Archive for April 24th, 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, cinematographer, 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.

Camera

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. Even cheaper on eBay ($70).

3. 46mm-52mm Step-up Adapter Ring, $6

4. Variable fader ND 52mm filter. Almost always to be used outdoors during the day.

5. 52mm IR CUT filter. This is to be used only when you use the ND filter at its high strength. Without it, color reproduction gets thrown off.

6. 52mm 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 spaces. You can kinda avoid that if you buy the Kamlan 21mm f/1.8 lens instead of the suggested above 7Artisans 25mm (better quality than the 25mm, but also double the price).

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

8. 2 batteries and charger for the camera.

9. Video tripod with smooth head (or this one).

10. Shoulder rest, for on-the-go shots. You need a rest with only 1 handle, so you can use your other hand to focus. If you have a dedicated focus puller/cinematographer, get this instead.

11. 55mm lens cap & Sun shade for outdoor shots. The 52mm ND filter’s front thread size that is linked above is 55mm, so you need that size. However, if by adding the IR CUT, variable ND and sun shade creates a vignette on your footage, then you might need to buy step up rings from 55mm to 72mm and buy that size sun shade in order to clear the lens’ coverage (the wider the lens, the fewer filters/shades you can stack before you get vignetting).

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

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

14. Field Monitor, and 2 batteries for it ($115 overall). This is required in order to focus more accurately by getting focus peaking support.

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

16. Picture Style: Either install the free Technicolor Cinestyle, or if you want a more cinematic look, buy and install the VisionColor CineTech ($15, settings: -2, -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.

Lights

17. Light meter, to make sure shots match.

18. 3-Point lighting kit for basic lighting. Alternatively, you can make your own video lights, and also by adding different color sheets, you’ll get color effects.

19. Reflector.

Sound

20. 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.

21. SGC-598 Shotgun mic, with phantom power.

22. Deadcat, for outdoor shots.

23. Headphones for monitoring.

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

25. 10-20 ft audio cable (10 ft might be enough).

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

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

Backup

28. 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.

Editing

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.

4k Alternative
If you prefer 4k, then your best cheap bet is the Panasonic G7 ($300 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 Kamlan 21mm f/1.8 ($140). 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.