Film School 101: Camera Setup

6 minutes

Thomas Kim
Film School 101

Building the know how and support to run a virtual business doesn't happen overnight. The good news though is that the wisdom you've distilled from running an in-person practice still applies. With your virtual practice, the initial hurdle to overcome is selecting the right technology for you, such that it's reliable and doesn't get in the way.

Said differently, what I want to leave you with is comfort in selecting a trusty camera setup and a few basics on how to light your space and capture sound in it. Everything else is just extra bells and whistles that you and, most importantly, your audience doesn't really need. After all, nobody's expecting you to be Quentin Tarantino here.

Camera setup

The most important part. People keep saying that mobile phones are replacing larger digital cameras or "DSLRs" for you photography aficionados. There may be some truth to that. Mobile phones are certainly easier to use. So, I'm going to cover different options to accommodate different budgets.

Keep it basic (budget)

The phone in your pocket. It might feel weird to film your work on a phone. But, most phones now are really good at recording and playing video. And let's be honest, they are the simplest to operate. Furthermore, we all know the basics to taking good photos and videos (thank you social media).

Mobile phones have a good angle of capture. This is just a fancy way of saying that videos on your phone won't crop off a lot of what you film. This is helping for when filming just your face or your entire body. Phones are now really light, which makes it easy to set them up in different angles.

Best phones for filming - iPhone X and up, Samsung Galaxy S8 and up. If your phone can shoot HD 1920 X 1080, you're set. Note: you can check what kind of video your phone shoots by googling your model and typing in "video quality" next to the model.

Pros: cheap (you probably already have one), ease of use, lightweight, favorable lens width and decent audio (depending on model)

Cons: inferior quality compared to cameras, fixed lens (can't change lenses like on a digital camera), audio can be tricky if you're using wired earphones.

Top shelf (treat yo self)

Using a DSLR will bump your video quality to WOW levels, but to be clear, it comes with a price tag. For some of you, investing in a DSLR doesn't make sense right now. For others, you feel like the video quality is worth it and that your work will pay off the investment in due time. If you want to make the investment, here are a few suggestions for reasonably priced, high-quality cameras.

Canon EOS M100 Mirrorless Camera w/ 15-45mm Lens - Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and NFC Enabled (White)

Canon EOS Rebel T7 DSLR Camera with 18-55mm Lens | Built-in Wi-Fi|24.1 MP CMOS Sensor |DIGIC 4+ Image Processor and Full HD Videos

The key thing to look for is that the camera shoots Full HD video and that the autofocus is functioning. If those two things are true, then your camera setup just got upgraded.

Pros: Extremely clean video quality, interchangeable lens length

Cons: Price can be high, heavier, takes some time getting used to using

Lens lengths

A brief note before we wrap on something I know your talking about in your DMs -- lens length. As long as your camera lens has a length of 15 - 50 mm, you're good to go. To be versatile, a zoom lens between 15 - 50 mm is great. But, a fixed length lens works too.

One good rule of thumb is that a 50mm length lens is about the same as how we see with our own human eyes. A lens that is smaller in length will provide wider angles (also creatively called wide-angle lenses). Wide-angle lenses can be fun and produce interesting images. However, they can also distort proportions.