October 16, 2014 at 9:18AM


Would you please guys walk me through my very first production.

Hello, I'm about to complete some screenplays for short and feature film I intend to shoot myself.

However, I don't want my lack of experience on gear and production to spoil these -in a way- more personal projects, so I'm gonna start by producing a commercial for a popular annual contest as a way to push me out in the field and face real problems.

Having said that, i don't want it to look amateurish or lame, I want to do it right. I've come up with some funny material and i don't wanna spoil it with some crap performance. I'm going rental, so I need your advice with a customized gear suggestion for my production:

Some specs of my project:

Single location. Exterior. A park seat under the shade of a dome of trees that keeps the hard light of the Mediterranean city I live in effectively away. A couple sits in there and, well, talk (I'm aware it seems lame).
I want the audio to be great, so i'm considering shotgun mic and boom.
No camera movements. No handheld shots. Maybe some rack/follow focus on parts of the dialogue.
About the lenses, I don't think i will be needing zoom lenses. I'm considering a wide establishing shot, then medium and close-ups mostly.
Shall I need two primes (wide and tele) or can I make do with just a tele (or 50mm) and work on the establishing with it?
I own a nifty fifty from Canon, can I manage with just that one lens?
Will I really need some extra lighting, reflectors...? I mean, since it's under the shade of those trees I don't really know if I can benefit from reflectors. I'm shooting with the lowest f stop (guilty: I love bokeh), so I doubt if artificial light will be mandatory.

Here's a picture I've found online of the location.

And here's a shot I took yesterday, with the sun almost completely down and colored in a way I would love to apply to my video, but that I don't really recall how I came up with.

Budget: 300 euros give or take.

This is the outfit I have outlined for one day of production.
Could you tell what's missing or not needed at all?

Canon 5d mark III - 80 euros
SmallHD monitor - 60 euros
Portable reflector (?) - 2 euros
Tele lens (?) - 35 euros
Shotgun mic [rode ntg2] - 18 euros
Boom - 10 euros
Headphones - 10 euros
Windshield - 10 euros
Portable audio recorder [dr100 mkII] - 35 euros
Memory cards - 20 euros
Batteries - 10 euros

Plus wires and adaptor, of course. But I don't even want to think about that yet.

As for the tripod, I was thinking I could make do with my manfrotto for still shooting, since I have no camera movement in mind, am I wrong?



Are you experienced with the gear you want to rent ?

You don't want to learn how to use gear on your first shoot, or you will likely end up very unhappy with the results.

If you are not experienced, then I would look at finding somebody to shoot with that knows how to use the gear you want to rent. You might even find somebody with all the gear you need to shoot that will be cheaper to hire than renting all of this gear by yourself.

October 16, 2014 at 9:19PM

Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer

It would be easier, and it's tempting, but then I'd miss the chance to learn.
I'm well aware it all can end in disaster, but that's the point of trying this.

Thanks for the advice, though.

Still, I would love to read some thoughts on the gear I've chosen.

October 17, 2014 at 4:01AM


I would recommend being less ambitious with your first shoot and only rent the camera and lens, so you can focus on just getting a good result from the camera.

Once you feel competent with your camera, then I would do the same with only the audio gear, so you can focus on recording good audio.

Finally when you are comfortable with both the camera and the audio gear, then rent everything and do the full shoot.

All of these things take practice to master, and with the full shoot you should be focused on getting the best performance from your actors and not trying to figure out if you are properly using your gear.


Guy McLoughlin

October 17, 2014 at 9:27AM

Canon 5d mark III - 80 euros
If you're on a super budget, check out the Mk2, practically the same and usually ~20 cheaper!

SmallHD monitor - 60 euros
- you can probably do without this, just get a z-finder or a LCD hood (or a dark cloth)

Portable reflector (?) - 2 euros
- I recommend a 4x piece of bounce board, or a white folding presentation board, and have a friend hold it for you. I recommend holding it parallel and not below them, it's much more natural that the light comes from 'above' than below.

