What gear does an amateur really need?
by, 07-22-2013 at 12:30 PM (11705 Views)
Amateur film-making is a ludicrously expensive hobby. Buying the latest must have gear will set you back a small fortune, but as amateur, do you really need all that gear? I've made some poor investment in gear choices over the years, so I thought I'd share my experiences with fellow enthusiasts and newbies to the hobby. So what do you really need if you're filming for fun?
It may sound ridiculous, but you may not need a camera. Chances are your smartphone will be a capable alternative, and in many respects better suited than a camera. The ultra-portable, always with you, advantage of a smartphone means you'll always have it to hand to film when you need. There are plenty of examples of excellent videos using an iPhone, so quality isn't really an issue. If you're a hobbiest photographer, you may even have a DSLR to record video.
So why bother with a camera? I've tried many times to use my iPhone for video, but I rarely feel it's a viable alternative to a "proper" camera. And I regularly use a DSLR for video, but it just doesn't quite have the same ease of use. I also have a go pro, but that's only used where I wouldn't want to risk my camera (on the sea, by the beach or sports).
Verdict: Spending on a dedicated camera is a sensible solution, but not an essential. A go pro is a great addition, but not an alternative.
There's a vast array of software choices for video editing, and you can easily spend over £1,000 on professional gear you simply don't need. The "pro" video editing suites such as Sony Vegas and Adobe Premiere have consumer orientated versions, which do everything you'll need to edit and provide a great future upgrade path if you really need additional features.
Having tried various free and low cost solutions, my personal preference is to go with Premiere Elements or Vegas Movie studio. The alternatives at the same price bracket tend to dumb down the video editing process. I also have various iPad editing apps, but have never produced a video on any of them.
Verdict: You don't need to spend any more than £50 on video editing software. To future proof, choose an editing app that can be upgraded to a professional version such as Adobe Premiere Elements
There's a bewildering array of tripods on the market. Bottom line is that it will be your second most used piece of gear. You need one, but which one? As an amateur film-maker, you'll want a light-weight solution, so that will mean spending a bit more than the cheapest option. You'll also want one that will outlast your camera (technology in the tripod market rarely advances), so again, that pushes the price up. Manfrotto aren't the cheapest, but do offer light weight sturdy constructions. I have a monopod and gorilla pod in my arsenal, but these rarely get an outing. The monopod is mainly used as a steadicam alternative to filming low angles - hold it upside down and flip in your video editing app!
Verdict: Spend upto £100 on a lightweight, solid tripod which will last you many years to come.
Quadcopters, jibs, steadicams...
Anything else expect a camera and tripod really aren't needed when you first start out. They can add a new level to your videos, but until you learn the basics of filmmaking, you'll be buying an expensive toy that gets limited use. If you can't think of how you would use the tool to enhance your videos, do you really need it? Or will it gather in dust after posting a "test" video to YouTube? Too often I've bought gear because I want a new toy, not because I need it.
Verdict: Try before you buy. Hire or borrow before you invest to make sure you'll use the new gear.