How to get equipment cheaply

So, perhaps you want to realise your dreams of creating a cinematic masterpiece, or maybe just develop your skills. If this is the goal, or something similar, you are probably going to need more equipment. Oh, and without breaking the bank.

However, the first thought you should have is about how you can eliminate the need for as much equipment as possible. Consider what you are trying to achieve, and decide if it needs to be done.

Right, so you've done that, but you still want, for example, beautiful smooth tracking shots back and forth for a music video. Fair enough, well you can buy such equipment second hand, which will do the job just fine. Film production equipment is often ruggedly built, and second hand goods are often a good bet. As long as they are fully operational, all you miss out on is warranty usually. To cut costs even more, you can either: improvise - achieve the shots using other available means - perhaps setting up a tripod in a car, with the lens pointing out a side open window. You could also maybe use a shopping trolley or something similar. There are often ways you can achieve a similar effect with available tools. Don't believe that shots can only be achieved using particular equipment that has been designed for it.

If it really comes to it though, you can always build such things. Myself and my team quickly established that we're poor, and cannot afford the extortionate cost of a camera dolly which we felt we needed. It seemed crazy to spend so much money on what is in fact, quite a low tech item. The internet is full of sites that will help you find suitable materials to build camera equipment/rigs etc, and all you need to add to it is a little DIY expertise and some time. You can save yourself enormous amounts of money, and achieve the same results.

Of course, a lot of equipment can't really be built by us mere mortals, such as cameras. Unfortunately, while cheap cameras exist in the second hand camera market, I would urge caution. Many cheap cameras available are grey imports (identifiable as they won't have serial numbers). They will likely work ok and are legal, but if a fault develops, the manufacturer won't touch them.

You can buy second hand cameras, and you can get very good deals doing so. Look on private ads websites, or camera stores. When buying though, try to get some proof of purchase to learn of the cameras origins.

Another way to save money is only buy equipment for purpose, or realistic purpose. If you genuinely don't believe you will be using such a function for example, then don't buy it. Also, perhaps if you are only planning to use something for a short period of time, then you can perhaps borrow form a friend, or rent the equipment.

Finally, some words of advice. If you want cheap equipment, the key is to shop around. Rather like buying anything else in the world. If you are a student, many companies (such as Adobe) offer substantial discount to students. The internet is cheaper of course, but it's best you see what you're buying and test it. I'd suggest test it in a store somewhere, then buy the same thing online!

Hope I've been some help.