Silicon Valley Cinematographer: Keep Your Gear Simple

Photo credit: Jamie Trueblood
Photo credit: Jamie Trueblood

You don’t need a ton of gear to shoot a movie that looks “big” — in fact, keeping it simple has its own unique set of benefits, which Jim Denault covered in detail in his CreativeLive class, The Cinematographer Prepares.

Jim is the cinematographer for the hit series Silicon Valley and operated the cameras for the celebrated feature-length film, Boy’s Don’t Cry. His approach to gear leans toward the austere — and in his CreativeLive class, he shared tips that’ll help you keep your gear list short.

Pick a versatile lens. Most prime lenses use a standard filter, but some models require a special size. When you make that kind of high-maintenence pick you are forced into acquiring a whole batch of lens-specific accessories. Going with a standard size keeps it simple.

Aim for a lightweight gear trailer. Less gear makes you lighter so it is literally easier to move from one location to the next. Plus, the less you have, the fewer choices you have to make — and there is no good reason to force yourself into making more decisions than you absolutely have to.

Find a good rental house and stick with it. Every digital camera you rent has been custom accessorized to some extent. Nothing comes out of the box ready-to-use and a good rental house knows how to set up a camera with everything you need. Loyalty to one good rental house will ensure you find yourself on set with gear that works.

Check out Jim’s impressively short gear list for Boys Don’t Cry in the video below — or visit the class page to learn more about cinematography and shooting the scene.

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Rachel is the content marketing lead for the CreativeLive Craft Channel. Her side hustle is floral design and her day job is awesome. @ms_gregarious.