Equipment for Low Budget Filmmaking

by Tom Barrance

What do you need to make a movie?

You can shoot video with almost any camera. You can even film and edit on your iPhone. But if you’re serious about filmmaking, you’ll probably need

Choosing a camera

Your choice of camera will depend on how much you can afford, and what kind of movies you want to make.  For most people, a mirrorless camera, where you can change lenses, is the best choice. The Panasonic G85/G80 is a good camera to start with. But if you’re shooting events, news or documentaries, camcorders are more convenient. A good quality smartphone is a compact, convenient alternative.

For really high-quality images, cinema cameras combine the best features of camcorders and DSLRs, though they’re expensive.

More about choosing a camera

Sound equipment

Sound is as important as pictures, and you won’t get great audio with the microphone in your camera. Using a separate microphone will make a big difference. Lavalier (‘lav’) microphones, which clip onto clothes, are the most affordable way to get good sound.  Wireless lavs are great if you can afford them. You can also use a directional microphone on a boom pole.

You really need to be listening to the sound on headphones as you shoot. But some cameras have limited audio recording options – and no headphone sockets – so you may need a separate audio recorder.

More about choosing sound equipment

Tripods and camera support

It’s important to keep your camera steady. Some cameras have very effective built-in stabilisation, but most filmmakers use a tripod or monopod at least some of the time. If you want to be able to pan and tilt your camera smoothly, you’ll need a fluid head tripod. You can also get sliders (for smooth tracking shots), electronic gimbal stabilisers (for continuous flowing shots), and jibs (for vertical camera movements).

More about choosing tripods and camera supports

Lights and reflectors

Once you start to get serious about filmmaking, you’ll want to control the lighting. You can use inexpensive five in one reflectors to enhance natural light. Basic work lamps are a good starting point for learning about creative lighting. For filming on the go, LED panels are the most convenient option, though cheap ones may have poor colour rendition; you could also use a COB (chip on board) LED spotlight with a diffuser.

More about choosing lights and reflectors


You can edit on Macs, PCs, phones or tablets.


I use Macs. They’re designed for video editing and widely used in the film and media industry.

You’ll get more for your money with a PC, but they aren’t as user-friendly and you’ll need to check that the spec is good enough to run your editing software. Video editing – especially 4K – takes up a lot of space and needs a powerful computer.

If you don’t need to be portable, a desktop computer will be better value for money than a laptop.


If you’re just doing small projects, you can keep all your video on your main system drive, but for large and more ambitious projects you’ll probably need external drives. Solid state drives (SSDs) are faster but more expensive than hard drives.

You’ll also need external drives for backing up and archiving projects.

Editing programs

On a Mac, you could use the free iMovie. I use Apple’s pro Final Cut Pro X myself.

Adobe Premiere Pro CC runs on PCs and Macs: it’s only available on subscription, as is the simpler Premiere Rush (which also runs on iPads and iPhones).

DaVinci Resolve is a free (though fairly complex) pro program for Mac and PC. You’ll need the paid Studio version to edit 4K or 10-bit footage.

For iPhones and iPads, you could use iMovie which comes pre-installed. I prefer the free VN Editor. LumaFusion is the most professional editing app for iOS.

VN Editor is also available for Android devices. Paid alternatives are KineMaster and PowerDirector.

Editing programs for Mac, PC and iPhone/iPad compared