Teaching Tools

Using the Equipment You Have

Using the Equipment You Have

Posted by: San Francisco Film Society

One of the most important things to remember when making films in the classroom is to use what you have! There are so many affordable (and flexible) options that can be used in the classroom now. Your basic needs will be camera, light and sound. 


• Tripod 

• Tape or memory card 

• Cables 

• Batteries 


Sound is one of the most important components of any filmmaking project. No matter how lovely the footage your students capture is, without being able to hear it clearly, the effect will be lost. 

Internal mic: An internal (or on-board) mic is the microphone that comes built into a basic video camera. Depending on the camera, the quality of the sound will vary. On-board mics generally allow for less flexibility and are not able to filter out ambient sound, but they can be useful for voiceovers and simple, close shots in sound-controlled environments. 

Directional mic: A directional (or shotgun) mic has a greater sensitivity to sounds coming from right in front of it and is useful for eliminating unwanted sounds. With the aid of a boom pole, it is possible to capture clear sound without the distraction of ambient sound. 

Lavalier mic: A lavalier (or lav mic, or lapel mic) allows for hands-free operation and is used when you want sound to be clearly picked up without the obtrusive visual presence of a larger mic. Lavaliers are usually clipped to your subject and placed a few inches away from their mouth (e.g., on their shirt), so the audio quality is more consistent. Lavalier and shotgun mics don’t necessarily replace one another and are commonly used in conjunction during a production.


Lighting is a complex part of the filmmaking process, and light kits are often unwieldy. We encourage filmmaker instructors to provide a basic overview of three-point lighting structure for reference but to work with existing or natural light as much as possible. 

The most basic lighting set-up used in film is 3-Point Lighting, which is often used for static setups, such as an interview or a “one-shot” (shot of a single person). It involves simply a main light (key) on one side of the subject, a secondary light (fill) on the other and a third light (back) behind the subject to help distinguish him/her from the background. Background elements are lit separately. 


Even if you are unable to conduct a complete post-production lesson because of time constraints, class size, and the complexities of the editing process, instructors are encouraged to expose students to the basic principles and technology of editing. Ensuring that students have a basic understanding of non-linear editing will allow them to contribute their ideas to the editing process. If you do choose to include editing in your program, you will need the following tools: 

Computer: Gone are the days when one requires a super-powerful computer and expensive software to learn how to edit. Most computers come equipped with enough power and free software to make this process easier. There are also several online editing programs available. 

Non-linear editing software (iMovie, Final Cut Pro, etc.): There are many types of software that can be used for post-production, from free software included with your computer to semi-professional and professional editing programs that can be purchased. 

External Hard Drive: Media files are large, so make sure to have an external drive for all source files, edits and final deliverables. 

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