When it comes to shooting, we are constantly dismantling, transporting, installing and tinkering our kits, and more often than not our time is being squeezed. As a result, we have selected ten accessories that make life easier and productions more efficient – all for a small cost!
1- Tripod Plate Flathead Screwdriver
Are you constantly attempting to dig out a coin to detach your camera plates, which of course are never universal? Are you tired of carrying around a big screwdriver? Here are solutions that will save you from searching your pockets and more often that not pulling your hair out also. The first one can be purchased via the United States on Adorama or B&H, and is called the Rabbit Key RBTK01. The idea is so simple that you wonder why it wasn’t copied. It is simply a keyring whose flathead fits all Kodak screws (1/4 – 1/3). You attach it to your keys and you’re gone are the days of searching for a coin! You can get it here for less than $10
The other solution is to use a mini screwdriver designed for this purpose, such as the Tom Pouce Akor. It can also be attached to a set of keys. Although less discreet, it offers a better grip and a better tightening torque. You can find this here for just under 20 Euros. Finally, another inexpensive solution is to replace all Kodak screws with the same ones, but with an integrated ring, as shown in the below image. As a result, you will no longer need any tools to fix your devices onto tripods. These can be purchased via Amazon.
2- Cable Management
How often have you had difficulties with cabling? The art of rolling them up without tangling them, of storing them properly for the next time they are to be used requires almost a diploma of some kind. Fortunately however, there is a great accessory that should be placed on every cable, and that is simply velcro in the form of perforated strips (velcro straps). Just attach them to the connector at the end of each cable. With the latter rolled up, it is then enough to close the loop to maintain everything without the slightest knot. Velcro straps of course come in all sizes – be it to manage 50 metre BNC/XLR cable runs, or to attach to a simple USB power supply. Most importantly of all, it costs almost nothing and are widely accessible to purchase.
3- Tooling – three essential tools
For the basic tools, we’re not going to compromise therefore in light production, the main thing is three tools. The first is the famous Leatherman, the second is the Gaffer Tape and the third is the hexagonal/torx key set. Of course, video production needs are quite large, but having this field of tools is enough to help you in most shooting situations, as long as you are not a set designer or quite literally a Gaffer!
First of all, the Leatherman. It is a universal tool similar to the Swiss Army knife, but in the form of a folding and lockable clamp. It can be used to cut or screw, and to us we see it as an accessory to always have in a pocket to solve all situations. It’s not cheap, but it will last a lifetime. If it comes to being manufacturer-specific, we personally prefer the Surge model or, failing that, the Wave+ model, which takes up less space.
The second is Gaffer Tape. Not only is it ultra-solid and leaves no trace when removed, it is also hand-cuttable. Its uses are infinite – be it to lay cables on the ground, to fix accessories, or to make up decorative elements on set. Dozens of groups exist on Facebook showing the craziest achievements with Gaffa Tape. You can grab it in pretty much any colour, including green for Chromakey, but black is the most versatile in our opinion. Just make sure that you be careful with the quality, as more often than not Gaffa Tape is imitated but not necessarily equalled.
The last essential tool is a set of hexagonal/torx key set, but in the form of something that can foldaway and is lightweight. The vast majority of video devices, such as tripods and gimbals for example, are fixed with screws of this type,
therefore it is essential to have a set of keys that allow you to tighten or disassemble on location. Again, this is something that can be purchased in a variety of professional camera resellers or even in sport shops, as bicycles use the same hardware.
When on location, more often than not you are unable to have extra light, which can be difficult when having to repair a connection. Sure, a headlamp can be used but this is not necessarily discreet, nor can it be swivelled when you are in a conference environment for example. The most useful therefore is a flashlight which has a silicon or rubber cover. The Maglite could be suitable, but the problem is that it is made of metal and to have both hands, you are tempted to hold it with your teeth! We therefore recommend the ultra-light pen lamps with a coating that will not damage the smile, like this one.
5- Tie Microphones
Putting a tie microphone onto someone is a pretty simple thing if you decide to leave it exposed. Things get tough when you want to hide it, especially when the subject is wearing a thin top that does not allow the HF claw to be fixed properly. Gaffer tape can be used as a “shock absorber”, or for a more professional solution, these two accessories which will eliminate friction. The first is the Garfield Hush Lav, a simple mini foam tube in which you insert the microphone capsule.The second one is more interesting in our opinion because it is a set of silicon fasteners. Hide-a-mic allows you to insert Senken capsules into cases with fasteners. The insulation against friction is better and above all, the subject can fix it alone without you having to intervene. A new version called “Flex” is even more clever since it is a support that can be glued directly to the skin, meaning that you don’t need to worry about clothes.
Another problem faced on a shoot is using counterweights on the feet of lighting and cranes to avoid accident. The traditional answer is to use sandbags or water bottles, except this means needing sand or water on location, which is often easier said than done.
Steel counterweights that tend to be used in gyms for example can be used in such instances. They are often not expensive, and the diameter of the central hole means they can be fitted onto our lighting feet. Better still, you can also choose the weight carried in 0.5kg increments, and they can also be stacked according to the support to be weighted.
You can find these items in all sports shops or online.
Manfrotto have made a more luxury version, by offering counterweights that are also equipped with an integrated clamp. This way, they can be fixed anywhere. Super practical, but quite expensive.
7- Air Bombs
You probably already have a cleaning kit for optics (brush, blowgun etc.). This kit is essential, but to carry out an express cleaning (and in particular external) of your peripherals, we always have with us a dry duster. The pressure allows the dust to be removed without touching the device. Be careful though, we do not recommend using it on a sensor because if the air drives the dust away, it will stick elsewhere in the camera and may come back. But for everything else, go to the dry air.
8- Power Banks
Another must-have for location shots is the power bank. With the widespread use of tablets and other phones used to control cameras, drones or more generally, everything connected, power can be drained quickly. The energy bank is good for everything: charging an iPad or a computer, powering a HDMI/SDI converter, and even powering a camera continuously. The key is to choose a large one (more than 25000 mAh) and invest in a set of USB to DC adapters to connect it to all types of devices. You will be charged less than 50 euros, and you will never be out of charge again.
9- Magic Elastics
We love this accessory. Think Tanks Red Whips are adjustable elastics that look a lot like the bungees found in the sailing world. You wear them like bracelets without being cluttered and you can then fix anything: a cable along a crane, or a power bank for example. You can also use them to store cables, like with velcro. In short, for less than 10 euros, you would be wrong to deprive yourself of these.
10- Breakage Filters & Vari-ND
Optics are the most fragile element during a shoot, with a single scratch meaning that you will need to be getting the lens serviced and your shoot will be ruined. It is therefore necessary to equip all lenses with a protective filter to be screwed according to its diameter. In case of damage, it is this “glass” that will have to be changed, not your precious optics. Do not hesitate to look for these accessories from renowned manufacturers such as Tiffen and Hoya, as the quality of this protective filter must be flawless so as not to spoil the optical qualities of your lens.
Another filter that we recommend (and which can be screwed onto the protection filter) is the Vari-ND (variable neutral filter). These are extremely useful, even if you are shooting with a camera that has built-in neutral filters. The idea is to vary the amount of light by turning it so as not to touch the shutter. The advantage is that rotating it allows you to adjust this amount of light precisely and not by pre-defined steps (1/4, 1/16…). So you can decide how far to open the iris and shutter speed too. Here again, you have to go with the renowned brands, and pay for the quality ones, but you can keep them for the rest of your life.
We hope the above is of use to you. All of these recommendations have come from years of experience working on a wide array of locational shoots, and not due to affiliations with other websites rest assured.