The 25+ Best Filmmaking Tools for Creative Professionals [2024]

filmmaking tools

Filmmaking may rely on creativity and vision, but your talent won’t go anywhere without the right tools to help you actually make your film.

As an indie filmmaker myself (and a bit of a perfectionist), I’m always looking for the best equipment and software to help me make my movies the best they can possibly be.

I know that film festivals and audiences are looking for both great storytelling and amazing visuals, and I want to make sure my films stand out!

So, to help out beginning indie filmmakers, I’ve curated a list of the 25+ best filmmaking tools that I’ve either used personally or have seen others use from my years in the industry. We’ll look at everything from basic video equipment (like cameras, tripods, and film lights) to advanced pre- and post-production software.

After you’ve read this article, you should have an idea of what tools you might want to invest in, depending on where you are in your filmmaking career.

This post may contain affiliate links, which means I’ll receive a commission if you purchase through my links, at no extra cost to you. Please read full disclosure for more information.

infographic on the stages of making a film

What Are the Best Filmmaking Tools?

When I was first starting out as an independent filmmaker, I learned that the most important tools were things like cameras, lights, audio mixers, microphones, and pre and post-production software.

If you’re a beginning filmmaker, take a look at the items below to learn what you might want to invest in when you make your movie. Not everything is required at first, though, so shoot me a message if you’re wondering about something specific!

Camera Equipment

The first thing you’re going to need when you make a movie is a good camera.

1. DSLR and Mirrorless Cameras

film camera

Digital video cameras are the bread and butter of your filmmaking equipment. It’s hard to talk about filmmaking and photography without mentioning DSLR (digital single lens reflex) and mirrorless cameras.

Both video cameras work under the same principle – light passes through the lens and into the camera body, creating an image on the sensor.

The footage you get is comparable, but the significant difference is that a mirrorless camera has no mirror inside to reflect the light into the optical viewfinder.

Find the right balance for your needs in terms of price, picture quality, and resolution while also avoiding battery life issues, overheating, and autofocus hiccups. You should also invest in a high-quality camera bag or case to protect your video camera when you’re not using it.

Camera Recommendations
Cost of Video Cameras

Cameras come in all price ranges, averaging at about $2,000-$8,000+.

Best For: Anyone who knows they want to make professional-looking movies. You can start out filming your first few short films with your phone (to see if you even enjoy being a filmmaker), but I recommend using a professional camera ASAP.

Budget Alternatives: Check out your local film cooperative, as you can often rent cameras and film equipment way cheaper than it would be to buy them yourself!

2. Lenses

film camera lens

So, on one hand, you totally can make a short film with just your phone. It’s a great way to get experience with framing, shot types, visual storytelling, and tons of other skills you’ll need to be a professional filmmaker.

However, if you’re looking for tools for making a ‘real’ film, you’ll need a good filming camera—and arguably, the most important part of the camera is the lens!

There’s not really one lens that can do it all. You’ll need to get a collection of basic lenses and then make your way up to more advanced ones.

50mm or 85mm lenses are best for close-up shots, while 35mm are better for wide angles.

Depending on your shot list, you may need to change lenses often, so plan ahead.

Do your homework and find the best lens for the type of industry you’re in. Be sure to store them in a protective case because a good lens can end up costing more than the camera.

Lens Recommendations
Cost of Lenses

Like cameras, lenses have a wide range of prices but can cost around $200-$2,000+.

Best For: Anyone who bought a good filming camera will need to buy at least one lens, and possibly two or more. Some cameras will come with a lens, but to get the best quality and options for framing, you’ll need to get at least one more for close-ups.

Budget Alternative: Again, check with your film co-op to see if they rent camera lenses!

3. Tripod

video camera tripod

Tripods hold your camera in place while giving you basic adjustments for height and tilt.

Cameras can also get pretty heavy to hold during long takes, so keeping it on the tripod is best for the shot and for your arms.

Tripod Recommendations
Cost of a Tripod

The average cost of a basic tripod is around $50 (but ranges from under $20 to $300-ish). It’s one of the cheaper items you can get, but I’ve found that it can make a huge difference to the look of your film.

Best For: Every filmmaker, really. Don’t play around with shakiness in your film unless that’s what you’re going for!

Budget Alternative: Just buy the cheapest tripod you can find. You can often find them used on places like Facebook Marketplace, too.

4. Camera Slider

Motorized camera slider

Camera sliders provide stability and precision while giving an enhanced look to the production value of your video content. They’re a great way to get tracking shots, where the camera moves slowly alongside the subject, or for pushing in slowly during a dramatic monologue to increase suspense.

