Whether you’re self-employed or part of a studio, being a filmmaker and camera operator requires a lot of investment. You’re investing time into finding work, energy into getting projects off the ground, and money into the equipment that helps you do your job. For more independent filmmakers, that last one is arguably the most important — and costly.
There are lots of guides out there as to what equipment it’s essential you invest in, whether you’re going it alone or starting a large company. But what investments are inarguably worth every penny?
Once you have the kit that makes you a proper filmmaker, you need something to carry it around it.
Sometimes the simplest gear is the best thing to invest in. Purchasing an excellent quality camera bag is something all videographers and camera operators should do. Holding off on upgrading from your old, poor quality bag you’ve had for years will only cause you more issues.
Find a bag that doesn’t just make things easier to carry and looks nice, but streamlines your work. Something with numerous segments and pockets to divide up each piece of kit and stop things disappearing into the depths of the bag forevermore is a critical investment as parts become smaller and equipment more expensive.
A high-performance camera bag will help safeguard you and your gear. Propper padding will protect the camera from any damage, while locks and security will keep things hidden from thieves. In terms of your own health, a good quality bag is a part of preserving it. Invest in something with a padded strap to ease the strain of carrying the camera.
Many camera operators don’t understand the sizeable impact carrying their equipment has on their bodies in the long term. It feels like simple advice, but once you make the investment you’ll realize how difficult you’ve been making things for yourself.
Yes, we’re serious — some filmmakers are still reluctant to invest in a quality tripod. Some freelancers or home video producers think they can save costs by cutting corners, but whether you’re out in the wilderness or talking into a camera in your bedroom, a tripod is essential.
Keeping your camera steady and easily adjustable is just simple professionalism. A shoulder mount can work, but is generally less effective and limits the kind of shots you can do. You may think you’re smart filming vlogs on a camera propped up by a couple of books, but its difficult to adjust for another shot and makes it harder to go back to your original setting. This is the kind of thing you learn in day one of film school.
There are a number of tripods you can benefit from as a small filmmaker, so it helps to stock up your kit bag. A gorilla tripod can help you bring varied to your shots, while one specifically for your phone will have a huge impact on your mobile filmmaking. Plan based on your future needs and give yourself options.
Also consider: Ask any camera operator or film set runner what they couldn’t do without, and they’ll say their multi-tool. These essential foldable tools come in a range of sizes, featuring a unique set of functions. Out in the wild, the chances of someone having the right screwdriver head to fix your gear is rare, so make sure you always have the solution on you with this kit.
Knowing what sounds your mic is picking up is an essential part of the filming process. No matter what kind of media you’re shooting, investing in high-quality headphones will have a dramatic impact on how you understand and keep control of sound.
If you already have a pair, get a better one. Just because visuals are your priority doesn’t mean you can afford to skip out on sound quality. If you’re using cheap headphones you’re missing out on the idiosyncrasies and subtle sounds you accidentally pick up every time you go out or step into the home studio.
These kinds of mistakes give your work a low budget feel that can end up losing your business clients and be a pain to sort out when it comes to the edit. Equally, a great pair of headphones make your editing process much smoother and helps you notice the smaller issues that were holding your content back.
Sometimes the things you need to invest in are staring you right in the face, or at least, sitting on your ears. Find a pair of headphones that suit you, but never choose the budget option.
All that kit is going to need to be protected. Sometimes, you’re not around to do that, and sometimes accidents happen. Investing in contents insurance is one of the best things a small studio or fledgling independent can do to secure their long term financial security. Don’t risk anything happening to the gear that keeps you in business.
Being a filmmaker often demands creativity and innovation. Yes, that’s a natural part of working within the arts, but it’s also vital to give yourself a unique skill set and experience to draw up that make you more appealing to clients with great opportunities.
Investing in a drone gives you the equipment to offer a different style of shot. While not quite a cutting edge technology anymore, there is still a call for drone filming and plenty of scope for innovation. They are generally a big financial investment, but they give you a niche note all your competitors will have. This opens new avenues for work and project opportunities, helping you to develop a specialist skill. The kind of skill that has been noted as a brilliant way to get noticed in the industry.
The technology will advance and drones themselves are currently dropping in price, so it’s a brilliant time to invest. Become an early(ish) adopter and gain essential expertise to stand out in a small pool.
Money is tight working in the art world, especially for independent and home filmmakers. These are just a few essential bits of kit, there are so many more you can invest in to improve the quality of your shots and quality of life when out on location. Take this broad range of suggestions to heart and watch your output dramatically improve.