Whether I’m going out for a short hike, a weekend camping trip,
shooting the zombie apocalypse, or assisting someone for their personal project, there are many times when I’ve needed to be light and fast in my video rig setup. Besides going with a single camera and lens, the accessories I choose enable me to be versatile and get better clips in the end. Here’s my top 8 list of items that keep me on the move while I’m shooting video.
Even though video has been an option for DSLR users for a while now, I still get a lot of questions from those just starting to experiment with the video functions. So, if you've been shooting video for a long time, this might be old news to you. Feel free to add your suggestions for gear in the comments below.
I’m not going to get into which DSLR you should use, that’s a debate for another post. It’s up to you what camera body, lens(es) and packing system you want to employ, because every shoot is different. I’m going to focus on what accessories will help your shooting and make it conducive to being on the move. Let’s for the sake of argument assume that your base kit is a mid level DSLR with a mid-range IS zoom lens, and you can't take much more than what you can carry on your rig, in your pockets, and over your shoulder.
So here’s my list:
Photographers might know this piece of gear as a flash handle, or a dual cold shoe bracket, but it's just as useful for someone shooting video as it is for photos. I found this on Amazon a few years back, and bought it on a whim. When I threw it on, right away I could tell it would be a mainstay in my kit.
It’s awesome because it gives you the ability to hold your camera with your left hand, solo or in conjunction with your right. The simple convenience is nice, plus it can help make your handheld shots a bit more stable. It has cold shoe mounts for microphones, H1 recorders, lights, GoPros, stuffed animals, etc. Even if you have a flip out LCD, using this is more stable than holding the LCD.
2. The LCDVF.
There are many different viewfinders, loupes, and other eyepieces that you can buy, going from dirt cheap plastic ones all the way to Zacuto’s Z-Finder that might cost more than the camera you’re shooting on. I’ve used ones on each end, and I’ve come to settle on a model that's right in the middle of the pack.
This specific model is made by Kinotehnik and costs about $125. It comes with a magnetized frame that sticks onto your DSLR’s LCD, so the eyepiece snaps easily on and off. Add that it has a lanyard to wear around your neck when not in use, and I can run and gun all day with this thing dangling about. It’s great as another point of contact for stabilization, but more than that, it gives me the ability to actually see what I’m shooting when I’m outside and it’s a sunny day.
Video shots don’t always have to have a camera move, and establishing shots are often static. Having a lightweight monopod will be much faster to set up and use, and much easier to carry around than a traditional tripod. Go for a carbon fiber leg for its lighter weight. Some options won’t include a head, so pick one up that suits your needs or matches your other tripod heads. In case you missed it, Jaron Schneider recently did a review on the new Benro S2 and S4 monopods.
This is the little mic that could. I’ve used several mics for DSLRs, and the Rode was by far the best. It’s recommend by other notable shooters like Jem Schofield and Phillip Bloom for a reason. It rocks for getting some of the best in-camera audio. Let’s be honest- when you’ve got to run and gun, setting up wireless lav sets or second system audio is just more gear and more hassle. Sometimes it comes down to budget as well! Point is this: if you need usable audio on the camera’s recording, you need this. It runs on a 9V battery, and I've found that a single battery will last me all day.
While it might not save much on weight or space, it’s one less thing to think about. Get yourself the largest capacity card possible (that is fast enough for video recordings of course) and use it all day. No needing to stop to switch cards or label them, or worry that you're formatting the wrong one.
6. Vari ND Filters.
If you're going to be outdoors and still want to get a shallow depth of field without putting your shutter speed too high, one of these will work very well. It also allows for smooth exposure increasing or decreasing, which for a DSLR shooter is something that is sorely missed. If I knew I was going to be shooting outdoors on a sunny day, I would screw one on and leave it there.
Their main filter is a 77mm 2-8 stop neutral density adjuster, but some of their other filters have the added bonus of polarization, and come in various combinations of thread sizes and abilities.
7. A comfortable camera strap.
For this item, everyone will want something a little different to suit their own preferences, but please, ditch the strap that came with your camera and get an aftermarket one. It's cheap, and makes such a difference. For me, I chose to go with a Tamrac model that has a soft neoprene strap with quick disconnect clips on each end. I can sling it on my neck or shoulder and be comfortable all day standing or hiking. When I'm setting up a shot and the strap is in the way, it can go away with two clicks. Or, if you're name is Doug Sonders, have one designed for you out of military grade aviation materials.
8. A smart phone.
What can I say about this that others haven't? I don't know, but I do know that I have experience Murphy's Law on more than one occasion, and having a backup plan is never a bad idea. With the right apps, something like an iPhone can still get a few useful grabs. Throw a Glif in your pocket, and now you can stick your iPhone on your monopod too. Need some light on something? Turn on the torch. Need to keep tabs on the weather? Many apps for that. Need to instagram a picture of yourself with your sweet run and gun video rig for all your friends to see? You got it bro!
While I was writing this out, I came up with a few other items that didn't quite make the cut, but I'll mention them anyway.
• A leatherman juicer multitool. Fits on your belt, so many uses. I have at least one at every shoot. One more than one occasion I've had to bend the CF card reader pins in a camera back in to place, and if it wasn't for this tool, I don't know what I would have done.
• A small reflector. Can clip this to your belt loop with a carabiner in case you need a quick bounce of light at your subject.
• Set custom profiles for different shooting styles. This isn't a piece of gear, but something I do when prepping for a shoot that can be a huge timesaver when in the mix. On cameras with custom preset shooting modes, I'll map each of them to something a little different that I can call up in a pinch. On my 7D, I'll use them as pseudo-auto video modes, where the ISO has been left at auto, and the white balance is set to the indoor preset. The next custom mode is the same, but with an outdoor white balance. The last mode I will set to be used as a slow-motion mode, having changed the frame rate for that mode.
• Magic Lantern. Bring on the hate if you think this one isn’t fair, but I don’t care. Having ML on my camera body saves me from having to bring an intervalometer, lets me check focus while recording, and monitor my audio levels, among many other things. Give it a try (at your own risk) if you haven't yet.
What pieces of kit have you found to be worth their weight in gold? Share you favorite accessories below.
Article photo by Seth McCubbin