Choices for Building a Portable Videography Kit with New Products

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When you're a videographer on the move, portability is everything. Whether it's an outdoor action shoot, a multi-location shoot with interviews and b-roll, or a car video that requires riding around a track a few times, the key to building up your videographer kit is a combination of quality, portability, and preparedness. Honestly, it's not too different than the military, so you can't go wrong reading the Army Leadership Field Manual, as well.

Choosing a Primary Camera

Depending on your production requirements, the camera you choose needs to support the top end of the medium. These days, 4K and up is trending, but you also want to make sure your file size is reasonable when you're out and about for 10+ hours and that you can shoot in lower resolutions to extend media capacity when you don't need the highest quality for say, a YouTube video vs. a film that will be shown on a cinema-size screen. For rich color, high resolution, lens support, portability, and versatility, I'd look at compact cine camcorders, mirrorless, and DSLR cameras to compare such as the Blackmagic Pocket Camera 4K or 6K, the Panasonic Lumix DC-S1H or AG-CX350, the Canon C300 Mark II or 5D Mark IV, the JVC GY-LS300, or the Sony PXW-FX9 or a7S II.

Blackmagic Design Pocket Cinema Camera 4K

Do You Need Another Camera?

Most interview setups include a second camera for a secondary angle or motion shot. There are many people using their smartphones for second (or third) cameras, so if the resolution and color depth works for the level of your production, go for it! There are many lenses, gimbals, and kits available to outfit your phone as a production camera, and some even sell professional-grade cages, gimbals, and rigs for your phone. Most will go for a dedicated solution if you want to capture b-roll or action shots, so a gimbal camera such as the DJI Osmo Pocket is great to carry along, or the DJI Osmo Action or GoPro HERO8 for shots mounted on a car, boat, bike, or drone. Take a look at some of the choices we suggest for matching a B camera with your A camera.

DJI Osmo Pocket Gimbal

Lens Options

When you're running around going through numerous setups in a day, you probably won't need too many lenses, but if one of those choices is interview, make sure you've got a set of decent primes for static shots and your wide and/or zoom lens for run-and-gun to avoid focus issues. Kit or zoom lenses are helpful to get started (for example the 24-70mm Canon EF / Nikon F or 24-105mm Canon EF / Sony E zoom) but also helpful to get specific primes to add to your collection for those beauty shots. If you've got a full-frame cine camera, try a three-lens a starter kit, which is just the right mobile size to get started. And don't forget those lens filters, especially the circular polarizer if you're shooting cars or through windows to avoid the reflection and glare.

Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM Lens

Hold It Steady

You'll need a solid tripod for interviews and steady or static b-roll shots—the lighter the better when you're on the move. A head sturdy enough to support the weight of your rig is important to consider, as well as a panning mechanism and bubble level to make sure you're balanced. Some sturdy, lightweight options include the Manfrotto Nitrotech carbon fiber tripod, the Flowtech 100 with FSB 10 fluid head as reviewed at B&H, or the Flowtech 75 version for lighter setups with a 75mm bowl head.

Manfrotto 608 Nitrotech Fluid Video Head and 536 Carbon Fiber Single Leg Tripod

If you need to be mobile, a shoulder rig or camera cage with handles will help you grip the camera and keep steady. If you're using a Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K or 4K, for example, the Tilta cage with top handle allows you to carry the camera easily, as well as add numerous accessories. A shoulder rig like the Zacuto Indie Recoil Pro V2 or the SmallRig Shoulder Mount Kit offer accessory mounting and also additional body support. If you're using a shoulder rig and in motion, it may help to add a follow focus so you're not grasping at your camera when you're moving. The Tilta wired follow focus with hard stops or wireless Nucleus Nano offer easy focus ability on your rig.

Tilta Camera Cage for Blackmagic Design Pocket Cinema Camera 4K/6K

To add some motion using a dolly or slider, the edelkrone SliderONE offers remote, motorized movement in a compact form, or the Varavon Slidecam LITE offers a lightweight manual slider for small setups. If you need to pan and tilt remotely, the Vidpro motorized Gimbal Head or the Syrp 3-axis motion control kit can help you get professional shots with a mobile kit. 

If you need to raise your production value but don't have space for a jib, the lightweight Moza Slypod combines a slider and monopod in one that uses a telescoping motor, and it easily fits into your tripod case. The Slypod mounts quickly onto any tripod and supports rigs up to 9 lb horizontally and 20 lb vertically, offering a variety of angles and a telescoping range of 11". You can control the speed and start/stop controls of the telescoping motor with buttons on the Slypod, with a separately available remote control, or wirelessly from your smartphone.

edelkrone SliderONE v2

Lighting the Scene

Having portable, battery-powered LED lights when you're on the road is a must. Ever since I was lugging my broadcast camera with large, AC-powered LED panel through the streets of Belize city and saw another crew with tiny lights for simple interviews, I was at the B&H store as soon as I got home, to find a similar setup. There are many to choose from, so durability, portability, brightness, and color will be your best criteria to find the right kit. "Bi-color" lights offer a full daylight-to-tungsten color temperature spectrum, and you may also benefit from a 0-100% dimmer. I've also needed long battery life in the field on long days, so low-power options are an important consideration, too. The Aputure MC RGBWW is a tiny LED light with a lot of power, and can fit in your pocket—put a few of these in a grid—with their wide color range, they can pull off many different scenes. The standard Rotolight V2 interview kit is a great option for portable setups, and can even fit around a shotgun mic on top of your camera. The Litepanels Lykos flight kit works great for travel production and has everything you need, from power to travel case to light an interview.

