Getting into filmmaking with digital cameras: An introduction

Unless you’re Rajamouli and you have the budget, filmmaking can be done with even the simplest of gear available to you.

If you’ve been following our weekend column for some time now, you’ll know that most of what we write is purely still-photography oriented. This weekend, we decide to go down a completely different path, one that may just open up a whole new world of creative possibilities. Unlike still photography, video-making lets you do a lot more within the frame. It’s the process of shooting a film, but it’s also more. A lot can be decided based on the actual shot itself: get the shot right and you won’t have to deal with a  headache in post, trying to correct it. But we’ve gone too far.

 Getting into filmmaking with digital cameras: An introduction

Representational image. Getty Image

What does it take to get into basic filmmaking? We’ve listed down what you need below:

VIDEO: Unless you’re Rajamouli and you have the budget, filmmaking can be done with even the simplest of gear available to you. There’s a recurring theme these days among the budget segment, and that is the usage of smartphones everywhere. And why shouldn’t it be so? Even smartphones are capable of recording in 4K lossless video, and the future certainly seems to be inching towards them even more(remember RED’s recent prototype for a smartphone?)

However, another recurring topic with smartphones is how little they let you do apart from shoot the video. You have very few controls to play around with, lenses are nigh impossible and the output may not be in the format you were looking for.

If you’ve got a DSLR, you already have the biggest investment down when it comes to filmmaking. DSLRs(apart from the entry level ones) these days come with a whole host of features even for videographers. Some cameras are so thorough with video that they’re rarely used for stills, like the Panasonic GH4.

AUDIO: Audio is the next most important aspect to take care of after film. In fact, clean audio is sometimes the biggest headache filmmakers have to deal with, because of the number of variables involved. Outside noise, different equipment for the same shot, and so on: all lead to patchy audio.

The built-in mics on your smartphone/camera are rarely good: they’re usually horrible at isolation, so you’ll hear every single thing in your shot. DSLRs somehow overcome this by coming with an audio-in port to plug in a microphone, and that opens up another question: what mic do I get? Even the most basic microphone does not come cheap, starting at north of 4000/- or so. If you decide to buy a recorder and sync the audio separately in post, it gets even more expensive (but also significantly better in quality).

Once you’ve got the mic sorted, pay dear attention to audio levels: the strength of the audio signals that are detected by your recorder. This could potentially make or break your audio.


STABILITY: Stability is EVERYTHING in a film, unless you’re going for the handheld look(which some filmmakers actually do themselves in post production). Directors of big feature films use heavy gimbal systems for a reason: the shot rarely gets shaky. If we’ve stressed about the usage of tripods in photography before, it’s even more crucial when it comes to films.

LIGHTING: If you want all your shots to be equally lit, you need to make sure that you control the lighting. Especially when shooting outdoors. Unless you’re shooting during a predictable season where nothing changes quickly, every shot of yours will be different, making post production more of a headache.

Some basic lighting kits like reflectors, diffusers, flashes etc are budget kit that can go a long way. If you’re feeling creative, things like reflectors can be made at home with nothing but aluminum foil. 

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