Many new video enthusiasts maintain wish-lists of video production equipment that they someday hope to own. I have met adult readers who confess to looking at Videomaker the way children used to regard the Sears catalog at Christmastime: dog-earring pages, circling ads and articles that feature dream-worthy gear, and leaving those marked-up magazines where their spouses, friends and family could easily discern what they might want to get as a gift. There’s nothing wrong with aspiring to acquire better production equipment to fill up your gear bags and add new tools that can help you produce better media in a faster and easier manner. Yet, merely amassing a collection of the latest and greatest equipment does not automatically increase the quality of your content. In fact, some might argue that too many media makers put the cart before the horse by buying production equipment that they do not really need.
What really matters is not what kind of equipment you have behind the scenes, but how good the shots you capture look on screen.
What really matters is not what kind of equipment you have behind the scenes, but how good the shots you capture look on screen. Viewers of your productions will never see what brand of lighting instruments you used to light a scene, what make of microphone captured the dialogue, or what model tripod held your camera. In the world of video, what’s ultimately seen on screen is what matters most.
There is actually a lot to be said for people who create great looking productions without fancy equipment. As they say, necessity is the mother of invention. Similarly, a lack of money can cause determined producers to address their production needs creatively on the set. Whether you call it guerilla video or DIY, many outstanding producers got their start lighting scenes with old lamps equipped with floodlight bulbs, reflectors made from aluminum foil and broomsticks for mic booms.
Learning to make great looking media with homemade production tools is an excellent way to hone your creative problem solving abilities; a skill that is needed on every set with even the biggest budgets. When the show must go on, you do whatever is necessary to get the job done. I personally find that I feel a great sense of satisfaction when I know that a scene was accomplished using homemade “hacked” tools to capture a certain shot. This joy is multiplied when the viewing audience accepts the scene without question. It can make you feel as if you have accomplished a great trick; pulling off an illusion worthy of a master magician.
At first, it might seem embarrassing using equipment you made yourself, but at the end of the day, there’s no shame in finding creative DIY ways to get a shot when you don’t have the right piece of equipment. How you get the shot is not nearly as important as getting the shot.
Don’t stop making your dream equipment wishlists. Strive to gather great gear. But, in the meantime, don’t let a lack of production equipment prevent you from making masterful media. Go grab that roll of aluminum foil and a hunk of cardboard. Teach yourself to work with step ladders until you can purchase C-stands. Use a bag of rice to stabilize your camera. Hang bedsheets to diffuse hard, direct light. Any means of accomplishing your goal is fair game. The result is the only thing that really matters.
Matthew York is Videomaker's Publisher/Editor.