Shoot a professional-looking movie for $1500

I’ve written 1-2 such articles in the past, keeping the cost below $500. But this article actually aims to acquire professional-looking results, and so you’d need about $1500+tax for that. Which is still dirt-cheap if you think about it. You will also need a minimum of two people as crew, to help you with the shoot (in addition to the actors). One will have to take care of the audio part, and the other one the lighting, clapper, and decor, while you’re shooting and directing.


Camera + lens: Canon EOS M + 22mm kit lens: $325
Best video camera for the money. It outperforms others in the sub-$500 range in bitrate, fps choice, color control, audio controls etc. And it comes with a really good lens! You will have to shoot with a “flat” color profile to get the best out of the camera (install the Technicolor CineStyle), and you will need to disable continuous autofocus in the settings.

Additional lens: 18-55mm STM kit lens, $130
If you’re going to have a second lens, this one is also very good and versatile for the price! These two lenses made for the EOS M are both very good.

0.6 ND filter: 43mm Tiffen: $15
0.4 ND filter: 52mm Tiffen: $10
ND filter for the two lenses when shooting under bright sun. Lets you open up the aperture more!

43mm lens hood for 22mm lens: $9
52mm lens hood for zoom lens: $8
Avoid sun flares for the two lenses.

Lens cleaning kit: $10
Trust me, you don’t want dust on your footage!

Two UV filters, at 43mm and 52mm for the two lenses: $10 both
This is mostly about protection of the front glass rather than anything else. Modern cameras don’t really need cutting down UV.

Class-10 SDHC cards: 32GB, 5 of them: $100
Always backup after finishing shooting to a laptop & external drive (double backup).

Batteries: Opteka LP-E12 2000mAh: 7 of them, $100
You only have 30-40 minutes of video recording on these batteries, so you’ll need quite a few.


Fluid-head tripod: $45
The tripod head must be fluid for video panning.

Revo SR-1000 Shoulder Support Rig: $80
For run & gun or action sequences.

Revo Stabilizer: $140
If you must follow the subject down the alley or through a house, that’s the accessory you need.


Audiotechnica Mono Microphone: $55
This is a good mic for the money. You convert to stereo in post-processing (Sony Vegas can do this). If you want an even better mic, you can go for this Senal one, for $99. Finally, have extra batteries for your mics.

Wind muff (aka “dead cat”): $29
For the times that there’s a lot of wind while shooting.

Boom pole: $49
Must-have accessory if you’re serious about audio. Forget mounting the microphone on the camera and be done with it. It will never sound right that way. You need a “booman” to hold the pole close to the actors.

Headphones: $30
For monitoring while shooting. If you’re recording audio via the camera, you’re wearing the headphones. If you’re recording via an external recorder, the booman is to wear the headphones.

3.5mm extension cable: $9
This one is good for 25ft (7.6 meters). Please note that if the cable touches itself while tangled, or other electrical cables, you might get audio noise.

Audio monitoring splitter: $26
So you can monitor via headphones while recording (since the camera has only one jack).

Microphone Attenuation Cable: $35
To cut off noise that is usual on non-phantomed 3.5mm mics, especially when using such long extension cables.


Lights: $134
Lights and audio are more important than how good your camera is. They literally “make” your movie. There are various tutorials online on lighting. If you have the extra money, prefer this model instead, which has a third, “fill” light. If you need more, or less light than these light bulbs provide in a shooting situation, you can purchase and use different watt bulbs.

Reflector: $17
To stop shiny, unprofessional-looking faces. Get your actors to do their own make-up btw. Ask them to bring their own clothes, but you will need to instruct them as to what kind of clothes, and what color.

Reflector Holder Arm: $32

Reflector stand: $21

Spring Clamps: $8
So you can clamp the lights/reflector in more places for more interesting lighting looks.

Light meter: $50
It helps you figure out how to be consistent between shots regarding lighting, especially outdoors where the light varies with time.


Clapper Board: $5
Important, especially if you’re recording audio externally and need to sync audio in post-processing.

Gaffer tape: $13
Even NASA uses tape, it’s one of these things you should always have around. Also useful to place it on the ground, so actors know where to stand while shooting.

Food for cast & crew: $50
A lot of people would be willing to come and help your movie for free, but they get grumpy and they lose interest easily if they’re not fed. This is a known fact among filmmakers: always feed your cast & crew.


Canon EOS lens adapter: $100, or from Fotodiox for $60 (some claim that it doesn’t support IS).
This allows you to mount the rest of the Canon lenses (and with an additional adapter, Nikon-mount lenses), should you already have such lenses lying around.

Macro: Raynox DCR-250: $70
It lets you shoot macro on the cheap, should you need such shots for your movie.

External Recording: Tascam: $100
This is only useful if you have a dedicated audio guy, rather than just a booman. If you record via the camera, you, the shooter+director, will do the audio monitoring. But if you buy this, you will need the guy who holds the boom pole+mic to actually control the audio recording too, and he needs to have a good clue of what he’s doing. Otherwise, skip this, it will be a hindrance rather than a feature. Audio, just as lighting, is not easy to master.

Lavalier mic: $20
It’s tricky to use one of these between two or more actors, but some shots might require it. Don’t use more than one of these mics though, or you’d get into audio-mixer hell.

Sandbags: $24
So the light stands don’t trip over so easily.

Rails + follow-focus: $265 + $200
You don’t really need these, but hey. Let’s indulge!


eric little wrote on November 15th, 2013 at 3:21 AM PST:

WOW! THIS IS WHAT IVE BEEN NEEDING!! I am going to digest this completely. I LOVE making videos specifically home made sexy videos of my wife. I know i need to upgrade my cameras, i know i need to add some additional equipment into the mix but your checklist will help immeasurably. i need some basic guidance and am wondering if you would be open to viewing a recent video and tell me what i did wrong and what i should have done??

This is the admin speaking...
Eugenia wrote on November 15th, 2013 at 8:44 AM PST:

LOL, I could. But you would have to email its URL to me, not post it here please.

Mark O. wrote on November 21st, 2013 at 1:28 PM PST:

Hi Eugenia…

I have seen your music videos shot with the PowerShots and related forum posts. It’s good to see you have taken to the M. You make some very good gear suggestions here. So much needed and you nicely compiled them all into one post.

If someone can up their budget even more, an external LCD monitor for the EOS M is very helpful to aid in focusing and framing. I have found monitoring focusing can be iffy on the fixed 3″ LCD with issues not discovered until later reviewing the footage on the PC.

The decent HDMI-connected 7 (or 5)” LCD monitors are near $199/cheaper near $150. A brand called Lilliput even has focus peaking and zebras built into the monitor/without the need for Magic Lantern. Those are $250/$300 and higher.

Trying Magic Lantern on the EOS M, I found it flaky and the unit quickly got very hot. The ML menu and navigation were unbearable to me.

I also wanted to mention that, for those who use the M for music videos, (where the camera’s audio is used only for reference in editor), that the Movie Servo function works great. It really locks onto a subject. The AF lens mechanism with servo is way too noisy to use as the primary audio track/could even be picked up by a nearby shoe-mounted external audio recorder.

Of course servo not for every run of the song, but certainly as part of the process.

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