Some people have been curious about the gear I used to make Pueblo, so I’m finally writing up a post about my trusty Canon T2i. I was lucky to get this camera as a birthday/Xmas gift, but it’s on the low budget end as far as HDSLRs go and a good place to start if you want to buy video equipment. Of course, you don’t need an HDSLR or anything fancy to make a film. As long as you have something that can record video, just grab a friend (or mannequin head) and start shooting.
I did all the camera work for Pueblo on a Canon EOS Rebel T2i (known as a 550D in Europe). I really like this camera. It’s the only DSLR I’ve ever owned, but it shoots both photos and HD video which is great since I like to do both. DSLRs are really designed more for photography than video, so there are some limitations, but for me the pros far outweigh the cons. If you’re on a budget and are looking to get an HDSLR, the T2i is one of the most popular and affordable options out there and is considered a great first DSLR.
For an overview of DSLR filmmaking, check out this thorough and well-written DSLR Cinematography Guide.
One of the reasons people like to film on HDSLRs is the ability to use a variety of lenses. Lenses can be pricey but it’s worth it to have more than one if you’re going to invest in this type of camera.
I had two lenses while filming Pueblo: the 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 kit lens that comes bundled with the T2i, and a used 50mm f1.8 that I bought for $50 on Craigslist. I did some research before buying the 50mm lens and there seemed to be a consensus that this “nifty fifty” is the best bang-for-your-buck-lens you can get if you’re on a tight budget. It’s got pretty incredible optics given it’s price point. Below is a little more info on both lenses and how I tended to use them while filming Pueblo.
(Keep in mind, the Canon T2i has an APS-C sensor so it is not a full-frame camera. I won’t bore you with the technical details of this, but in practical terms it means that in order to understand the true focal length of the lenses I was working with, you need to multiply the numbers by a 1.6 crop factor. Therefore, for me, the 18-55mm lens is actually 28-88mm and the 50mm lens is actually 80mm.)
18-55mm Zoom Lens
I usually used this lens when I needed flexibility and a bigger range. It was also essential anytime I wanted a wide shot. It works well when there is good light or you are outside in the daytime, but it is not the best lens for low light shooting. If you want to get a shallow depth of field look (i.e. make the background blurry), it is not the best choice given that the aperture does not get very wide. That said, there were a lot of situations—especially shooting live outdoor events like Carnival—where it was really helpful to have the flexibility of a zoom.
50mm Prime Lens
This lens generally produces a higher quality image than my zoom lens and works much better in low light or when you want a shallow depth of field. A 50mm is considered a “standard lens” on full-frame cameras and is said to represent a view similar to that seen by the human eye. However, as I explained above, this lens actually acts like an 80mm on my crop sensor, so you really have to get some distance between yourself and the subject if you want something other than a close-up. I used it a lot for doing interviews with Ben and anytime there was low light, especially in those really dark bar scenes.
I shot everything in 1080p HD resolution at 30 frames per second (though I exported at 720p). Shutter speed was usually 1/60th of a second. But here is a tip! Electricity in the U.S. is supplied at a frequency of 60 Hz but in Spain and most of Europe it is 50 Hz. So if you are ever filming in fluorescent lighting in Spain (which is not ideal but was sometimes the case during Pueblo) make sure you switch your shutter speed to 1/50th of a second. If you don’t you will get an annoying flickering effect. I learned this the hard way and it took me forever to figure it out.
If you have any questions, feel free to ask below. I’ll write up another post soon about our audio recorder and other gear.