Filmmaking may rely heavily on imagination and creativity, but your talent won’t go anywhere without the tools that manifest them into reality for everyone to see.
As an indie filmmaker myself, I’m always looking for the best filmmaking equipment and software programs to make my movies the best they can possibly be.
I know that film festivals, competitions, and audiences are looking for the best they can get, and I want to make sure my films stand out! On the various sets of the movies I’ve worked on for the past ten years, I’ve seen tons of different options for tools, from the budget-friendly, put-together tools used by beginning indie filmmakers to the professional tools on union sets.
To that end, in this article, I’ll show you 25+ best filmmaking tools for creative professionals and discuss everything from basic video capturing equipment to advanced pre- and post-production software.
Let’s get into it!
What Are the Best Filmmaking Tools?
The best filming tools are the ones that allow you to capture the moment correctly. Cameras, lights, audio mixers, microphones, and pre and post-production software can be a huge asset to your filming arsenal.
The movie industry may be huge, but it’s never saturated. With the right tools and imagination, you can create art that people will love!
Essential Camera Equipment
When it comes to the right film gear, here are the critical moment-capturing tools you’ll need:
DSLR and CSS Cameras
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 CSC (compact system cameras) 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. While the footage you attain is comparable, the significant difference is that a CSC camera has no mirror inside to reflect the light into the optical viewfinder.
In most cases, cameras like the Panasonic GH series or the BlackMagic Pocket Cinema line can be the jack of all trades that fill all roles. They are low-budget video cameras providing professional-level quality footage that most filmmakers can afford.
The video camera you use will depend on your available budget and the type of footage you aim to capture. For example, scenes of a short documentary movie can be captured even with an iPhone camera.
But fully-fledged features, documentaries, high-quality short films, and more demanding run-and-gun footage require a lightning-fast video camera that can quickly adapt to various situations, something low-end cameras and phone cameras can’t do.
In short, 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 not in use.
You won’t have a 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.
Do your homework and find the appropriate lens for the type of industry you’re in. And much like with the camera itself, be sure to store them in a protective case, as a quality lens can outprice the camera that uses it.
You don’t want your footage to bounce all over the place, especially when taking prolonged wide-angle shots or footage of nature.
A tripod makes your camera steady and also reduces fatigue from carrying it.
Camera mounts serve the same function of steadying your camera as tripods, but they allow the camera to be mounted on other surfaces.
For example, you can mount your camera on a wall, another device, or a car. You can even get a shoulder-mount for action and on-the-go shots!
Stabilizing equipment is essential when you need to keep the camera steady during high-speed scenes. In such scenes, cameramen often need to run and follow the perfect angle, which could cause a lot of undesirable camera shakes.
That’s when a shock mount, shock absorber, or gimbal can be a huge assist. Not only do they reduce the shaking caused by violent movements, but they also reduce acoustic feedback from vibrations coming from surrounding objects like speakers and microphones.
Video monitors allow you to monitor the output from other video-capturing equipment while shooting your film.
This allows you to track how every camera performs and whether you need to change or adjust anything.
Batteries and Chargers
Most filmmakers rely on portable equipment and cameras that are charged with batteries.
With extended use, such equipment can lose power fast, so spare batteries and chargers are often needed to keep things rolling.
Memory cards and external hard drives
A memory card is what stores the daily footage in the camera itself, while a computer or external hard drive is what stores the overall footage for the entire project.
While a good camera typically comes equipped with a basic memory card, it’s a good idea to purchase additional memory for your film, including extra cards and external hard drives, as one will never be enough for a project of any size.
Back up your footage regularly and often, as many projects have been doomed as a result of shooting a film using a single card or external hard drive to store it on.
For example, if the card or drive becomes corrupted or they’re accidentally formatted before the footage is downloaded to another device, the data may be lost forever.
Essential Audio Equipment
Unless you’re making a silent movie, you’ll need this gear to generate great audio:
You can rely on multiple types of microphones for your scenes. For example, a boom mic or a pole with a shotgun microphone provides outstanding sound quality.
You may also utilize a Lavalier mic or a wireless microphone if you’re on a lower budget. Don’t forget to use high-quality headphones to listen to the sound during film production, as fixing sound issues while filming can be the difference between amateur and professional audio.
Not every camera comes with an audio recorder; some don’t even have headphone sockets. That’s why you may need to rely on a portable digital audio recorder to ensure optimum sound quality.
In addition, an external audio recorder doesn’t use up camera memory while recording professional audio.
Sometimes it’s impossible to use all the desired audio while you shoot video. That’s when audio mixers can help.
Essential Lighting Equipment
Here are your lighting options:
Most amateurs rely on the camera light to get the job done. However, if you’re serious about your craft, you can take lighting to the next level by using standalone lights.
