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What Gear Do I Need To Get Started With Video?

Written by Scott
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Our Head of Videography, Scott Ninness, gives an introduction into some of the equipment that content producers can make the most of when starting out with video. He touches on drones, the DJI Ronin, Canon’s famous 5D Mark IV DSLR camera, and more…

See below for a full transcription of the video.



Lee: So everyone has a video camera in their pocket. We all know, we all carry a mobile phone. Every mobile phone within the last two years is capable of shooting in HD. More recent phones shoot in 4K, so straight away you’ve got an advantage. You can create right off the bat. You don’t need to necessarily have a big expensive camera, £1,000, £2,000 worth of camera to get going. You can do quality video straight off the bat using your mobile phone.

Just to reinforce that fact, Steven Soderbergh’s been quoted at this year’s Sundance festival saying that he’s done directing mainstream movies using big cameras and big equipment and he’s going to shoot purely using iPhones. Unsane, his latest movie which is due to come out shortly, was a $30 million budget and was shot entirely on iPhone. Some of his other films include things like all the Ocean’s 11, 12, 13, and the Magic Mike’s. So this guy is used to working with hundreds of millions of dollars but it doesn’t necessarily mean that you need that, which is proved by him using just iPhones. 

So although everyone has the power to create, having the right gear and tech dramatically improves the production quality. Using better cameras, using things like drones and larger equipment does help the production quality. So we’re going to take you through a couple of bits. I’m going to introduce Scott Ninness, our Head of Video, and he’ll talk you through some of the tech that we’ve got here today and just give you a little bit of background on how that can help with getting higher quality content out. 

Scott: First off, I don’t want to teach anyone how to suck eggs. So are there any content producers in the room just so I know before I start this back and forth? Right, so as Lee said, the most important thing for me when filming is making sure there’s emotive. It doesn’t matter if it’s a go pro, it’s an iPhone, it’s a Samsung, it’s a Red, whatever. It has to be emotive. And that doesn’t just mean for the client, there has to be a purpose for shooting. 

Now, gear wise, I’m a proper gear head, so if you all kind of zone off in the next ten minutes then I do apologize, but I kind of go through rough kind of overview of kind of where we are like tech-wise at the moment with cameras. Lee touched on the 4K ability which is great, but from I’m guessing kind of a mainstream social media, it’s still kind of not there. Certainly not for me, you know, in my experience. 

So I’ll start kind of at this end with this little fellow. Awesome, this is an awesome little bit of gear. Now, I think from certainly my experience in shooting on GoPro, it’s more first person. Kind of the storytelling, the documentary, fly on the wall, that kind of thing. You’re not going to be shooting a feature level film on this kind of thing, but they are incredible and just a couple hundred quid. So if you lose them, no biggie. 

Drones, I don’t know if any of you have got a drone. These things I hate to swear, fucking horrible, I hate them. I absolutely hate them. Now, don’t catch them while running. They’re horrible. So I thought loads of hype over drones the last few years in the UK. I thought, “Right, I need to get one,” so I kind of got the first one out from DJI. And I thought, “Right, I need to test this. This is going to absolutely change my game plan in shooting.” Has it? A little bit. If you’re, I don’t know if you know him, Peter McKinnon. He’s like the guru god in terms of kind of blogs and vlogs at the moment, and he’s really a kind of a drone guy, for those big cinematic pans of kind of things. 

For me when I shoot, uhm. Do clients love them? Oh my god, yeah. You show them a drone and they’re literally wetting themselves. Do they know what it is? No, they just know it flies and probably takes out a couple of pigeons on the way. If you can get one of those shots into a reel for them, they’re like, “Oh my god, that was the shot we needed”. When really you’ll have been on your back in the grass, covered in bird poop somewhere trying to get this one low angle shot that has taken you three days to get and all they want is this cinematic drone shot. Why bother? 

So in terms of drones for me, I hate them. Clients, they love them, absolutely love them because as a video producer, it gives you that ability to get an angle you just cannot get unless you’re freakishly tall. 

Piloting them. Now, in the UK there’s been a new… well, it has been for a while whether you wanted to get away with it or not. There’s a new legislation so you have to go and take the pilot’s license for a drone. It’s not so much of a test, it’s kind of a … how do I say? If anyone’s ever been on a speed awareness course? No, okay just me? Then it’s kind of like that. It’s kind of like a day-long seminar on the basics on how to pilot, go through kind of aviation law, where you can fly them and where you can’t fly them, how really you should be operating them in safe environments, that kind of stuff. They don’t really go over any of the video or cinematic principles of a drone at all. They don’t care if it’s a fun drone, if it’s an Octodrone. They don’t care, it’s literally a drone. So now if you want to fly a drone you need a license, it’s that simple. It doesn’t matter if it’s a tiny little DJI Spark or the new Air, you need a license. Certainly commercially. So that’s my view on drones. 

