What You Need for a Short Film

Whether you’re needing to film just about anything, or putting together a professional short film, what you need remains the same. It’s essential to have the right equipment and crew, and MPS is here with some tips to help.


photo by Justina Brandt


The Camera

When budgeting, you should set aside the biggest portion of money for a camera. This is because you always want to have the highest quality of footage as possible. If the camera quality is poor, then you don’t really have a film.


A good film camera can shoot at any camera quality. You always want to be shooting at least 1080p video resolution, but it’s a bonus if the camera you buy allows you to shoot in 4k, or even 8k. Likely, if you are just starting out in film, you wouldn’t necessarily buy a camera that shoots 8k, because those cameras cost thousands of dollars.

If you are buying a camera, you also want to have multiple different lenses. You most definitely want to have a 24 mm for a close up, 55 mm for a medium, and an 80 mm lens. You also should have a zoom lens so the depth the camera can see is interchangeable.

You should also consider getting camera mounts; the most important camera mount to have is a tripod, which you could buy either on amazon or from wherever you bought your camera. You need to make sure that the tripod is compatible with your camera. Otherwise, you won’t be able to fit the camera on. After you have a tripod, you can explore other mounts such as dollies, gimbals, jibs, etc. In order to decide what to buy next, you need to envision more types of shots you would like to see.

If you like a smooth, left to right movement; then the dolly is for you. There are multiple different types of dollies, i.e. a dana dolly; so be sure to research which one is right for you. If you like to do handheld shots, then the gimbal is for you, as the gimbal is a mechanism that stabilizes your shots. If you like to do bird's eye views or harsh pans, then the job is for you. You can attach the camera onto the crane-like device, and then you have a ton of flexibility to pan in any direction or to have it stable at any angle.


Actors and Crew

Actors and crew are a very important component of your film, as you want to make sure they are good. The film is only as good as it’s actors and crew, as actors portray exactly how the characters feel, and the crew makes sure nothing goes haywire.

A good resource to find actors and crew is backstage.com. Backstage.com is a great medium as you can set a budget for each role or job, and collect submissions through the website. There are other websites that may act as a medium, however, backstage.com is the most credible one.


Lighting

Lighting helps your short film look it’s greatest. There are many options and tools for lighting, and everything is dependent on where you shoot the scene.

Soft boxes are a great, low-cost option. They are durable and easy to carry around, as they are lightweight. It is fairly easy to set up with them, as they are often wireless.

LED lights are another great option. If you want a higher quality one, then they could get pretty pricey. LED lights are often better than soft boxes as you can adjust the amount of light. The LED lights often have key and fill options.

If you are shooting outside, bouncing boards are an amazing option. Bouncing boards ‘bounce’ sunlight into the scene. They are very cost friendly, and the easiest to carry!


Editing

There are many editing softwares out there, and it’s hard to pick the best one. At the end of the day, everything comes down to which editing software is the easiest for you. You can do pretty much anything on any software, but the layouts and where to find things are different. The best two softwares are Final Cut Pro X, or Adobe Premiere Pro, however, there are plenty more low-cost options out there

Final Cut Pro X is an extremely powerful editing software, and it is from apple. You can either get a subscription to it, or pay for it all at once. One of the biggest upsides to the software is that they autosave.

Adobe Premiere Pro is the industry standard for editing. You need to buy a subscription to Adobe, and they will charge you every month for it. Unlike Final Cut Pro, your work does not autosave, meaning if the program crashes, you can lose your work.


Microphones

If there is one thing that you take away from this article, please let it be to never trust camera audio. No matter how good the camera is, you always need a microphone to back it up. There are three main types of microphones: boom, lavalier, and shotgun.

Boom microphones are, in my opinion, the best of the three, as you can focus on an individual area rather than the whole set. Opposite from Boom microphones, shotgun microphones are rather basic and pick up whatever audio comes their way. Lavalier microphones are used for television and theater, as they are small microphones that attach to the actor’s clothing or get taped on. These microphones are not good for films.


Film is a learn as you go type process; this may seem overwhelming to you now, but if you have the right actor’s and crew, film making can be very enjoyable.


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