July 4, 2015 at 12:16PM, Edited July 4, 12:37PM

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Aspiring beginner lost! (:

Hey Guys!

I am starting to study cinematography by myself and just bought the GH3 Panasonic body.
I am a total technical beginner and understand less than nothing about lenses and such..

I know I'll learn best from practical experience, so I would really appreciate your advice about:

1. Best Budget (500$ for both) tight lens and a wide lens.
I tried browsing but the options are endless.. Specific models would be great help!

2. A budget (up to 200$) microphone for both interviews and short films (I understood one can hack a normal mic to use also as a boom.. It is all Chinese to me at the moment o: )

3. On a different matter: recommendations of the books\materials you found most useful for independent film studying would be much appreciated!

Thanks (:

18 Comments

Hi!
I was in your shoes around a year ago, but it's really amazing what's out there on the internet. I'll mostly stay away from the budget question because that's all relative, but I do have some recommendations for study. There's a few YouTube channels I always keep up with in terms of cinematography:

Filmmaker IQ (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCSFAYalJ2Q7Tm_WmLgetmeg) Though they branch off into many different aspects of filmmaking, they do a fantastic job explaining the technical sides of cinematography as well as history.

DSLRGuide (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCzQ1L-wzA_1qmLf49ey9iTQ) Pretty big around here on No Film School, and every video has a way of simplifying seemingly vague theories so that you don't feel frazzled by all the crazy information out there :-)

Every Frame a Painting (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCjFqcJQXGZ6T6sxyFB-5i6A) Also pretty big around here. This channel beautifully analyzes the composition of films and helps keep me grounded in the most important part of cinematography: telling the story.

DigitalRev TV (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCuw8B6Uv0cMWtV5vbNpeH_A) Though they focus on photography (which I recommend you try to immerse yourself in as much as possible), this helps familiarize gear lingo, especially when it comes to lenses.

As for the budget questions, you've probably heard the same thing a million times before about buying nicer lenses etc. etc., but I've found that even kit lenses can produce a good enough look if you're using them right. Sure, they're not nearly as nice, but if your story is strong enough, the average viewer won't be thinking, "man, if only this was shot with L-glass!"

Also, though I'm not exactly sure what kind of role you're planning on taking in upcoming projects, I would recommend setting aside a part of your budget for lights and stands - of course, these are integral to good cinematography.

This is all coming from a very young, literal-zero-budget filmmaker but I believe professionalism comes from execution, not brands. Find whatever delivers your creative vision best and in-budget and you'll do great! :-)

July 4, 2015 at 6:38PM

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Katie Mlinek
Writer/Filmmaker
88

Thank you for your answer, and even more so for your kindness (:

Stav Ben Dor

July 4, 2015 at 7:02PM

>>>1. Best Budget (500$ for both) tight lens and a wide lens.

The first lens I would buy is one of the Panasonic kit lenses...

12-32mm f/3.5 - 5.6
14-42mm f/3.5 - 5.6 Mark II ( do not buy the Mark I lens )
14-45mm f/3.5 - 5.6

They cover a great range, have good optical stabilization for hand-held shooting, and are pretty compact.

The second lens I would buy is a used Nikon AI-S 50mm f/1.4 lens which you can usually buy for less than $200. You will need a Nikon to m4/3 lens adapter.

This is a great lens for medium close-ups, shallow DOF shots, and is pretty fast. I use this lens with a Speedbooster to shoot interviews all the time.

>>>2. A budget (up to 200$) microphone for both interviews and short films

The Rode VideoMic Pro, which will cost you closer to $250, but it's a pretty good mic both on or off a mic boom. Just make sure you get the latest version with the Rycote Lyre mount. ( the old version uses rubber bands to suspend the mic, and these bands can be problematic at times )

>>>3. On a different matter: recommendations of the books\materials you found most useful for independent film studying

If you're just starting out, I would recommend to just start shooting your own projects, and shoot as much as possible. The more you shoot the better you will get.

July 4, 2015 at 9:40PM

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Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
33014

Thanks for the advice!
I've been told that the 14-140 (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00M73880C?psc=1&redirect=true&ref_=ox_... -this older version is 100$ cheaper which I understood is very similar qualitywize) could cover me for both and would ease on the need to change lenses- would you recommend it instead of the two?

