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New Cinematographer's Equipment Checklist


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#1 Kevin Klein

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Posted 23 September 2006 - 04:59 PM

Any of you guys/gals help me with the basic equipment someone starting in cinematography should have? From lights to c-41's.
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#2 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 23 September 2006 - 06:10 PM

Any of you guys/gals help me with the basic equipment someone starting in cinematography should have? From lights to c-41's.


Are you looking to fill a 40' trailer or just enough to shoot an interview with? :unsure:


I'll take a stab at an answer and suggest that you don't really need to buy anything on your own. If you're just starting out, you're likely shooting low budget projects for little to no money. The last thing you want to do is spend money to finance someone else's project.

However, if you really DO want to buy something, like a camera, keep in mind that any equipment you do get will determine the kinds of clients who hire you (and subsequently will determine the kinds of projects you will work on).

So if it was me, I'd first think about what kind of projects you'd like to aim for. Narrative? Sports? Documentary? Industrial? Entertainment? Marketing? Music video? etc?

The camera selection is as wide as the types of productions that you can work on. I'm guessing here (and anyone else can pop in to correct me) but here's how I'd lay out the markets for different cameras:

8mm: specialty camera for other projects, but not primary equipment
16mm: low budget narratives, documentary subjects, music video
35mm: depending upon the camera...low budget to high budget narratives, music video
small format HD: low budget narratives, documentary subjects, music video
HD: low budget to high budget narratives, music video, documentary subjects
standard def video: broadcast and non-broadcast industrial, documentary subjects, news

If you choose to shoot film, you do need to have some kind of incident light meter. You might also buy some gloves if you'll be handling lights on your own.

Lights? Depends entirely on what you plan to illuminate. The larger and more complicated the space, the more you'll need. You'll also need a sufficient amount of Grip and Electric gear to compliment the lighting package. And that's c-47s, not C-41s. :)

Camera accessories: Quality tripod no matter what camera you put on it. Matte box and filters. Batteries. Those are the basics.

Broad question. If you can narrow your parameters down a bit, I'm sure that we'll be able to help you out a little more specifically. :)

Edited by Brian Dzyak, 23 September 2006 - 06:11 PM.

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#3 Chayse Irvin

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Posted 23 September 2006 - 09:40 PM

Any of you guys/gals help me with the basic equipment someone starting in cinematography should have? From lights to c-41's.


Hear are some handy tools: Incedent meter, Spot meter, Viewfinder, 18% Gray Card, Gray Scale, Color Chart, Contrast finder, and lots of books.
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#4 Kevin Klein

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Posted 24 September 2006 - 12:39 AM

First, thanks for the long response. Let me specify: shooting low budget narrative's and music videos. Camera is a given...I'm thinking smaller items, things that you need to help you out of a tight situation...things that have universal/multiple uses like c-stands, or any type of tool, etc.
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#5 Drew Hoffman

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Posted 28 September 2006 - 01:28 PM

Personally, I'm not sure I'll ever be fully satisfied with the equipment in my bag, there's always one more tool or something that I know would come in handy at some point. Really, the first tool you should get is multitool like a Leatherman or a Gerber. If you're doing low budget stuff, you're going to want electric gear as well. Gloves are a must, get some mechanic gloves or some type that offers both protection and flexibility. Get a multimeter and a voltage detector, this will help you solve electric problems a lot faster. Cube taps are always handy to have. Get a few basic tools pliers, screwdrivers, vice grips, flash light, tape measure. Personally, it's mostly been about trial and error. I've been on set and something came up where boy if only I had [blank], or I saw somebody using something that I know would be useful. I'll add it to my bag and have it for the next time. I don't see things like c-stands as necessary to own. They're about $150 a piece, it depends on who you talk to but especially for people without a lot of money to spend, I think it's better to rent. A c-stand from a rental house is like $5 a day and you should discuss that with whoever's in charge of the money on the production. Having your own equipment like a light package and a collection of grip gear isn't a bad thing and is certainly convenient. It's just harder for beginners to buy all of that equipment. Also, make sure whoever's hiring you knows that you have your own equipment and therefore charging a higher rate. It'll be in there best intrest to pay you more money and avoid paying more money to rent the gear.
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