12 Important Tools For Filmmaking An Independent Filmmaker Needs

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Tools For Filmmaking – Are you a new filmmaker looking for the right filmmaking tools to get you filming today? Or, have you made a few shorts and thinking that you may be missing some key items in your filmmaking kit?

When I started my “so-called” filmmaking journey five years ago, my first short was a 48-hour film festival holiday film (See below at the end of this post), in which I didn’t have the proper tools to make the film I really wanted.

The film was frantically shot on an iPhone, a wired microphone, poor lighting, and a poor editing suite that in my mind didn’t turn out well.

Plus, my actors didn’t show up for filming so the actors were the filming crew. All in all, the short didn’t turn out too bad and did win the audience choice award.

But, I learned a valuable lesson when filming that short, and that was to make sure that the next film I made, I would have the proper filmmaking tools.

In this post, I will discuss the first 12 essential tools for filmmaking you should buy.

If you are looking at starting a filmmaking career and don’t know what to get right off the bat, I will shed some light on what I think you need to get you going in the right direction.

I am going to cover as much as I can when it comes to a film production equipment checklist.

There are some things that I may be leaving out in this post, but it’s a great start for a new filmmaker.

Filmmaking equipment

Computer

Some of you may have a computer at home, so I will briefly explain why you need a good one. First off, you will want a computer or laptop with a min 16GB of RAM.

Plus, a decent video card that can handle the time-consuming rendering of programs like after effects.

I use a 16-inch MacBook Pro for every filmmaking step during the entire production. Why? Because with all the PC’s I have owned over time, they become slower and slower as time progresses. 

The Macbook Pro I currently use today has a 2.3GHz 8-core 9th-generation Intel Core i9 processor, AMD Radeon Pro 5500M with 4GB of GDDR6 memory, 16GB 2666MHz DDR4 memory, and a 1TB SSD storage.

What this means to a filmmaker is, that the Macbook Pro’s speed is fast enough to handle editing software programs like Adobe Premiere Pro CC with ease. 

And trust me, Adobe is a beast for editing, and you need all the power you can get to edit without losing your mind. 

So, make sure you have a fast computer on your list of Tools For Filmmaking.

Camera

Another of the important tools for filmmaking is a camera.

When it comes to buying a camera, it’s almost like buying a pair of running shoes. 

You don’t necessarily need the most expensive shoe to go running, but you don’t want a cheap pair of shoes that will fall apart and be obsolete in a couple of months. 

This example pretty much works with filmmaking cameras as well. 

You don’t need to spend a lot of money on a camera to shoot videos. Just make sure it shoots 4k videos on it, and you are ready to go.

Don’t get lost in camera specs at the start. Try limiting your filmmaking camera cost to around $1000 to $1500 including the kit lens.

My suggestions for great filmmaking cameras around this budget would be the Panasonic Lumix GH85Panasonic Lumix G7Sony a6400, and the Canon 80D.

Keep in mind that these great filmmaking cameras will do the job for any filmmaker, but you will need lenses, and these come at a price many of us can’t afford.

My suggestion for a great lens to start off with for your filmmaking kit is a prime lens like the Canon EF 28mm f/3.5. It’s not too wide and not too narrow. It’s just right. 

Plus, it’s a great lens to use on a Steadicam or shoulder rig.

Another of the tools for filmmaking is the 50mm lens. It simulates the human eye better than any other lens, and it’s been the go-to lens for filmmakers from every genre for a century. 

Plus a 50mm lens won’t kill your budget.

Click here for the massive selection of lenses at www.bhphotovideo.com

Memory Cards

Memory cards is one of those tools for filmmaking that many don’t think of, but they are extremely important in the filmmaking process. 

When it comes to memory, try finding the fastest transfer speed memory cards. Plus, you will need a min of 128 GB min for storage. 

You should have in your camera kit at least 2 or 3 spare cards in your bag in case you encounter long shooting days.

If you are in the market for a great memory card for your filmmaking camera then you should pick up the gold standard Extreme PRO SDXC card from SanDisk

Many of my filmmaking friends rave about the Extreme PRO SDXC SD, they offer capacities ranging from 32GB to a staggering 1TB and an impressive UHS Speed Class 3 rating.

Another reason to buy the Extreme PRO SDXC card is its write speeds of up to 90MB/s, and a fast 170MB/s read speed is perfect for the data crunching 4K video capture. 

Filters

With the great editing suites available for filmmakers today, color correction can be done in post-production. If you are a beginning filmmaker, you don’t need to worry about using filters when you are starting.

The only disadvantage of post-production filtering is that it reduces the depth of fields compared to using camera filters. Plus, you can’t achieve the cinematic look in post-production editing as you would by using a camera filter.

When I am filming, I like to use all the tools for filmmaking available to me during production, so it’s one less thing to worry about in post-production. To maximize your camera footage during shooting, I would suggest using either a ND filter or a polarized filter to your movie making kit.

A ND filter is a neutral density lens block the light without affecting the color. They help in controlling the exposure without compensating on the shutter speeds, aperture, and the ISOs.

It helps you get that proper exposure by either stacking them in layers or getting a variable one. IRND filters also help in blocking the infrared spillage on the image.

They are very useful for digital cameras. They are also able to provide an excellent dynamic range. Here you get both the highlight and the shadow details better.

Polarized Filters cut unnecessary reflections, glares and light sources without silhouetting the subjects. Polarizers are instrumental when you shoot with shiny objects or through the glass and reflective material.

They are also popularly used for capturing the richness of colors in the sky and clouds.

Other filters like Diffusion and color filters are also used to add effects to the scene. You can achieve most of them on the post, but you may use it if you want to avoid the post route.

Tripod

To achieve a stable look while having the ability to pan and tilt smoothly, then you need a great tripod to add to your tools for filmmaking. 

For a beginning filmmaker a tripod takes the hassle out of achieving great steady pans and dollies. 

Plus, a tripod makes filming hassle free for beginners. With extended arms of a tripod and a little practice, a beginning filmmaker can achieve incredible shots without the use of cumbersome jibs and cranes.

But, with tripods as with lenses, this is one of those tools for filmmaking that you need to spend a few extra dollars on. 

More expensive tripods have more fluid heads and can withstand the weight of your camera that could have heavy lenses, recorders, and various accessories attached to it. 

When shopping for a tripod, avoid the ones with center columns and made of aluminum. Carbon fiber tripods may cost more but are quite sturdy and durable.

I recommend Cayer BV30L Tripod Kit (below) for all your film making equipment needs. I love mine, and it’s a workhorse!

Sound Gear

When it comes to filmmaking, I believe that sound is the most important thing to filmmaking next to a camera.

Sound is everything when sitting in a dark cinema. Sound helps the audience engage in the material that they are watching on screen. 

Many new filmmakers tend to forget about sound and strictly focus on the visuals, but with the horrible sound, it doesn’t matter how good the image is, the experience will be lost without great sound.

There are some amazing sound recording devices in the market, and the external digital audio recorder is the best way to capture sound and should one the tools for filmmaking in your kit now!

Digital audio recorders provide a better quality of sound and add more versatility to your sound mixing in post-production. 

The Tascam DR-40X Four-Track Digital Audio Recorder is one of the tools for filmmaking that I have, because it’s a versatile four-track audio recorder for cinema, music, podcasting and any other application you may use.

Side note: Don’t forget to have a decent pair of headphones to attach to your sound recorder. You need headphones to clearly hear what sound is being recorded.

Microphones

Sure you can rely on your camera’s microphone, but a camera was built for filming images not recording sound. Plus, with an internal recording of sound from the camera, it’s tough to focus directly on the subject being filmed. 

Also, when it comes to sound, there are many outside noises that can take away from the key focus on the screen.

If you are using a portable recording device to record sound, using an external microphone can focus on your actors and cut down on the background noises around them. 

With microphones, there are three types of microphones that you should use for your tools for filmmaking kit.

One is a directional, the other is a shotgun microphone, last is the lavalier microphone.

The shotgun mic is the one that makes you face any situation. You can set them on the top of the camera or hide it under and above the camera frame.

The lav microphones are useful for its small size and convenience in handling. They comfortably fit on the actors, or subjects can hide conveniently. 

Mic Stand & Boom Pole

AmazonBasics Tripod Boom Microphone Stand

From setup to take down to frequent loading and unloading, a durable mic stand performs beautifully and can be transported or stored with ease. 

You will need a Boom Microphone Stand for those filmmakers shooting without a crew or minimal crew. Any Mic Stand can work, just make sure it can reach up to 5 ft in height. 

One of the tools for filmmaking that you will need with or without a mic stand is a boom pole. A boom pole is great for attaching a shotgun microphone to it to get closer to your subjects. 

I have the Neewer Stretchable Handheld Microphone Boom Pole for when I am filming. The Neewer Boom Pole is sturdy and lightweight and allows me to mount my microphones securely and follow my sound source with ease. 

Lighting

When checking your film production equipment list, lighting is nessesary in order to create atmosphere and tones.

Movie Lighting equipment is something that you can either purchase or rent.

Also, don’t forget a disk reflector which can help you salvage bad light, and turn okay light into something magical. You can use your reflector from below to fill in shadows, or from above to block distracting light.

Renting lighting equipment can be inexpensive and easy. Plus, with the great filmmaking cameras like the Sony A7, the digital light sensor is sensitive enough to catch any image even in the poorest conditions. 

But if you are thinking about purchasing lighting equipment, having a basic lighting kit can improve any shot.

A basic kit should involve the three-point lighting setup. A three-point lighting setup is a standard lighting arrangement that is essential for indoor shoots.

It consists of a key light which is the leading light determines the intensity of the brightness and the temperature. 

Next is a Fill Light that fills up the empty parts or the shadows on the frame. In addition to these lights, a Rim light or the backlight adds the depths as it defines the separation of the subject to its background. 

These lights make up a three-point lighting setup. Keep in mind that many cinematographers try to take the imagery to the next level with additional lights. 

Just make sure when setting up to ensure a white balance before you shoot. A white balance should match the color temperature of your tungsten or LED, that you are using for the shoot. 

The latest digital cameras automatically correct the white balance, but a new filmmaker should be aware of white balancing.

External hard drive

When you are shooting films, you will be accumulating a lot of data and need a place to store all of this media. 

You can leave it on your desktop when you are in full editing mode, but an external hard drive is great for when you are shooting on location and away from your editing suite. 

Memory cards work best when you need to store the data from your memory cards onto something on the fly.

You may have your laptop handy for this, but having a backup on an external hard drive of at least 2-4TB of space is extremely handy.

Just make sure that the external hard drive you choose to use has a fast read and write speed to handle the file transfers.

I like the LaCie rugged external hard drive because they are fast and can withstand the elements.

I have since dropped this drive numerous times, and have managed to accidentally drown my drive in very hot water for over a minute, and the DRIVE STILL WORKED! 

Multi-Tools

This Filmmaker Equipment Guide list could be long and pointless unless you know exactly what you need on a set.

My go-to tools while on set are clamps, a Swiss knifeLens ClothClaperboardGafferʼs tapeMulticolored electrical tapesCard readerMemory Card pouchViewfinderDust cleaner, and so much more. ( Click the links for more information.)

You will find out over time what you need after each shoot you do, and they will always be top on mind before shooting.

Also, more tools for filmmaking you should have is light stands and clamps are important for lighting setups and very affordable. Make sure you have sturdy stands and preferably a kit that comes with a boom.

Also, make sure you have on hand, add-on filmmaking tools like the diffusersbarn doorsfilters, and gels, etc. as a package for your Film Production Equipment Guide

Plus, another thing to add to the movie making equipment for beginners list is light meter or the spot meter.

Editing Software

Editing software is not equipment, but it’s something you will need in post-production therefore it’s added to the Equipment Guide. 

I prefer Adobe Premiere Pro CC even though it’s a monthly subscription-based software, but it has so many editing tools like after-effects that will kick up your production a notch or two. (Click here for more information on Adobe Premiere Pro CC.)

For Color Correction, DaVinciʼs Resolve is a great free tool. Plus, it has an editing program embedded inside which is excellent for beginners. 

When it comes to audio editing software, Adobe Audition is an excellent professional option for beginners. If you are looking for some free options try Audacity or Wavepad.

Related article: The best online filmmaking courses to improve your filmmaking skills

Conclusion

There you have it, 12 important tools for filmmaking that any filmmaker just starting out needs to start filming.

You may be unable to afford all of it at once, but try to start with the important tools first. Start building what matters to you the most, and then work your way down the list months later.

Keep in mind that all of the highlighted links in this post go directly to either amazon or B&h photo video to make it easier for you to start building your gear now.

If you liked this post and feel you have some filmmaking friends that need some advice on building his/her filmmaking kit, please share this post on social media by using the buttons below.

Also, if there is some filmmaking equipment that I might not have mentioned in this post, and you think it should, please leave a comment below as I would love to hear from you.

Filmmaking equipment

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One thought on “12 Important Tools For Filmmaking An Independent Filmmaker Needs

  • September 25, 2019 at 1:16 pm
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    Super list. I wouldn’t have had a clue where to start.

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