How Do I Choose the Best Camera for an Independent Film?
If you're trying to pick out the best camera for an independent film, you'll probably want either a digital camcorder or a used 16mm (millimeter) camera. A lot depends on your budget, your camera experience, the type of picture you are making, and the size of your film crew. Additional factors include whether you plan to own or rent the equipment, editing concerns, and if you plan to have a theatrical release or project your film on a big screen. Ultimately, when you're making an independent movie, budget is a major concern.
Generally speaking, the best camera for an independent film is still a motion picture film camera. A 35mm movie camera is the industry standard for a feature film, but 16mm is often used by beginners and independent or art house directors. When projected on a large screen, the quality of a film image is much better than even the best HD (high definition) digital cameras, and since you're already working on film, you don't have to transfer your final cut to film, which is expensive.
Still another factor is if you're making the film on your own or for a class. Many film classes and schools will require that you use a film camera, at least for some of the assignments. If for no other reason, using a conventional camera helps to connect beginners to the history of film and filmmaking. Additionally, despite the many advantages of making independent movies with digital cameras, in most cases, professional filmmakers still use motion picture film cameras.
The least expensive conventional movie camera that has a big enough image for large-screen projection is a used 16mm camera. Usually these are "clockwork cameras" that have to be wound. Examples can be found online or rented. When using some of these older cameras, the sound usually has to be recorded separately. 35mm movie cameras are usually better for theatrical release, but they are larger, require more equipment, and take a more experienced DP (director of photography). They are also very expensive to buy or even rent.
Renting either of these cameras and all the equipment you need, including a small film studio, might be within your budget, but assuming you can find affordable options, it's important to remember that developing film is expensive. When working with film, you have to have your shots planned and you might not be able to afford to play around with lots of takes. The same is true when renting equipment — you have the time constraints of a designated rental period. Editing celluloid can also be more difficult, but for a picture worthy of a big screen or actual theatrical release, it is still the best option.
If your film is going straight to DVD (digital versatile disc) or the Internet, the best camera for an independent film is a digital HD camera or camcorder that captures the minimum format for horizontal lines of vertical resolution, progressive scan, and frames per second accepted by the movie industry. These numbers can be researched on the Internet. When viewed on a TV screen, the differences between film and HD are increasingly less noticeable. Of course, the higher the resolution and frames per second, the more expensive the digital camera.
While conventional cameras are quickly being replaced by digital cameras, there will most likely always have a place in filmmaking. To find the best camera for an independent film, you should research both varieties, or focus on just one. Information about both types of cameras is evolving as one technology increasingly disappears into history and the other advances, but fortunately, there are many detailed articles and reviews online written by filmmakers, DPs, and other knowledgeable professionals who can help you winnow down your options based on your own needs and budget.
When it comes to film making, I don't think that a digital camera works as well as a 16 mm, but I am a traditionalist when it comes to these things.
If you just want to do a short independent film, some tablets will work well enough for this job. Just be sure to try out different models before purchasing one so you get the quality you need.
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