Horror movies have become a staple in the indie film world over the years. They’re often low-budget yet yield the best potential for exposure and viewership. After all, who doesn’t love another movie about four twenty-somethings on a road trip and their car suddenly breaks down?
However, a budget horror film is hard to make. Period. From cast to gear to crew to locations to getting the right color of red blood, making a horror film is not for the faint of heart. Rest-assured, to make things a little easier, and because it’s one of our favourite events on the calendar, we want to share 5 pieces of (mostly) budget gear you should absolutely have for your next indie horror flick.
1. A Low-Light, Low-Budget Camera
Camera-technology continues to amaze us all as they become, lighter, cheaper, full of K’s (resolution) and dynamic range that has officially put the film vs digital debate to bed. Like most horror movies, shooting in low-light almost seems to be a given. So finding yourself a camera that performs will in low-light situations is almost a necessity.
What does this mean? Well, low-light means just what you think. Scenarios that don’t have a lot of light. Such as night scenes, both interior or exterior. Perfect for a budget horror film.
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Low-light scenes usually require more light to manipulate in order balance the proper exposure and yet achieve the feel of dark, contrasty scenes. Rather than introduce a lot of light fixtures, trust your sensor and ride that ISO. All of these cameras also come in some form of a LOG or RAW-esque color setting. This provides you with a flat look that will protect both your highlights and shadows giving you more flexibility and information to grade in post.
Our suggestions on Full-Frame camera body options:
If you are looking for a more budget friendly camera rig, there are plenty of options in the mirrorless market that will still capture beautiful full-frame visuals, and the low light capability of some are truly incredible. The new Lumix S1H is a worthy consideration:
2. LED Lights Are The Future
Speaking of low-light, let’s talk more about lights. Say goodbye to those hot, heavy and power-hungry fresnels or HMIs. LED technology has made amazing headway these last few years. With incredible lights like the ARRI Sky Panels or Kinos new LED Systems, lighting has become much easier to control. LED technology offers a low-wattage solution that stays cool and can be plugged into most household outlets. Not to mention the seemingly infinite shades of color you can dial in. In my opinion, budget horror films tend to explore and experiment with varying lighting color more than most genres.
Our new favorite lights in recent years are Litemats. Though they’re only limited to daylight or tungsten spectrums, you can easily dial in your kelvin levels and brightness. Litemats are very inexpensive and incredibly transportable, and could be the perfect solution for your low-budget horror shoot. Check out the All-In Litemat by Alladin.
If you require a more directional or shaped beam with more light output, be sure to check out the Aputure 600d, the brightest single source LED light available, rated at 600W output (720W draw) the fixture can fill an entire room at maximum power. Unlike large and hot HMI lights, the 600d can be modified with domes, softboxes or egg crates. To take advantage of the brighter LED, larger barndoors and Fresnel lenses will become available to further modify the light beam.
If money is not a factor and you have some extra fat in the lighting budget, also check out the ARRI Orbiter. Infact, check it out anyway, it’s pretty cool to know what’s new on the market:
3. Shotgun Mic
Most indie-shoots rely on trusty lavalier microphone systems. But when you have a serial killer chasing after your victim in a field, lavalier microphones will be tough to give you clean audio. That’s why we rely on shotgun microphones on a boom pole for most cases like this.
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Though this now requires an boom op and/or audio mixer, at least you’re guaranteed good audio. Consider the new RØDE NTG5.
4. Fast Glass
Just like your cameras, you’re going to want fast lenses that will make you happy in low-light situations. Lenses that open up beyond a T2.0 is where we’d start. The SIGMA Cine Primes are amazing for low light. They’re small, light, come in PL mount and they open up from f/1.5 to f/3.2. Shooting with a shallow depth of field not only allowed more light onto your sensor but it can also create an incredibly uneasy feeling.
As more of your frame is out of focus, the viewer can only guess as to what’s around, leaving them to wonder and imagine. It can not only be used for a technical reason, but fast lenses are certainly strong for stylistic reasons. Check out the SIGMA Cine Primes as an option.
If the SIGMA Cine’s are out of the question (they aren’t cheap but they aren’t uber-expensive, either) then perhaps also consider the Tokina 50-135mm T2.9 Mk II. It features a compact design, covers super35 sensors, and offers the same 95mm diameter and same gear rings position as Tokina 11-20mm T2.9 cinema zoom lens. The new 50-135mm lens will cost around $3,500 and should start shipping in early 2020.
5. A Reliable Gimbal or Stabilizer
This should come to no surprise. Gimbals such as the DJI Ronin or Movi have taken the indie and pro-market by storm. The Ronin was the most rented item on ShareGrid in 2016 and remains a top ten item this year so far. So unless you’re going for a static look or a handheld feel, try a gimbal for portability and flexibility of shots.
Maybe there’s a chase scene and you have your actors running but you need the camera to stay stable. Or perhaps you want to elicit and eery feeling by slowly following your character from behind like above. Note – if you are shooting on a full frame rig, your options for stabilisation become limited due to size and weight. If you are shooting on a mirrorless camera, here are some less expensive gimbals or stabilizers to consider:
The Zhiyun Weebill-S is also pretty compact, with a total height of just 297mm. It is powered by two interchangeable batteries, for a runtime of up-to 14-hours according to Zhiyun.
Gudsen Technology has launched a new gimbal at NAB 2019. The lightweight 3-axis gimbal stabilizer – MOZA AirCross 2 – only weighs 950g and should be able to accommodate most mirrorless cameras and DSLRs, with most lenses.
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6. Data Image Transfer
Data Image Transfer is hugely important, and can easily waste your whole shoot if you aren’t logging and storing your footage safely and correctly.
There have been a few new releases over the last year that have really ramped up the capabilities of transferring, logging, storing and backing up footage. As camera sensors get bigger and better, so do the size of the hefty 4K or 6K files that you might be dealing with, so we are here to set your minds at ease. A perfect consideration for a budget shoot is the new LaCie Rugged BOSS SSD. It features a built in SD card reader to transfer files and preview footage when on location. The new range address the needs of portable storage with three new, tough hard drives.
What we think is the most interesting portable drive of the new Rugged range, the 1TB SSD has an in-built SD card reader and USB port with read/write speeds of up to 430MB/s. Through an app, users can transfer and back up files on SD cards, rename the files and even look back at the footage.
While we haven’t covered EVERYTHING you will need, as there are plenty of additional, disposable, and accessory items that you will need to support your shoot from a technical perspective, there is no reason why you wouldn’t be able to pull of some beautiful shots and epic sequences for your budget horror flick this Halloween.
If you are feeling inspiration but none of the above gear meets your fancy, we have just about every spec and info for latest news and gear releases available to you on our news page – be sure to check it out and browse around.