Contributor Tips, Education

Building Your Video Kit: 5 Gear Essentials


Before you can start creating amazing video, you need to have the right equipment. Building the right video kit is essential for ensuring the quality of the content you’re going to produce, as well as the efficiency with which you produce it. These tips will help you maximize your budget while also making sure you have everything you need to capture your vision.

1. Cameras

DSLR cameras remain cheap alternatives to cinema cameras, while still providing fabulous resolution and great ergonomics. Before buying your camera, you should know that almost all of them function in a similar fashion, even when it comes to the menu navigation. The best DSLR cameras are manufactured by commonly known brands like Canon, Panasonic, Sony, and Pentax, and almost all of them are in a similar price range.

When choosing a camera, think of it as both your work buddy and your tool of trade. Ask yourself questions like: Do I need 4k resolution? Do I need slow motion/high frame rate? Do I need a high ISO for filming in low light conditions? Do I plan on taking high resolution photos? After you answer these questions, you should be able to narrow your search down to a few different cameras according to their specifications.

These three cameras are currently the leaders in the DSLR world, outperforming many of their competitors in almost every category.

Screen Shot 2016-02-24 at 3.59.16 PM

They all have great image quality, extreme low-light capabilities and high dynamic range, allowing more control for color grading. Last but not least, they’re user-friendly and intuitive, which is helpful for those starting out in digital cinematography. Here are some visual references from each one:

Canon 5D MkIII

Young Lowland Gorilla Sitting on a Branch by Byba

Sony A7S

Time lapse of Colorful Sunset Over Sea by lambroskazan

Panasonic GH4

View of Theatinerstrasse in Munich by AroundTheWorld4K

If you live close to a camera-rental house, consider renting out a few different cameras to demo before making a final decision.

2. Lenses

Close-up and Isolated Shot of Camera Lenses by rohitseth

Also called “glass” among professionals, lenses are what the camera uses to see the world. Their characteristics and light-transmitting speed are what makes them unique pieces of gear that affect the look of your video. I highly advise that you don’t spend your entire budget on your camera, so that you have enough funds left over to purchase a high-quality lens. Remember, your lens is just as important as the camera; top-notch cameras will often deliver a bad image if paired with a low-quality lens, so don’t skimp on the glass!

If you plan on shooting in low-light conditions, you’ll need a lens with a low aperture, like f/2.8 or lower. The faster the lens, the more range you have with your exposure and depth-of-field. Note: f-stop measures how fast light transfers through the glass onto your sensor. The lower the f-stop, the faster the lens is, thus allowing you to film in darker environments.

These are the four main types of lenses:

Prime Wide Angle: Wide-angle lenses have a focal length of 25mm or less. They’re good for establishing shots, editorial filming, and landscapes.

Prime Standard: A standard lens has a focal length between 25mm and 75mm. These are good for run-and-gun style shooting, portraits, interviews, and editorial filming.

Prime Telephoto/Super Telephoto: A telephoto lens has a focal length between 75mm and 800+. These are good for shooting sports and wildlife.

Zoom Lenses: Different from the prime lenses listed above, a zoom lens offers variable focal lengths that can go from wide to standard, or from standard to telephoto. A 24-70mm f/2.8 is a great lens to have in your kit. It’s good for editorial filming, portraits, landscapes, and travel videography.

Note: Just because you have a zoom doesn’t mean you don’t have to move! Zoom lenses can often make beginner videographers lazy. Why would you want to get closer to a subject, when you can just zoom in? Bad idea! It’s important to always move around with the camera, “working” your subject and experimenting with different angles. Getting closer to your subject improves composition, giving you a better looking image. Only utilize the zoom when you can’t get close enough.
Related Post How to Shoot High-Quality Video: 7 Basic Tips

3. Tripods

Tripod on the Shore of a Mountain Lake in Central Oregon by packerfansusie1

Tripods are an absolutely essential part of your video kit. They help you film steady shots, as well as achieve smooth camera movements, like tilts, pans, and zooms.

Tripod benefits include:

– Sharper and clearer images when filming in low-light conditions
– Fluid camera movements (tilts, pans, and zooms)
– Holding extra gear, such as sound recorders and light panels
– Being essential when filming extreme closeups and macro shots
– Removing unwanted camera shake, making your images look more professional

When choosing your tripod, make sure to consider the weight factor. The tripod’s weight should always be more than the weight of your camera and lens combined, guaranteeing a solid base for your camera. Additionally, you should consider investing in a tripod with a “quick release” plate, which allows you to quickly remove the camera from the tripod to go handheld. This is helpful when shooting editorial events.

Lastly, invest in a “fluid head” tripod. The head is what attaches the camera to the tripod; a fluid head is designed to smooth out any sudden movements when panning or tilting.

4. Storage

sd card on a white background
SD Card on White Background by ammza12

SD cards and CF cards are what the camera uses to store your captured data. Their speed class and capacity are the main factors to look at while building your video kit. Speed class is how fast the card manages to record data. For example, a speed class 2 card won’t be able to continuously record HD video for more than 30 seconds.

Here are speed logos representing speed classes from slowest to fastest:

Screen Shot 2015-09-21 at 9.11.02 AM

For 4k recording, I recommend class 10 or ultra-high-speed class 1 and 3.

When it comes to storage capacity, it’s important to choose a card that has enough space for your whole shoot, plus more. Keep in mind that the higher the resolution/frame rate you record at, the larger the video file sizes will be. A 64GB card can record about an hour of 1080HD video or about 35 minutes of 4k video. It’s wise to purchase a backup card, as well. You’ll remember us when your main card runs out of space and there’s still a lot to film!

5. Lens Filters

Optical Filter Against Sky by mileatanasov

Lens filters are essential for enhancing your desired look or for overcoming extra light/shine obstacles.

There are 3 main types of filters that should be part of a basic video kit:

UV Filters: For protecting the front part of the lens from dust, dirt, moisture, and potential scratches. They have almost no effect on the look of the image, but keep your glass safe and sound.

Polarizing Filters: These help to dramatically reduce reflections, while enhancing colors and increasing contrast. This kind of filter can be used for any type of videography to cut down on the shine of objects.

ND Filters: These help to reduce extreme light entering the lens. They’re ideal for capturing the sunny sky without losing the texture and color of it. Also handy when shooting timelapses.

Volcano against blue sky

Besides the key essentials above, here are some additional accessories to include your basic gear kit:

  • An extra battery or two for your camera. They run out pretty quick.
  • Camera and lens cleaning kit. A must-have to keep your gear clean and increase the life cycle of the lens and camera sensor.
  • A case or backpack to carry all your equipment around.
  • If you plan on recording audio, a small shotgun mic will provide much better sound than your on-camera mic.
  • If shooting in darker environments, a small LED light with a shoe mount will come in handy.

There you have it. Now it’s your turn to build and customize your kit for your own projects. Happy filming!

Do you have other basic gear essentials you never shoot without? Tell us in the comments below!