If you look back a few years, you’d be shocked by the lack of gadgets and tools in the filmmaking market. Many camera operators (the term filmmaker was still to come) had to use their craftsmanship to engineer some do-it-yourself solutions for any kind of need a little bit out of the ordinary.
Now, between crowdfunding launched online and small gadgets, gear, and all tool companies in-between, there are a lot of options for indie filmmakers to choose the best accessories that can help in some of the most menial tasks we have to live with. So, here is a list of some of this year’s best tools, curated by The Hybrid Shooter, that you can get for your gear bag. Best of all, they won’t cost you an arm and a leg.
In 2019, if you are missing a gimbal in your gear rack, you may as well drop the name filmmaker from your business card. Almost any client is now used to that kind of smooth and buttery movement, and gear manufacturers have picked up the lesson – there is a multitude of gimbals out there. We are going to reduce the list to three units in particular:
Moza Air 2 is the most down-to-earth no-frills of the list. Heavy-duty, great payload, and simple to operate. If you don’t care for much more than that, you’re free to go, that’s what you’re looking for.
The smaller, lighter, and smarter iteration of the Moza Air is the Moza AirCross 2. Its payload of 3.2kg albeit sufficient for a Sony A7 III is a little less than the 4.2Kg of the Air. If you don’t pack huge and heavy lenses and care for all the smart features like smart time-lapses, tracking, and similar functions then that’s your gimbal of choice.
Finally, the Weebill LAB is the smallest gimbal on the market. It’s portable and fits in almost any bag, has great battery life and usual functionalities. Also, check out the new and updated version with stronger motors, the LAB-S.
There’s a name that is synonymous with tripods, and that’s Manfrotto. You almost can’t go wrong with it, but if you choose the 055XPRO3, you’re almost guaranteed to be on the right track. It’s light, has a great payload, but most of all it has a great function: the center column can be extracted completely and inclined on the side.
This allows you to lean exactly over a table to get some perfect product shots. If you are looking for something a little bit more portable, you can choose the Zomei 699C instead – a carbon fiber ultra-light tripod, good for all your projects that require a lot of walking with gear on your back.
A tripod is only half complete if not paired with a good head. A decent friction head makes all the difference in the world between a smooth and professional pan or tilt, and an amateur bumpy and fast rotation. Heads are expensive, especially the video dedicated ones like the Manfrotto MHV502 AH, but usually they are worth every single penny.
If you have a Sony mirrorless camera, chances are that you got it without a charger. Now, a good option in that regard is the Nitecore USN4 Pro Charger. It has two slots for your Sony NPF batteries, but there are versions for other mounts as well.
It can handle two batteries at the same time, quite quickly thanks to the Quick Charge 2.0, and has a nice display with all the info on the battery status, a must-have.
Ok, you’ve got your gear. How do you carry it? A company that has made a name for itself is Peak Design. Almost any product in their lineup is beautiful and has been thought with filmmakers in mind.
The suggested Everyday Backpack 20L is quite stylish and resistant. It has a very useful, and the side access to the gear compartment is pretty handy, since it allows you to pick up what you need without stopping completely and lying on the ground.
With the diffusion of DSLRs and most of all mirrorless cameras, we’ve seen a lot of cages hitting the market. Why a cage, though? Because it allows you to have mounting points, just as on cine cameras, to mount your accessories on and to make the whole rig tougher. SmallRig is quite known for its cheap and affordable, but still durable, cages.
Choose the one you prefer and that better fits your needs. The half cage you see here is the bare minimum, but from there on, you’ve got a lot of options. Most of SmallRig’s cages have the quick release plate, very useful to quickly switch from a video cage setup to a lighter cageless rig. And it’s compatible with the Peak Design golding plate too!
You’ve got your cage, now it’s time to use it. Mount a monitor on that, and use it to focus and to check your false colors or other video assists. Feelworld 279S is a great choice – it’s cheap and simple, very bright at 229nits, and has a lot of features in common with most expensive counterparts.
Once you get used to having a decent monitor to frame and check focus, you’ll never want to get back. There’s a reason why it’s one of the most underrated accessories for cameras.
Every now and then a novelty hits the market, and everyone waits to see if it catches up. That is the case with the Moza Slypod. A new take on the concept of the slider: its a tube made of carbon fiber, so it is very light and compact.
The movement seems smooth and it should be quite easy to pack, much less space needed than normal sliders. Will it be the new fad? We’ll know in a while.
Mics and transmitters
A small shotgun mic can completely change and improve your audio, giving you an immediate tangible result. Deity D3 Pro is a good option, but there are a lot of similar products. The internal battery is a plus, as is the interchangeable cable, but nothing beats the knob to adjust the Dbs.
Handy and easy to operate, it’s a design we’d like to see more. Pair it with the Rode Wireless Go and a tap is all you need to set up your mic system.
There are a lot of options, speeds, and brands on the market if you’re looking for an SD card. UHS-II is getting almost ubiquitous and prices are going down. If you keep your eyes open for counterfeit and knockoffs, you’re usually well set with a couple of medium-tier cards like the one from ADATA.
There are also higher quality cards, like SanDisk Extreme Pro cards, with amazing writing speed, over 300Mbs! Consider also the Panasonic cards, very fast ones too. If instead, you have UHS-I slots to work with, the SanDisk Extreme PRO UHS-I is now more affordable than ever. Whatever media you decide to use, keep it safe!
SD cards are inherently fragile, so storing them in a solid card holder like the PolarPro Slate is a must if you want to minimize the chance of corrupting your footage. To copy your media from your card, you can use the SanDisk Extreme PRO USB-C Card Reader – small and flexible, it can fit almost anywhere and never skips a beat.
Guess what is the best accessory you can buy for your camera? You’re right, it’s another camera. A B-Cam is a lifesaver if anything goes wrong and the A-Cam gets damaged, stolen or it simply fries its brains due to a short-circuit. It would be wise to have a substitute with the same lens mount and maybe a smaller sensor than your A-cam, so you can use the optics you already have with you on set and get a nice alternative framing and angles.
That was the final item on this list, it was a long one, but worth the read. Did you find anything interesting for yourself? Let us know in the comments below.