TAKE 3: Gear Prep - The Camera

Posted by Thomas Hartmann & Sean Nabors - May 26, 2020


We’ve already given you a few handy hints for casting your talent and preparing for your video shoot. Still panicked? Yeah, it’s a lot to think about and manage. If you aren’t a bit of a video wiz already, you’re probably even more panicked. The good news is that there is one common thread shared between pros and novices alike and that is PREPARATION. The more time you spend planning beforehand, the smoother your production will go. In this round of tips, we’re going to focus on Gear Prep. So, here we go… Lights, Camera, Action! (Not necessarily in that order).


We’re going to start with the camera, because it’s the most important piece of gear you will use. The days of film and clunky VHS cameras are long gone. Today our iPhones, tablets and other devices are capable of filming amazing 4K footage and beyond. Another option is a DSLR photo camera which can also film incredible video footage. Be resourceful and don’t get hung up on using a non-traditional film making device. It’s a whole new tech world out there and there are many different ways to create beautiful videos.

Rental Tips

If you really need a more professional camera, it’s simple enough to rent your gear. Most major metropolitan areas have at least one film rental house. The people who work there are usually really knowledgeable and happy to guide you. To do your part in setting up a successful rental experience, remember the following:

  • Be sure to call them well in advance to place your rental order.
  • Be sure to have a list of questions to ask when calling to rent your gear.
  • Be sure to also rent the right lenses to produce all of the desired shots in your script.

Going Steady… or Not

Unless you’re going for a Blair Witch Project-type concept, you’ll need a tripod, to steady your camera and enable you to dial in shots precisely. The truth is, the lack of a tripod can sometimes give you an amateur looking final product, if what you were going for was a polished feel. That being said, sometimes going with a handheld technique is actually the better option. A handheld shoot can add a sense of freedom, urgency or playfulness to your video. It can also be helpful in saving time, if you’re on a time crunch and worried about getting everything done. At the end of the day, your script will tell you which shooting style will serve your story best. Maybe it’s a mix of both!

An important thing to remember when planning your shooting style is that video is about movement. The way you move your camera through space can make your films feel more dynamic and really up your productional value. Camera movements on professional sets are achieved with tracks and dollies, steadicams, 3 axis-gimbals (MOVI, Ronin), cranes and much more. Rental houses will have this equipment available but they require a bit of professional training. There are many consumer-level gimbals available for smartphones that produce fantastic results. If you don’t have the budget for a gimbal, no problem! With small budgets you have to get inventive and think outside the box. You can invent your own “steadicam” with a little imagination. So, experiment with a skateboard, wheelchair, shopping cart, or simply sliding your camera across any flat surface. You can also get into filming with a drone, if you want to get super fancy and have some aerial fun.

Practice Makes Perfect

In the end, whatever camera you decide to film on and whatever shooting style you decide to use, be sure you’re prepared. Know what kind of shots you have planned and what types of lenses and potential stabilizing gear you will need. Make sure you familiarize yourself with your gear prior to your shoot, so you know how to turn the camera, set exposure, focus, etc. Whatever camera-related gear you go with, it’s ultimately your creativity and imagination that will elevate your production.

Have more questions? Leave a comment and our media experts will be happy to answer! And stay tuned for next time, when we’ll get into Audio Gear Prep!

Topics: Video Tips & Tricks

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