Nov 25, 2009

What Kind of Equipment Do You Use?

One of the most common questions I receive via my YouTube account is 'what kind of equipment do you use'? I always take this as a compliment, however indirect, because it means that someone liked what they saw and now wants to know how to do it for themselves. I also have to take pride in this because I've never considered myself overly technical about filmmaking - instead I approach things from the creative side, concepts and such.

My use of equipment has thus been fairly diverse and made up of what ever was easiest at the time. Starting back in late 2001 I experimented for the first time with digital editing software on the computer, but I had already put in ample time with VCR editing and even had a few cracks at professional dubbing and studio editing equipment thanks to communication technology classes in high school. It makes me feel old to think that I was just starting out on the cusp of what has now become the digital revolution - hello YouTube.

In any case, the equipment I use to day is a personal mix, a hybrid of programs that help me achieve an idea that I often already have in my head. For editing software I bounce between Pinnacle (an Avid program) and Adobe Premiere and Photoshop and shoot with either my small Samsung MiniDV or my larger Sony HDR-FX1 HDV cam. Pinnacle, along with my small Samsung camera, are both inexpensive and versatile tools that allow me to push the boundaries with their user friendly options. Pinnacle especially has been a convincing addition to my arsenal with a long list of customizable options and upgrades that rival the far more pricey pieces of software.

Ultimately I've always believed that it's not so much the equipment you use as it is the story you want to tell. Some of my best projects were shot on D8, a lesser digital format, but it really had no bearing on how the movies were received. Weaknesses can also be strengths when framed correctly - take the Blair Witch Project as an obvious example of getting the most out of very little (from a Hollywood perspective anyway).

I've used the adage many times that anyone can buy a pen and paper but that doesn't mean they'll write a great novel - the same is becoming true for videos. The equipment is becoming more and more affordable, but high resolution doesn't hide a lack of story or concept. Find out what you want to do and find the equipment to match. Part of the challenge is figuring out how to make due - even the big time directors have to learn this lesson.

All this in mind, take advantage of the low cost options available. Like I said, if you've got a great concept or story to tell you can attract just as many interested viewers whether your camera cost $500 or $5000.

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