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Basic Equipment for Student Filmmakers: Cameras, Lighting Kits, and More

A roundup of essential gear for any budding filmmaker.

blogger/vlogger/student filmmaker video shooter filming colorful autumn park on his camera. Concept of autumn photo or video shootout


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So you’ve decided to pursue filmmaking. Perhaps you’re inspired by how director Ava DuVernay brings stories to light about underrepresented communities, or George Lucas’ ability to take audiences on cosmic adventures. Either way, being a filmmaker means that you have stories to share with the world. Congratulations on finding your passion. Now that you know what it is that you want to do, you’re going to need a few supplies to help you achieve those filmmaking goals.

Having your own equipment allows you the freedom to practice shooting film for however long you want (you can also rent out your equipment and make a few extra bucks from your investments). To help you make the right shopping choice, we outlined a list of essentials for novice filmmakers, which you can read below. For more gear, see our roundup of best cameras for any budget, best screenwriting books, and comfortable shoes to wear on your next film set.

Nikon D780 Body Camera

You cant be a filmmaker without having something to shoot with, right? You may be able to save on certain equipment, but when it comes to shooting, you want your footage to be clear. The Nikon D780 offers full-frame photography and 4K video, slow motion, time-lapse, remoteless long exposure, and more to assist with your creative content. An upgraded edition of Nikon’s D750, the D780 features 180K-pixel Advanced Scene Recognition System, phase-detect autofocusing in photo and video, and easy wireless image transfer. The D780 will deliver extremely detailed photos and videos, even in low lighting thanks to a 24.5MP backside illuminated FX full frame sensor. Another cool feature: The LCD touchscreen tilts to make it easy to get the shot, no matter the angles.

Neewer 14.17″ Uni-Directional Mono Microphone for Camcorder and DSLR Camera

Don’t cheat yourself when it comes to quality sound. Nothing is worse than having amazing video only to realize that your audio has distracting background noises or an awful humming sound overshadowing what you were trying to record. Eliminate audio mishaps with the Neewer 14.17″ Uni-Directional Mono Microphone for Camcorder and DSLR cameras. This product has professional voice pick-up and isolates the main sound source, and minimizes background noise. It has 26 hours of battery life so expect it to keep going through long shoots. The anti-wind foam cap gives you added protection against unwanted sounds.

72″ Elite Series Professional, Full-Size Camera Tripod 

No cameraman? No problem. Sometimes as a student filmmaker you simply don’t have the extra money to hire another person and tripods are a great way to help with that. Simply attach your camera to the tripod, hit record, and let the duo do its job. The quick-release knob is a timesaver during setup and breakdown, and the legs are non-slip to keep your shot positioned the way you’d like. This tripod extends to 72″, collapses to 26″, and is compatible with Canon, Nikon, Sony, Samsung, Olympus, Panasonic, and Pentax cameras. A microfiber cloth to keep your lenses clean is also included with this purchase. The tripod also comes with a carrying case to make transportation easy.

Neewer Round 5-in-1 Collapsible Multi-Disc Light Reflector  

You don’t have to spend a fortune to get great products. These collapsible light reflectors get the job done without costing much. For $13, you get five reflectors in translucent, white, gold, black, and silver so you can choose which works best for your vision. The reflectors were constructed with a small, built-in loop that allows you to hold, hang or mount them. Once done, just twist to instantly fold them down to a fraction of the size. From the price to this product’s lightweight design and portable carrying case for added convenience, these reflectors are great for students.

“Filmmaking for Dummies” by Brian Michael Stoller

“Filmmaking for Dummies” is a relatively easy how-to guide described as a tool to help bring your project to life. The “For Dummies” series has long been a helpful resource when it comes to studying up on different industries and tasks, and this book offers a wealth of knowledge. Award-winning filmmaker Bryan Michael Stoller, who has worked with the likes of James Earl-Jones, Barbra Streisand, Drew Barrymore, and others, gives valuable insight into the world of filmmaking. The book offers tips on everything from the storyboarding stage and editing, it even gives pointers on the perfect pitch to sell your story once it’s complete.

Crossroads 35L Backpack

Now that you have some equipment, you’re going to need something durable that can keep it secure. The Crossroads 35L Backpack has water and abrasion-resistant TuffSkin Nylon making it perfect for pretty much any shooting location. The clam-shell fold opening allows you to store belongings the way you would in a suitcase, in the convenience of a backpack. Side-zip entry points make your possessions easy to get to without having to take your backpack off when you’re on the go. EVA foam, plus anchored straps were designed with your comfort in mind as you carry your gear from location to location. Need more options? See our list of backpacks and camera bags for student filmmakers.

52mm Essential Accessory Kit for Nikon DSLR Bundle

Different lenses provide you different results, and trying a bundle kit may be the best way to experience a variety of options. This 52mm Essential Accessory Kit for Nikon DSLR cameras comes with wide angle and telephoto lenses. The wide angle lens features a detachable macro lens for close-up, high detail photography, while the telephoto lens adds to the power of your camera’s zoom. With this kit you will also receive three filters in ultraviolet, polarizer, and neutral density, along with a cleaning kit and four filters to increase magnification for high detail shots. Although this is a great bundle, you’ll want to check your camera’s lens thread size before ordering to make sure it will fit what you have.

Elvid 9-Section Acrylic Production Slate with Color Clapper Sticks 

Make sure that your scenes are organized correctly with this Nine-Section Acrylic Production Slate with Color Clapper Sticks. The slate sections are roll, scene, take, production, director, camera, cam, FPS, and date. The size of this product measures 9.25″ x 11″.

Apple MacBook Pro 16″ 

With all of the equipment you have to film, you’ll need a computer to upload and edit content. This refurbished Apple MacBook Pro is on sale for $1,749 so you get to save about $500 bucks while exploring your creativity. Features include a stunning 16″ retina display with True Tone technology, and a six-speaker system with force-cancelling woofers to give you amazing sound as you edit and playback for friends. Editing can be a tedious process, but your MacBook will be able to handle it thanks to up to 11 hours of battery life.

Urceri Digital Illuminance Meter 

Light meters are a great way to determine the right exposure for your shots. Test your lighting before you begin shooting to avoid mishaps (that are a pain to edit in post) with this handheld light meter from Urceri, which gives you the ability to measure luminosity from 0-200,000 lux and ambient temperature. At 7.2 ounces, this reader is lightweight and compact and has a four digital color LCD screen plus data hold.

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