Sorry Internet, gear matters
There’s a funny thing about the internet, it likes to tell you what you want to hear – “like” buttons everywhere! One of those things that new photographers and filmmakers like to hear is that gear doesn’t matter. Sorry to burst your bubble internet, but gear most certainly does matter.
Now that isn’t to say that you have to always have the most expensive highest-end equipment to do every job, but it is to say that as a professional in any field you need the correct tools for the job (while knowing how to use them). A hammer is pretty useless when you need a wrench after all as is a pneumatic press if you don’t know what to do with it. Now in both photography and filmmaking we have the added creative factor in our tool decision.
Figuring out the look and style of a story is part 1 of narrowing down lens and lighting needs. From there look at the shot list and further narrow things down based on locations and subjects (at this point start looking at audio for film). For film, if you have a script or storyboards to work off of then you can start deciding what sort of camera stability and mounts may be needed – eg. slider, gimbal, or maybe just sticks.
Notice cameras have been left out entirely thus far. The camera itself isn’t the singularly most important piece of the puzzle and may be dependent on other factors. Highspeed cameras for slowmotion, 4K for some specific post needs, high iso low light capability when lighting isn’t possible. At this point we’re even seeing more options in the 6k and 8k options which are again largely unnecessary for general purpose filming on a project. Bear in mind what your final delivery is – broadcast, web, mobile, etc to determine what your needs are and as a result what kind of budget you need. All this being said, if you have the budget of a multimillion dollar corporation or studio then shoot for the moon. For most clients this just isn’t the reality they live in though.
Small budget projects can still have high production value brought to the table by professionals that know how to use the tools and understand their limitations – both in production and post production phases. When a commercial is “shot on iPhone” the behind the scenes (when available) tends to reveal all the tools that went into stabilizing that phone, getting lens adapters and lenses, the detailed lighting sets used etc.
At the end of the project the result is the culmination of tools and professionals coming together rather than one singular piece of gear, but each piece of gear is a tooth of a cog.