Every so often people ask me what equipment they need to get started producing their own bondage images or video clips. This has changed (for the better) recently so I thought I’d post about it.
The good news is that pretty much any recent camera can do the job. You could even get started with a smart-phone camera, if you have a relatively recent phone. You’ll probably find that quite limiting, but plenty of models are selling videos shot on their iPhones.
The equipment you need is going to depend on what sort of work you’re aiming to produce. If the aesthetic you like and want to produce is “gritty” point-of-view bondage, an iPhone or a GoPro could be exactly what you need. If you’re planning on shooting video and aiming for a higher-quality aesthetic, more like you see on other BDSM websites, then a video camcorder might be right thing. If you think you would like to try stills and well as video, an interchangeable-lens camera like a dSLR will probably be more suited to your needs.
If you’re interested in my work, I’m going to assume you’d like to produce something a bit glossier than point-of-view kidnap videos. In that case the most versatile option would be an interchangeable-lens camera, because as the name suggests you can swap lenses to get different look-and-feel to the footage.
I started to write a mega-long post but then I realised that this literally needs to be a book. I will try to write one next year. I can give a much shorter answer.
Almost any modern digital camera system with fast lenses which covers moderate wide angle, “normal” (50mm equivalent focal length) and a mild telephoto for close-ups will do the job.
If I were starting today, I’d get a Canon 80D, a Canon 17-55mm f/2.8 zoom, a Canon 50mm f/1.4 prime lens, and a Rode VideoMicPro R. If funds were tight, I’d opt for a second-hand Canon 70D instead.
San-disk Extreme Pro are good SD cards, the 95 MB/s versions are fine for all but the most cutting-edge cameras shooting high bit rate video.
If money allows, a boom mic on a C-stand and a radio transmitter/receiver will give even better audio but the shotgun-mic on camera works well for a lot of people.
If you are shooting any video at all, you need one. Even arch-technophobe Ariel Anderssen uses one.
Get a video tripod with a fluid head. Moving camera looks cool on video, but shaky-cam is just annoying. Any tripod will do to get started. You will throw it away and buy a better one within weeks, though. You get what you pay for when it comes to smooth pans and solid footage. Something like this would be a decent starting point, but a proper video tripod from someone like Manfrotto will last you a decade.
Yes, you need it. You should spend more money on it than you want to, because it is important and a decent set of lighting gear will outlast your camera for sure.
If money was tight I’d buy Tungsten continuous lighting (something like this: tungsten kit )
If funds allow a decent bi-colour LED set up is much easier to use safely. It’s also more versatile, mixing with available light either in daytime or night-time, dimmable for style, and runs cool so danger of a hot light burning anyone. Something like two of these: Lite Panels bicolour. There are cheaper LED options, but the colour rendition may well be crap. Green skin is not a good look.
If you are AT ALL interested in stills, it is worth investing in some flash lighting. Flash is SOOOO much cheaper for the light output than anything you can get for video, and this will make a considerable difference to the quality of your stills. Something like this Bowens kit would be a bottom-end starter. If you’re really serious, look into Profoto or Hensel. I really like the battery-powered studio flash units that you can use on location away from power sockets.
Can you get away with just continuous lighting?
Changing lighting systems is a pain on set. Buying a second set of flash lighting equipment costs money. Would it be better to just buy a really bright set of continuous lighting and use that?
Until very recently the answer was very simple, even for top-end pros: No. Even Hollywood HMI lights didn’t really compare with what you could carry around on your back with a flash set-up.
With the latest generation of multi-colour dimmable bright LED lights like Arri SkyPanels and L10’s, it’s not so clear-cut for top-end pros, but these lights cost mega-bucks.
If you are sure that your primary interest is video, consider spending a lot more on lighting and you can may be able get away without flash. You’ll need fast lenses and a modern camera with good low-light performance.
Personally, I still love being able to carry a battery-powered system with me that can over-ride direct sunlight, and the only thing which can do that is flash.
Buy several sets of safety scissors (EMT shears) and a set of bolt cutters if you’re going to be doing metal bondage. Take yourself on a bondage or shibari course if there are any near you. If there aren’t, budget to travel to one. You might be able to combine it with shoots if you find a model and/or rigger with studio space.
I’m sure you can do this on a PC, but all my pro work is on Macs so that’s what I’m going to recommend.
Get a second-hand iMac or MacBook Pro with three external hard drives to store your footage. Use one as working space, one to back up the working space (copy files across as you pull them off the card) and the third as a back-up in a physically separate place that you update after each shoot so at least the raw shots/footage are safe. Don’t wipe the card until you have copies on all three hard drives.
Edit video in Final Cut Pro. You can start with iMovie (which is free) but FCP is a big step up and is capable of growing with you all the way up to full-blown movies so getting started with it sooner rather than later is a good idea.
Edit photos with Lightroom; personally I don’t like Adobe software or Adobe price plans but it is hard to argue with success. Capture One Pro is a great alternative.
Put the rest of your money on-screen
Spend your money on models, studios, locations, bondage gear, clothes, gags… all the things which will appear on screen.
What To Shoot To Get Started?
Shoot video. Open a store on Clips4Sale. It’s much easier to market that way, C4S handles most of the technical side and all the billing for you, and provide a built-in marketplace. You will find you need to update frequently to get much attention.
Stills are harder to sell; bentbox.co seems to be the best platform at the moment. If your heart is in stills by all means go for it, but be aware that the market seems to be smaller and there isn’t anywhere with the critical mass of customers than Clips4Sale provides for video.
In terms of content, shoot what you love, what you personally want to see. That way you’ll be happy to be doing it even if you make no money, and you’ll do a better job of it too. Don’t chase the market, certainly not while you are getting started. Concentrate on making stuff which you think is of good quality, both in technical terms and in terms of showing on screen something which you think is really hot. If you think it is good, other people might too.
Book professional models and ask them for advice, showing them a small number of shots through the day. Do this DURING the shoot, budgeting them time as part of what you are paying them for. (They can’t afford to give you free advice outside the shoot, they need to be working to earn a living, and they don’t want to be bombarded by hundreds of shots). But working with them to improve shots and lighting during the shoot is a very sound idea.
Book a studio or two with their own lighting so you can play around and see what works for you before buying your own kit.
Promote on Twitter. Other platforms may be OK, depending on what you shoot- Facebook is famously unfriendly to nudity, for example, but I know models who get great results on Instagram.
Good luck and have fun!