Tele lens (?) - 35 euros
You don't need it!

Don't do this yourself! Post to craigslist or Mandy or at a college with a film/sound program, and offer 50-100 for a recorder with kit. Explain it's your first project, you're looking for someone who might be interested in mixing this little scene as well. You'll probably get a few bites from other people just starting out who have a H4 zoom and some basic gear. These are GREAT people to get to know, they can become great collaborators.

Batteries - 10 euros
- you want 3-4+ of these, losing power on a shoot sucks so much.

As for the tripod, I was thinking I could make do with my manfrotto for still shooting, since I have no camera movement in mind, am I wrong?

- still tripod will be perfect. All you should have is a camera, lens, and ND filters on the end.

My recommendation is to draw everything out on paper before hand and bring it with you. I also recommend doing 'shotgun' shooting if you can, that is, shoot all the angles you can get. So wide, medium, close up, ots, whatever. This way you'll be able to tease the scene in post and get a feel for how you like to put things together.

Zack Wallnau

October 18, 2014 at 1:54AM

Wow. Thanks Zack.

I was considering MkIII instead of MkII because of the crop factor, since I wanted to shoot one wide establishing shot with my 50mm and I thought it would be more difficult to achieve with that sensor. The Z-Finder is great, but -correct me if I'm wrong- it just magnifies the low-res image on the LCD, right?

As for the monitor, I would be happy not to need to rent one, but I tend to find problems with focusing, even with still photo. If you guys tell me I could get critical focus with a loupe, I would rather go with that. My local store doesn't offer a z-finder, but I guess any loupe would do (?)

Bounce board: I get how to bounce a direct light (from the sun or a bulb), but how do I bounce light on a shady location or when the sun is already down but there's still light?
Also, won't I be needing any artificial light to achieve good results?

As for audio: I may be considering your suggestion.

Power: Considering I finally need a monitor, portable audio recorder... Can I just manage with just batteries? Won't I be needing any generator or power point? (I really hope not)

Finally, the ND filter: I still don't know why will I need it.
I want to shoot with a low f-stop, alright, but I have shot some tests with my still photo camera Canon EOS400D and 50mm (f/1.8 1/50 ISO 100) and the pictures don't look overexposed at all (it was sunset, but still).


Jerome Miller

October 18, 2014 at 6:42AM

I think the same like Guy. If normally you don't use Gear, don't use a lot of them or you will be losting your time without shooting learning to use them...

October 17, 2014 at 5:55AM

Ragüel Cremades
Film producer and director

I appreciate your piece of advice. It's understood and I'm aware of my chances.
Still, if I were to shoot it myself anyway, could you suggest a minimum gear outfit for the situation described in my first post to get some great results?


October 17, 2014 at 7:16AM


The exact gear you use is not as important as knowing how to use the gear really well.

Just look at the shots from Shane Carruth's "UpStream Color" which was shot with a Panasonic GH2 camera and fairly cheap DSLR lenses ( including a $280 Rokinon 85mm f/1.4 lens ), they look absolutely great for such a cheap camera. Check out the "Stills" section from the link below and watch the two trailer videos.


October 17, 2014 at 12:39PM

Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer

Thanks Guy.
I know (and admire) Carruth's work with the GH2.
It was not that much the exact gear (meaning brands or particular models) that my question was refered to, but the required pieces to get a proffesional-like result in the conditions I was listing.
Gear suggested was just based on the items my local store has to offer.

October 17, 2014 at 2:28PM


It doesn't take much to produce high quality results. Here is a list of basic gear that I would bring to an Indie shoot...

