Category Archives: Gear

Tools of the trade – the means, not the end.

Buying Gear responsibly in the DSLR age.

It used to be that the cost and product lifecycle of equipment forced an independent filmmaker to think carefully about what they purchased and what they rented.  The purchased equipment usually lasted 10 years, maybe more.

With the HDSLR revolution (and before that the DV revolution coupled with the Final Cut Pro Revolution) the world is now full of people who can buy affordable gear regardless of whether they actually have the need to support the purchase.  The line between hobbyists, professional media-makers and independent filmmakers start to blur at a certain level.  Many of these people never see the upper level of production in a large scale commercial, films or television production and experience the division of labor, equipment rental, or the creative and economic dynamic of selecting the right tool for the job based on many factors beyond the picture that a camera can generate.

This sudden democratization of equipment is fabulous in many ways, it gives a creative voice to people who normally wouldn’t have it, it allows greater flexibility in choosing your workflow and provides even greater visual aesthetic choices for nearly any budget.  It is, yet again, an amazing time to be in this industry.

There are many reasons to temper equipment purchases, most restrictions come from budget, workflow, availability and knowing how to run a business properly, but I will most likely address that later.

We owe it to our selves to consider many connections that we as filmmakers should embrace. Two such connections we all should take into consideration is our overall impact on the planet and our relationship to our craft.

The equipment manufacturing industry is rushing to fill the massive sucking sound created by the myriad human beings buying cameras, lenses, tripods, batteries, sliders, jibs, shoulder rigs and any other gizmo that can be created now in our global marketplace.  Stop for a moment and forget whether you can buy something, but should you?   All that plastic, all that extruded aluminum, all that inexpensive stuff that is allowing us to have every single piece of gear in every single backpack and closet, just in case we need it, is taking away from something else that can be made.  We can buy things impulsively now for our industry that before required a business plan to purchase and that puts a stress on available materials for manufacturing everywhere and it can have an unexpected outcome  –  this can create behavior that keeps us alone and acting like Starlings hoarding shiny objects in our nests.

We all must re-learn to have a reverence for resources, both material and relational, we can often become too insular in our workflow and learning process.  Sure, you can learn how to do something online, buy it and have it shipped cheaply overnight, but can you find that resource locally?

Can you borrow or rent gear or hire another person to provide a service in the act of making your vision?

Doing so allows us to use the most important resource available to a filmmaker.  Do you know what it is?

It’s collaboration.

Second to your brain, working together is the single most valuable tool in anyone’s toolbox, and often it can be the most cost-effective.

More importantly it can take into consideration our connections to others and our planet.

Buy less gear, share more ideas, and solve more problems with what you have.  Gaining the experience is worth it.