Motorized camera sliders take it a step further by automating the sliding movement. It sets a consistent speed for smoother motion, which is hard to get if you’re pushing the camera manually.

It’s a great way to get more cinematic-looking footage.

Recommended Camera Sliders
Cost of a Camera Slider

The average cost of a motorized camera slider is $400.

5. Camera Gimbals

camera gimbal

Camera gimbals and stabilizers are great when you need to keep the camera steady during high-speed scenes.

In these scenes, the cameraman usually needs to run and follow the perfect angle, which could cause a lot of shaky footage if you’re holding the camera by hand. Again, slightly shaky footage might be ok for a student production, but you won’t be seen as a professional without having smooth video footage in your film.

This is where camera stabilizers are a huge help to the camera operator – they reduce the shake and provide a steady motion. Gimbals are also very popular for videographers who film weddings or real estate videos because you need to be walking around while filming.

Recommended Camera Gimbals
Cost of a Gimbal

The average cost of a camera gimbal is $600.

Note: You can also get cell phone gimbals if you just want to give filmmaking a try (and it could be useful later for filming a holiday or special event, even if you don’t end up becoming a professional filmmaker!).

6. Video Monitors

video monitor

There are several reasons you’ll need to use video monitors when you’re making a movie.

If you’re a videographer, you’ll probably attach a video monitor to the top of your camera. This lets you see what’s being recorded on a bigger screen with some added tools like highlight clipping, RGB monitors, color charts, etc.

If you’re on a film set, you’ll want to use video monitors for the director and 1st AC to see what the camera is filming. It’s basically just a reflection of the normal camera’s monitor but accessed at a distance for others to view too.

Recommended Video Monitors
Cost of a Video Monitor

The average cost of a video monitor is about $500.

Best For: Professional filmmakers. Beginners, you can do without this at the start.

7. Batteries and Chargers

video camera charger

Most filmmakers rely on portable equipment and cameras that are charged with batteries.

Using all this film equipment on set all day long will drain the batteries fast, so it’s best to keep extra batteries and chargers with you at all times.

Cost of Batteries and Chargers

It depends on what kind of batteries your camera takes, but on average, the cost of two batteries and a charger is about $100.

8. Memory cards

Memory Card

Memory cards are inserted into your camera and used to store the footage you’re shooting.

A higher GB will mean it has more room to store more files, and a higher MB/S means it works faster to process the clips being stored on the card or transfer the files to another storage disk.

Depending on your camera, you’ll be using SD memory cards for DSLR and mirrorless cameras (pictured above), or a CFast memory card for higher-grade cinema cameras.

Recommended Memory Cards
Cost of Memory Cards

The average cost of a fast, large-capacity memory card is about $80.

9. External Hard Drives

external hard drive, portable storage, portable hard drive

Once you fill up your memory card with footage, you’ll want to dump it onto two external hard drives – one as a backup in case anything happens to the first.

Similar to the memory card, you’ll want to have an external drive that is fast, reliable, and can hold a lot of footage. Especially with long days on set, having a fast drive will give you a lot more time that can be better spent on shooting footage rather than waiting for files to transfer.

Recommended External Hard Drives
Cost of an External Hard Drive

The average cost of a 2TB external hard drive is $110.

I always recommend having more storage space with you on-set than you think you’ll need. Ask me how I know…

Audio Equipment

Unless you’re making a silent movie, you’ll need this gear to generate great audio:

10. Microphones

filming microphone

You can rely on multiple types of microphones for your scenes. A boom mic, or a pole with a shotgun microphone, gives great sound quality and is what’s used in most feature films.

You may also want to use a Lavalier mic, or a wireless microphone, if you’re on a lower budget. These mics clip onto the inside of the actor’s clothing and remain invisible to the camera.

Pro tip: You won’t want to skimp on microphones because bad sound is the first sign of an amateur film.

Recommended Microphones
Cost of a Microphone

The average cost for a quality boom mic is $200, while the average cost of good wireless lavalier mics is about $300.

11. Headphones

headphones for filming

Don’t forget to use high-quality headphones to listen to the sound during film production.

Back in my early days, we trusted that the microphones were working well as we filmed and it wasn’t until playing back the footage the next day that we noticed a lot of extra noise being picked up on set.

From then on, I always made sure that the director and boom operator were wearing noise-canceling headphones while we filmed.

Recommended Headphones
Cost of Noise-Canceling Headphones

The average price of good noise-canceling headphones ranges from about $200-$300.

12. Recorders

external audio recorder

Not every camera has the ability to record sound (this surprised me when I first started!).

And when you’re using a boom mic, you’ll need somewhere for the mic to plug in so you can record the sound files onto a memory card.

