I think a more important question is what DON’T you need. Learning to do great work with nothing is an invaluable skill to have and one that will serve you well on your journey as a filmmaker or videographer.
Typically when I go out on a shoot I have a ton of gear with me. I’m a one man band typically, but I almost always take every piece of gear that I own. And when I don’t, I usually regret it. However, a couple months ago we got a call from a hospital about shooting a bunch of super run-n-gun, 15-30 second interviews for social media to raise awareness for heart disease in women. Since we were going to be moving so fast I only brought a backpack with my C100, 24-70mm F/2.8 L MKII, and RØDE Video Mic Pro. That was it. I felt SO NAKED. But when I got home and I had had a successful shoot it made me think about the bare bones of what I NEEDED. Periodically the opportunity arises for me to do that. Maybe it’s just shooting a company outing on my phone and editing something together in iMovie, but that challenge is always super invigorating. As you learn more and get more gear, it will be important for you to be challenged in this way.
So anyways, what does bare bones look like. The most basic thing you need, you are probably holding in your hands or pocket. Yep, I’m talking about your smart phone. It’s been said the best camera is the one you have with you. Something like that. But it’s true.
The important thing is the story you are telling, and how well you are telling it.
At the end of the day, I could have shot the videos for the hospital on my phone. Our work reflects a better quality image than that, but if we were just starting out, for this type of video it could work great.
Want to make any camera sing? Find the best light and even a smart phone will look awesome. If you aren’t working with a bunch of gear, odds are, you need to find the light because you can’t create it. There’s nothing wrong with that. It just means you need to be a little more creative and be able to go with the flow. Again, a useful skill.
More gear definitely CAN help you tell a story better and is absolutely necessary for some stories. But I’ve said all that to say this. Use what you have. And use it to pay for something better. Grow with what you have. My first camera was a little camcorder called s Canon HV20. It took forever to save money for, but I had read that it was a great camera to start out with. I shot a bunch of stuff for fun and used it to make promo videos at the place I worked. Then through the grapevine someone heard my name and hired me to do a freelance video for the archdiocese of Cincinnati. That paid me enough money to get a Canon 7D and a 28mm lens. I put in a ton of mileage on those two cameras.
New cameras come out all the time. The best advice isn’t which one to buy, it’s to practice and get good at problem solving with the camera you already have.
So what gear do you need? Drive. Drive to create. Get out there and put what you have to use.