This reveals a rather naive perspective on what it takes to advance one’s self as a producer. Equipment is certainly a factor in making media. One must be able to capture, edit and share video in order to tell a story on screen. Without those components, it’s difficult to make much of anything. But there is an assumption wrapped up in the initial question; an assumption that contains a logical fallacy. The assumption is that purchasing higher quality equipment automatically equates to creating higher quality video. In fact, the two do not necessarily correspond.
One factor that contributes to this way of thinking is that the best producers tend to prefer working with the best equipment. Some may therefore assume that the camera or editing application a producer uses somehow makes his or her ordinary work extraordinary. This is along the lines of saying that buying a newer car will make someone a better driver, that swinging a new softball bat will make a person a better hitter, or that buying a new cello will make someone a better classical musician. In all of these scenarios, the purchased items are merely tools. Each tool must be operated by an expert in order to be effective. In the hands of a truly expert violinist, a Stradivarius may indeed produce a better sound, but in the hands of a novice, the enhanced capability of the instrument is not realized.
The assumption is that purchasing higher quality equipment automatically equates to creating higher quality video.
Consider the carpenter. I have a friend who can build anything. He has the ability to take a pile of wood, a simple hand saw, a planing block, a hammer and some dowels and shape them together to build a beautiful cabinet. While it may take him a long while, he has the knowhow and artistry to do the job. By the same token, even if I were equipped with all the latest construction equipment — perhaps an air-powered nail gun and a laser-guided saw — I would not be able to construct anything like he can. Why? Because tools are just tools. Building takes training, knowledge and expertise. It is not the hammer that builds the cabinet but the artisan.
The images that are captured by any video camera are only as good as the ability of the camera operator. The scenes captured are influenced by the mastery of the Director of Photography who lights and frames the scene. A master media maker can make outstanding, even award-winning work with simple tools, and a novice may struggle to make mediocre media, even when outfitted with the latest and greatest gear. If you want to become a better producer or shoot more stunning and cinematic shots, the first step is not to break out your checkbook. Begin by studying the art of motion picture media and work hard to develop your skills. No one can become an expert at anything overnight. Expertise requires experience, and experience is more about time than tools.
Matthew York is Videomaker's Publisher/Editor.