How to Spend Money on Gear Wisely in 2017 (Skip the Camera!)

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This one’s for my fellow video production nerds.

Smart people realize that cameras have been solved. This might be why RED’s new product is a phone. Not a camera. Cameras are done. They’re great. Today. And semi-affordable. The huge gap between “great” and what the average DP can afford is pretty much gone, and if you’re still selling yourself based on your camera instead of your work, you are way behind the times.

Put simply, the most important thing is your talent in using the gear. The gear alone doesn’t differentiate you, anymore. Pros can do things with an iPhone that non-pros cannot do, even with a RED Weapon 8K Helium camera.

But say you’re really good at the craft of filmmaking, and you’ve found a cinema camera that fits the way you work and is capable of making pictures that your clients will rave about. And now you want to spend more money and get prettier pictures.

Since cameras are solved, what’s next?

Lighting and lenses. Let’s talk lenses. I’ve been seeing photos online of productions where the “DP” thinks it’s cool to slap a Canon 28-70mm lens onto a RED Epic or Weapon. WTF, guys (and you’re almost all guys, because most female cinematographers I know aren’t so emotionally attached to the idea of looking cool that they’ll cheap out on the lens and go way overboard on the camera body)? You have a lens that’s a stills lens, and yeah it’s a good stills lens, but it’s not a lens made for cinema. Attached to a $50K camera body. It’s like buying a Tesla and putting go-kart tires on it. Yeah, it’ll go, but it’s not optimal. So, if you’ve blown your wad (again, it’s mostly guys here) on a camera body like that, you have to know putting a sub-$2K stills lens on it doesn’t make you look cool, and it doesn’t give you images as good as you should be getting. So, I’d do my research, and maybe start saving for a few good cine style lenses. Visit Duclos Lenses to get started, they’re rad.

Lighting. You know cinematography is painting with light, so it makes sense to drop some coin on a few very expensive, very awesome pro lights. These are often rental items, but if you work as much as I do, you might want to consider buying at least part of your kit.

I’ve been loving the Cineo HSX and Arri Skypanels lately, and pretty much every job we do includes a nice 800 watt HMI as well. I also like LiteMats lately, and all the new Kinoflo LED options are groovy. But that’s commercial stuff. Regardless of the kinds of projects you do, though, having a high-quality lighting kit (including stands and flags and silks, etc., too!), and knowing how to use it are almost more important than the camera.

In summation: Fellow camera nerds, I implore you to stop dropping your inheritances on camera bodies without considering that a great film or commercial or whatever is a holistic endeavor. A great film is a mix of talent, skills & craftspersonship, and the right tools for the job. And maybe, if you’re lucky, a little bit of magic.



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About PatrickOrtman, Inc.

PatrickOrtman, Inc. is one of the top-rated video production companies in Los Angeles and New York City. We make high-end corporate videos, and commercials for TV and digital for clients that include 11 Fortune 500s.