Here's a list of basic tools and support gear I use on every single Steadicam shoot. Before you think I'm being paid by any particular company to say nice things about them--THINK AGAIN!! There are no advertisements on this site and there never will be (except for my own shameless self-promotion! ). I am not paid to endorse any brand names. All the products and companies mentioned here are things that work for me and I'm more than happy to recommend successes to others. In my line of work efficiency is the name of the game and these products help me stay on schedule.
Other than the camera and Steadicam there isn't a more important piece of gear than a good sturdy camera case with wheels. A good case protects fragile gear and keeps it dry while the wheels help get you there on schedule. Pelican Products makes the 1650 Case (pictured above), a large and rugged foam-filled gear caddy, that is hard to top for the money. The Pelican 1650 Case has seven latches that help seal the neoprene O-ring in the lid to be watertight. The inside has two thick layers of "pull and pluck" foam for your own gear configuration and a soft foam lid liner.
Before tearing into my Pelican Case I set all my gear out on a piece of cardboard that I cut to the dimensions of the case and made a template for the size and types of compartments I needed. Then I translated the template design to the case by using the pull & pluck foam. Most of the support gear I refer to on this page fits in the Pelican 1650 case right alongside my camera gear. The 1650 has one pair of wheels for easy, upright pushing or pulling, also an atmospheric E-Z pressure purge knob to allow for vented air travel or for completely sealing the lid against any water hazards. This case is watertight and, if properly closed, will float in the worst-case scenario.
I refer to this case as my portable grip department. I always have 8 (eight) C-cell batteries, 8 (eight) AA-cell batteries, 4 (four) Mini-DV videotapes, and all 4 (four) Lithium Ion camera batteries (and the charger/AC unit) in this case. All lenses and lens care materials are permanently stored in the case as well. The Pelican 1650 keeps me organized. This type of organization and simplification carries over to the field when I'm in a hurry to switch lenses or Steadicams. Simply put: everything is WHERE I need it WHEN I need it!
This incredible case is available at B & H Photo & Video Supply . I also use the Pelican 1620 and it is a great case as well!
A helpful hint for those of you using a Pelican or similar case: Store your fully-charged Lithium Ion camera batteries with the label (or plain) side up--then after you've used each battery re-insert it with the "dimple" side up. This is a great way of identifying which battery is fresh and which isn't--since the onboard battery marking system Sony came up with is practically useless. When using Sony's Lithium "L" Series batteries you can implement this battery storage system just as easily: Label side up for fully charged and label side down for discharged!
All grip situations require a basic set of tools: screwdriver, pliers, wire cutters, scizzors, knife. The most convenient way to have these kinds of tools on hand is to carry a Multiplier or Leatherman tool on your person at all times. I prefer Gerber's Scout multiplier (pictured above). This is an efficient high-end stainless steel multi-tool system that comes complete with mini Fiskar brand scizzors, two flat-blade screwdrivers, phillips screwdriver, awl punch, can and bottle opener, file, sharpener, knife, needle nose pliers, and wire cutters. It fits in a provided holster for any belt and can be put into action simply with a flick of the wrist. (kinda sounds like a butterfly knife so be careful you don't freak anyone out!) The Scout is the flagship model of Gerber's new line of locking multipliers. Every tool locks after extraction and the black release on the sides must be depressed before a tool can be put away. Look for it at any Target for $49.95.
I keep these screwdrivers tucked into my Pelican case for any maintenance. Even though I carry a Gerber Multiplier with me at all times there are situations where one screwdriver at a time has been handier than an unfolding combo tool.
Cokin filters offer the videographer many options in the graduated filter department that are as pleasing to the pocketbook as they are to the eye. I prefer the square filters because the holder allows up to 3 different filters at once with a full range of angular adjustment. The most difficult aspect of using square filters is attaching the threaded ring to the front of the camera. Just remove the lens hood first!
Graduated filters (or "grads") offer a soft-edge of color or neutral density to a part of the frame that is lacking color or overexposed. Grads are great for toning down a hot sky to match ground detail in a wide shot. The sliding mechanism of the filter holder allows the camera operator the freedom to adjust multiple layers of graduated colors on the fly. The grads pictured above are Cokin's: A.121 (neutral density or Graduated Grey G2), A.129 (Graduated Pink P2), and the A.127 (Graduated Mauve M2). Grads, however, are best suited for tripod shots. Using grads on a Steadicam of any kind just isn't practical since the operator's movement can call attention to the straight edge of the grad (and visa versa). There's nothing worse than having a straight line in-frame, even if it's the soft edge of a grad filter, to reference how wild or wobbly your Steadicam shot may really be.
Lens cleaners come in all varieties but the best thing I've seen is the silicon-coated lens cloth. They can be found at any reputable photo dealer or eyeglass store for around $5.00. You can use this type of cloth with or without fluid, but any brand name lens fluid will work with it. This type of cloth is excellent for removing the dust and fingerprints from delicate glass surfaces. I've heard others criticize silicon-coated media but I've had no problems with them--and the same cloth cleans my eyeglasses, binoculars, and digital still camera lenses.
Complete the Handheld Steadicam Workshop Tour!!--all written by John Brune
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