By Matt Allard and Dan Chung:
Christmas is almost here and at newsshooter.com we’ve put together a list of presents that we would happily see under the tree this year. Even if your loved ones aren’t keen to buy these for you you can always treat yourself. All but one can be had for under $150:
Ray’s wooden balls
Kinogrip’s wooden handgrips have proved popular with shooters looking for a good grip and a retro feel to their rigs. Sadly these aren’t really at stocking filler prices, but for $89 craftsman Ray Thomas also makes a lovely KinoBall grip that sits on the other side of your rig and gives extra stability. It is carved out of your choice of wood and attaches via an ARRI style rosette to most brands of rig. If you don’t have an ARRI rosette adapter then there are several inexpensive ones online that work well with the KinoBall. You can find out more on the KinoGrip website.
The Rycote Overcovers, Undercovers and Stickies are a great addition to any audio kit. They are designed to conceal lapel microphones by attaching them to clothing or skin, and then covering them with a fuzzy pad. They are far more discreet than other fluffy mic covers. They also go a long way to avoiding wind and fabric noise, beating conventional foam covers found on regular lavalieres. So far we have found no better solution. More details on Rycote’s website.
LED lights have rapidly become normal for lighting interviews and although convenient they are pretty harsh when not diffused. Traditional soft boxes are available but they can be time consuming to attach and can be expensive. Enter the Airbox from inventor Tom Guiney. He had the genius idea of making inflatable soft boxes that create a large diffused light source but also pack down small in seconds. They come in various sizes for small and big LEDs up to 1×1 panel size. Prices start at a Santa friendly $30.
Blackmagic Design Mini Recorder
Do you have a thunderbolt enabled Mac? Want to use it to input signals via SDI or HDMI? Then Blackmagic have a great little solution for you. Their UltraStudio Mini Recorder allows you to feed HD-SDI and HDMI signals from you camera directly into your Mac. You can then record or monitor the signal in your favourite editing software. Better still, when combined with Scopebox from Divergent media it can turn your Mac into a useful on set monitor with waveform, vectorscope and audio level meters.
GoPro’s budget Hero
GoPro’s Hero4 4K Black edition may be the camera catching all the headlines this year but the company also launched the ‘budget’ HD only GoPro Hero model at the same time. This is a stripped down version of popular action cam with higher resolutions, wi-fi control, ProTune and high frame rate options removed. Even so it is still capable of 1080 25/30P and 720 50/60P video capture and comes with the waterproof housing that the cameras are famous for. With a price tag of around $140 an extra GoPro is always a useful gift.
Nori Squarebounce reflector
The Nori Squarebounce is an essential piece of Matt’s kit. With all the fancy new lighting gear we frequently cover on the site it is worth remembering that in some situations all you need is a simple reflector to light your image. The Squarebounce is a new take on the traditional photographic umbrella. Instead of the regular umbrella shape it opens into a flat square reflector in a choice of gold, white, silver or black surface. Not only is it easier to hold than a conventional pop-up reflector it can also keep the rain off you in a shower. Find out more on their website.
Lastolite white balance perfection
Getting correct white balance is made much easier with this nifty device from Lastolite. The Lastolite Ezybalance uses the same pop-open design as their reflectors but has a 18% gray surface on one side and white on the other. It is more convenient to stuff into you camera bag than a traditional balance card and is more accurate than the old TV news trick of using a sheet of white paper which is likely to have a slight tinge of green, blue or yellow. The grey side is great when shooting flat picture profiles or log curves, where judging correct exposure can be difficult. Having an accurate way to do this on the go is invaluable.
Tiny Pelican cases
These small Pelican 1060 cases are great for wireless mics, lavalieres, GoPros and chargers. They come in several sizes and colours with some have clear lids too. We prefer the ones with clear lids so you can see what is inside in a hurry. They are fully immersible in water, crush proof and dust proof so you can rest safe in the knowledge that your gear is protected in the harshest environments.
