If you’ve read my philosophy on filmmaking then you know I’m a huge advocate of starting with whatever you have. There are some recommendations I’ll make in upcoming posts once you have some money to invest in some starter gear, but I’d strongly recommend just using what you have at first.
Our first venture into filmmaking really started in 2004 between the arrival of digital point-and-shoot cameras and mini-dv video cameras. Jill and I took a Canon Powershot A70 with us to Paris and took a ton of pictures and video – on the same camera! It was amazing! We later edited a story of our Christmas in Paris in Windows Movie Maker and iMovie that set to music and sent a DVD to family and friends. We started with what we had.
By 2006 we had purchased a small handheld Canon Elura 85 and took that with us to Europe in addition to a Canon Powershot A530. This time around there was a little more intentionality with filming and we captured a number of shots every day to put together a film to once again share with friends and family. We worked with what we had.
A few years later I was on staff at a church that had a Sony HDV camera that allowed us to get creative with sermon illustrations and announcements. We were hooked. Our creativity was limited to church projects and our annual Christmas DVDs dried up, but the on-the-job “training” was invaluable. By 2010, the Canon t2i DSLR was released with full HD recording and it opened up a whole new world of possibilities. We were still mostly confined to church projects, but the small size of the t2i and quality of video changed everything. Throughout the process we worked with what we had. We never stopped creating and never stopped learning.
Now I find myself in a position where I’m creating 15-20 films a year. Most of them are shorts that highlight ministries or churches in our network. I’m blessed with a modest budget that allows me to slowly upgrade my cameras and lenses, but even when I don’t exactly have the gear that I want, I still work with what I have.
Last year I worked on a project with my brother-in-law to highlight their work in Mexico City. Some of the places we visited were quite crowded and known for theft, so I didn’t want to drag my camera and lenses everywhere. I didn’t have my DSLR in the city, but I did have my iPhone. I shot as much as I could around the city with the iPhone and used the DSLR within the walls of the church. About 75-80% of the final project was shot on the iPhone, but hardly anyone would know it.
All that to say, work with what you have. There are so many advances in technology since 2004 that give you sufficient quality for whatever you’re creating. The viewer doesn’t know I shot most of the Mexico City video on my iPhone, because the quality is fantastic and ultimately the message is told. Even with our growth, I feel like we are still in the humble beginning in filmmaking. Every day is something new to learn and a new adventure.
Remember the heart of filmmaking is the story, so get out there and work with whatever you have.