Parkour Filmmaking | Essentials | Kit Breakdown
In this post I want to talk you through some of the kit I use to shoot our in-house films. It's easy to get overwhelmed by the vast array of high-tech (and often highly priced) film equipment. In this post, I've stripped it down to the parkour gear essentials.
No.1 - Gorillapod
If you don't already have one of these lightweight and versatile bits of kit, buy one now: it's that simple. You can use it as a selfie-stick for shooting vlogs, fold the arms to create a makeshift shoulder rig for steadier handhelds, or wrap the thing around a tree or railing to find some creative angles.
No.2 - Steadicam/Gimbal
Gimbals are getting cheaper and better by the day. Whether you shoot on your iPhone, GoPro, or Red Epic a gimbal will add a whole new level of professionalism to your shots. Gone are the days of having to rent a jib-crane or a dolly-track - you can achieve that cinematic feel in your videos for less than £100.
No3. - Lens variety
If you want to increase your production value in an instant, you should think about switching up those lenses! This is a simple set of rules that will add interest and variance to any video:
Film action sequences with a wide angle lens, something like a 10-12mm. It's important you get a good clear shot of the whole line FIRST - it could be the only time it happens.
Once you've got your badass wide shot (preferably with your new gimbal or steadicam), equip yourself with something upwards of 50mm in focal length. The nifty-fifty captures images that most closely resemble those seen by the human eye (in loose terms - check here for more). This makes it perfect for portraits, as the face will look naturally focussed and the background will have a satisfying blur. The face of the athlete is what's going to tell his or her story, and lend some underlying emotion to the movement. Use the 50mm to get a medium shot of the athlete preparing for their run. If they're up for doing the full run again, film it again with the 50mm. Stay tight so you have some more abstract frames to cut in with the wide shot.
Simply filming the run twice with these two different focal lengths is going to add heaps of production value to your film and help you turn it into more of a story.
No4. - Camera
It really doesn't matter what camera you use. Of course, if you have something that allows you to change lenses, you'll be able to create more dynamic film sequences. I shoot on the Lumix GX80: it's a fantastic little M4/3 camera which means it has a very small sensor. This is great for pixel density, but means you have a cropped frame which makes it harder to get those wide angles. Generally M4/3 cameras perform worse in low light than full frame cameras like the Sony A7s or Canon 5D. That being said, you will always find restrictions with your equipment no matter your budget, so think of this as a challenge rather than a deal-breaker - if you can't shoot in the dark, you'd better plan your shoot to have adequate lighting. These restrictions will force you to think more about your film prior to shooting.
No5. - Lens-pen
If you're going to be shooting through a lens... make sure it's clean! It's easy to forget a lens cap or to simply wipe your lens with your sleeve, but remember: it doesn't matter what camera you have - if your lens is dirty or scratched, it could ruin your entire film! You might not even notice until you export your footage onto the big screen. Play it safe; buy an entire lens cleaning kit from amazon for less the £10 and keep that lens-pen with you at all times. Develop an OCD for cleaning your lens - you must look after your camera's eyes.
No6. - Small Rig
Certainly not essential, but if you have a small camera like mine or you shoot on a mobile phone, a rig is something to consider. It will add more weight to the device, helping to stabilise your shots, as well as giving you tons of options for adding handles, loops, screens, and even lenses to an Iphone. I have a handle for my camera that I fit on top of the rig, allowing me to shot low angles on the fly whilst giving the camera some distance from my hand, reducing unwanted shake.
The main thing you should take away from reading this: start thinking about more than just the action you're shooting and take the time to think about the angle, the emotion, and the steadiness of the shot. Challenge yourself to do more than capture a moment - add to that moment and convey a story!
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