5 Essential Pieces of Gear

For the action sports cinematographer.

Creating your own action sports film doesn’t have to include investing in the latest high-end camera gear, but there are a number of items that will take your production value to a more professional level. Here are five essential pieces of gear you’ll need to get started.

1. Camera: Canon EOS 7D Mark II (or Nikon D7200)

When you’re filming action sports, you’ll want your gear to be as lightweight and versatile as possible. After all, you’re likely going to be carrying everything you need in a pack on your back while you hike, climb or otherwise get yourself into hard-to-reach locations. DSLR cameras are a great option as they offer the versatility of interchangeable lenses, manual settings for adjusting exposure and frame rate and the ability to shoot stills as well as video. 

WME Director Chris Patterson and Producer Josh Haskins filming in Steamboat Springs, CO for "Line of Descent"

2. Tripod: Sachtler 0707 FSB-8 Fluid Head

Don’t skimp on your tripod. A quality tripod could be the difference between smooth camera moves and jerky, unusable pans and tilts. Look for a tripod with a fluid head that offers variable tilt and drag resistance adjustments. While you might try to shave off weight in other places, make sure your tripod is sturdy and heavy enough to stand up to the elements. 

3. Assortment of Lenses

Having a number of options of lenses will help you tell the complete story from wide angle establishing shots to close-up details and can help you create a dynamic range of field depths. A three-lens package that includes a wide-angle (ex. 15mm), a midrange zoom lens (24-70mm) and a telephoto zoom (70-200mm) would cover you in most cases. 

4. Microphone: Sennheiser EW 100 ENG G3-A

Great storytelling also comes from including commentary from your subjects. Having a lavalier mic in your package will allow you to capture high-quality audio from interviews. In addition, by mounting a shotgun mic to your camera you can record natural sounds in the moment and build your own sound effects library to use in post. Nothing decreases the value of your production more than poor quality audio. Your audience won’t be able to follow the story if they can’t hear or understand what’s being said.   

5. Media & Back-Up: CF or SD Memory card (depending on camera system): SanDisk extreme pro, LaCie rugged hard drives

Invest in top quality memory cards compatible with your camera system and make sure you have enough on hand to cover at least a day’s worth of shooting. Don’t forget to pack a card reader and hard drives as well to manage your media in the field. It’s a good rule of thumb to back up all of your media in two places in case of drive failures, files being corrupt or any number of other unforeseen mishaps. 

Want to learn more? Sign up for classes with the AIM U Adventure Film School.

Read other Warren Miller articles about filming tips and production ticks here