12 pieces of gear that are total life savers on set

A couple of weeks ago we announced a giveaway to win the Westcott Flex light and an Academy of Storytellers membership (be sure sure to scroll down to the bottom of this post for the announcement of the winner).

The reaction to this giveaway was really quite amazing, in large part because of how handy the Flex is—it’s a total life saver on any and every set. From being able to hide or mount it virtually anywhere, to controlling it’s color temperature and intensity, to being able to power it from batteries—it’s uses are almost endless.

But, it’s not alone in being a piece of gear that should always be only an arm’s reach away.

We chatted with 5 Story & Heart filmmakers and Academy educators about the gear that goes with them on every shoot—like the Flex—that has allowed them to creatively solve just about any problem they encounter. 

Here are 12 pieces of gear that are total life savers, care of 5 Story & Heart filmmakers.


First up, here are 3 pieces of gear Mike Sutton, of Frozen Prosperity, finds to be total life savers.

1) Bungee Cords + Carabiners

Bungee Cords and Carabiner’s come in several different sizes, and can be used for various applications, like containing all my gear on my RocknRoller cart to prevent gear spillage. I also use these as shock absorbers for shooting with the MoVI from cars, or for general car rigging in addition to load-bearing straps—great for keeping my movement controlled in an uncontrollable environment such as shooting out a car.

2) BlackWrap Foil

BlackWrap is a life saver because you can solve lighting problems within minutes vs hours. From flagging light where a light stand or arm is not practical (or time does not allow), to using it to make a defined pattern of light, to even making a cucalorus with it—a cut out pattern for adding some depth or texture to an image—there are a million different uses. Case in point, I was shooting aerials for a large estate last week and the sun was everywhere. Our iPad Mini 2 screen was completely blown out by the sun. All of the iPad sunshades on the market for the DJI Inspire 1 are only three sided and not very deep, so a lot of light still hits the screen. Solution: we busted out the BlackWrap and made a deep four-sided monitor hood which made everything clear and settings easy to see.

3) Ram Mounts (1/4-20" and 3/8-16")

From mounting monitors, rigging GoPros (and even DSLRs), to just general problem solving, I keep at least four complete sets and extra ball mounts for each on every job. These are strong and inexpensive mounts that always come in handy.

I was up north this winter to get a few timelapse shots of a frozen waterfall, with my Kessler basic controller, slider motor, all my cables, etc. Once on location setting up, I realized I was missing a key component. The prior night, when I was pre-packing and going over my gear list I was distracted and accidentally took my ball head out of my kit and left it on the kitchen counter and forgot to bring it back down. On location I realized I had no way of mounting my camera to the slider, but luckily I had my small kit of Ram mounts and Ram ball ends in my car. I used a set to make a ball head that easily supported my 1DC. 

Michael Shu, of Onyx Cinema, adds several audio related life savers for one-person bands.

4) Rycote Overcovers

I actually use Overcovers non-traditionally, by using them as Undercovers. I find the wind jamming material actually kills a lot more clothing rustle than the actual Rycote Undercovers. Using Overcovers makes hiding mics a 1-minute process. Just be sure to use some medical tape to back up the adhesive. And while there will still be risk of rustle, if you're strategic with your mic placement it's usually a non-issue.

5) Audio Transmitter Belts

More audio gear here, this time for when you want to hide an audio transmitter or recorder. Sometimes you've gotta go underneath the clothes. Instead of using hair ties or tape, these belts for belt packs are an easy way to make sure my audio packs are secured, without making things awkward and uncomfortable for talent. Win win!

Scott Rieckens and Matt Mangham, of Saint West Filmworks, add several MoVi and Drone life-savers.

6) Voltage Tester

It’s a super easy, super quick way to check your LiPo batteries power. For instance, many filmmakers utilize the Freefly MoVI in majestic mode. On a long shoot, it can be easy to forget about your battery life as the MoVI doesn't currently have a fail safe or low voltage indicator. In those cases, we hook up our Voltage Tester to the battery and just leave it on. We like to set the alarm indicator to 3.6 volts to ensure we don't drain our LiPo too far. Once the alarm triggers, we swap batteries. If you are using LiPo's for other reasons, like drones, these are great for redundant alarms, as the sound emitted is quite loud and is audible from 1,000 ft away or more. Lastly, if you have a pile of batteries, this is a great tool to quickly check their power levels.

7) Quarters

We put quarters in our MoVI case, our camera bag, and everywhere else in between. If you need to change out a quick release plate in a pinch, a quarter makes as a nice makeshift flathead screwdriver. Best part: it only costs $.25, and it retains it's value 100%—in other words, it’s a great investment! 

8) Sun Seeker

Though not a cheap app (by app standards), it’s super helpful. This app lets me know where the sun is headed in the sky and allows me to plan my lighting very accurately around that. We recently used this app on our shoot for Hot Spring Spas. We had a tech scout the week before the shoot, and I was able to walk around with my Gaffer and use Sun Seeker to help plot out what lights would be needed, where they should be placed, where the talent should be in each shot and what times of day we should shoot each different scene. 

9) Oil Absorbing Blotting Paper

Blotting paper is a fantastic way to keep your subjects looking their best. Often, especially under the lights, your subject will often become nervous, hot or both. They are easy to find in almost any location you find yourself, in the makeup aisle at most CVS, RiteAid, Target, etc. Your subjects and clients will thank you later. 

 

And lastly, here’s Joe Stunzi of Locomotive with several life-savers, including a child friendly addition.

10) USB Battery Packs

Seriously, you can never had enough USB battery packs. Production days are long, and even if you start with a fully changed phone (or iPad, or any piece of gear), you almost always need to top up during the day. And not just you—your clients too! Whether it's a nice gesture to a client or to get the last few settings dialed in on the MoVI app on your iPhone, these are a great inexpensive investment.

11) Bongo Ties

Similar to bungee cords in use, Bongo Ties are essentially rubber bands with wooden pieces that allow you more flexibility when securing gear. I have used them to save my broken boom pole shock mount for the past few shoots, in addition to securing XLR cables and keeping them out of the frame. Very handy! 

12) Humor (Stuffed Animal?)

A photo posted by Joseph Stunzi (@jstunzi) on

Just having a distraction or something that makes people smile is a great thing—whether it's for someone that just thinks you're ridiculous, or a little kid that’s absolutely not interested in being on camera. Our little stuffed Grumpy Cat has been the hero on set many times. This has actually saved a recent shoot I was doing for Father's Day for Facebook.

Now, it’s your turn. What pieces of gear are in your kit that are total life savers? We, and every other filmmaker out there, would love to know! 


Gear Featured in this Post


Announcing the Westcott Flex + Academy Membership Winner

First up, thanks to everyone who entered our giveaway! If you didn’t win this one, fear not, we’ve got plenty more on the way. Be sure to sign up for our Email List to make sure you hear about them first.

Here we go...

....

Drum roll please...

...

The winner is...

...

👏👏👏Michael Grant. 👏👏👏

Congrats, Michael—we can't wait to see what magic you cook up with the Flex light and an Academy membership. And thanks so much to everyone for participating!

Remember to sign up for our email newsletter here to be the first to hear about our next giveaway (hint: it's a colorful one).