Stav Ben Dor

July 6, 2015 at 7:48AM

Thanks for the advice!
I've been told that the 14-140 (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00M73880C?psc=1&redirect=true&ref_=ox_... -this older version is 100$ cheaper which I understood is very similar qualitywize) could cover me for both and would ease on the need to change lenses- would you recommend it instead of the two?

Stav Ben Dor

July 6, 2015 at 7:48AM

I don't know why it keeps publishing twice 0:

July 6, 2015 at 7:57AM, Edited July 6, 8:39AM

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And if I were to buy both the 14-140 and another lens- should it be a 50mm one? and wouldn't it better for video if it would be with automatic focus (unlike the model you mentioned)?
Would an adapter prevent automatic functions in the camera with any lens?

July 6, 2015 at 11:05AM, Edited July 6, 11:05AM

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>>>And if I were to buy both the 14-140 and another lens- should it be a 50mm one?

The Lumix 14-140mm is a good lens, but it's fairly big compared to the other kit lenses I mentioned. I prefer the smaller kit lenses, but I've seen lots of good work shot with the 14-140mm.

>>>wouldn't it better for video if it would be with automatic focus (unlike the model you mentioned)?

The only cameras with good autofocus for video are the Canon C100 and C300 cameras, otherwise autofocus is pretty much useless. ( I ALWAYS turn autofocus OFF when shooting video with my GH4 )

Autofocus is great for still photo work, so if you are planning to use your camera for photos then it's worth getting an autofocus lens. I bought the Lumix 42.5mm f/1.7 lens to shoot headshot photos, and it works great for this. ( you could buy this lens instead of the Nikon 50mm f/1.4 AI-S lens if you want something more compact with full auto mode when you want to shoot still photos. I haven't used it for video yet, but I'm sure it's a good lens for video too, especially because it has optical stabilization for handheld shooting )

>>>Would an adapter prevent automatic functions in the camera with any lens?

Yes, but this ONLY matters for still photography. For video it's better to go FULL manual because the results will always be better if you know what you are doing. ( you also learn a lot more when working in FULL manual mode because it's much easier to figure out your mistakes )

July 6, 2015 at 3:54PM, Edited July 6, 3:55PM

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Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
33014

I really appreciate your help, I'll just clarify my last question (Since I already bought the 14-140..I was excited ;P):

Now that I have the 14-140, I want a quality alternative for low light\indoor\depth, mainly for video. I heared 50mm is a must, is it true..?
Is this http://www.amazon.com/Panasonic-H-HS043K-42-5mm-O-I-S-Cameras/dp/B00H36U... the model you recommend the most, or around the 100-200$ (don't mind used) budget do you think there is a better option?

Thanks again for your help!

July 6, 2015 at 4:55PM

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Keep in mind that a 50mm lens on a GH3 is a short telephoto lens that is useful for medium close-ups, single person interviews, and whenever you want to separate your subject from the background.

The electronic Lumix 42.5mm f/1.7 lens or a used manual Nikon 50mm f/1.4 AI-S lens are great choices here. The Lumix being an autofocus and stabilized lens is a better choice for still photography and for hand-held video shooting. The Nikon works better on a monopod or a tripod, because there is no autofocus and no stabilization.

If you want to shoot indoors with available light and see a wide-angle perspective, you will probably want to get a lens like the 16mm f/2.0 Rokkinon or the 12mm f/2.0 Rokkinon lens. These are completely manual lenses, so they are better for video than still photography.

July 6, 2015 at 10:11PM

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Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
33014

Thank you, I'll but the 42.5 when its price will go down a bit...(:

If I could bother you for just one more subject- I'll give you credit at the Oscars! ;P
I'm looking to complete the basic (but only..) video set with a very low budget ligthing kit (flash+defuser+soft box ext...)- any recomandations for total max of 100$ ?

July 7, 2015 at 6:36AM, Edited July 7, 6:36AM

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The Aputure Amaran AL-H160 LED video light sells around $50 - 60 US on eBay, and it's the only low cost high CRI ( color rendering index ) LED light on the market. You could probably buy two of these for $100. These lights use rechargeable Sony L batteries that you can buy almost anywhere. ( a Sony F770 L battery will last about 2 hours on these lights, a Sony F970 battery will last 4+ hours )

July 7, 2015 at 8:17AM

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Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
33014

Can't give you many recommendations for gear, as I'm limited on experience with a variety of lenses, and I'm not up to scratch with microphones and audio either.