This is where external audio recorders are a fantastic tool. They typically have a lot of customizable audio controls directly on the recorder, making it easy to adjust levels while filming.

Recommended Recorders
Cost of a Recorder

The average cost of a quality audio recorder is about $130.

13. Audio Mixers

audio mixer

Sometimes you might want more customizable audio controls than what you have on a recorder.

In other cases, you might have multiple boom mics and lavalier mics recording during a scene and you want to combine all the tracks as they’re recorded.

A great audio mixer is a device that combines multiple audio signals from each mic and gives optimal adjustments for the levels. It can also seamlessly blend various sound effects, music (including AI music!), and dialogue in real time.

Recommended Audio Mixers
Cost of an Audio Mixer

The average cost of a high-end audio mixer is about $500. Don’t skimp on this tool! If you choose to get a mixer, it’s worth it to get a good one.

Lighting Equipment

14. Lights

film lights

Most amateurs rely on natural light to get the job done. But if you’re serious about making a great movie, your best bet is to use standalone lights.

LED panels and COB (Chip on Board) lights are the most common light sources used by both professional and indie filmmakers.

Recommended Lighting Kits
Cost of Lighting Kits

You can find a range of lighting kits for beginners on a budget to advanced professionals, but the average cost for good quality lights is about $300.

15. Diffusers

diffuser for film lights

You know when you take a photo of someone in the sun and they have all those harsh shadows on their face? This could easily be prevented by using a diffuser.

Diffusers produce more natural-looking light by softening the light before it falls on the subject. These are fantastic when shooting outdoors in the daytime because they help soften the harsh bright light from the sun.

You can also add a diffuser to the front of your lights using a setup called a softbox.

Recommended Diffusers

Pro Tip: These are recommendations for individual diffusers if that’s what you’re looking for, but typically I would recommend buying a reflector kit (see below) which already comes with a diffuser.

Cost of a Diffuser

You can generally buy diffusers for about $10-$60, depending on the size.

16. Reflectors

filming light reflector

A light reflector is a similar-looking tool to a diffuser, but instead of light going through it, it bounces off and gets reflected.

You can bounce the harsh sunlight back into the shadows on the subject, evening out the lighting in the scene.

Many of the reflector kits come with a diffuser as well.

Recommended Reflectors
Cost of a Reflector

The average cost for a 5-in-1 collapsible reflector ranges from $25-$65 depending on the size you need.

17. Flags and Scrims

light scrim

Many people confuse diffusers with flags and scrims. While all of these tools control the lighting, they are a bit different.

Diffusers soften the light, but flags “shape” the light. A flag can be a solid black or translucent piece of fabric placed in front of a light source to block or shape the light as desired.

Scrims, like diffusers, are used to scatter the light, but the results are somewhat different.

While diffusers soften the light and make it more even, scrims are used to reduce the “harshness” of light on objects.

Recommended Flags and Scrims
Cost of Flags and Scrims

The average cost for a solid scrim flag kit is about $120.

18. Green Screens

clipper, movie, picture

Studio green screens are a great option if you have a permanent space for filming, but if you’re always on the go, a portable green screen might be better for your needs.

No matter which option you choose, green screens are great because they let you add in any background you can imagine. Plus, with the right setup, you can use the green screen for professional-looking special effects.

Recommended Green Screens
Cost of a Green Screen

A good green screen is about $80.

Pre-production Software

These are the tools that you use before shooting a single frame:

19. Scriptwriting Software

Celtx film production software

Scriptwriting software can greatly improve screenwriting efficiency by providing various helpful tools while delivering a professional-level screenplay.

They give shortcuts to quickly type character names, notes, and outlines and make sure you’re following the proper industry format.

Recommended Scriptwriting Software
Cost of Scriptwriting Software

You can expect to pay around $20/month for scriptwriting software.

20. Storyboarding Software

Celtx Storyboarding Templates

Storyboarding software is one of the most commonly used tools in the pre-production stage.

It helps you visualize what your final product can look like by creating and organizing different elements like characters, sound effects, and background.

Recommended Storyboarding Software
Cost of Storyboarding Software

Expect to pay around $10/month for storyboarding software, but there are free programs available as well.

21. Film Scheduling Software

Celtx screenwriting software

Film scheduling software can be the mastermind of your production and filmmaking process. It lets you plan your production phases, shot length, crew hiring, and budget management.

It gives you access to all kinds of features like calendars, resource allocation, and task management.

Recommended Film Scheduling Software
Cost of Film Scheduling Software

The average cost of film scheduling software is around $28/month.

Post-Production Hardware and Software

22. Computer

video editing tips

Pre- and post-production software requires a higher-end computer in terms of processing speed and power, data storage, etc.

