It’s no secret that the best video camera for your indie project will always be unique to your situation. Even if you already have a camera in mind, don’t skip out on a deep assessment of your project’s specific needs. Choosing the right camera can help you increase production value and ensures you spend your project’s budget in the right places.
There are three major factors you’ll want to consider before making the choice.
The Crossover Between Technical Specs and Artistic Storytelling
Is dynamic range going to be a major factor for properly exposing key moments in your film? Or perhaps the full frame sensor is necessary to fully capture the scene in a restricting location. Compare the different specs and picture styles of your options and consider how they will affect your actual film. Using a RED cinema camera may seem unnecessary to one filmmaker but may be completely advantageous for another who’s going for a calculated look. Very often the different cameras you are considering will be more similar than they are different, so hone in on what makes the cameras unique from each other and pick the one that best fits the bill!
The Format, Medium, and Platform Also Determine the Camera
Does your audience require a certain standard in picture quality? You will often be able to rule out many camera options right away that don’t meet predetermined quality requirements - such as Netflix’s guideline for their partnered filmmakers. The platform for your project, it’s viewing and delivery medium, and recording format are all important to consider. Sometimes top quality gear is necessary - however renting your equipment can really help bring those high quality tools into the realm of possibility.
Is Your Choice Budget Balanced? Think of the Tradeoffs.
If the goal for your project does not include a fixed camera requirement you will be free to explore more unique and or frugal camera options. It’s really not a bad idea to use a cheaper camera as more expensive does not always mean better quality - and the money you save could be spent elsewhere in your project’s budget. Even the most modest of cameras can be used to create amazing indie films - but the shoe has to fit! For example, mobile filmmaking works well for some projects but is needless for others.
The lists of cameras used in the Sundance and Cannes film festivals from 2018 are a great place to start if you are still stuck trying to pick a camera. There are many indie filmmakers on that list that decided not to go with the common festival runners like the Arri because it made sense within the context of their projects. For example Jafar Panahi’s film “Three Faces” from Cannes used a Sony A7S II - the camera that made the most sense for their specific night scenes.
The best strategy to use when choosing your camera is to determine what makes your project unique and then find the camera that will bring your independent film to its full shining potential!