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Gear for Family Films

Lesson 4 from: Filming Families: The Modern Family Video

Courtney Holmes

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Lesson Info

4. Gear for Family Films


Class Trailer

Class Introduction


The Spark That Inspired Me


What Are Family Films?


Gear for Family Films


Camera Settings for Video


Frame Rates & Slow Motion


Picture Profiles & Color Grading


Settings for Audio Capture


Lesson Info

Gear for Family Films

So gear essentials I'm gonna show you the gear essentials that I use. And what I think, thank you, is, um this is all you need, really. I mean, the camera as well. (laughter) But this is all you need. And I'm gonna show you that, and then I'm gonna show you some things that are nice to have. Okay? Extra things. So I'm shooting on a 5D Mark IV, now. I recently purchased this microphone. This is the Rode VideoMicro, and I just purely to experiment, and I think it's awesome. It is $60, and it makes a really big difference to your in camera sound, versus having the mic on. Okay, so it's a lot of bang for your buck, basically. And I know that when people are starting out, particularly family photographers, you're kind of like hesitant to spend a lot of gear on this. Or to spend a lot on gear for this, because you don't know whether it's going to work out, right? You don't wanna go and spend a few hundred dollars on a microphone. This is a great option that's gonna give you better sound than...

what your camera is gonna give you, without being too expensive. So it's gonna come looking like this. This is a shotgun mic, so the sound that it's gonna pick up is what's in front of it, okay? Now it comes with a DeadCat, which is this fuzzy thing you see here. You just add that to it, and what this does, it's a wind shield. It protects it from wind messing with the sound and things like that. So then you just put it on as normal. That's the micro, VideoMicro. What are the other things? Fast SD and CF cards, I'm gonna show you those. You know what they look like. But they are crucial for video that you have fast ones, because your camera needs to write more quickly for video and you make sure that it's the fastest that you can get. So usually on the SD cards there's a little number with a circle, look for that. On CF cards there's usually like a, what are those things called, the slap things, the boards that go? (laughs) I can't remember what they're called but they are like a video icon on them. So that's gonna tell you that they're good for video. So the Rode VideoMicro, that's this. This is what I would consider essential. Extra batteries, video takes up a lot more batteries. It runs through your batteries a lot quicker. So having extra ones, I usually have three. I have one in the camera, one ready to go, and one plugged in somewhere. So usually I'll start with a session with all three charged then when I run out of one, I plug it into the wall. I have the next one ready to go in the camera, And then another one ready to go, and then I'm alternating throughout the session. That's how I do it. And so it's helpful if I know in advance if we're going to be outside the whole time. That's hard for me, I need extra batteries for that. But if we're in a home, I can do three and it's not a problem. So I just alternate, I just run through them. And I just try to find an outlet that's unobtrusive, that's not gonna show up in the footage. And then a camera strap. So, I use a scarf strap. This one is from Aspen Willow, It's an Etsy store, and I've gotten lots of camera straps from there and I love them. So for me, a camera strap is essential, and a soft one is essential for a lot of reasons that I'm gonna get into later, in terms of flexibility and all of that. So a scarf strap is my preference. You can also use a neoprene strap. Something that's stretchy is good. Your standard strap is probably gonna feel rough on your hands, when you're stabilizing. So I'll demonstrate all of that in a little bit. Gear extras, so sorry I'll throw in real quick, 'cause I've got it here, gear essentials would be headphones. I'll take you through that in a second. But I always have headphones in my bag because I wanna be able to listen to the audio as I'm capturing it through the camera. Gear extras, so Rode StereoMic Pro, that's this. So a stereo mic captures sound all around. So it's not just in front, it's everything. So that's giving you ambient sound, which is perfect for family films. It can get a little bit... If there's a lot of talking going on in another room or things like that, it can mess with things in that way. But I prefer it as an all around. It's the best thing to use for family films, I've found. In addition to that, whenever I've used a shotgun mic, where this one's pretty good, so this doesn't count. But the other shotgun mics for the most part they kind of stick out on the back of the camera and then gets in my face when I'm trying to take a picture. So it's another downside of using a shotgun mic, except for this one. Another one that I've just upgraded to is the Rode StereoMic X, which is just a heavier duty version of this. I think it's around $700, this is around $300. It has a few more controls on it, it's a little bit more robust, but you can see this more clearly because we can't take that off, but you can see how the microphones are pointed in the different directions. So that's how it getting that sound all the way around. And it comes with this, and it comes with a little phone thing as well that you can pop on. And I like this for, especially 'cause most of the time we're going outdoors. So this is gonna reduce any wind that can happen and it also gives me some extra options to use too. Alright, this is the Variable ND Filter So the Variable ND Filter is another extra that kinda falls between the essentials and the extras. It depends on how much you're shooting outdoors. But this is what it looks like. And I'm just gonna pop it on my camera and show you. You need to make sure that you're buying the right size for your lens. Just goes on the front. (camera buttons clicking) Okay so I have the filter on, I'm not gonna touch any of my settings, you can see when I turn it, it goes dark. So what this does is it's controlling the amount of light that comes into the lens. And it allows you to have a lower shutter speed and a lower aperture outside. Right, because it controls the light so you don't have to raise your shutter speed as high. So if you're always shooting outdoors, I would get this. If you're kind of still experimenting, then it's probably more in the extras category. Yeah. I'm sorry, I'm a hot mess. That was beautiful. What lens do you use? I use a Sigma 35 1.4, Sigma Art. This is the lens, this is pretty much all I'll use during my sessions. I don't change lenses very much. In the last film you saw, I used a tilt-shift lens at the end. That's why you saw the blurriness on the sides. That's something I've just started doing, because I just had the time to do it. You need to be really comfortable, I think, with what you're doing and making sure you already have good footage first. Because the tilt-shift is very hit and miss. The tilt-shift is like a lens baby. They would hate me saying that (laughs). They would hate me saying that. But a similar thing, you have a slice of focus. And that one was a 24. But this one is a 35, I like to use this focal length during all of my sessions. I find it is the right, in almost every situation. It's the right focal length, for me. And I like that it goes down to 1.4. I shoot wide open a lot, and yeah so. That's my baby. Okay, monopod or a tripod? I would consider this gear extras, and the reason for that is I never use them unless I am doing an interview. And the only times I do an interview is if I'm doing something for a business. So I wouldn't consider that applicable to family films. If you're wanting to make films where you're interviewing kids as part of your family films, then you should get a tripod. That's gonna help you. Don't try to do that hand held. A monopod is really great for extra stabilization. I know a lot of people will use it specifically for things like B roll, where there doesn't have to be a lot of up and down. I just find, for me, that I have pretty good control without those things, and they get in the way when I try to use them. So I just don't, but everyone shoots differently and, yeah. An optical viewfinder is another extra. I don't have one with me 'cause it's an extra. I don't use one. But I know from experience, and my students, they have a really hard time sometimes seeing the LCD, seeing that things are in focus. Especially when it's bright outside, to be able to see the back of the camera. That just, you attach it here and it zooms in. So you can see things a bit better. But, again, I haven't found the need for it. I've started to learn how to measure distance between myself and the subject, and I use that as a guide for me in terms of where I move. And I guess, a lot, (all laugh) on my LCD. I'm just like, hope I got it! And you know that's the thing I think that and you're gonna see this later, it's like perfection, you have to let go of it. You can't hold on to that. So sometimes it's not gonna be great. So just do it a few times, hope for the best. Probably one of them is gonna be good and it's gonna be okay. You'll have other stuff if it doesn't work out. So not every single shot needs to be perfectly in focus all of the time, like it does for photos.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Shot List Worksheet Template
Shot List Worksheet Example
Ideas for Your First Film
Discount Code

