captures. I used a Google Nexus 6P to film an interview with a client as the A camera. It fried the battery on the phone, forever. Phones get hot. They are brilliant tools that can be used for just about everything. If you’re really serious about video, use phones to sync sound, manage the main camera through an app or to get stills while shooting.
Cell Phone Filming
Yep, you can film with a cell phone. There are now movies shot with cell phones. Plural. Many cell phones. Professional producers can’t rely on a single cell phone for professional video.
Here’s the truth: The tool you use is not the story you tell.
Using a fancy camera will not make what you are shooting compelling, aesthetic, well composed or well told. Using a cheap camera will likely lead to low production quality, camera shake, bad sound and a host of other problems that can make your video unwatchable BUT storytelling is the most important aspect. If the only thing stopping you from telling the story you have, right now, that you are motivated and inspired to record- use the cell phone. Don’t let your gear be an obstacle for your accomplishments. You’ll learn as you go, however, this is not a full fledged pro tool. If you really want to dive in, get to know a higher end camera. The time investment is worth it.
Great is the Enemy of Good. Just Start with whatever you have today. Right now. Start small, start bold just start. Excuses will destroy your momentum.
I use an LG G7 ThinQ– It takes brilliant photos and is cheaper, lighter, smaller and doesn’t have obnoxious menus like the Samsung Galaxy S9+, which I had stolen BY SECURITY at the Macklemore & Kesha concert.
I tried using this as a camera for a documentary style interview. I used a Logitech C920 HD 1080p. It kept crashing the video editing software I was using: Corel VideoStudio 10 2018. I tried the Logitech software and it still crashed. Web cams are fine for a Skype call or video conference but they are not meant to be filming tools. Both my A (cell phone) and B (web cam) failed miserably. I used these tools because the client was wary of video and nervous. I thought the minimal footprint and familiar look would make him more comfortable. I ended up with bits of footage between web cam crashes, that my partner was filming. The cell phone had a lavalier mic plugged into it and a buzzing sound permeated the cell video. Syncing sound is a major pain in the ass and not a great task for novices. You want to avoid it if possible and most client’s at this level are not paying you for professional editing services. This means, I ended up with basically unusable footage.
You are the professional. Reshoots happen, it’s a given but avoiding them and getting it right is best. Produce good footage to not waste time in post-production, editing.
Never stop experimenting. You will fail. You will get better.
The Canon EOS 5D Mark IV is the go to camera for pro’s that use DSLR. There are LOADS of others. If you’re looking to save a substantial sum of money opt for an ASP-C sensor. It’s smaller than a full size sensor, compromising some low light capability and very high speed shots. If you’re not photographing night sky’s or professional athletic games, you’re fine. I LOVE my ASP-C senor rig. The Canon 80D is very popular amongst bloggers, has 1080 HD resolution (not 4K) and you can pick one up from Costco for $1800 with 2 kit lenses.
I don’t use DSLR’s. I’m an early convert of the Mirrorless systems.
Lots of old school photographers will have no idea what the hell you’re talking about if you start banging on about Mirrorless cameras. That is quickly changing. I bought my first mirrorless in 2014 in Olympia, Washington. Shooting hikes in the lush temperate rain forests of the Pacific Northwest. I bought it to shoot my first professional pics: a moving company, moving me into a floating home on the Columbia River in Portland, Oregon. It didn’t say it was weather sealed but it still works like a champ, after tens of thousands of shots.
The problem with my Sony Nex 5T, the little camera that can: overheating. This is a problem with many DSLR’s and mirroless cameras when you shoot video.
In Europe, camera’s don’t shoot video longer than 30 minutes. Any camera that shoots continuously for more than 30 minutes is subject to a VAT, a hefty tax on camcorders. The work around: Looping recording. Panasonic produces two models that are the go to for professional videographers, they are both mirroless.
- Panasonic GH series. The GH4 is the choice of pro’s everywhere. Although many still use there older Gh2’s and GH3’s. The GH5 is now on the market. It features a Micro 4/3 sensor. It’s a small sensor, half the size of a full sensor. There are many implications to this, good and bad, The end result is a flat, cinematic look to your footage. It’s also very lightweight and not nearly as expensive as offerings by Cannon, Nikon and is competitive with Sony. Panasonic is one of only a few manufacturers making the micro 4/3 system. If you’re not looking for an all-in-one camera or need a very lightweight option- this is a solid choice.
- Panasonic Luminix G series. I own and shoot with the G7. I don’t love it but it takes beautiful still, has an insane amount of features and settings (which puts me off a little) and shoots great video. Also- it doesn’t over heat. It pauses slightly (about 3 seconds) at the 30 minutes filming mark but automatically restarts. Most filming should be done in short shots comprising a scene from several angles. If you’re vlogging, this is an excellent option. It’s also fairly inexpensive compared to virtually all other cameras capable of the quality. It is very lightweight.
I am in love with my new Sony a7III. There’s a whole lot of hub bub about this out there. It lives up to the hype. I just randomly shot some footage of a automotive shop fire, with explosions for a local news station while driving by, randomly. I was standing on a bunch of rickety pallets wondering if I might actually be hit with explosive debris. I carry this camera with me everywhere. It fits nicely into my Eagle Creek bag but is not light.
Camcorders & Professional Cinema Cameras
I dislike the digital harshness of most affordable camcorders. They can shoot continuously and have excellent anti shake technology. I don’t use them.
Professional Cinema Cameras are ungodly expensive and are for professionals, well beyond the scope of this series.
Stay Tuned for PART III: Camera Accessories and Lighting