Cameras, lights, sound and transport.
The equipment you will need (or can get hold of) will vary tremendously depending on your budget.
Digital equipment is far more widely available than traditional 16mm and 35mm film cameras and there are a large number of local organisations that own cameras that can be hired – sometimes even borrowed – by members of the public. Hook into your local filmmaking community and you may be amazed by what is available for a very low cost and sometimes even for free.
There's a myriad of different cameras available, depending on which format you are shooting. Besides the basic camera, you might need a set of lenses, a zoom, a head, a tripod, and if you are shooting on film, maybe a video assist (allowing you to see what you have just shot, as film needs to be processed before it can be watched).
For film cameras, you will definitely need to talk to a camera hire company about what they have available. If you have a camera person who uses them for paid work, then it will be much easier to get a good deal. If not, phone them up for a chat and explain who you are and what you need. They are usually a very friendly crowd and happy to help if they can.
There are a number of online production directories that you can use to find camera hiring companies nationwide (see Related Links: Production - Online Production Directories for a selection of some of the most well-known).
This is an incredibly important part of the filmmaking process, and one that you will need to invest some time in to make sure that the shoot is not wasted. Much of your decision-making will be based on whether you are shooting interiors or exteriors. An experienced camera person comes in handy for lighting tips, so get advice and experiment. You can use Related Links: Production - Online Production Directories to source professional lighting hire companies.
This is a vital area and one that often gets overlooked by first-time filmmakers. The most important thing that you have to remember is that you must record the dialogue well, everything else can be cheated in post-production, but getting actors back in to re-record their dialogue is annoying. It can be very expensive and should be avoided.
Once the dialogue has been secured, the secondary concern is to record the atmosphere of the room so that it can be used as background in post-production mixing. This is referred to as the ‘wild track' by the sound recordist. There will need to be a moment of quiet on set while the sound mixer records the sound of the room.
The ideal is a good shotgun mike. These can be pricey, but it's a good idea to have more than just the microphone on the camera.
Mixers and DAT records
A mixer is a box that has different tracks from one to four. Its job is to control the sound levels. You can feed your microphone straight into your camera, but you will have very little control over the sound levels, so it is better if your microphone feeds into a mixer first. If you do record straight into the camera, be careful, as certain cameras have been known to distort sound. Even better is record onto a separate DAT machine. This is the ideal, as it gives you a better quality and will be more flexible in post-production.
This can be a tricky one on low funds. If you have managed to blag some kit then you will need to get it around. Sometimes the facilities houses will rent you a truck, but that can be just as pricey as going to your local van rental place. Talk to whoever you are hiring your kit from and see if they have any suggestions. If all else fails, find a mate with a very big car and plan to do lots of journeys. Bear in mind that if you do hire a van and plan to leave any kit in it then, for insurance purposes, it will need to be in a 24-hour lock-up.
Make sure that your designated driver has the relevant license and insurance to cover you in case of accident or theft of the vehicle, especially if it is a hire car/van.
Film London Artists' Moving Image Network (FLAMIN) has produced a filmmaking guide called Making Work which includes information on lighting, cameras, stock & sound:
Making Work: camera
Making Work: lighting
Making Work: sound
Making Work: film stock
On the FourDocs (the broadband channel for short documentary from Channel 4) website, there is a helpful filmmaking section called Make Docs. Although the information is targeted at documentary filmmakers, much of the advice is relevant to all short filmmakers. Guides include: directing, lighting, sound and shooting tips. Four Docs: Make Docs
For advice on what format to shoot your film on, see our Filmmaking Guide: What To Shoot On
For legal advice on film insurance, see our Legal Guide: Insurance
For legal advice on health & safety issues during production, see our Legal Guide: Health & Safety
To read about how to get your film finished on time and under budget, visit our Filmmaking Guide: Budget & Schedule
For useful film production websites and resources, see our Related Links: Production
If you've spotted a factual error or have a suggestion for an organisation or information that we should include, then please help us improve the filmmaking guide