- Camera ( Canon APS-C or FF, Nikon APS-C or FF, Panasonic GHx, etc... )
- Enough batteries to power your camera for most of the day
- Extra memory cards and case to hold them
- A "Normal" Zoom lens ( wide to short telephoto ) that is f/4.0 or faster
- A Fast Telephoto lens ( for medium and close-up shots where you want to be able to blur the background, an 85mm f/1.4 works for almost all cameras )
- A 7 inch monitor with sun-hood ( sharp enough to check focus properly )
- Enough batteries to power your monitor for most of the day
- A solid tripod ( something with a proper cine head like a Sachtler would be a bonus )
- A good monopod to film in tight spaces
- A Lastolite EZY Balance 20" pop-up white/grey card ( collapses down to 8 inches )
- 3 Stop and 6 Stop ND filters so you can shoot at wide apertures in daylight
- 40 inch or larger pop-up silver/white fill reflectors
- Audio Gear : Shotgun mic with wind-protection, a field mixer, boom pole with shock-mount, a reliable audio recorder, a good pair of closed-back headphones. If recording indoors, then I would use a hyper-cardioid mic instead of the shotgun.
- Camera slate ( to keep track of shots and to sync audio )
- 1 inch and 2 inch black gaffer tape ( a million different uses )
- Plastic bags to protect against rain and to collect your garbage
- Always color balance your camera when the light changes or when you change location

Ideally you should aim to own some of this stuff to keep your rental costs low and to be able to experiment with your gear when you aren't shooting.

Guy McLoughlin

October 17, 2014 at 3:37PM, Edited October 17, 3:37PM

Another Problem i See is the Lack of an experienced Team, just regarding the Sound and Camera operating sector(if you have that Then nevermind).
Getting good sound needs Experience and technical knowledge, if Not just a free Hand to adjust and control audiolevels, and hold the boom (if you go into Auto Mode You have no Control what the internal limiter might do to your recorded audio.)

Same thing with the Camera operating...

Of course its possible to One man it, but your Production will Suffer from that!

I Would Join in with the others: get to Know the Equipment step by step, or find People that can help you.

I dont want to Sound too negativ, but it might get a frustrating if the outcome isnt satisfying and you invested the money.

One More Thinge: you Really want to add an ND Filter. If you want to Shot in Broad sunlight with an open Iris.
Sth. Around 6-8 Stops depending On Your Glass... Or a variable ND!

All the best!

October 17, 2014 at 2:42PM

Joshua Zonnekein
I just like movies and stuff

Thanks Joshua.
Finally an answer to one of my questions.
I DO want to shoot in broad sunlight and open iris BUT in quite a shady location (because of the thick grove), so I thought that would compensate without an ND filter.

Did you check out the picture I was pasting in my first post?

That's why I was also asking if under that dome of trees I would be needing reflector or any artificial light to get my actors properly lit.

Note: Of course I'm counting on a couple of friends who would help me holding the boom and monitoring the sound.
And, yes, I have no experience in the field, but I have watched a lot of lynda dslr tutorials. Take that! (Wink)

October 17, 2014 at 3:03PM


I think I might take a while to master this board 's answer within answer dynamics (not to speak of the score (?).

I was asking Zach and, by extension, Joshua and Guy (thank you all) if I would be needing ND filters even though my test pictures on location (Canon EOS400D/50mm: f/1.8 shutter 1/50 and ISO 100) don't seem overexposed.

And, as for the reflector, how can I benefit from it in the shade of a grove AND sunset? Would it still bounce some light on the actor's faces?

Oh, yeah, right, the CASTING.

Is it EXTREMELY wrong to cast some actors from an acting school with no pay? I intend to share some benefits should the commercial get any profit, but I guess that's castles made of sand.

AND I need to cast an under age. Which formal cautions do I need to address in my ad?
"... who would need to attend in company of a parent or tutor..." -something like that?


October 18, 2014 at 1:18PM


On the casting:

It isn't wrong to cast actors for no pay. If you do make money off the production, you could pay them (which would be a deferred contract). Actors are a lot like filmmakers in the sense that - they need experience. Actors are generally glad to work on projects that ads to their reel/resume. Very few are making money acting, so using non-professionals is a great way to start.

