If you are a freelancer like me, there are quite a few things that you need to have in your arsenal at home base to make your productions a bit easier. You might not have all these, but chances are you will want them. I'm gonna take you from Gaffer's Tape to Steadicams in this week's roundup.
If you are a video professional, you need to have a video camera... that is a plain-as-day fact. What KIND of camera you have is whole 'nother aspect. You might want to go traditional and use an actual video camera like a Sony EX3 or a Canon Vixia, or you could, like me, go the HDSLR route. Personally, one of the best cameras I have ever used (for the cheapest money) is the Canon Rebel T2i (550D). You can get it for around $800 for the body only... if you want more info on HDSLRs check out some of our previous articles on the subject. Either way, if you are looking for a camera, I highly suggest that you check out B&H Photo Video. They have the best selection, and pretty good prices, and chances are you can find exactly what you want.
There are many ways to go about making your own green screen, either by creating a green wall cyclorama in a spare room or your garage, hitting up the fabric store, or whatever other idea you might come up with. There are a ton of DIY ideas in Jeremy Hanke and Michele Yamazaki's book, Green Screen Made Easy. If you prefer to spend the bucks, a place I know of called TubeTape.com has a good selection of quality backdrops, complete with stands, clamps, paint, tape, and training DVDs. They even have chroma suits! There are more expesive options like reflective screens with colored LED ringlights, or Chroma Pops, but those tend to get a little more expensive than the traditional green screen method
Now I won't pretend like I am an audio professional, but I have three types of microphones that I use on a regular basis: wireless lavalier mics, boom mic, and my Zoom H4N (for use with my HDSLR camera). First, the lav... now you can get wired or wireless (the latter is more expensive), but wireless is obviously more convenient. This lets you get a clean audio track with your mic very close to your subjects voice, relatively unobtrusive, and you can use these all alone. Now, the boom mic (or shotgun mic) is kind of either/or; you can clamp your mic to a C-Stand, or have a boom operator run around with you. This option has more of a hassle, but might be a necessity when you are shooting things such as short films or commercials where you absolutely can't have lavs in the shot. Lastly, the Zoom H4N (or any other handheld portable recorder with inputs) is perfect as a hub to plug mics in and record audio separately from your camera, or perhaps you need to knock out a rough voiceover. It is very handy especially for those HDSLR filmmakers out there.
If you do a lot of voiceover recording, or have a green screen set where you are going to be capturing a lot of audio, not being able to hear that dog barking across the street will be a big deal. You can either hope for the best, or shell out the money to soundproof your studio. Beware though, this stuff can get very expensive. Usually you use sound dampening foam, which is cut into textures to capture audio wavelengths, but these can get expensive very fast. Just give a Google search, and you will be able to find something to your liking.
You can either go the cheap, alright looking route with this, or go expensive and have it look amazing. At your local photography shop, you will probably find some softbox kits, and some nicely priced lamps for your beginning budget. That is the cheap way. If you are looking for professional lighting, I would invest in a nice lighting kit along the lines of Arri, with some good fresnels, barndoors, stands, filter holders and whatnot. They run pretty expensive, but you might be able to find something on your local craigslist, or buy off of Ebay. This all depends on how much studio lighting you are going to doing, how serious you are, and the projects you will be taking on.
Now, if you are going to shell out the money for lighting, you will probably new a few basic extras with your kit. First, reflectors... I like the Digital Juice 5-in-1. You get silver, gold, black, white, and a diffuser. Secondly, you got to get yourself some gels. Amazon and B&H all have different packs, and if you are just trying to get some lighting effects, a basic pack works fine. Also, make sure you pick up a pack of C-47's aka some clothespins. They will come in handy. Also, some gaffer's tape wouldn't hurt.
A good pair of headphones are a must when you are out in the field shooting. If you are capturing audio, then you have to make sure things are clean, your actors aren't jumbling words, and there isn't any buzzing from pesky cellphones going into your mics. There are numerous unforeseeable problems that can happen with audio, so headphones are a huge deal. Style is always a factor as well, so for my pick of headphones, I like my Skull Candy SK Pros... they are comfortable, relatively noise canceling... and they look sick! If you want something a little more professional looking and not so flashy, B&H has a nice collection of bulky and earbud style headphones for you to take your pick from.
These are always the really fun pieces of equipment that I get all giddy about. There are two ways to go about this, either buy one, or DIY it. Dolly's are relatively easy to create, get some skate wheels, some wood, PVC pipe and create a track and vehicle to mount your camera on. There are tons of places to learn how to create dollys on Youtube and after watching a few of them, you will get a pretty good idea of how to do it. Now, if you have the bucks to buy one, you could buy the track and dollys to mount your tripod on, or you could reference our article a while back on creating your own dolly using some bought parts.
This is another DIY or buy scenario, although this is a little harder to create on the DIY side of things. Again, check out some Youtube videos of homemade jibs, which still end up costing a couple hundred dollars anyways. If you want to just fork up the cash, check out places like KesslerCrane, or other professional manufacturers, they have some great products so that you can control your panheads on the end of your jib arm for total control (a thing that is really hard to do with large DIY solutions).
Steadicams and Stabilization
If you don't want to shoot with a tripod then, well you better either have an unhumanly steady hand or have some kind of stabilization you are working with. Any camera that is small or basically handheld has the potential to be uncontrollably shaky. That is why there are people like Zacuto, Ikan, Jag35 and tons more that offer some very reasonable prices to mount your cameras to create some nice, stable ENG systems so you don't have to awkwardly fumble with your cameras. Of course there are tons of DIY approaches to this as well, like the infamous $14 Steadicam (I have one) that you can find riddled across the net. You could always just pony up and buy one of the original big dog steadicams.
I understand that I probably didn't cover everything in here, and that's fine, everyone is different with their setups, toolboxes, arsenals, or whatever else you like to call it. If you have some pieces that you think ought to be heard, leave a comment below, and share what you have in your bag when you are on shoots. We love sharing our kits, why we use the tools we use, and different approaches to similar tasks.
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