Affordable Filmmaking Gear For Beginning Filmmakers by B.L. Garrett


Hi.  I am B.L. Garrett. I’m a documentary filmmaker. I make films on ordinary, average, everyday people. Everybody’s got a story. I got into filmmaking about three and a half year’s ago. I wanted to make a film on my 88-year old grandfather.  He grew up poor on a farm in Oklahoma. His father was a sharecropper.  He served in World War II and in the South Pacific.  Later he went on to start his own business and have a successful career.  He is really a modern-day John Wayne.

Copyright B.L. Garrett

I knew nothing about filmmaking and really all my resources came from YouTube which is kind of a scary thought.  There’s so much information out there and I spent hundreds and hundreds of hours researching cameras, lighting, audio, tripods, monopods, shotgun mics, lavalier mics, recorders. I mean you name it.  So today I’m gonna talk about the equipment that I that I landed on and how it’s worked for me and the strengths and some of the weaknesses of my equipment.

The first thing I’ll talk about is my camera. I landed on a Panasonic gh3.  At the time the gh2 was still out and kind of all the rage. You could go on Vimeo, YouTube, I mean I would see this beautiful footage of hacked gh2a and I was amazed by really how small the camera was and that intrigued me. I thought to get footage like that it had to be this big, bulky camera that sat on your shoulder and I was just unaware that a DSLR type camera could do something like that.

I ended up going with the gh3 for a couple of reasons. The main reason was battery life. I can literally on one battery use my gh3 for almost five hours. Another thing that I like about my gh3 is that I can put a hundred and twenty eight gig sd card in and film at 50 megabits per second for five and a half hours, which is remarkable.  So I always have two hundred and twenty eight gig cards on me.  I have two batteries on me so if I ever go out to a shoot, say I have a subject I’m making a film on and I go out and I have an eight hour day, I can film all day with those two batteries and really one sd card (to tell you the truth). I go to the other sd card, but you know usually the one sd card gets me through the day.

Some of the things I really like about the gh3 is that it will film in 60 frames-per-second, 30 frames-per-second, and 24 frames-per-second. I usually use 24 frames-per-second. It builds up to 72 megabits-per-second, but I usually use the 50 megabits-per-second and 24 frames-per-second and it really gives me the 1080p HD-quality that I’m looking for. I also love the LCD screen in the back.  It flips out. It swivels, so whenever I’m interviewing somebody and I’m sitting next to the camera, I can pull the LCD screen out sideways and I can monitor the footage to make sure that we’re still recording and to make sure that we’re in focus. That’s a huge thing.  It’s got a HDMI output that I love and it’s also got real time audio jack where I can plug headphones in and listen to the in-camera audio.

Copyright B.L. Garrett

Audio wise, I use two zoom h1 recorders.  I use two lavalier mics that are made by Giant Squid.  This is really a great bargain.  If you’re just getting into filmmaking, there’s a lot of recorders out there that I’m sure are much better quality. But if you’re just getting into filmmaking and you want to step up your game to have something better than your in-camera audio, I highly recommend the zoom H1.  They cost $99 a piece and the Giant Squid lavalier mics cost $50.  So basically two audio recorders and two lavalier mics for $300 is a great bargain.

I also have a Rode video mic pro shotgun mic that I mount on the hot shoe on top of the gh3 camera. I use that really to sink the audio with the recorded sound that I get from the recorders and the lavalier mic. I also use it for B-roll footage for background noise and kind of chatter.   It works out great the gh3 is great because the Micro Four Thirds cameras.  It looks like a still camera, like just a regular picture camera and it’s really great when I’m out in public.  I’m getting B-roll footage.  People think that I’m taking pictures. They don’t know that I’m getting the footage from this little powerhouse.

