Filming Into The Empty Quarter posed several equipment challenges. I hope that outlining our kit will be helpful for anyone planning to film an expedition of their own.
Most expeditions filmed for television take a different approach. They have big budgets, support crews and cameramen. (Ed Stafford and Benedict Allen are two notable exceptions to this). Expeditions with massive sponsorship backing are different too, being able to buy whatever kit they like.
But for normal people wanting to film their own story, you will have to juggle these factors:
- User skill
Let me say, straight away, that kit is not the most important aspect of making a decent expedition film. If you head off into the wild armed only with a tripod, an external microphone and an entry level DSLR or a decent compact camera then you have all the gear needed to make an award-winning classic. The story and user skill are far more important. So do not be put off if you can’t afford some of the kit below. Get out there and make your film anyway! Some of Searching for Sugarman was filmed on a phone…
On the other hand, if you are fortunate enough to be armed with a lovely camera and a 3kg, £4000 lens then you will certainly get some pretty shots (like these). Even then though, the story and user skill are still far more important.
Here is what we took to the desert.
- Canon XF100: a light, quality, versatile camcorder. Decent range of focal lengths. Autofocus and rotating screen both very helpful. This was the go-to camera when something happened quickly, such as meeting people.
- Canon 5d Mkii: stills camera and HD video recorder. Great for still images and for pretty-looking shots. More of a faff and hassle to use than the XF100.
- 24-105 f4 lens: a versatile lens that is ‘good enough’ for virtually every circumstance. Can get a shallow depth-of-field at the long end of the focal length.
- 50mm f1.8 lens: a very cheap lens for low light shots. Useful as a back-up too.
- Rode Videomic microphones plus dead kitten windshields. We ordered a lav mic too but it arrived too late for us to take. I regret this massively! Do not underestimate the importance of sound in your film.
- Batteries: we calculated how far it would be between charging opportunities and took sufficient batteries for this interval, if used sparingly.
- Battery chargers.
- Loads of CF cards. We had to be sparing with our battery use, but we did not want to be limited with how much footage we could shoot.
- Tripods: Sony handicam tripod and Velbon CX Mini tripod. The bigger and heavier and more expensive a tripod is, the better. It also though becomes bigger, heavier and more expensive…
- Lens Cleaning Kit.
- Headphones to check audio levels.
- Small compact camera (with AA batteries).
Into The Empty Quarter is available as a DVD, an HD Download, or a DVD and Download bundle. Running Length: 52 minutes.
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