Essential equipment to buy for documentary filmmakers
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Critics and moviegoers have rightly recognized documentaries as essential contributions to the art of filmmaking. The best documentaries can be just as captivating as narrative films, even if they cost a fraction of the budget. And honestly representing your subjects, while making a statement about the world at large, is what sets great documentary makers in a class of their own.
Documentary makers often need to prioritize things like portability, battery life, weight, and discretion when selecting equipment. At the same time, a great filmmaker will never want to sacrifice picture or sound quality. With these considerations in mind, we’ve rounded up some of the best gear for documentary makers, including cameras, microphones, and mounts that offer a mix of flexibility and quality.
All film sets have long days, but on Hollywood productions a lot of that time is spent preparing shots and making adjustments. A day of shooting a documentary film can be just as long, but the camera will be rolling most of the time. Because you are documenting life as it goes, you are forced to make some sacrifices to make sure the camera keeps rolling.
While the list below is primarily for onsite documentaries, content creators will also find much of this gear very useful. If you are using moving pictures to tell stories, these items will come in handy. See below for essential equipment for documentary makers, and for more buying suggestions, read our list of the best cameras for every budget and the best camera accessories.
Panasonic LUMIX DC-GH5 4K Digital Camera
If camcorders aren’t for you, a good old-fashioned DSLR will be more than enough. The Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5 is one of the most portable cameras on the market, making it easy to shoot even distant documentaries. It’s small enough that you might not even notice it was a film camera, and journalists will appreciate its excellent photo ability. But it can shoot in 4K at 60 frames per second without any cropping and has in-body stabilization, making it a great choice for filmmakers. All of this for under $ 1,500 is a purchase you can’t afford not to make.
Magnus TR-13 Travel Tripod
It is always good to invest in a tripod. Perfect for on-the-spot shooting, the Magnus TR-13 Travel Tripod with Dual-Action Ball Head features an Arca-type compatible quick-release plate and a head with a separate locking button for the bullet and another for 360 degrees. pan. There is also a notch on the side of the ball head that allows you to place a camera at a 90 degree angle. The tripod has foldable legs and supports DSLR, mirrorless, and point-and-shoot cameras weighing up to 13.2 pounds.
Sony MDR-7506 Headphones
Headphones are essential to all kinds of cinematic achievements. Sony’s MDR-7506 headphones are among the best budget options for filmmakers. Designed for strength, comfort and functionality, the MDR-7506 professional headphones come with a protective pouch and a gold-plated 3.5mm / 6.3mm UnimatchTM adapter. These headphones are used daily on everything from film sets to broadcast and recording studios.
SanDisk Pro 128 GB UHS-I SD Card
Memory cards are other little must-haves that you might forget. Luckily, it’s easy to refuel some of the SanDisk Extreme Pro memory cards. The brand’s most powerful UHS-I SD memory card is perfect for recording 4K UHD videos, as well as capturing action photos (shooting speeds up to 90MB / s and UHS Speed Class 3) in stunning high resolution. Because your pace doesn’t slow down after you leave the set, SanDisk Pro offers transfer speeds of up to 170MB / s for a faster post-production workflow. You can also add an external hard drive to your cart and don’t forget to check out our list of essentials for video editing.
Shimoda Explorer 30 Backpack
Of course, you will need something to carry all of your gear. The multifunctional adventure bag from Shimoda has easily accessible compartments on the back and on the sides. The adjustable torso height makes it suitable for adults of different heights, besides being waterproof, sturdy and can withstand rain, mud and a range of camera lenses. For more options, check out our list of the best camera bags.
Sennheiser EW 112P G4 Portable Wireless Lavalier Microphone System
At less than a quarter the cost of more expensive options like the Lectrosonics ZS-LRLT, these portable microphones are a steal while still delivering professional-quality sound. Sennheiser has prioritized portability on these models, and the result is a very portable and stripped-down gear that records excellent omnidirectional sound. Looking for more variety? Check out our list of the best microphones.
Movo Photo WMIC70 Camera-Mt Omni Lavalier Wireless Microphone System
If you are on a tight budget (no one dashes into documentaries for money) the Movo Photo WMIC70 is an amazing option for audio recording. This wireless tie system costs less than the boom on many larger productions, but still produces sound clear enough to tell honest, high-quality stories. By definition, documentary is one of the more accessible genres of filmmaking, so it’s a great gift for someone who is just starting to explore the craft.
Ikan Flyweight DSLR Shoulder Mount Kit
Tripods work well for interviews, but when trying to capture the story as it happens, you need the flexibility to move around with the action. While there are a variety of stabilizers available for filmmakers (check out some of our favorites here), mounting your camera on your shoulder is one of the best options for documentary makers. And during long documentary shoots where you don’t have the luxury of stopping, weight is essential. This DSLR Shoulder Mount Kit is one of the lightest options out there, making it an easy choice for people who shoot documentaries. Take one today and your joints will thank you.
Sony XDCAM PXW-FS7 Professional camcorder with Super 35 camera system
Documentary makers often rely on camcorders for their ease of use and extremely long battery life. And if you don’t have the luxury of taking long breaks to reset and recharge the batteries, these are fantastic options. The Sony XDCAM PXW-FS7 is one of the smoothest camcorders you can find, and while it is out of the budget of some amateur filmmakers, professionals can guarantee that it is the one. best value for money on the high-end market. It can shoot in 4K at up to 60 frames per second and can go a bit higher if you add aftermarket accessories. This means that you can use it for non-documentary projects as well and it will more than just hold up. Many filmmakers who use camcorders are happy to sacrifice the “cinematic look” in exchange for increased ease of use, but the incredible resolution of this Sony camera means you never even have to choose between the two. .
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