A lot of times friends and family that have seen a lot of my stuff, I’ll be out and I’ll have my camera and they’ll be like “what camera do you use when you make your films?” And I’m like “This camera right here and it’s really amazing, the footage I get from it. It doesn’t shoot 4K, but I don’t really need 4K yet, you know. I am looking to upgrade in the next six months or so.  I might go to the Panasonic gh4. I can tell you right now I looked on B&H Photo and you can buy a brand new gh3 for $549 and I’m seriously considering going that way.  I always, always, always – when I have a job, I always ran an additional camera.  Usually the Panasonic gh3 I use  They’ve done me right.  I’ve used them probably two dozen times. They always ship it on time.  It’s my same camera.  I have the lenses for it.  I always have that for a backup and I’ve used one for a wide angle shot and a close-up shot for my films.  So if one fails me,  I’ve got the backup.

Let’s talk about lenses.  When I first got the camera, something that I had learned from the DrewNetwork, he talked about these iconic lenses that were made in the eighties by Nikkor.  So I bought a 28 mm, f/2.8 AIS and I bought a Nikkor 50 mm f/1.8.   These lenses were made in the early eighties and it’s some of the some of the greatest glass I’ve ever seen.  Cool thing about it is I buy all my lenses used at and these things we’re not that expensive. I think for the two lenses I spent almost $300.  So those were my first two lenses. I also purchased a 14 mm Panasonic pancake lens. I believe it’s a f/2.5.  So that was my wide angle and it had autofocus, which is nice when you’re shooting B roll and you’re following somebody trying to do some Steadicam work with your wide angle. It was really a nice piece to my collection.  But all my early films, I used the 50 mm and the 28 mm to interview my subjects and all my filming was pretty much done with that.

I’ve added two more lenses to my collection since then. Last year I purchased an Olympus 45mm and it’s an F 1.8 and it is a beautiful portrait lens for taking pictures and for filming. This is one of my favorite lenses and I bought it I think for $250 brand new on Amazon.  I think it was an international version and you didn’t get a warranty with it but… you know I’ll roll the dice on that to save a hundred bucks.

Copyright B.L. Garrett

Secondly my last lens and my most favorite lens is the Panasonic 12 to 35mm. That’s what I’m filming myself on right now with my Panasonic gh3.  It’s got auto focus and it’s got on-board stabilization. Griffin Hammond made a documentary called Sriracha and he made the whole documentary with my Panasonic gh3 and a Panasonic 12 to 35mm. I was blown away with the clarity, how it looked and I wanted to have one at the time, it was like $1,200.  I couldn’t afford that so I waited a year and a half and I just bought one without the warranty on Amazon for $765. It’s been a great addition.  It’s nice when I interview somebody…I mean the worst thing ever is interviewing somebody for an hour and a half and then going home to edit and you pull up the footage and it’s soft. It’s just soft enough where you’re like “I just can’t use this footage.” It looked great when I focused in on him, but it was soft.  So with the new lens, I don’t have to worry about that with a 45mm or the 12 to 35mm.  The Panasonic gh3 has a two-time crop factor so my 45mm really is a 90mm and the 12-35 comes out to 24 to 70mm focal length.

Copyright B.L. Garrett

Price was really a major factor in purchasing the used Panasonic gh3 from I believe I bought it for $800 used.  One thing about is that how they market the condition of the equipment is like no other.  If it says “like new” I mean it is brand new. It can say “excellent” all the way down to “bargain.”  I have friends who have bought bargain lenses and there was nothing wrong with them (they were great).  One thing I want to mention today about the company’s I’m talking about that I’ve done business with, in no way am I paid by these companies. I’m just a satisfied customer and believe me, you can check my bank account (it’s not that big).

Thank you guys SO much for watching.  If you ever have any questions, you can contact me directly at Have a great day!




Panasonic GH3

Zoom H1 Handy Portable Digital Recorder

Giant Squid Audio Lab Omnidirectional Microphone

Rode VideoMic Pro Compact VMP Shotgun Microphone

Nikon AF FX NIKKOR 28mm f/2.8D Fixed Zoom Lens

Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8G Lens

Panasonic LUMIX G 14mm f/2.5 Lens

Olympus M.ZUIKO Digital ED 45mm F1.8 (Black) Lens

Panasonic X Series H-HS12035 Lumix G 12-35mm F2.8 ASPH Lens


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Twitter – @blgarrettfilms






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