2.1. Equipment and equipment checks

What do I need to film my project?


Technology has advanced to such a stage that the average smartphone now includes a camera with resolution high enough to shoot a film. However, to get acceptable results the actors would have to be close enough to the phone to ensure good sound recording, movement would have to be very limited and lighting would  have to be ideal. To ensure that you maximize your chances of getting a good audio/visual production you should assemble the following basic equipment:

  1. Camera

  2. Tripod

  3. Microphone/s, boom pole and headphones

  4. Lighting


Film production has moved into a digital era and this has brought the cost tumbling down to a level where many more people can afford the necessary equipment. Big budget films are sometimes still shot on 35mm film – at great expense – but even the most die-hard traditionalists are beginning to admit that superb cinematic looking films can be shot on the new generation of digital cameras. One of the key advantages of film was the ability to keep your subject in sharp focus while having the background blurred in soft focus. This is called ‘shallow depth of field’. Early digital cameras couldn’t achieve this. Everything in the picture was in focus, giving the film a ‘home video’ look. As technology has advanced, though, digital video cameras have overcome this problem and many of the blockbuster movies now appearing on our cinema screens are shot digitally.


When choosing a camera you should try to ensure that it has the following attributes:

  1. Rechargeable long-life batteryYou are not always in a position where you can plug in your camera and video cameras without rechargeable batteries can be a problem.

  2. Socket/s for plugging in external microphone/s
    Most cameras come with an ‘onboard’ microphone but this is only effective if the sound your are recording is near to the camera

  3. Good optical zoom lens
    Don’t be fooled by ‘digital zoom’. This is just enlarging the pixels (tiny squares which make up the picture – 1920 x 1080 in high definition video) which leaves your image fuzzy with jagged lines around the edges. Optical zoom, instead, keeps the same number of pixels at whatever distance you zoom.

  4. Records to memory card
    The days of tapes are behind us. Your camera should record to a memory card such as Secure Digital (SD). This makes it easy to transfer into your computer for editing and means that when you are filming and the card in your camera becomes full, you can easily and quickly put a new one in.

  5. Both manual and automatic function controls
    It can be useful to have a camera that automatically sets the controls to capture the images properly but sometimes you want to achieve a certain result and need to set such things as shutter speed and aperture manually.


There are two main tripod types – one for still photography and one for video photography. The video tripods are designed so that, using a lever, they will smoothly pan (turn the camera side-to-side) and tilt (turn the camera up and down). This is essential for your film making. Also ensure that the tripod is robust enough to handle the weight of your camera and that it will extend high enough to film at least at an average person’s eye level. 

Microphone/s,  boom pole and headphones

There are two main microphone types. One type captures the sound in the area directly around the microphone. The other captures sound from the direction in which it is pointed. It is this second type – rifle or shotgun microphones – that we most often use in film making. They are usually attached to a boom pole – an extendable pole that enables the sound recordist to get the microphone as close as possible to the source of the sound. The microphone cable can run directly into the camera or into a separate sound recording unit to by synchronized with the picture later in the editing process.

Another useful possibility is the use of radio microphones. They involve a radio transmitter, which is hidden on or near the person being recorded, with a fine cable attached at the end of which is a tiny microphone. The signal is sent to a receiving unit that is plugged into the camera or sound recording unit.

To monitor the sound being recorded it is essential to have a suitable set of headphones. These should be full-ear headphones for monitoring, not for listening to music. These are the types of headphones often used by professional disc jockeys.


There are two ways to light our film – artificial light and natural light. Artificial lights usually come in the form of camera-top single lights or lighting kits. A basic lighting kit generally includes three lights on stands. They can be positioned in an endless variety of ways to achieve an equally endless variety of looks but can be rather expensive. A workable alternative is one or more halogen lamps on stands such as are used by mechanics in garages.

There are a variety of camera-top lights available but these are more suited to documentary than drama.

To make use of natural light, a light reflector or large piece of white card should be included in your light kit.

Written and Practical Assignment

Assemble the necessary equipment for the project.

List the equipment you have obtained and make a note of why you have chosen each piece.