If you had $10,000 to start a production company: what should you buy? There’s so much equipment and technology out there. What are the essentials to get making money quickly? If you’re wondering how to start a production company, our team created Litewave Media (our Tampa video production company) almost 15 years ago. Let’s take a look at what we’d recommend for you to buy today to get started.
We’re going to simplify the gear into 4 main categories when starting a video production business: Camera, Lighting, Sound, and Editing. Unless you’re planning to do a specialty type video business – like OnlyDrones.net or something along those lines – you’re going to typically need all four of these elements.
Start Your Own Production Company – CAMERA
If you want to start your own production company, a camera package is the heart of your system. There are a lot of great options out there, and you don’t need to break the bank these days to get great quality. It’s easy to drool over the features of the higher-end cameras, but most of our business is still shooting 1080p on our good ol’ Canon C100. Here are our recommendations for buying a video camera today:
- Canon C100: A great camera with lovely colors, integrated ND filters, and full XLR inputs for sound – they’re around $3,000 – $4000 for a ready to shoot package with batteries, rig, and media cards.
- Sony FS5: We don’t love the ergonomics or colors as much as the Canon, BUT you do get 4k formats and high frame rate shooting. Those features can open you up to gigs that may need them.
- Panasonic GH5: A popular mirrorless style camera that’s worth taking a look at it. Especially if you don’t need pro sound. It’s $1500 for the body alone, but you’ll need quite a bit of extras to get it functioning like a standard video camera. You’ll need to buy ND filters, an audio adapter or separate recorder, and we recommend a rig, and pro battery solution as well.
- Blackmagic Pocket Camera 6k: The Blackmagic Design cameras have come a long way. We love the look of their Pocket 6K camera, and for just about $2000 you get a 6K RAW camera. Pretty incredible. Check out our comparison of the Blackmagic Pocket 6K to the ARRI Alexa Mini.
We’re fans of Canon lenses, but there are a lot of choices for filmmakers now. We recommend starting with a zoom lens that has a good range so you can use it in a variety of situations.
Our first lens purchase was the Canon 24-105mm lens. If you zoom it in to 70mm and above it has a nice shallow depth of field for interviews and at 24mm its wide enough to capture a full room and basic b-roll shots. This lens is around $900 retail, but we see them used for almost half that on eBay and Craigslist, so make sure to shop around.
Sony has a comparable 24-105mm for about $1200. If you end up going with a Sony camera, the Sony lens may be a better option for you.
A tripod will round out your camera package. You can add monitors and other accessories later, but those aren’t essential for a basic startup kit. In our experience, you can start getting clients and making money without them. Ok back to Tripods…
Manfrotto makes really solid tripods that offer good value. We own one of their 504 fluid heads, and it’s been a workhorse for our studio for years. The Manfrotto 504 tripod runs around $600. We’re a big fan of Sachtler tripods too. The Sachtler Ace M 1001 is around $865, and is also a good option for a little bit more money.
Start Your Own Production Company – SOUND
Just starting out, you can get by with a smaller sound package. But having a few pro mics will get you crisp audio that clients expect. If you want to hear some of the mics we use, check out these Best Budget Microphones for Video.
Now you can always hire a sound guy, but when we were starting out, a lot of times, we brought a lav or a boom for some of the more basic jobs – AND it saved money when we were quoting the gigs. If you’re just doing an interview with one person, it’s fairly easy to monitor the sound yourself, so keep that in mind as an option. Here are a couple lav mics and boom mics we recommend to get you started with your sound kit when starting a production company:
The Sennheiser MKE 600 for $350 is a solid robust mic. Sennheiser makes great microphones, and this is a very versatile starter mic kit with some nice accessories.
The Rode NTG 4+ – also a great mic at- $399 – the plus (+) version of the Rode NTG4 mic has a rechargeable battery which is a nice feature if you don’t have phantom power on your camera (like on the GH5).
Additionally, make sure you have a boom pole to mount your mic to. We found one for around $80 and it’s a good starter option. It is the LyxPro Boom Pole.
Another option are the Sennheiser G3 or G4 wireless lav mic systems. The Sennheiser G4 is quite a bit more money than the Rode Go though at $529, but it is an option if you want to go for a more fully-featured wireless microphone system.
How to Start Your Own Production Company – LIGHTING & GRIP
We started our production company out with a couple Kino Flo Diva lights and an old ARRI fresnel kit. When we put our first lighting kit together, there weren’t quite as many options. Today, there are a variety of great choices for video lighting. We recommend that you start a production company with a few small lights that are mobile, and that can be used for interview setups and b-roll. Versatility is key when you’re starting out. Get gear that can work for a variety of situations:
- Quasars Science LED Tube Lights: These are really useful soft lights – great for talent. We’re lighting this episode [see above] using one 4 foot Quasar Crossfade light. You can get a nice set of four of these for about $500 with dimmers and a case included. Quasar also has some higher-end lighting options that feature RGB and fully integrated Effects if you need those. Take a peak at our Quasar Crossfade Review to see why we like them so much!
- Kino Flo: One of the most trusted names in lighting in the video production world. We’ve seen Kinos on set since we got started in this business. They’re very popular with producers and rentals. They are not the cheapest lights, but they have been a solid investment in our experience. One Kino Flo Diva light is a nice soft key. Then you can purchase some other smaller lights to round out your 3 point lighting kit. We’re throwing out the Kino Flo lights as an option as they are roughly $2k a piece. But they’ll set us a little over our budget, so we won’t be including in our final gear list.
