Shooting Partners’ quick guide to the most popular cameras for filming reality shows and factual entertainment

Whether it’s documentaries, reality TV programmes or factual entertainment, if you’re involved in shooting unscripted content of any kind, you’re probably well accustomed to juggling budget, kit practicality and creative considerations to capture one-off moments at the best possible quality.

While productions of this type vary in budget and scale, documenting any kind of real-life action presents the following common challenges that affect the choice of camera equipment.

The crew needs to be unobtrusive

The more impact your camera kit and crew have on any environment, the less likely you are to capture people’s natural behaviour, which is why many reality shows are choosing a fixed rig approach to filming.   If you’ve chosen a PSC kit, however, then you’ll want your equipment to be as compact as possible, without compromising too much on capability.

You’ve got to be prepared for the unexpected

Unscripted content is, by nature, unpredictable.  Without the benefit of location recces and lighting design, you (and your kit) need to be able to adapt to various shooting environments.  This may mean choosing one camera that has a wide range of capabilities (like the Sony FS7 or the Canon C300mkii) or using a variety of specialised kit (like GoPros and the DJI Osmo) which suit very specific circumstances but aren’t suited for filming the entire programme.

There are no retakes

You only get one chance to capture real-life, and you can’t afford to miss vital moments because of technical considerations.  That’s why it’s important to consider some of the more mundane technicalities of camera equipment, like the record times of your chosen media cards and battery life, so that you can maximise your recording time.  Change overs of both can cost time whilst shooting.

Every production has a unique set of circumstances, and there’s no perfect camera for every scenario.  The best kit for your shoot will depend on whether you’re prioritising look and feel, the crew’s mobility or being inconspicuous, amongst other things. Download our quick guide for an overview of the pros and cons of some of the most popular cameras for shooting unscripted content, so that you can make an informed choice about the best equipment for your next production.

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