If you’re using Final Cut Pro to edit your film, they require a computer running macOS 13.5 or later, 5.9GB free disk space, and a minimum of 8GB RAM for 4K output.

So, make sure you know which software you’ll be using before picking out a new computer.

Recommended Computers for Post-Production
Cost of a Computer

The average cost of a high-speed computer for post-production is about $3,000-$4,500.

23. Color Grading Software

DaVinci-Resolve-18-Blackmagic-Design

Color grading software helps you manipulate the colors of your video. You can adjust the colors to look warmer or colder, brighter or darker. This can really help to create a particular mood or feeling in your finished film.

The 2005 movie, Sin City, is a perfect example of using color grading to set a specific cinematic look for the entirety of the movie.

Pro Tip: Make sure to use a high-resolution, high-refresh-rate computer monitor that is properly calibrated to get the best-looking results.

Recommended Color Grading Software
Color Grading Software Price

DaVinci has a great free option that I personally love to use, but if you’d like to go a paid route, expect to pay around $30/month.

24. Video Editing Software

Adobe Premiere Pro

You’ll definitely need video editing software to cut your footage together. This is non-negotiable for an aspiring filmmaker (and don’t try using iMovie or something like that, at least download the free version of DaVinci!).

These programs allow you to manipulate, cut, merge, enhance, and overlap videos. You can also apply effects to change their overall appearance.

Recommended Video Editing Software

You can also try out one of the newer AI video editing software programs, such as invideo or VEED.io!

Cost of Video Editing Software

Expect to pay around $30/month for editing software, or many people love Final Cut Pro because of their one-time fee of $299.

25. Visual Effects (VFX) Software

Adobe After Effects

Some of the most famous, visually stunning movies of recent years have surprisingly simple sets, especially when you compare them to the visuals of the final product.

Hundreds of the effects you see on screen are generated using VFX (visual effects) software. This kind of software can really help you make your independent films look professional!

These effects can be used in movies, like James Cameron’s latest hit, Avatar: Way of the Water. They can also be used in video games that feature real-life characters, like when Hideo Kojima featured Norman Reedus and Mads Mikkelsen in his unique game, Death Stranding.

Recommended VFX Software
Cost of VFX Software

The average cost of VFX software is around $30/month.

26. Animation Software

AutoDesk Maya

You’ve probably watched movies like Cars or The Incredibles that are made entirely with animation. The voices of the animated characters are the voice acting of real actors.

The movie itself is made entirely using computers by creating and animating still graphics in a 2D or 3D model and manipulated frame by frame.

Animation is a whole topic in itself, and I’d recommend that you take a course, watch YouTube videos, or learn your chosen software from someone who already uses it.

If you want to create animated videos for marketing or social media, you can check out explainer video software or whiteboard animation software.

Recommended Animation Software

You can learn more in my article on the best AI Animation software!

Cost of Animation Software

Animation software has a wide variety of prices, you can find it from $30/month-$250/month.

Final Thoughts

If you’re just starting out as a filmmaker and you’ve never filmed anything, just start on the cheap with your smartphone! It’s a great way to take the bull by the horns and just film something.

If you find that you enjoy filmmaking, maybe check out a local film cooperative if there is one (that’s how I started!), and rent some of this expensive equipment to test out your film skills with a short. See if they offer a local class on filmmaking, or join an online filmmaking course to add to your skills.

If you’re ready to start getting your own equipment together to film something, start with basic tools like video cameras, lighting, and microphones. But keep in mind that not all lenses are best for all scenes, not all software works with all computers, and not all sound-capturing tools can work in every situation.

These days, you might also want to look into AI tools for filmmaking and find out more about the use of AI in film.

Before filming your very first shot, make sure you plan ahead and research the right tools required for the job. It’ll make your job so much easier on that first day of filming!

If you feel that I’ve left something out in this list, please let me know in the comments so that I can be sure to add it to this article!

Filmmaking Tools

Common Questions (FAQs)

How do I determine which filmmaking tools are right for me?

Turn to Google and YouTube! Read reviews online, and try out any software free trials to see what feels right to you.

What should I consider when purchasing filmmaking tools?

Consider your filming genre, the budget, and your level of experience. If you’re just starting, you should look for user-friendly tools that won’t require extensive time to learn. Choose the tools that are scalable and can grow with you!

What are the most important filmmaking tools to have?

The most essential tools are cameras, lenses, stabilizers, lighting and audio equipment, editing software, computers, memory cards, and external hard drives. As for advanced filmmaking gear, you should have a storyboard, film scheduling, and VFX software.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *