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The Cinematographer’s “Necessity Kit” – PART 2: Camera

In my last post, I broke down some key grip items to travel with on any job. Here, I will add to the list items in my paired down “AC kit.” Often times you may not have an assistant camera on the shoot, or sometimes you will need to split crews. Regardless, it’s always important to carry enough with you to clean, care for, and organize your camera package.

Pens, Sharpies, grease pencils and non-permanent pens. You will always have to write something down, mark you camera’s media, label a hard drive, or mark your lens. You will also need a small memo pad for writing down those notes. It beats writing on the back of your hand!

Pancro, Rosco lens tissues and microfiber lens wipes for cleaning your lenses and camera. I recommend keeping your Pancro bottle in a small Ziploc so it doesn’t explode all over your stuff.

Paper towels and Q-Tips for wiping down and cleaning off the camera. Keep these in a Ziploc bag so they stay clean and dry.

Bulb air blower for cleaning dust off the lens. Remember, you can’t fly with canned air!

Assorted Velcro for attaching things to you camera. Have both the standard Hook and Loop kind and the stronger Dual-Lock type. This will allow for either constant re-application or a stronger, more permanent hold depending on your needs. Also include Velcro ties for organization or tightening up the cable mess on the camera.

Bongo ties are an incredible addition for attaching anything to anything. You will end of carrying multiples on your wrist before you know it!

Flashlight and headlamp for finding things in the dark. I think having both is important. The flashlight is brighter, but the headlamp makes for easy hands-free work. Besides, this is definitely something you’ll want a backup of.

Insert slate and dry erase maker for recording notes on camera. If you change the frame rate, resolution, or any other camera settings worth noting, it’s a good idea to flash that info on camera. This is oftentimes difficult to do in the field, but trust me, the editor will thank you later.

Pocket white balance cards for those tricky lighting situations. A lot of times you can get by balancing off a white wall on location, but when you want to slightly warm or cool the image, these cards will come in handy.

A simple tool kit is a must. Have at least a set of allen keys (both US and Metric), jewelers screwdrivers, small scissors, lighter and a Leatherman with pliers, flat and Phillips head screwdrivers, and of course a knife.

Super glue and Loctite for all those times something cracks, breaks, or comes loose. It happens more times than we’d like to think… Keep these in a dedicated Ziploc as well with its own paper towel for cleanup. You don’t want this stuff mixing in your kit.

Assorted colors of gaffers tape are useful in more ways than one. Visual Departures makes a great set of microGaffer tape rolls in many colors that pack a punch in a tiny size. You can never have too many of these.

Emergency blanket for keeping the gear dry and clean. Lay this on the ground if its raining or dusty. Cover the camera with it to keep it from getting too hot on a break. Wrap the inside of your backpack with it if it’s pouring outside. You get the idea…

Ziplocs, trash bags and plastic grocery bags will also help keep your equipment dry, but in a more controlled way. I tend to just use small trash bags as camera rain covers instead of investing in a camera-specific model. You can wrap the bag, tear holes where you need them, tape and bongo tie the bag to the camera and you’re good to go. Just keep a few on hand in case if starts raining again after you already took the bag off. Shower caps from the hotel are a great way to protect your lens. Wrap the shower cap over the front of your mattebox to keep rain and dust off the lens.

Fanny pack, lens pouch and small backpack to lug all your stuff around. I find I like to operate with a structured fanny pack to house spare cards and batteries, pens, tape, Leatherman, etc that can also function as a place to rest the camera when shooting from the hip. The lens pouch is great for its named application, but you can also keep your wireless lav and transmitter in there to keep it handy. The backpack will keep everything else you might need closer than a run to the car. Water, snacks, release forms, etc. The key is to have what you need handy on you at all times without overloading yourself on weight or size. You may need to be jumping in and out of cars, which means downsizing your packs. It’s all about balance.

Makeup kit for touching up a subject before an interview. If you are going to invest as much time as you do into the lighting of the subject, don’t let some shine ruin all your hard work. Keep it simple with some Clean & Clear oil absorbing sheets (that come in a handy travel size) and some HD or rice powder, applied with a kabuki brush.

AA batteries are always important to keep on hand. Whether its your headlamp or flashlight, or your wireless transmitter or receiver, something always dies and you always need to get it up ad running quickly.

Small first aid kit for minor cuts and burns and aches. Any kind of travel first aid kit should suffice, just make sure you have: fabric bandages, antibiotic ointment, antiseptic wipes, gauze, tape, Moleskin, ibuprofen, antacid and anti-diarrheal pills.

The DIT kit is a tricky one, but even if you have someone handling media management, here are a few key items to always have on hand for when you least expect to need it. Miscellaneous USB cables for consumer cameras and phones. Many times you’ll need to download pictures or videos off a cell phone, and remember, not everyone has an iPhone! A 16-32GB USB jump drive for downloading this information to quickly and easily in the field. Lastly, I always keep a universal power adapter in the kit. You’d be surprised how many times you end up in a foreign country and either forget to bring the adapters or just need one more…

I hope this list helps you on your next shoot. Everyone and every shoot is unique, but this is what I tend to use and need most often. You will for sure have different needs from mine, but this should get you on the right track for being better prepared.

What’s on your “necessities list?” Is there anything I left off the list? Is there anything that has saved you in the past when you least expected it? Leave me a comment! Happy reading.

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