- Neewer 1×1 LED Light: A really common light on sets. 1×1 LEDs are portable and easy to manage by yourself or with a small crew. Litepanels was the first major name in the game, but there are many other cheaper brands now that make comparable 1×1 LED lights. Neewer makes a slightly smaller 1×1 LED for around $80 that we recommend. The Neewer 1×1 LED is bi color and dimmable….very convenient!
Once you have your lighting kit, you’ll want to add on some light stands and modifiers to control your lights. We recommend a small grip package with a few C-stands, sandbags and a flag kit to get your production company started. This is a good little starter package:
Post production and editing is where you’ll tie all that hot footage together. A good editing computer is a MUST for when you start your own production company. Luckily most computers these days are able to handle HD and even 4K footage with ease. We’ve worked on Macs since we got started, so we’ll recommend a Mac option, and also a PC option that a friend of ours uses to edit.
The Mac Edit Computer Option
The new apple iMacs are fantastic computers. We own the 2017 27” iMac i7 with 32GB of Ram. All in, it was about $2600. You can also opt for less expensive models, but this one has been able to handle all 4K footage we throw at it, including a full feature film we edited in 4K last year. We highly recommend investing as much money as you can in a nice editing computer. You’ll have way less headaches down the line when you’re trying to deliver those videos quickly to your clients.
The PC Edit Computer Option
On the PC side of things, the Dell XPS 7760 27” All in One is no slouch either. It’s got a fast internal SSDs and plenty of juice to power you through those late night edit sessions. It’s around $2800 now on Amazon.
Video Editing Software
You’ll also need some editing software to get started too. So whether you choose Adobe Premiere, Final Cut X (Mac Only) or Davinci Resolve- they’re all great options and very powerful. Heck we used to edit on Final Cut v2 and could barely handle 480p! Final Cut X is a one time purchase of $300 and Resolve offers a really powerful free version. Adobe Premiere will cost you $240 per year.
TALLY IT ALL UP – Start Your Own Production Company!
CAMERA PACKAGE – $5500
- Canon C100 camera package or Sony FS5 (w/ batteries, media, rig) – $4000
- Canon/Sony 24-105mm Lens – $900/$1200
- Manfrotto 504 Tripod or Sachtler Ace – $600
AUDIO PACKAGE – $640
- Rode Wireless Go Mic – $200
- Sennheiser MKE600 Kit + XLR + Shockmount – $350
- Boom Pole – $90
LIGHTING & GRIP – $1239
- Quasar 4 Light Kit – $500
- Grip Gear (4x C-stands, 4x Sandbags, 18×24″ Flag Kit) – $659
- Neewer 1×1 LED Light – $80
THE EDIT SUITE – $2600
- Editing Computer – 27″ iMac with SSD drive – $2600
- Davinci Resolve – Free
Our total comes in at $9979. So, for under 10 Grand, you have everything you need to start making money producing videos.
One nice thing about gear is you can keep adding to your kit. And if you don’t like something or you want to upgrade later, you can often sell it for close to what you bought it for. In our experience eBay, Craigslist, and Facebook filmmaking groups are good options for selling gear.
Once you’ve built up your arsenal of gear, make sure to network and surround yourself with great people when you start your own production company. One man-banding (or one-woman banding) is great, but if you start booking bigger jobs, you’ll need talented crew to help you out on those shoots.
Let us know in the comments what you think is the best gear to start your own production company with!
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GEAR SHOWN IN THIS VIDEO
- Canon C100: https://amzn.to/2u04CMm
- Canon EF 24-105mm F4L IS: https://amzn.to/2F2Th3K
- Manfrotto 504HD: https://amzn.to/2K8YPhr
- Sennheiser MKE 600: https://amzn.to/2taoGuy
- LyxPro MPL-20 Boom Pole: https://amzn.to/2WzQARY
- RODE Wireless Go: https://amzn.to/2QszDTl
LIGHTS AND GRIP
- Quasar Science Q-LED T8: https://amzn.to/2KFslum
- Hard Case (5 Bulbs) – https://amzn.to/2UiAIkJ
- 600w Dimmer – https://amzn.to/2lPCsm9
- Neewer 1×1 Bi-Color LED: https://amzn.to/2X3QYYw
- Wescott 18×24” Flag Kit: https://amzn.to/2X4vbQ9
- Aluminum Light Stand: https://amzn.to/2MDllkh
- C Stand: https://amzn.to/2MGC8mw
Other equipment we use to film:
- Canon C200: https://amzn.to/2YbgsUa
- Canon EOS R: https://amzn.to/2QaPZlK
- Sony A7III: https://amzn.to/2TAoYqK
- Canon 5D Mark iv: https://amzn.to/2Ssc6my
- Canon 24-105mm – https://amzn.to/2ILo9tp (main interview)
- Canon 100mm macro – https://amzn.to/2KsZuaF (product shots & CUs)
- Sachtler – https://amzn.to/2JTcoQA
- Sennheiser 416 – https://amzn.to/2INrtQy
- Profoto Beauty Dish – https://amzn.to/2zgfjPV
- D2 500 Strobe Kit – https://amzn.to/2J28AZx
- Profoto Air Remote – https://amzn.to/2MU7MZa
Filmed on location at: https://www.LitewaveMedia.com in St. Petersburg, FL
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