When I first got into filmmaking back in the days of my good ol HV30, I was always wanting to rig my little camera out so much that it would look like a "professional" camera. When I started using DSLR's it was the same thing, I would buy and build countless rigs and and comtraptions for my camera because I always thought that the bigger and better my rig was the better my films would be. This was so far from the truth and I found it out the hard way. Over the last two years I've bought a lot of the cheap alternatives to the gear that the pros use, things like shoulder rigs, flash brackets, lens filters, hoods, external monitors, cheap shotgun mics, the list goes on and on. The funny thing is that all that stuff is either broken or hasn't even been used once cause it sucked so bad, and after doing a little math I figured that I could have bought a new DSLR body with the money I spent on all that stuff, sure it was all cheap but all that cheap stuff will add up and it sucks when now its pretty much worthless. This is why I would encourage all beggining filmmakers to throw out the idea of a rig all together, cause think about it, how often do you actually use that stuff? Some of my favorite and probably my best work was shot handheld or with a 40$ tripod, and even some of my favorite films by others were shot very simply. What I've come to realize is that the purpose of a camera rig is to make the life of a working professional easier. When you're getting paid for your work and need to be on a set or location with your camera for a long period of time, then having a rig is essential, but be honest with yourself, is that really where you're at right now as a filmmaker? No! Cause if it was you wouldn't need to be reading this and you could afford to buy a redrock or zacuto rig. But that being said there are some cases where a rig is helpful, for example I'm a skate filmer by trade and I would say that having a handle for my DSLR is a must, but at the same time look at my good friend Darren Dyk, he is a very popular and respected skate filmer in the industry and his best videos were filmed without a handle, mic, fisheye and most of the time without a tripod. What makes his videos so good is that he just gets out there and films all the time, rigs and gear don't stop him, he also knows the ins and outs of making a good film and that is what is most important. Learn composure, light, camera movements, pacing and editing first, all that gear stuff should come later. These days I see more kids with expensive equipment and bad videos than cheap equipment and good videos, like they say "Having a good paint brush doesn't make you a good painter". Now having said all this I do think that there are some pieces of gear that will play a big part in making your films better and that you'll probably always want to bring with you on a shoot, here's my top five things that I think are much more important than rigs.
Your videos are only gonna look as good as the glass that you put in front of your sensor. Although the lens I'm using the most is my super sharp sigma 17-50 f2.8 zoom, everyone else will tell you to get primes and the nifty 50 is always a good choice. But be sure to watch some reviews and look up some sharpness tests before buying. Most of the time cheap glass equals soft image, which is not what you want.
Fast SD cards!
''Video recording has been stopped automatically'' dont let this happen to you while filming, get a good SD card. You cant go wrong with a sandisk extreme and get the ones that write at 30mb or faster.
Just cause you can buy a 20$ tripod doesn't mean you should, I'm not saying you gotta go out and buy a 400$ manfrotto, but a good set of sticks and a fluid head are a key piece of gear in filmmaking. The fanicier 717 is a great choice at under 150$ you can't go wrong, I have one and it has yet to let me down.
Audio is always overlooked in filmmaking so I think that a good video mic is always a good thing to have. But again you don't have to go crazy most of the time audio captured in camera will be used for ambience or scratch audio if you're doing synce sound, so an inexpensive mic like the audio technica pro 24cm will work just fine. The mic I use is the MKE-400, not the cheapest mic but its super rugged and has great sound quality. But to be honest I think you could get away with using the on camera mic for most cases, but having a windjammer like the 20$ ''micromuff'' would be much needed, in fact any mic you use should have a faux fur windjammer on it!
Seeing your lcd screen is crucial for checking focus and a lcdvf should always be in your camera bag, you can get them for under 20$ these days and even if you have a sharp lens not getting correct focus can make your video look like crap.
So I hope you found this article helpful, stay tuned for more rants.