It’s time for the holidays, and what better way to celebrate than building a fire, grabbing a blanket, and turning on Netflix for a classic Christmas film? Sure enough, it’s a great tradition, but it’s quite possible that you know an amateur filmmaker just dying to make a similar film and is looking for a a couple of extra toys under the tree.
I can’t promise that you’ll make a full-blown Hollywood film that is on par with Miracle on 34th Street, but I can give you a few items that you can put on your last-minute shopping list or even your own wish list. Here are a couple of tools to get the filmmaker in your life started right.
Canon EOS 60D
DSLR video is the way to go these days, and if you’re wanting something that provides cinematic quality on the (relative) cheap, I recommend the Canon EOS 60D. Retailing at $1,072 (with the 18-135mm lens), you can grab one from B&H Photo Video. Being a 60D user, I can vouch for it, and the only issue that some may have with it is the fact this camera’s image sensor is cropped. However, I say that’s no problem. This camera has a flip-out viewfinder that’s perfect for those oddly-angled shots.
With only a week until Christmas, you may be hesitant about being able to pick up this camera, but fear not, for this camera is surprisingly at many local Best Buys! However, if you are wanting a nice starter DSLR, you could go with the Canon Rebel T3i, which retails for $756 at Best Buy during this holiday season (normally $900).
The 60D’s older brothers – the 7D and the 5D – do not have the cropped image sensors. Granted, I’m a big proponent of the flip-out viewing screen (which offers a feature called Live View), and furthermore, the 60D allows audio control for whatever microphone you decide to plug into it.
Zoom H4n Handy Portable Digital Recorder
The Zoom H4n Handy Portable Digital Recorder is a field audio recorder retailing at $300 that comes with two onboard condensor microphones that can pick up sound at either 90° or 120° angles. This is my personal pick (and the personal pick of many others) when it comes to audio for video. Besides the onboard microphones, the Zoom offers two inputs for XLR microphones as well as a 3.55mm jack input. Pop on a splitter and extension cable on the 3.55mm output, plug in the other end of the cable to your camera, and you’re set.
The Zoom H4n offers very easy to use basic audio monitoring, and it stores everything on a nice SD card in case you opt to not plug it into your camera. Despite its inputs and 4-track recording mode, the onboard mics do an excellent job of picking up sound within themselves! Furthermore, if you put on a windscreen, it picks up some of the highest quality outside sound on even the windiest of days.
The above items are really just two samples of the many types of products out there, but these are my recommendations for a really basic – but decent – video set-up. You probably won’t be able to purchase them both at once, but I encourage you to build on them over time. For instance, you can’t just buy the DSLR – you’ll need extra lenses, tripods, and cases. Heck, you may find an even better DSLR! (They do exist.) As for the Zoom, you may want to buy extra mics to use with it.
However, in addition to these items, you’ll probably need some other stuff for lighting. For that, I recommend some cheap worklights. They are really effective! Furthermore, you may not be able to grab the 60D or the Zoom right away, and that’s just fine. With that in mind, I recommend these cheaper consumer cameras (some currently on holiday deals) from B&H Photo Video:
- Canon Vixia HF R20 – $259
- JVC GZ-HM30 HD Everio Camcorder – $179
- Panasonic HDC-SD80 High Definition Camcorder (Black) – $219
- Sony HDR-CX110 HD Handycam Camcorder – $379
- Samsung HMX-Q10 HD Camcorder – $194
Keep in mind that with any of these products, you will need to factor in the costs of memory cards, tripods, bags, extended warranties, cleaning kits, etc. Also, it never really matters as to what kind of gear you get for making videos – what matters is how you use it.
What other cameras do you recommend for holiday filmmaking? Tell us your thoughts in the comments.
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