Video has become one of the primary methods of communication in our society. Not exclusive to film, TV, music or advertisement, but for everyone and pretty much everything we do, video is a part of it. With services like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, coupled with the fact that almost everyone has a device in their pocket allowing them to communicate with almost anyone, anywhere, at any time, this is more prevalent than ever. I am, of course, talking about mobile phones. Modern day mobile phones are seriously powerful devices that are portable and part of that power comes in its camera technology. This puts video at the fingertips of everyone.
In this article I will be giving some general advice on equipment considerations for video production.
Before we get into the crux of the matter, I would like to give a special mention to planning. Planning is, in my opinion, the most important part of video production or film making. One might think that the actual film content is paramount, but I would argue otherwise. How are you going to film anything if you don’t know what, where or how you are going to film?
Without an idea of what to expect on a shoot comes a great increase in the possibility for things to go wrong. Often you only have one chance to get what you need so you should be prepared. Create a shot list, have a rough storyboard and write an itinerary to keep yourself on track. Thinking about these things before going out on a shoot will help you greatly and make for a smoother more productive video shoot.
The first thing everyone is thinking is probably, ‘I need a camera’. I would agree, you absolutely need a camera. Which camera though, is possibly the more important question.
My answer, which has always been my answer, is use whatever you have at your disposal. It would be fabulous if we could all get Red Epics or Arri Alexas, proper cinema quality cameras. Unfortunately, those are extremely expensive cameras and not everyone can afford to use these. I take the view that if you want to create then you should, don’t let the fact that you don’t have the best or latest equipment inhibit that. Create if you want to create.
There is one thing that people can use that they probably already have on their persons right now: a mobile phone. Mobile phone technology has leapt forward in the last ten years and part of that is advances in camera sensor and lens technology. I believe that the camera in most current mobile phones will produce a better picture than dedicated camcorders would’ve produced ten or even five years ago. So don’t be afraid to use it. Just please film in landscape, there are some cases where portrait is appropriate to film in, but the majority of the time, landscape is king.
Really a camera and a microphone are the only things you need to create video content. The other equipment is secondary, it’s valuable and useful to have, but not necessary. A mobile phone covers both those so, if you have one, you are set to start creating video.
If you would like to step up your game, then there are a few other pieces of equipment you might want to consider investing in.
Firstly, an external microphone. A mobile phone does have a microphone built in, but it is normally not of the best quality and often the camera won’t be placed right next to the subject, so it will be picking up a lot of other sounds in the vicinity as well as your subject. Getting a microphone that is a bit more directional like a label or clip mic will help with this. A clip mic is exactly that; a microphone that you can clip onto clothing. It brings the microphone closer to the subject speaking and is directional so will be better at picking up just their voice.
A tripod may also be a good addition to your equipment collection. Holding your camera in your hands comes with its own set of problems, stability being a big one. Even holding the camera close to your body and close to your own centre of gravity will still introduce some camera shake. Putting your phone on a tripod will remove this. You can get fairly low-cost tripods that have phone mount adaptors and which are lightweight.
The third and final equipment consideration I will talk about in this article is lighting. This is quite a dense topic, so I won’t go into detail about it. Just know that it is something to consider and you can get good information online about basic video lighting setups, the most common one being the three point lighting setup. This, as the name suggests, uses three lights to light a subject in a flattering manner. It is pretty much the base of most, if not all, lighting setups. Learning that will be a useful skill.
In summary, all you need is a camera and a microphone to make video. Your mobile phone is more than good enough, but if you want to step up your video production game, then think about investing a little into some equipment to aid your video journey.
University of the Highlands and Islands
The University of the Highlands and Islands offers a range of courses with links to video production skills, including BSc (Hons) in interactive media and a BA (Hons) in contemporary film making in the Highlands and Islands. To find out more about our courses, visit www.uhi.ac.uk/en/courses