Looking through an on-set or kit bag, you never know what little surprises you may run into. For example, one Assistant Cameraman (A.C.) with whom I studied years ago, used to carry disposable razors. Why, you may ask? An actor with whom that AC once worked was always worried about his five-o’clock shadow, and the makeup person didn’t have a razor. I didn’t carry around disposable razors, but in my time as a camera assistant, gaffer, and D.P., I assembled a rather odd assortment of items. So, I took a stroll thought the B&H website in search of some useful items that you may need at some point—perhaps even on your next shoot.
Do you need one? The short answer is: yes. With all the varied color sources, with questionable color spectrums, it is no longer a question of tungsten or daylight. Or do you want plus or minus green on the fluorescent bulb? Seeing the actual spectrum your light fixtures produce gives you control and can help avoid surprises. So, take a gander at the list of spectrometers we have here at B&H and, if you are into analog, take a peek at the Rotolight Spectrascope.
You can remove your hand from your forehead now. It seems so obvious, but so often this simple item is overlooked. There are three basic types: the single-use plastic strip, which are great for permanent installation; elastic band, such as can be used for securing cables to an audio boom pole; and my favorite, the reusable hook-and-loop cable tie. Besides the fun of tearing them open over and over, they really do seem to last forever (hint: if the prickly side starts to get filled with lint and doesn’t stick as well as it used to, try running a comb through it a few times to clean it out). Rip-Tie is a popular brand, and its Premium CableWraps feature Rip-Tie’s Rip-Lock provide more leverage for you when wrapping your cables tight.
Viewfinder Eye Cushions
Sure, you may like the feel of rubber grinding against your eye socket, and going home with a big red circle of soreness on your face. Personally speaking, that gets old quickly, and if you share the eyepiece, forget it. When you make a living with your eyes, that last thing you need is an irritated eye, or even worse, conjunctivitis. So the TBA (and I’m not going to share what that acronym stands for) or eyepiece chamois has become very popular among the pro crowd. But those who come from a DSLR or Mirrorless background and are moving up to an EVF or adding a loupe viewfinder might not know about the benefits of working with a viewfinder eye cushion. Comfort goes a long way to improving your work, and an irritated eye can make shooting go from joy to agony lickety-split. Pick up a few, so everyone who looks through the eyepiece can have their own. Available in round or oval, as well as a variety of sizes and colors.
I didn’t know about this for a long time, but this is a neat, useful little item. The Noga Quick-Release System makes it fast and easy to change out ¼"-20 threaded accessories. E-image, Kupo, and Vocas also make similar systems, while 16x9 offers its Cine Lock Quick Release.
Bean Bag Chair for your Camera
I’ve been carrying one of these around for years. Great for setting the camera down on an uneven surface. Available in red or green, it isn’t about fashion—the red pod has its ¼"-20 tie-down screw in the center, while the green pod has the tie-down screw closer to the edge, to accommodate zoom lenses.
Yeah, sure you know about them, but are you carrying one? Are you using it? No, it isn’t a trivet, and you shouldn’t be using that ratty old gray T-shirt your grip is wearing. Who knows when that shirt was last washed? Gray Cards a-plenty, and just for fun, here is a subset of collapsible gray discs. Step up to consistent color balancing and spot-meter readings, and cut down on your post color-correction time.
Doubtful as it is that the battery contacts on your camera will corrode or need cleaning, everyone has some battery-powered appliance on them. And those contacts will undoubtedly need cleaning at the worst time, and you without a pencil eraser. What to do? Be prepared and carry electronic contact cleaners. I recommend carrying the dry scrubbing-type and the liquid spray-on cleaners.
Okay, maybe you don’t really need it, but you know you want it. And it is useful not just for directors, but for script supervisors and producers, too. Producers love to sit in the director’s chair. So you might as well get two, or expect the director to be squatting on an apple box while the producer takes up residence in their chair. Since the producer is going to be residing in the director’s chair, you might as well provide a cup holder, such as these that attach to a mic stand, or these from RAM Mounts, so they don’t have to hold onto their coffee cup.
For more useful items you may not be aware of, check out the B&H Explora articles, 10 Useful Accessories for Video Production, and 9 Types of Video Accessories to Enhance Your Production. If you have any suggestions you’d care to share, please post them in the Comments section, below.