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March 14, 2016

       I saved a ton of money by listening to this one quote. Skill in cinematography is acquired by practice, not by purchase. That is a quote that stopped me from dropping a few thousand dollars on the latest camera, and made me think about a few things before buying. I thought, there are hundreds and hundreds of options of cameras we can use today to make a film, so how can we decide what to shoot on especially when every project is unique, has different budgets, and for many of us don't have money just laying around to spend on everything we want.


     Even though Hollywood does have money, you can see that they still understand the power of cheaper cameras we have access to today. Movies such as Act of Valor, Elysium, Black Swan, Red Tails, 127 Hours, even The Avengers used DSLRS on some of the shots in these films. They used them on the shots that called for it, and for good reason, it's tiny, portable, and can be color graded to match the quality of better senser cameras. Tangerine directed by Sean Baker is a film that got a lot of attention at Sundance in 2015 that was shot pretty much entirely on the Iphone5S with the anamorphic lens adapters from MoonDog Labs, and the app Filmic Pro. (Not a joke, and you probably know someone with the Iphone6S) Here is an interview with the director.


     The focus of my energy, and time should be spent wondering about what will best help the message, how should I light my scene cinematically, spend what money I do have on audio which will make a significant increase on my production value, what movement should I have or not have, and what camera I need will follow suit. For any tips to learn how to use DSLR footage you can check out DSLRguide. I'm not saying film everything you do on an iphone or the Toyota Prius Backup Camera, but rather just think about what it is that really makes a film, short, music video, or any motion picture compelling. Story, and content. 


     Sometimes I get to caught up in what camera I have, or don't have and need to remember to go to the basics and make sure whatever I'm shooting will catch the audience. Realize that I cannot purchase my way to making better films, but I can purchase my way to having more ways to tell a story. Do you sometimes forget this? Great, we all do.


     A recent project I worked on with Picto Films starring Gavin Casalegno (Noah, When The Game Stands Tall, I am Gabriel) was done by a small crew, turned out great, and got a lot of views. We were going to drop money on some more expensive equipment then we realized why not use what we have, the Canon T5 which is about $500 with two lenses, Canon 70D, around $1,100 with a $500 Sigma lens, a $300 Canon Stm lens and Ronin M Gimbal about $1,300. We could have easily spent $5000 on the camera body alone. The price of all 3 combined is just over the price of the latest A7sii, which that price can go even lower if you rent. Here is the short we made.



What do you think it is that causes some of theses low budget films to get so much attention, and for others with massive budgets to flop? 




- What does each project, or even individual shot you create call for?

- Is the content you are creating important to you, and why?

- Have you had some lower budget projects be more successful than higher budget projects in terms of reactions, views, engagement?


     Think about this and it may help you save some money and still create great films.


Share if you think some other filmmakers might benefit from this article, and subscribe on the main blog page for more filmmaking tips, and gear reviews. 


This article was created strictly for educational purposes.

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