Documentary Filmmaker Equipment Survey
PBS’s POV, which focuses on documentary films, has put together a survey of documentary filmmakers and their favorite gear to use when directing and editing. Although the sample size is relatively small, their answers appear to correlate pretty well with the equipment that documentary filmmakers are most often renting from us here at Studio B. As opposed to studio filmmaking, the documentary approach has always favored the lighter, smaller, and cheaper options for their portability and adaptability within the vérité style. We see this in the survey as Canon comes out on top of the favorite camera brands, due mainly to their line of DSLRs and lenses. Sony, Panasonic, and then Other rounded out the list in that order, and while the Sony EX1 is extremely popular, the Canon C300 took the top spot as most popular camera for doc filmmakers.
Canon also took the top brand spot in the lenses category, due partly to the popularity of Canon cameras, and partly to their affordability and versatility. Many other branded cameras are now shipping with EF mount options, or with the ability to adapt to one using a third party mount. The Canon L series zooms provide such a flexible and inexpensive solution to shooting nearly anything, that it is no wonder they are popular with on-the-go filmmakers. Sennheiser and Zoom were the brands at the top of the audio section, which is no surprise due to the industry standard Sennheiser MKH 416 shotgun mic and the Zoom H4n and H6 recorders.
Whether you are a documentarian or you prefer a different style, it’s definitely worth considering what kind of gear others in the industry are using in order to better your own filmmaking. It’s also worth checking out what gear they most often bought vs. rented. The doc style generally allows for cheaper gear and therefore more incentive to buy and keep it with you on-the-go, but we find it noteworthy that they still rent a large portion of their equipment. Check out the survey here, laid out in a useful infographic (click to enlarge):