For underage casting, just list the ages you need in your casting call. I have found that parents of young actors usually show up anyway and stay through the production. Of course, the parents/guardians are the ones that will need to sign any contracts. I find that sometimes spouses/parents for "of age" actors show up at the shoot sometimes anyway.

It is customary however to provide water/snacks etc. during filming. This makes your set a whole lot nicer. Actors generally like to eat healthy, so fruit is good. If your shoot is a longer one, you may want to provide lunch as well. It would be good to include these costs in your budget.

Lane McCall

October 29, 2014 at 10:51AM

You never know when you will need the ND filters, so they are always a good thing to have on hand. You might not need them for your shoot, but in general it's an essential item of any outdoor shooting kit.

October 18, 2014 at 9:37PM

Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer

... and they are not that expensive when rented.
Thanks guy. I will include one in the budget.

October 19, 2014 at 5:18AM


Your biggest worry could be your own "tunnel vision" once you guys start shooting making you leave pieces of equipment in the frame. Heh... happens to all of us.

Now, regarding actual filming aspects.

On a sunny day you absolutely need NDs -- at least an ND 4 and an ND8. Because some of your camera angles will pick-up sun-lit pieces and these pieces will burn-out your image.

Also, you'll need a scrim or your actor will have sun-spots allover: http://zakrividoroga.com/uploads/3/5/1/6/3516234/rashid-boom.png

These same sun-spots coming through the heavy groove reinforce the need for the NDs.

I read what you wrote about crop and depth of field. I bet there will be so many problems with your first production that you will wish you opted for a cheaper package. I would go with 70D because it has touchscreen and a phase-shift autofocus. This effectively guarantees to keep in focus what you want kept in focus and eliminates the need for the monitor.

You dont need a tele lens if you have a 50mm -- use your feet.

Reflectors are a bitch to work with -- the results are not consistent due to a lot of different reasons -- from people using them getting tired down to cloud coming over the sun throwing everything off. Rent an LED light with batteries.

October 19, 2014 at 11:57PM

Alex Zakrividoroga

Thanks Alex!

Very, VERY useful information. I haven't thought about the sun spots through the trees. Also, now I see the benefit of the ND filter (actually, the sample picture I took on location, shows burnt highlights indeed).

About the scrim, I'll have to guess how to use it on the run.
Will consider your camera suggestion, though my local store offers quite a limited stock of options.

About the LED light, could you suggest some particular model below?

As for reflectors, if there's no direct light (due to the grove, clouds or sunset) can you still bounce that remaining brightness and get noticeable results on camera?


October 20, 2014 at 1:59AM


Tera, I shoot with a t2i, so the 7D from your shop is the closest to what I have. I think you would need 2x Antorcha 312 LED lights to replace a reflector -- per person.

Here is the end result except I did not use the ND -- did not know better: http://youtu.be/FMOJxZ8T9Gk

Reflectors don't need direct light -- can use one in an overcast. They mostly focus in that scenario, but the natural sunlight is still so strong that might overpower a LED light.

October 20, 2014 at 6:35PM

Alex Zakrividoroga

Thank you Alex!

So, let me see if I got it right, 2 LED units / per person OR a reflector?

(I for one love the look of that footage; would be glad if I accomplished that)

October 21, 2014 at 2:12AM


If it's help, thecinecity.com have a low budget prices for your stuff.

October 21, 2014 at 5:26AM

Ragüel Cremades
Film producer and director

Tera, if you limit yourself to over-the-shoulder shots and shots from the distance then you need only one set of each -- 2x lights or reflector for only that person that faces the camera.

Plus weight the price / ease of use. The lights are easy to use -- set them up and forget. But they will chew through the batteries at a rate of 2-4 per hour for both lights. The reflector is cheap but the human holding the reflector adds randomness to shots. Plus you probably have to buy drinks to the friends afterwards. So, lights might end up being cheaper :)

October 21, 2014 at 1:15PM, Edited October 21, 1:15PM

Alex Zakrividoroga

You're the sh#&!!