The golden child. This for me in the last two years has absolutely changed the video game for mid-level content producers. Now, this kind of gets up cost-wise, a couple of thousand, which may seem like a lot. Now old school, five or six years ago, I would’ve been getting in dolly rigs and so on, to kind of get something similar to what this kind of gear can achieve. It is absolutely bar none the best gear out there in that price range at the moment, it is phenomenal. I mean, we use it quite a lot, it is just absolutely awesome. It gives you that ability… I mean, I tend to shake quite a lot just because I like coffee, so this for me is incredible. This even makes my video work semi-decent, and then the rest is done in edit. It is phenomenal. And is it hard to master? Two years in, still haven’t mastered it, but it’s improved my video game. 

Camera gear. I’m sure you’ve all got a DSLR, most people have them in their pocket now. So stills-wise, not really going over that but most stills cameras now can shoot incredible video. I’m sure you all know that anyway, so we’ll go on to this. Canon 5D Mark IV, for me, the Canon range is still the best one to consider for video in that price range before kind of getting on to the likes of where you’re getting into big, big cinematic budgets. So for me, this is really my kind of go-to camera in any form of video. 

So then, probably I don’t know unless you’re a content producer, it’s always the glass. If you’re going to invest money, always go glass. Always 100% go glass. By glass I mean the lens. So a camera may cost you £2,000. Spend double that on your lenses. Honestly, it’s the most important investment you will make in your gear, bar none. Will the clients see a difference? 100%. And that just doesn’t mean from this. It means from your drones if you have interchangeable lenses on your drones, go for the higher price bracket lenses. It honestly makes the world of difference.

In terms of this as a kind of like a combined, you’re probably looking at around £4,500-5,000. Then with a decent lens, maybe up to £6,000. However, two or three years ago that probably with similar style equipment and probably an operator that would have to operate the gimbal for me and I would maybe doing it remotely, would be double if not triple to get similar kind of shots.

So that’s kind of an overview of the gear. I mean, I could totally go into the each of the gears, but honestly, I think it would bore you absolutely senseless. The other thing for video which I think is probably the most important thing from a client point of view is lighting, which is the hard bit. If you’re outside, you can’t control it, if you’re shooting natural light I mean. Now if you’re in a studio, we can obviously use daylight balance lights or whatever it may be. 

So for video, this is fantastic for that, whether it’s outside, inside, controlled lighting, not controlled lighting. Going back down the range to this little fellow [GoPro], this is…well, it’s shit in terms of lighting. It’s really just not great. If you’re a blogger, vlogger, great, it’s going to get you content and you can kind of, as most people do now, muddle it together in post and try and kind of fix the lighting, the dynamic range. And they are getting better, you know, that’s a Hero 4. The Hero 5 is actually way better than that. 

In terms of drones, again lighting is a big factor and that’s why, you know, most of the time you see all these in all these ad commercials and certainly the ones we shoot, we tend to shoot at what we call golden hour which is when the light is just way better, if you’ve got it. It tends to not happen that much in the UK because we’ve got shitty cloud. 

So I think really in terms of gear, that’s probably as much as I can kind of bore you with. But I’ll open it up, I’m sure you’ve probably got some specific questions when it comes in terms of gear, what you should be using, what you shouldn’t be using, where should I be looking for help, who should I not be listening to. Questions, no? 

Audience: What about sound?

Scott: Sound? Yeah, for me, we kind of do as much of that kind of off-camera as possible. In all honesty, it goes from lighting, gear, sound. Which sounds ridiculous but it’s kind of just the way we work it. Depends if you’re doing some talking heads then great light mics like these guys are wearing today, perfect. If you’re doing a more bigger production with multiple people talking over each other, then you’re going to look into booms which are you know again, just bigger versions of this. 

Audience: What about mirrorless cameras?

Scott: Mirrorless? There’s always got to be one hasn’t there. Android, iPhone. They’re awesome. Like the new Sony’s, incredible, the Olympus is incredible. It’s personal preference. When it comes to cameras, there’s always a big debate. So like I remember moving from Nikon to Canon. When I first picked up a Canon, I don’t know three years ago, I felt like I was cheating on my Mrs. It felt dirty in my hands, I didn’t like it, I wanted to put it down, it felt horrible. I actually had a go on the new Sony about three or four months ago, I have to say I was quite tempted. It’s an awesome piece of kit, but again with the right lenses. So I would always go with the native lenses. If you’re going on a mirrorless system like a Sony, don’t go for the other kind of Tamron lenses or even Canon. Stick with Sony lenses because they have different fittings and different connections which can be a little bit slower when you’re going through your auto-focus which with video is really important. So mirrorless, I think they’re awesome as well but this at the moment, I’m not prepared to cheat on just yet. 

Audience: What are the golden hours for lighting?

Scott: So in the UK, never, because it’s shit. Normally, you’ve got first thing in the morning so you’ve got literally just as the sun’s creeping up. The only way I can explain it is if I’m facing the sun, it’s kind of where it’s flat in my face. You want those very kind of flat, really long shadows, I mean really really long. So you’re not having to do… lighting is expensive, really really expensive. Lighting on a set can push your budget up three, four, even five times. It’s incredible. So shooting at those times is going to save you money if you can be bothered to get out of bed. That’s the only problem. And you also have the reverse, so you have it in the evening as well. Slightly different shadows but works just as well. Obviously, in the UK, it’s a little bit different because you’ve got so much cloud cover all the time. Abroad, it’s a little bit better. 

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