Archive for April, 2018

Shoot a feature film with just $1000 worth of equipment

Here’s the absolute cheapest way to shoot a feature film, in a way that doesn’t suck. You will need a minimum of three people as crew: the director/focus puller, cinematographer (camera/lights), and the sound guy. Work on the set would have to be divided between them, e.g. when the director and cinematographer might be blocking a scene, or… moving couches around, the sound guy can also do backups or charge the various devices used. Basically, few people will have to do the work of many. The actors can do hair & makeup amongst themselves. Don’t worry, they’ll manage. 😉

Here’s the quality I got from using exactly the suggested hardware (minus a tripod, so footage is a bit shaky). The shimmer seen is added film grain btw, not noise (youtube doesn’t encode it nicely).:

NOTE: None of the following are sponsored or commissioning links. The list is just my honest opinion.


1. Canon EOS M, $150 on eBay, used. Shoots in manual mode, in 1080/24p at 45mbps (make sure you underexpose by 1/2 stop outdoors, its metering is not accurate) and it has a 1.6x crop factor. You don’t need 4k. Film is soft and a 1080p image will give you that.

2. 7artisans 25mm f/1.8 Lens, manual focus lens. You can shoot the whole movie with that lens. Get it even cheaper on eBay ($70).

3. Variable ND 46mm filter. Almost always to be used outdoors during the day. It will allow you to open up the aperture to f/1.8.

4. 46mm Wide Angle adapter. To be used to convert the 25mm lens to about 20mm, since there are no cheap solutions for wide angles lenses for the APS-C sized sensors. Use only in tight indoor spaces. It can’t be used with the ND filter.

5. TWO SanDisk 64GB Ultra SDXC UHS-I Memory Cards.

6. 2 batteries and charger for the camera. For outdoors shooting.

7. Dummy battery power kit, for indoors shooting.

8. Video tripod with smooth head . If strapped for cash, an Amazon-branded tripod for $20 will do as well.

9. Shoulder rest, for on-the-go shots (Revo SR-1000). You need a rest with only 1 handle, so you can use your other hand to focus.

10. 49mm lens cap & Sun shade for outdoor shots (screws on the front of the ND filter only, it requires a 46mm to 49mm step up ring if used directly on the lens).

11. Grey card, to set white balance. Don’t forget to lock your white balance when shooting.

12. Clapper board, helps with syncing audio in post, and to organize which shot is which.

13. Field Monitor, and 2 batteries for it ($140 overall). This is required in order to focus more accurately by getting focus peaking support.

14. HDMI mini cable to connect the field monitor to the camera.

15. Picture Style: Either install the free Technicolor Cinestyle, or if you want a more cinematic look, buy and install the VisionColor CineTech ($15, settings: -5, -5, -3, +2), or Lightform C ($7). You’ll get 1 more stop of dynamic range with these profiles over the Standard or Neutral picture styles. Here’s how it looks like, and how to color grade Visioncolor’s CineTech to make it look like film.


16. 2-Point lighting kit for basic indoor lighting. If you can afford the Newer 660 LED kits with a softbox, even better.

17. Reflector for outdoor scenes.


18. Tascam DR-05 digital recorder with Line-In and manual audio levels ($75, eBay). Record in WAV. Set your meters to between -8 and -12.

19. SGC-598 Shotgun mic, with phantom power. Consider lav mics too.

20. Deadcat, for outdoor shots.

21. Headphones for monitoring.

22. Monopod to be used as a boom mic (it’s cheaper than an actual boom pole).

23. 10-20 ft audio cable (10 ft might be enough).

24. Cold shoe adapter, to mount the mic on the monopod.

25. [Optional] Swivel extension, which lets you turn the mic at different directions on the monopod.


26. TWO USB drives from a reputable manufacturer. After each session, you save the recorded files in each of these, so you have two backups. Don’t skimp on backups, you’ll regret it. Keep the two backups at different locations.


Free versions of DaVinci Resolve for video, color & audio editing, the included Fusion for any needed compositing, Blender for 3D, the Gimp for any stills’ editing. The free version of Resolve doesn’t have noise reduction, but by using the ‘Lum Vs Sat’ color grading panel (as shown at the very bottom here), you can make it less visible (it makes it look like film grain instead of digital noise). If your PC is not powerful for DaVinci Resolve, then use the free Hitfilm Express for video/color, and Audacity for audio editing.

Other (prices not included in this estimation)

Extra batteries, gaffer tape, USB and car charger, laptop for backups, royalty-free music licensing & sound effects, legal, insurance, coffee & food. Unless you feed your cast & crew they will bail out on you. In fact, that’s the No1 rule of filmmaking.

Absolute cheapest

Get the suggested camera, lens, variable ND filter at 46mm, $20 Amazon tripod, microphone, SD card, batteries. Overall, $300.

4k Alternative
If you prefer 4k, then your best cheap bet is the Panasonic G7 ($280 on eBay). Use its flatter CineLike-D profile and modify it to have less saturation, sharpness and denoising (also turn Highlights to -5, and Shadows to +3). For a lens for it, because that camera has a crop of 2.0x, you need something like the Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 non-VC version ($150 on eBay) with an EF adapter ($10). Optionally, also consider a Viltrox speedbooster ($150) for it for more cinematic results, it will turn that lens wider and faster. You will need a more powerful PC to edit its 4k footage than 1080p too. Here’s how footage looks with it when graded, before & after.