Thank you so much Alex, you're being so much help.
Getting lights scares me a little, to be honest, but i really love the "pro" look they provide.
I should be getting tons of batteries then I guess. Camera, portable audio recorder (sorry, I know this is a very entry level question but, does the zoom h4n need to record back to camera -as I've learnt from Lynda's dslr tips- or recording directly to the device is preferable?), monitor (although you guys have talked me out of it), lights...
More and more excited (and terrified).

October 21, 2014 at 2:50PM


What's the scary part of getting lights?

Also, if your budget is EUR 300, then do a soul search how long it would get you to get EUR 1,500. This was you would be able to own all that gear and after either 5th production or 5th day of footage you would break even.

I use DR100 MkII and write all of the audio to the recorder because most of the time the camera is far away from the recorder. So I just hit the audio-record, say "Take 1", go to the camera, press video-record and say "Take 1", then clap. This way in post within 3 seconds I know which take I am looking at. Works better than slating for me.

Huge warning -- if I had to bet on one and only one thing that will go wrong with your production (honest answer would be: everything) I would say: sound. Knowing your recorder's settings and knowing what it will sound like in post takes experience. So, rent out the recorder with the mic, and the XLR cable, record interior and exterior, then bring it in post.

Finally, two important pieces which you might or might not know:

- Magic Lantern (http://www.magiclantern.fm/downloads.html -- check out the video on the right side of the page), and

- Cinestyle ( http://philipbloom.net/2013/09/06/part2/ scroll down to the CineStyle section).

October 21, 2014 at 5:38PM

Alex Zakrividoroga

You really are something, Alex. Thanks.

Of course I would like to own the gear but I doubt that EUR 1500 would grant me even the camera body! That's my goal anyway, but in the meantime...

Am I allowed to enhance the settings of the rented camera with those downloadable improvements? I may get in trouble, right?

Also, considered I'm not new to Premiere but haven't used it in YEARS, how many days (24/7 mode) could it take me to make a non flourished edit of my footage? I'm on the tightest schedule. A week will do?


October 22, 2014 at 3:03AM


Oh, is it recommendable to record on a holyday (November 1st)?
On one hand, I'm assuming actors with a day job will find it easier to attend.
On the other, well, it's holyday.

October 22, 2014 at 4:22AM


Tera, you can sell your 400D and buy a 550D -- prolly EUR150 more. And 550D with Magic Lantern and Cinestyle beats that 7D that you were planning to rent. Heck, it will give you an arguably better image than the 5D MkIII.

The LED lights are cheap too -- what you'll be renting for EUR 20 is about $70 to buy:


For editing you can use a 30 day free trial of the PowerDirector:


And the actors? In my experience those that work with the entry level directors have waiter/waitress jobs. They can take Monday/Tuesday off easily cause that's when the tips are the smallest ^_^

October 22, 2014 at 5:46PM

Alex Zakrividoroga

Thanks, Alex. Again!
You're becoming some sort of a guru for this project.

Will consider that Canon 55oD, I've read some good reviews.
As for the editing, I've got premiere installed so I think I'll try to take advantage of it. I hope I can come up with some rough flourish-less editing in a week.

Hadn't considered THE day job for actors. Then I guess a holiday is not the best option.


October 23, 2014 at 2:18AM


Yeah, a lot of what I would say has been said. I'm not sure the value you would get from renting too much will outweigh time on set learning how to use it. 550D/600D. Or borrow something - anything - from a friend. Camera-wise, don't worry too much. Look on you tube for cine-style stuff on a 600D - more than good enough.

Sound is not the same, though. If you're running a crew new to sound, let me make this one suggestion - IK Multimedia iRig Pro (about 180 euro?) going into an iPad. When used with the IK free app, it means you can record extremely high quality audio (24 bit) and then sync in post (record audio on camera only as a track to use later to manually sync to).