As for learning resources, I have too many to name, but here's a few tips:

Whenever you see a relevant pdf going free from a reputable website, give it a read and if it tells you something you find useful, grab it and keep it around for reference. If you have an iPad/Kindle/other tablet, download it into iBooks or the Kindle app and keep it there for if you run into a snag while out shooting. Even keep it on your phone, or print a copy and put it into a folder to keep with your camera. Signing up to receive updates from here will give you a pdf to start with, if you haven't already got it!

Experiment with the settings on the camera(s) you own and shoot as much as humanly possible.

Make all the mistakes. You'll learn what they were from the footage you get (whether you set too high an iso or incorrect frame rate, whether your focus is off because of human error, etc) and you'll be able to look up how to avoid it/correct it next time.

You probably know this already, but don't listen to anyone saying your gear isn't good enough...There is always the possibility that the expensive camera they chose to blow their money on is being used solely to take 4k+ videos of their cat sleeping.

Finally, have fun. :)

July 7, 2015 at 6:12PM, Edited July 7, 6:12PM

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Anne Le Sauvage
Ethusiastic amateur editor
251

I have to agree with Guy L If you're just starting out, I would recommend to just start shooting your own projects, and shoot as much as possible. The more you shoot the better you will get.

If you spend your money, you end up with alot of crap and likely will have wasted your money. If you take the camera you have and use and practice with it that will teach you what you need to know. Do it before buying all the crap. So, you are focused on making a great image, do that, then get a mic and focus on making great moving images with great sound, so instead of throwing a bunch of crap into a bowl and expecting a gourmet meal, you focus on one aspect, master that, then take on each thing after mastering each thing. I am so guilty, I have far more crap that I don't use than stuff I do use.

July 7, 2015 at 11:11PM

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On the subject of resources to learn from, Zony Zhou's Every Frame a Painting series of videos is something I just can't recommend enough. It really opened my eyes to new ways of thinking about filmmaking. As for books, the best book I've ever read on filmmaking was In the Blink of an Eye by Walter Murch. It's very short, especially if you (as I would highly recommend) skip the afterword. It's about film editing, but the insight is highly valuable to all filmmakers. These two sources are less so technical, but they will teach you a way of thinking that will help build your talent in a way that no technical video on how to use your camera ever will.

July 8, 2015 at 4:02PM, Edited July 8, 4:03PM

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Brett Allbritton
Cinematographer
310

Thank you all so much, I'll take your recomandations into consideration.
Good luck with your art guys (:

July 27, 2015 at 8:43AM

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1. Short lens, long lenses:
As someone mentioned, the 14-42mm Lumix kit lens is a no-brainer… it's inexpensive and has stabilization. For long lenses, do this: go to the nearest large thrift store. Find prime lenses that are 50mm to 200mm. They'll probably be from the 1970s to 1990s and cost between $3 and $20 each and be f2.8 to f4 at their fastest and that's fine at this point. You can try old zooms too, but they will be two stops slower usually. Look at what mount they are (likely Nikon, Pentax, Canon FD, or Minolta) and buy the Fotodiox or super cheap Fotga lens mount adapters (more info here http://maketimemove.com/store/#mftcheapadapters … my blog, sorry to plug it). After you mess around a bunch with these older manual lenses, you'll be able to figure out what characteristics you value most (number of aperture blades, focal length, speed, weight, zoom vs. primes, etc) and that will help you a great deal in deciding what lenses you will want to spend real money on. Also, you can probably sell the old lenses on eBay later for about the same amount you bought them for.

2. Mics:
I'm not an audio person, but I would highly recommend an Audio Technica short shotgun or long shotgun mic… they are a great balance of price and performance. Mic placement and the skill of the boom operator are what matters most once you are using a minimally decent mic (as is the Audio Technicas)… and that is where no-budgeters and beginners usually fail. A good approach is to buy the long shotgun mic and a pistolgrip mic mount and have a friend stand on a chair and aim the mic downward at the actor's chin like it's a gun (which is much easier for beginners than aiming a short shotgun mic on a boom). The Rode smartLav is also potentially very useful, but hiding the lav on the actor might be an issue depending on your project.

July 27, 2015 at 3:19PM, Edited July 27, 3:22PM

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Jaan Shenberger
designer/animator & live-action director/DP
1286

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