Before any successful shoot there is always some planning on my part as the cameraman or DOP. I like to have an idea of what I will be shooting and the location the shoot will be in. Really the more information you have will mean you can be better prepared and save time on set and most importantly get the best images. Try to get an outline of the shots needed or a storyboard is great too.
Once you have figured out the shots that you need to get, you can then start to think about what kind of equipment you need to get those shots. Even if the shoot seems super simple and may require hand held or tripod shots, I still always plan ahead. For extended hand held setups I always make sure to use my Easyrig. And for shoots when I am going to use a tripod, I decide between a light weight tripod setup for run and gun or a normal weight tripod (my go to everyday tripod) for almost any other shoot.
So what is the best way to determine what gear you will need?
One of the best ways to ensure you will be ready have all the needed gear for a shoot is to carry out a recce of a location before a shoot to take photos and figure out what kind of lights you would need as well as any other specialist or unusual equipment.
Other useful gear to have on any shoot
For every shoot I always carry a number of pop-up diffusers and reflectors of various sizes along with stands and arms specifically designed to hold them. These are cheap but incredibly useful. I find I end up using at least one of these on almost every shoot that I do. As well as a couple of black flags I also carry black drapes to place on the floor or hang from stands to reduce reflections and in effect absorb unwanted light.
As well as all the larger items of kit there’s also all the small bits and bobs that help a shoot go smoothly. A couple of rolls of gaffer tape, crocodile or welding clips, sharpies, spare batteries, extension cables etc.
Another thing I’ve found very useful is an equipment cart. I have a Magliner Junior cart with carpet covered shelves. Not only does this help move all the kit around but it also acts as a desk on location. This is really handy when swapping lenses or prepping the camera. It can save quite a bit of time when you have a mobile work area and somewhere you can put lenses and other frequently used bits of kit.
Pre shoot checks
Before any shoot I set everything up and make sure I test everything. I regularly check the backfocus adjustment of the lenses. I also check the camera is setup and working as expected. With most cameras there are now a very wide variety of codecs and resolutions to choose from. Make sure you have set your camera to the best or preferred (by the post production editor) settings and if you are using LUT’s they are loaded into both the camera.
Even if you own all the gear you are using it’s worth periodically checking these things as there would be nothing worse than rocking up for the shoot only to find the camera wasn’t performing as expected. It’s easy to get lazy if it’s your own kit and just assume it’s all OK. If you rent the camera package, it is normal to set the camera up (in a test bay) to check it over before taking it away. A full test like this before an important shoot is well worth doing and it gives you a chance to set everything up exactly as it will be on the shoot saving time and stress at the beginning of the shoot day.
On the shoot
When it comes time to unpack the vehicle and setup of the gear. I find it’s better to unpack all the gear at this time rather than stopping and starting throughout the day to unpack new bits of kit. Going to the car, unlocking, unpacking, locking and getting back to the set wastes time. To make getting the gear on the the shot location easy, this is where the equipment cart can be a big help as you can load up the cart with all the gear you will need as well as those bits and pieces you might need.
At the end of the shoot its time to pack away all the gear. It’s really important not to rush at this stage. Like everyone else I want to get home as quick as I can. But it’s important to pack your kit carefully and properly. There is nothing more annoying than when you start prepping for the next shoot finding that something has been broken or is missing because you rushed to pack up at the end of the previous shoot.
Lastly, Once you have packed everything away don’t forget to do that last walk through all the locations you’ve shot in to make sure you haven’t forgotten something.
If you do carry heavy cases and other video gear in a car make sure it is loaded low down below the tops of the seats. The reason for this is that you don’t want everything flying forwards and hitting you in the event of a car accident. The best option is to have a vehicle with a cargo barrier or robust steel grill between the cargo compartment and the passenger compartment.