The advantage of this is that you can use crew that aren't used to sound or swinging a boom, because the levels are so easy to understand/see. It really is foolproof. get the mic as close as you can, and adjust the iRig volume so that the waveform doesn't go off the graph. Easy.

I filmed a feature-length project with this approach (and a 600D, as it goes, for a lot of it). If you want to see this, have a look at www.featherlightandpaperthin.com for the trailer - it might show you a rough outline.

Reflectors/lights? Meh. I 'run-and-gunned' my way through the whole thing without very much of either. But the sound is key - but needn't be that expensive...

October 29, 2014 at 6:28AM

Ian Garforth

First things first. You are shooting a short film. Obviously its not a commercial project and there would be a lot of people who would want to shoot a short film or edit it or just play a role in it. FOR FREE.
Let me know where you are from and your location. I will check if i know someone there who can help you out with the stuff. Even if they have a camera with good lenses, it will reduce the budget.

feel free to connect with me on facebook and discuss.

October 29, 2014 at 10:27AM

Executive Producer

Most everything i would have said has been said.
I would make sure to practice with the equipment. If you're not experienced with the camera find someone to be your DP. BUT also i understand doing it yourself so that you can learb as you go. If its a personal project, the advice i was given was to do some smaller things first for practice.
Lastly i didn't see anyone address your picture. If you took it with a digital camera you can look in camera or on your editing software under the picture info and that will tell you your f-stop, shutter speed, ISO etc. And you can match your video setting sto that!

Happy shooting!

October 29, 2014 at 2:00PM

Jackson Moon
Director, DP

I know you asked mostly for equipment recommendations, and it seems like folks have given you some great advice. I want to stress the talent portion of things, because it seems like your movie is going to rely almost entirely on dialogue. It won't matter if it looks great if your actors have no spark. Do you have experience in working with actors? Have you thought about how you're going to communicate everything in your head to them? I'd definitely encourage you to do some research and to think deeply about that aspect. Directing actors is highly individual, but some general principals apply, and there are lots of good resources out there. Good luck!

October 29, 2014 at 3:19PM

Arielle Mari
Director and Writer

Why thanks.
Seems like the facebook bump has given this thread a second go.
I've been unable to find any English speaking actor for my casting and according to my schedule I should be recording by the end of this week, so I'm screwed.

I guess I won't be able to put me to test this time. Thank you fellas.

October 29, 2014 at 4:26PM


There is a ton of good advice here- the most important being: the more equipment you have, the more knowledge/experience you need to use it correctly. You CAN use this as an opportunity to learn how to do it yourself- and mark this up as a learning experience, because the production will suffer either in time or production value. If you are going this route, I would limit your gear as much as possible. Gear doesn't make the shot better- knowing how to use it does. Joshua Caldwell shot a GORGEOUS feature film for $6,000 with just a 5Dmkii and the kit 24-105. http://layoverfilm.com/ this was done with no rig/follow focus, external monitor etc. Just a lens and a camera. Less can definitely be more, and it will keep your production agile. You will get more shots, better takes, and a better end result if you MASTER the basic camera before adding extras. Magic Lantern has a Focus Peaking Feature that would be PERFECT for you if you are having trouble with manual focus in Video. And finally, as an independent filmmaker, I feel that the MOST IMPORTANT aspect of your budget, if you are asking cast and crew to work for free, is FOOD. Craft services with some coffee, water and snacks, as well as ordering pizza or takeout for lunch, goes a LONG way in making a productive shoot. Hungry people are not happy people, and you need everyone to be EXCITED about working on the shoot if you can't pay them with money.

October 30, 2014 at 3:09PM

Stephen Nolly
Senior Writer: www.magiclanternshooter.com

What if it rains?

October 31, 2014 at 6:11AM

Jerry Roe
Indie filmmaker

It never rains here.

Thanks for all the wisdom. I will bookmark this page and rethink the strategy for next projects, since I'm afraid I won't be able to bring this one to life.

October 31, 2014 at 8:55AM


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