Ratings and Reviews

Adam Nicholls

Worth a watch! Courtney provides a clear and organised class, she is also very passionate about what she does which is always nice to see. She has a great back story which is fantastic. This course is good for beginners who have some knowledge in photography and want to learn more about video. I would recommend that people do not refer this class to the bible of filmmaking as I feel you can expand further on what Courtney teaches. Some useful tips for beginners but some methods I personally feel can be taught differently. I feel a gimbal is a useful bit of kit if used correctly. You can still use a gimbal when in manual mode providing you follow the basics rules! Obviously if Courtney prefers not to use a gimbal then that's also fine but I wouldn't discourage students from exploring useful filmmaking tools. Slow motion can be achieved with 50/60fps however I feel other frame rates should have been discussed like 120fps. I liked that Courtney engaged with the students as it gets them involved and will help them remember what they have learned during the class. Thank you for taking the time to share some of your knowledge

a Creativelive Student

Courtney's work is absolutely amazing and inspiring. I feel lucky that she has chosen to share her process and that this class is available! After watching all the videos and trying my hand at this video thing, I am feeling really encouraged and inspired to do more- both personally and professionally. I appreciate the way that she breaks things down in the video and that she shares her thought process. A really great course!


Courtney’s course completes me! I have storytelling “holes” in my film previously, but this course helped fill those holes to create a flow and a film with emotion. Not only is the course wonderful (and well worth every penny) but Courtney is wonderful as well! I had such an amazing experience at Creative Live!!!!

Student Work