LED panels and COB or (Chip on Board) lights are the most common light sources used by both professional and indie filmmakers.
The quickest way to display how diffusers help you is by taking a photo with your phone while the flash is turned on. You’ll notice that the flash is often too bright, making the picture look disturbed and unnatural, especially for close-up shots.
Diffusers can help you produce more natural light by scattering it before it falls on the target object, rendering it smoother and more appealing. Diffusers are essential filmmaking gear.
Flags and Scrims
Many people confuse diffusers with flags and scrims. While all of these tools control the lighting, they do so differently.
Diffusers soften the light but flags “shape” the light differently. A flag can be a 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 render it more even, scrims are more used to reduce the “harshness” of light on objects.
A light reflector is one of the most basic but essential tools in your lighting toolbox.
It allows you to transform a dull-looking shot into a light-rich scene by adding reflected light onto the subject.
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 more suitable for your needs. You can learn more about using a green screen in this tutorial.
No matter which option you choose, green screens offer a variety of benefits, from allowing you to create any background you can imagine to making it possible to film in locations that would otherwise be impossible. Plus, with the right setup, you can achieve seamless and professional-looking special effects.
These are the tools that you use before shooting a single frame:
Scriptwriting software can vastly improve the efficiency of scriptwriters by providing various helpful tools while delivering a professional-level screenplay.
For example, they provide shortcuts to quickly type character names, notes, and outlines and ensure proper industry format.
Storyboarding software is one of the most commonly used tools in the pre-production stage. It helps you visually represent what your final product can look like by creating and organizing various elements like characters, sound effects, and background.
Film Scheduling Software
Film scheduling software can be the mastermind of your production and filmmaking process. It allows you to plan your production phases, shot length, crew hiring, and budget management.
It provides you with various features like calendar views, resource allocation, and task management.
Set Design and Props
These are the extras on your production that bring scenes to life.
Costumes can cost thousands of dollars during filmmaking, but they don’t always have to do so. From donated clothing to handmade outfits, your costumes should supplement the nature of the video you’re making, and if you can do that without breaking the bank, go for it.
Makeup can make plain into beautiful, beautiful into ugly, or an unharmed person look like they’ve been butchered by a bear. If you’ve watched Leonardo Dicaprio’s movie, The Revenant, you’re probably aware of how realistic good makeup can be.
Like costumes, the level of makeup depends on your budget or accessibility to skilled artists willing to work at a discount.
Post-production Hardware and Software
The right computer gear can help you alter your clips after filming, during post-production:
While software requirements on the pre-production side tend to be smaller than in post-production, the overall software requirements demand a higher-end computer in terms of processing speed and power, data storage, a great video card and sound card, and other relevant features.
For example, Final Cut Pro requires a computer running macOS Catalina 10.15. 6 or later, an OpenCL-capable video processor, 3.8GB free disk space, and a minimum 8GB RAM for 4K output. You can also use a tablet for video editing, on-the-go!
Color Grading Software
Color grading software helps you manipulate the colors of your video. For example, 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.
To make the most of this software, make sure to use a high-resolution, high-refresh-rate computer monitor that is properly calibrated.
Video Editing Software
These programs allow you to manipulate, cut, merge, enhance, and overlap videos. You can also apply effects to change the overall appearance of the video segments.
Video editing can also be used to remove or add objects from the screen to get ride of small mistakes in long shots.
There are countless video editing programs out there, but the most professional options are Adobe Premiere Pro, Final Cut Pro X, and DaVinci Resolve. You can also try out one of the newer AI video editing software programs, such as InVideo or VEED.io!
Visual Effects (VFX) Software
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 marvelous effects you see on screen are generated using VFX (visual effects) software. This kind of software can create amazing shots that take your production to the next level!
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.
You’ve probably watched movies like Cars or The Incredibles that are made entirely with animation. The voices of the animated characters still utilize the voice acting of real actors.
However, 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.
Common Questions About Filmmaking Tools
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. However, that doesn’t mean you should go for the cheapest options, especially if you’re serious and considering an actual film career. Chose the tools that are scalable and can grow with you as your needs evolve!
What are the most important filmmaking tools to have?
Final Thoughts: The Best Filmmaking Tools for Creatives
The best tools for filmmakers are the ones that suit your needs. There’s no specific set of tools that will help in creating all genres of films.
There is some basic equipment like video cameras, lighting, and microphones. However, not all lenses are suitable for all scenes, not all software works with all computers, and not all sound-capturing tools can work in every situation.
These days, you can also look into AI tools for filmmaking and find out more about the use of AI in film.
Before filming your very first shot, you need to plan ahead and research the right tools required for the job. It’ll make all the difference!