Tips for beginner filmmakers , what is the best camera to start filmmaking with?

 
What is the best camera to start filmmaking with
 

Tips for beginner filmmakers , what is the best camera to start filmmaking with? When I first started making films I used a handycam with DV tapes to record on, the slightest knock to the camera body and you would get interference on the screen. Digital grey squares would appear in and out of frames, internal sound recording meant you heard a constant mechanical hum throughout the footage.

It doesn’t matter what camera you use when you first start out. It really doesn’t, use whatever you can get your hands on. Most Mobile cell phones now have high quality cameras, technology is improving every year, HD is not hard to obtain. I have made a list of filmmaking equipment below to guide you if you wish to start spending money on filmmaking equipment.

This is a beginners guide! I am referring to high quality products and brands that do the job well but don’t cost a fortune. I am not techy minded, I figure there are other filmmakers out there which lack a technical care like I do, so I made this guide easy to understand. Feel free to add your own thoughts or reviews of products you have bought in the comments section below. 

Camera

What is the best camera to start filmmaking with ? From the lowest price and easiest to get hold of a DSLR camera with video will give you a great start. The camera quality is high and you get full control of your focus (allowing you to make those blurry background shots). 

A Canon 750D costs from £450 ($570) usually coming with a zoom stock lens so you can start filming straight away. For a lower price any DSLR with video will do, for the lowest price I recommend a second hand Canon 550D (£200 / $250).  

Sound

We often forget about sound when we first begin to make films but bad audio can ruin everything. The DSLR cameras do record internal audio but this will come with internal camera noise. A quick fix is the RØDE VideoMic this fits on top of the camera and is good for close up audio and interview recording (£80 / $100).  It is the cheapest of fixes.
For further improved audio use a Lavalier Microphone (£150 / $190  ) this attaches to the actors shirt allowing you record their dialogue even if far away from the camera -  but you will also need an external recorder with this such as the Zoom H4n (£180 / $230 ). For more versatility a BoomPole , with a Shotgun Microphone and an external recorder (Zoom h4n). A complete Boom pole set up like this will cost you around £450/ $575 so you see sound recording can cost you as much as a camera.  
what is the best camera to start filmmaking with
what is the best camera to start filmmaking with
what is the best camera to start filmmaking with

Lighting

Tips for beginner filmmakers Natural light can go a long way, remember you can use the lights you already have in the room to create atmosphere. Lamps, torches, the light glow from a TV can all be used as a cheap alternative to paid for lighting.

For outdoor lighting a simple Light Reflector (£10/ $15) can reflect light from the sun to light up your actors faces. 
For white natural daylight Photography Soft boxes £60/$100) can fill a room with light. A set of Red Head Lights (£100 / $130) can be used on any student film set, you could also get colourful lighting gels to peg to the front of the lights to change the colour of light in scenes. Remember cinematography is all about creativity.

 

Accessories and packages

For your camera you will also need a tripod, the best company for this is Manfrotto which do a whole range of tripods, ideally you want one will a fluid head allowing you to move freely.

The Manfrotto is rather expensive so I found a cheaper, recommended alternative Magnus (£160 / $200) Your cameras will also need cards to record on to (SD Cards). A recommended camera bag company is Lowepro. Below I have built a list of eqipment packages so you can see the price of a starter filmmaker kit.

Filmmaker Package ONE -  £500 / $640

Canon 550D, (comes with a 18-55mm lens), SD Cards X2 , Magnus tripod , Zoom recorder, light reflector, 

Filmmaker Package TWO –  £1000 / $1275

Canon 750D (comes with a 18-55mm lens), SD Cards X2, Magnus tripod, zoom h4n & lav microphone, 

Filmmaker Package THREE - £1500 / $1900

Canon 750D (comes with a 18-55mm lens), SD Cards X4 , Manfrotto tripod head and legs,zoom h4n, Rode boompole, Rode shotgun Microphone, Set of red head lights and gels, Lowepro DSLR camera bag, Manfrotto tripod camera bag

Of course you could always do what I do and borrow equipment  from others (all universities and colleges will likely have equipment you can borrow).  

You don’t need to splash out money to make your first films, you can very much learn the basics for free, and create high quality content for a low cost.

You can find me via Twitter here - @amyclarkefilms

5 Techniques for Directing Actors - Filmmaking Tips

Filmmaking tips directing actors

A film director has many endless job roles on set but the most significant is directing actors and making sure that the best possible performances are given on screen. 

There is not a lot of advice out there about how to go about directing actors for film so I have made a list based on my own experiences (from directing my own films and from watching directors direct).

I have also read the book by Judith Weston Directing Actors, I do recommend it and it is probably the only book out there on how to direct actors. 

1. Write a detailed background for each character

Before you start to audition actors write a detailed character background for all of your main roles. You may have done this during the screenwriting stage. A detailed character background with information on the characters past, upbringing and personality will really help the actors understand the character you have created. I have been directing before and had my actors ask me all sorts of questions about the characters lifestyle, where they are from originally, whom they live with. Know your character inside out so you are never caught out with questions.

2. Remember the scene previous

Film sets can be confusing, they hardly ever shoot in chronological order. In the morning you could be filming a chase scene and in the afternoon an emotional piece. It’s easy to forget where you are up too. As a director you need to remember where your characters are emotionally within the script.

Read through the previous and current scene you are about to film before you start filming. Make notes on the characters emotions. Remember to keep the emotions consistent.

3. Have some time alone with the actors

As a director the actors performance will not be the only thing on your mind during the shoot (On an Indie production you might be doing more than one job role). Everyone on set will want to talk to you before filming begins. It will be loud and busy, so you need to find the time alone with the actors.

Talk about where the characters are emotionally within the scene you are shooting (mention what happened in the scene previous), talk about what the character is trying to achieve in this scene and what is on their mind.

4. Block all of the action before shooting

Blocking A Scene On A Film Set Is The Process Of Rehearsing The Action Within The Location You Are Going To Shoot Within. Before Costumes Are On, Before Lighting Is Set, The Actors Will Rehearse The Scene A Few Times Within The Location So That The Crew Can See The Physical Performance.

By Doing This The DOP Will Be Able To See How To Set Up The Lights, The Art Director Will Know How The Location Needs To Be Dressed, The 1st AD Will Be Able To Direct Any Extras Efficiently Etc.

5. Stay focused

When that camera starts rolling focus on the actor's performance first. Leave the lighting, costume, hair and makeup, to the rest of your crew.  Whilst you are watching the actors perform think about whether they are acting emotionally right for the scene and think about whether their performance is believable.

I like to write notes on the side of my script i.e – John should be sad since his dog has died a few scenes previous, when I look back at the take - I might think IS John acting like someone would whose dog has died- maybe he is too sad.

It’s not always possible to just ‘direct’ as a director – especially if you are an independent one – but you must make sure that you give the time needed for directing the actors – after all if the performances are not believable on screen, then that is your responsibility.

Directing just like anything will get better with practice. How many films must a director make to achieve 10,000 hours. I am not a professional director by any length just someone who gets the chance to direct once or twice a year. 

25 Tips for directing actorsBooks on directing actors.