Aputure MC RGBWW LED Light

They Say Audio is the Most Important

Recording good audio is often more important—and sometimes more challenging—in field productions than getting the visual. If you wish to record using multiple sources and your camera's audio input isn't sufficient, a recorder such as Zoom H4n provides two XLR inputs, as well as two integrated mics for additional ambient tracks. If you need more inputs and need to mix in the field, the Zoom F6 Field Recorder provides a durable, portable mixer/recorder, and the MixPre-3, 6, or 10 from Sound Devices offer XLR inputs, as well as a timecode generator to sync multiple sources.

Zoom H4n Pro 4-Input / 4-Track Portable Handy Recorder with Onboard X/Y Mic Capsule

Lavalier mics are a solid, portable solution for interviews on the run. Sennheiser has popular wireless kits that are durable and come with mics with a clean sound. If wireless interference is an issue, try a wired lav such as the Shure WL93, which has smooth tone but requires phantom power, so you may want to try a lav like the battery-powered Sony ECM-44B. For both wired lavs, you may want to carry an additional XLR extension cable in case you need more slack. Since lav mics are omnidirectional and pick up ambient noise, a directional shotgun mic is a great solution as a primary or backup. The RØDE VideoMic Pro is a low-cost mic that can stay on your camera at all times and comes with a built-in mount for lighter setups. For a longer reach and excellent quality, a mic like the Sennheiser MKH 416 provides rich sound with very low noise and runs on phantom power. If you'd prefer a choice to use battery or phantom power and a lower cost, I've relied on Audio-Technica's shotgun line for indie production, specifically the ultra-durable AT897 workhorse, which offers a built-in low-cut filter and solid tone. There are numerous camera top mounts and booms to hold your shotgun mic, but when you need just a little more reach and you're on the run, RØDE’s pistol grip can come in handy.

Sony ECM-44B Omnidirectional Lavalier Microphone

Of course, there's always the standard go-to SM58 from Shure, which is dynamic so doesn't need power and provides clear sound while preventing most outside sounds—that is, if you're OK with a mic close to your subject's face. Good rules to shoot with: always have a backup and always record with at least two or more sources.

Shure SM58-LC Vocal Microphone

Never Run Out of Recording Media

If you're used to the documentary or b-roll world, you know there is never enough you can take, so always have ample media/SD cards for your audio recorder and video camera. If you are doing slow-motion video or recording with high bit-rate/resolution, make sure you have fast, large-capacity cards. Also, it's helpful to organize your cards in a case to protect them. It's also helpful to know which ones you've used and which ones you've formatted to prevent disasters, so come up with a system like flipping them around or labeling with Sharpie™ or tape.

SanDisk 128GB Extreme PRO UHS-I SDXC Memory Card

Power is Essential

Always have at least one battery backup when out on your shoot, and it helps to know how long yours last so you don't lose a shot. As many batteries as you can carry works best. Adding a battery grip to your DSLR or mirrorless camera can extend your shoot time, such as the Sony VG-C4EM vertical grip, or a handle like one of Tilta's Side Power Handles that holds a battery and can power your camera via a cable or dummy battery. Numerous manufacturers offer battery plates that allow you to add a high-capacity Gold mount or V-mount battery plate or converter offers power outputs, so your options are plenty. You may also consider a compact power station such as the Blind Spot Gear Power Junkie that provides power not only to your camera using a large-capacity battery using a dummy battery, but has USB outputs to power other peripherals such as a smartphone, action camera, or gimbal. And since portable battery charger packs are plentiful these days, don't forget to bring one or more for your phone or other peripherals.

Sony VG-C4EM Vertical Grip

Packing it All Up

All this equipment needs to go in a case, and make sure the one you choose not only can fit your gear, but that it can keep it safe. For quick access on the run, a Dr. Bag such as the one from Arco offers quick access to your gear with a single opening. Backpacks with multiple pockets and foam dividers such as the Manfrotto Metropolitan are the most mobile, though if your gear is too heavy, a roller bag like Lowepro's Runner RL can help for when you just can't carry it all on your back. A case for longer items, such as your tripod, slider, or shoulder rig like the Sunbounce roller bag, is also essential, and should have ample pocket space for extras like spare camera plates, tape, and tools.

Arco Video Dr. Bag 20

Now, What Did I Forget?

Believe it or not, the adage still applies: gaffer tape will always be needed in every situation, so always have a roll on hand. Always consider bringing a few extra accessories to make sure you're prepared for any situation: a white balance card, measuring tape, gloves, a pen and notebook, a sharpie (or dry erase marker / grease pen if using a follow focus with blank disk), C47s, clamps, an extension cord, battery chargers, extra batteries, coin or key for tripod plate, a multi-tool or screwdriver set, and check out this article on lens-cleaning supplies.

ProTapes Pro Gaffer Tape

Let us know what you put in your videography kit below, and be sure to check out all the available video cameras and accessories on the B&H website or try them out in person at the B&H SuperStore when you’re in New York City.

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