Gruv gear V-Cart Solo
One on the main problems of being a one man band is it transporting all your gear around. When moving large amounts of lighting and kit a great option is the V-Cart Solo from Gruv Gear. A multi versatile cart with a weight capacity of 500LB (226KG) it transforms into three different configurations and folds up for easy storage. Because of its ultra tough construction you can pile all the equipment needed for most shoots on the one cart. This strength does have its downside – it weighs in at 25LB (11.3KG) so we wouldn’t recommend it for air travel. For more information go to the Gruv gear site.
Redrockmicro cable organisation
Sometimes the simplest items are the most useful. Like most other shooters we were guilty of having a spaghetti like cable mess on our camera rigs. That is no longer the case – Redrockmicro have these great little microTie organizers that can hold up to three different cables securely to a 15mm rail. For more information go to the Redrockmicro store.
Convergent Design ultra thin SDI
SDI cables usually are made out of thick material which can get in the way, or be difficult to attach in a tightly set up camera system with external recorders and monitors. Luckly Convergent Design have made their own ultra thin SDI cables that are 36″ in length. These should be thin enough to snake their way into the most compact of rig builds. For more information go Convergent Design.
Atomos coiled cables
Are you worried that your recorder or monitor HDMI cable might snag and break? An Atomos coiled HDMI cable might be just the answer you are looking for. Developed in house their flexible coiled HDMI cables come in 30 and 50cm lengths and in various combinations of micro, mini and full sized HDMI. The cables stretch and then stay in place without pulling like traditional flexible cables.
Kessler quick release system
Getting your camera on and off your tripod, monopod, slider or jib quickly and securely is essential in news and documentary shooting. The Kessler Kwik system is the best solution I’ve found for smaller cameras right up to the C300 and Red Epic in size. A plate is attached to the bottom of the camera that snaps straight into the receiving Kessler Kwik release receiver. The receiver currently retails at $139.95 and Kessler make a range of compatible camera plates. Many other makers camera plates also work but its worth checking if your particular one is compatible if you are thinking about buying just the receiver.
Rigwheels magnetic mount
Perfect for GoPros, small LED lights and compact cameras the Rigwheels Rigmount Sport magnetic mount is a small ball head with a magnetic attachment system that can mount to a suitable metal surface instantly. It uses rare earth magnets to achieve its high holding power and is a great alternative to the a regular suction cup. Once attached to the surface it doesn’t lose its grip over time like a suction device. I use one of these routinely for GoPro car shots. Having a flat base means it can be used as a mini tripod too. $49 well spent.
Rode iPhone lav microphone
Rode’s tiny $79 smartLav+ is a great addition to any kit. It is a high quality lapel mic that attaches directly to your iPhone and some Android devices. Sound is recorded on your device and then synced later in post with your video. You can use it as an inexpensive replacement for a wireless mic system if you are a student, on a tight budget, or trying to keep a low profile. Pros may prefer to use it as a backup to their wireless systems, or in situations when you have multiple subjects to follow. The downside is that there is no easy way to monitor your recording levels on the iPhone when you have placed it on your subject – The smartLav+ is pretty much set and forget.
The sound quality is improved over the original smartLav and it works with the Rode REC app which turns your iOS device into a fully functioning audio recorder. It comes with a mic clip and windshield included. Given how small and easy to carry it is to carry around I keep mine with me at all times.
Polycarbonate PL lens caps by TLS Optics
Cine lens users will appreciate these lovely new rear lens caps for PL mount from TLS in the UK. They come in a range of bright colours and also clear – allowing you to rapidly identify which lens you want to use. There is also an airtight O-ring seal in the cap that keeps nasty dust and grit out of the rear of your lens. Unlike other PL lens caps I use these have a positive twist-on action and don’t fall off. I got a clear cap an NAB and would love to see a few more under my tree this year. Check them out on the TLS website.
One thing that you can never get enough of is disk space. G-technology make drives aimed at video professionals and offer fast transfer rates, top level construction and good looks. Their G-Drive EV and G-Drive mobiles are extremely popular with cameramen and editors on the go. Connection options include Thunderbolt, USB 3.0 and Firewire. A welcome gift under any videographers tree.