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5 bits of filmmaking kit you need to get started in video

5 bits of filmmaking kit you need to get started in video
(Image credit: Joppe Spaa for Unsplash)

To get started shooting videos, you'll need some specific filmmaking kit. In photography you can pretty much get away with just having a camera and lens, but videography relies on visuals and audio to create exciting content.

There are certain pieces of filmmaking kit that should definitely be in a videographer's backpack, and some that are just optional extras that will make shooting easier. Here we'll go through the essential gear needed to start making engaging content. 

 Read more: Best cameras for shooting video (opens in new tab)

It doesn’t matter what budget you’re working with, as there will be something out there that suits your needs. You don’t need the best kit with the latest technology if you’re just getting started; you won't use many of the advanced features and you might not even enjoy it as much as you thought you would, so there’s not much point spending big bucks until you’re sure it’s something you want to continue with.

These are the five things you should definitely own if you’re starting out in video and are looking to invest in kit…

1) The right camera… or phone

Your camera doesn’t have to be anything particularly fancy, and you don't even need the best camera phone (opens in new tab). Most recent handsets will do fine, and most DSLRs can capture capable video – anything from an iPhone 11 (opens in new tab) to a Canon EOS 90D (opens in new tab) will do the job, going all the way to top-end video devices like the Sony A7S III (opens in new tab). It all depends on where you plan on posting your footage and what you will be filming. 

If you have a recent mirrorless camera (opens in new tab) that you use for stills, chances are that it’s already well equipped to shoot HD video, if not 4K. A big advantage of shooting on a mirrorless camera over a DSLR is that when you’re shooting using live view (the screen on the back, or even the viewfinder) you can continue to use phase-detect autofocus, where some DSLRs are limited to contrast-detect. Phase detect is much better, especially when filming in low light.

Best cameras for video (opens in new tab)

2) An appropriate lens

When deciding what type of lens to choose, you have two main options: either a prime lens, which has a fixed focal length, or a zoom lens that can zoom in and out between different focal lengths. While prime lenses often give better image quality and have faster apertures for lower light performance, zooms are more versatile and mean you don’t need to switch lenses so often.

If you want to invest in a zoom lens, it’s worth buying a 'standard zoom' that has a fixed aperture – such as the Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 (opens in new tab). This is because when you’re filming, you don’t want your exposure to change as you zoom in and out – which it will do, when shooting with a variable aperture zoom lens.

When buying a prime you’ll need to think about how close you’re going to be to your subject; you won’t want to buy an 85mm if you’re going to be within a couple of meters, as they will fill too much of the frame. A 50mm standard prime (opens in new tab) is always a good place to start, as it’s the most similar to what the human eye sees. 

Best lens for vlogging (opens in new tab)

3) Lighting

A good light source is incredibly important when shooting video, to make sure that your subject is well illuminated. There’s nothing worse than turning up to a shoot, realizing that the light is terrible and having to boost your ISO so much that the footage becomes grainy.

Investing in a simple LED light panel will help ensure that your subject is bright enough. How far you are from your subject and what you're shooting will determine what size and power light panel you need. It’s also a good idea to invest in one of the best reflectors (opens in new tab), as these are a cheap and easy way of mimicking two light sources without actually having to buy a second light. 

You can buy bicolor LED light panels, which are good if you know you’re going to be shooting under different kinds of artificial or natural lights, as you can change the color temperature of the LEDs. 

Best led light panels (opens in new tab) 

4) Microphone

the easiest way to ruin your video is to pair it with bad audio. We’ve all heard audio where voices are barely audible and it sounds like it’s been recorded in a wind tunnel. The quality of the audio will always come down to the type of microphone you’re using – and you should never rely on your camera's built-in mic!

There are two main types of microphone, depending on where your audio is in relation to it. If you’re shooting a subject that is roughly 3-5ft from the mic, you could get away with using a shotgun microphone such as the Rode VideoMic NTG (opens in new tab)or the Sennheiser MKE200 (opens in new tab). Shotgun mics are also good if you have a large group of people who will be taking it in turns to speak, as you can attach one to a boom arm (opens in new tab) and hold it above them (but this will only work if you have a crew).

Lavalier mics, sometimes called lapel mics, attach to someone's clothing to record individual subjects. Some can even be wireless, and transmit directly to your camera, such as the Rode Wireless Go (opens in new tab) and Rode Wireless Go II (opens in new tab). Lav mics are good if you are far away from the source of your audio, or if you have multiple people that are going to be speaking and you are filming by yourself.

Best microphones for vlogging and filmmaking (opens in new tab)

5) Tripod with fluid head

If you plan on recording lots of static shots, a tripod is essential as it keeps the camera still. It would also be a good idea to invest in a fluid head, which can pan from left to right and up and down, so that you can record smooth, dynamic shots. 

The friction of a fluid head can quite often be adjusted, depending on how fast or slow you want the shot to move, and helps control movement. Something like a Manfrotto BeFree Live Lever Kit would be a starting point. Check out our buying guide on best video tripods (opens in new tab) for a range to suit your need and budget. 

Read more:

Best 4K cameras (opens in new tab)
Best DSLRs for video (opens in new tab)
Best free video editing software (opens in new tab)

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Hannah Rooke
Staff Writer

Having studied Journalism and Public Relations at the University of the West of England Hannah developed a love for photography through a module on photojournalism. She specializes in Portrait, Fashion and lifestyle photography but has more recently branched out in the world of stylized product photography. For the last 3 years Hannah has worked at Wex Photo Video as a Senior Sales Assistant using her experience and knowledge of cameras to help people buy the equipment that is right for them. With 5 years experience working with studio lighting, Hannah has run many successful workshops teaching people how to use different lighting setups.