Documentary filmmaking kit

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As we continue planning Boom!, we are thinking about the equipment we need for filming.

This documentary is being produced on a relatively tight budget. There is a prospect that a sponsor will be involved in the production stage, but even with their contribution it is likely the budget will be limited.

Right from the start, I decided we would film Boom! using a DSLR.

As a keen photographer, I shoot with a Nikon D7000 and this is capable of shooting 1080p HD video. I’m familiar with this kit and it is more than capable of producing professional output, as this movie from Chase Jarvis demonstrates.

Because Nikon recently released the new D7100, I am tempted to get a second D7000 body (big price reduction) which will give more options from a filming perspective.

Of course, a DSLR on its own is not really capable of shooting a documentary. We need to combine it with other kit.

I’ve already bought a shoulder rig, the very capable eimo DSLR rig for £138. I’ve also already got a sturdy Manfrotto tripod, so that is shooting platforms taken care of.

This week I ordered a 1.2m DSLR slider, which is used for getting cinematic footage. Once this arrives and I’ve tested it, I will post a few examples here on the blog.

Also on my kit wishlist from a shooting platform perspective is a handheld stabiliser and a mini jib crane. If I can stretch the budget, I will add a second Manfrotto tripod and fluid movie head, maybe a small dolly kit.

From an audio perspective, on camera sound is nowhere near good enough quality for broadcast. Adding a shotgun mic doesn’t improve things that much.

I’m using a Zoom H2N audio recorder already which is excellent. This is currently paired with a cheap lav mic for interviews, but I will upgrade to this one if the budget allows.

Other bits of kit fall under the heading ‘nice to have’, rather than ‘essential to own’.

My wishlist includes an external camera monitor or a screen loupe. I need a couple of external hard drives to back-up raw and edited footage.

The biggest single item of expenditure is a new iMac running Final Cut Pro X for editing and organising footage. If sponsorship comes through, I’ll get one of these with boosted spec for handling video editing, or else I will make do with my existing MacBook Pro.

If I had to start filming today with the kit I already have, I’ve no doubt that I could. By the time we start filming in the New Year, I hope to have at least some of the above in place as it will certainly improve the quality of the finished movie.