5 Must-Haves For Your Next Indie Horror Film

October 30, 2017
Gear News and Ideas
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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, they're 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 filmmakers, to make things a little easier, I want to share 5 pieces of gear you should absolutely have for your next horror flick!

1. A Low-Light, Low-Budget Camera

$50-$300 a day

The Canon C200 in all its glory.

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. For me, some of the best cameras for low-light that don’t break the bank are:

Canon C300 MKI or MKII

Canon C200 

Sony a7S II

Panasonic GH4 or GH5

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.

2. LED Lights Are The Future

$40-$170 a day

Speaking of low-light, lets 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, horror movies tend to explore and experiment with varying lighting color more than most genres.

Kino's new LED technology showing off its range.

Perhaps my favorite lights in recent years are the LITMATs by LITEGEAR. 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. 

 

In no particular order, here are some LED lights you should consider.

ARRI SkyPanels

Kino LEDs

LITEGEAR LITEMATs

3. Shotgun Mic

$10-$100 a day.

Most indie-shoots rely on Sennheiser trusty G3 lavalier microphone system. Heck, it was in our Top 10 Rented video last year! 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. 

Though this now requires an boom op and/or audio mixer, at least you're guaranteed good audio. If you want to go really rogue, you can throw a Rode mic on the top of your camera for your close ups. Some shotguns and mics that are worth investing in are:

Sennheiser MKH 416 Short Shotgun

Rode VideoMic Pro Condenser Microphone

Rode NTG2 Shotgun Microphone

4. Fast Glass

$75-300 a day.

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 I'd start. Either the Rokinon Xeens or the Canon's EF L Series Primes are amazing for low light. They're small, light, both can come in EF mount and they open up to anywhere from a 1.2 to a 1.8 respectfully. If you can bring more to the budget, then one of my go-tos for spherical lenses are Super Speeds. From Her, to The Shining. There's a reason why these lenses are unanimously popular from indie to big budget productions. 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.

SG member, Michael Khachadoorian's Canon L Series prime collection.

Here are some fast sets of lenses you should consider for your next project.

Rokinon Xeens

Canon L Series Primes

Zeiss Super Speeds

5. A Reliable Gimbal or Stabilizer

$45-250 a day.

Though accomplished with a Steadicam, this same style can be achieved with a Ronin or MoVI.

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. Either way, here are some gimbals or stabilizers to consider:

DJI Ronin

DJI Ronin

Freefly MoVI

DJI Osmo

Glidecam

Conclusion

I have no truths here. Just opinions. Only you will know what's best for your budget, timeline and artistic approach. However, too often I see filmmakers make the same mistake going for gear that's too expensive or technically ahead of their expertise. It's ok to stay within your boundaries. After all, you can make a gorgeous shoot with a $800 DLSR and a few $100 lenses. I just hope this simple guide can help you when it comes time for your next thriller.

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Brent Barbano

I have been a freelance Cinematographer in Los Angeles for over 10 years. Hailing from Syracuse, NY, I also studied at Syracuse University’s film program. I am a proud member of IATSE Local 600 International Cinematographers Guild.

I am the Co-Founder of ShareGrid and I happily contribute my findings, ideas and news on ShareGrid with all of you.

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