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5 Essential Tools Beginning Cinematographers Need (According to DP Andy Rydzewski) – No Film School

Let’s break down what you should have in your cinematographer starter kit. 

It’s daunting to think of the first few tools you’ll need in your cinematography tool belt. Knowing where to start is complicated, which is why we look to seasoned cinematographers for advice. 

Andy Rydzewski has shot features, TV series, commercials, shorts, documentaries, skits, and more during his time as a cinematographer. After working 10 years in the industry, Rydzewski picked up a few tools that he has found to be essential to his craft and his desire to create a strong atmosphere through lighting and camera movement. 

Film Courage sat down with Andy Rydzewski to see what he believes a beginning cinematographer needs in their tool belt. From mobile apps to specific types of lenses and filters, these are what Rydzewski believes you should have.

5 Tools You Need According to Andy Rydzewski 

1. Have a fast lens. 

In this day and age where inexpensive film cameras will still provide gorgeous images, Rydzewski believes that a cinematographer should focus more on the type of lenses they are using rather than the specific brand of film cameras. 

When first starting, Rydzewski believes it’s important to start off using a fast lens. A fast lens that can open up to an f/2 will allow you to capture in lower light situations, and help you capture beautiful images when you don’t have that much gear. Fast lenses will allow for a shallower depth of field, allowing you to practice with and understand the extremes of DOF. 

2. Have a strong light source. 

A strong light source coming through a window can create a strong baseline to start from when lighting a scene. Although a large light source can be expensive and require a bigger crew, the results are worth it. 

3. Know where the sun is at all times. 

Rydzewski knows how important it is to understand where the sun is at all times on any given day so he can prepare for shoot day. Using the app Sun Seeker, you can choose the time and spots to start filming. This is beneficial for outdoor shoots, because you will already know what time of day you will need to shoot and what direction everyone needs to be facing before you even step on set. 

4. Use the mobile app Artemis Prime when planning for a shoot. 

Artemis Prime is a digital viewfinder that allows you to put in any camera with any set of lenses to help you line up shots. The app is already an indispensable tool used by filmmakers of all different skill levels and is one that Rydzewski swears by. Artemis will help you plan ahead of the shoot day, while also getting a clear idea of what each lens is going to show you in space. 

5. Have neutral density filters.

Rydzewski believes that one tool that every filmmaker needs are neutral density filters. If your camera does not have internal neutral density filters, you can purchase variable NDs. These types of ND filters screw onto the end of the camera lens, and you can twist them to allow for more or less light into your camera. These filters are beneficial because they allow you to start being conscious about shooting at certain f-stops and give you more control of your shots. 

Are there any tools that you believe a beginning cinematographer needs? Let us know what they are in the comments below!