Today’s affordable tools, cameras, classes and copious creative outlets have brought making a film (one of the best story-telling devices) nearly to the everyman. Still, all those advances can’t change a basic fact: sometimes making a movie means going to where the story is rather than waiting for it to come to you. But paying to check 10 Pelican cases of equipment will essentially eat your entire production budget, not to mention it’s tough to sneak into a location if you have a fleet of boxes and bags. This kit can be carried by one or two people in traditional suitcases — which means you get your shots, no matter where those shots may be.
[Ed. Note: Admittedly, you won’t find any audio equipment in this kit. That’s a whole different world of booms, wireless lavs, recorders, mixers, and more. This kit concentrates on “getting the shot” and making it compelling, intriguing and moving.]
Blackmagic Cinema Camera
With 13 stops of dynamic range (the differences between the whites and blacks), a 2.5k sensor, compatibility with EF or MFT lenses, the ability to record in uncompressed RAW or ProRes format to a removable SSD, universal mounts for accessories and a price tag around $2,000, it’s the newest way to tell stories on a budget but not look like it.
Canon 5D Mark III
The 5D quickly became the camera of choice for filmmakers and commercial productions as DSLRs went mainstream. The Mark III ups the ante with a 22.3MP full-frame sensor, wide ISO range, the flexibility of manual settings for 1080p at 24 and 30 fps and 720p at 60 fps with a record time nearly 30 minutes long — wrapped in a magnesium-alloy package able to withstand a 20 foot fall from an octocopter. Trust us on that one.
15-inch Macbook Pro with Retina Display
Need we say more? The 15-inch Macbook Pro with Retina display is a powerhouse of performance and portability. Weighing less than previous version 13-inch MBPs and now featuring Thunderbolt 2 ports, an SD reader, SSD hard drive, Iris pro graphics card and quad-core processors, this five million pixel showboat is the perfect setup to edit quickly and view your color correcting like never before.
The 190XPro3 is a compact three-section aluminum tripod that is lightweight and durable, the perfect combination for a portable moviemaker. It features rubber sleeves on each leg for grip, quick release levers that allow the legs to expand fully in one easy motion, a connector on the center stalk for accessories like lights or audio equipment and a center column that rotates 90 degrees to give a quick horizontal perspective for creative pans and tilts.
Kessler Pocket Jib Traveler
Want to boost production value? Get a jib. Unfortunately, most are heavy and require several people to set up and multiple checked bags for travel. The Pocket Jib Traveler, at just over two feet long and weighing only 5.5 pounds, fits in one bag, unpacks in under a minute and is able to support up to 10 pounds of camera gear.
DJI Phantom Quadcopter
With action sports blowing up the past few years and Red Bull Media House raising the bar, we have to come to expect a steadicam helicopter shot every time we click on a video. Fortunately, you don’t have to blow your entire budget on renting a helicopter for six minutes. Thanks to a simple remote, onboard GPS and impressive durability (ours has survived too many crashes to count), the DJI Phantom is an extremely affordable GoPro toting alternative that is ready to fly out of the box.
Canon f/2.8 L Lenses
A wide-angle lens is a great tool for setting the stage quickly and giving the viewer a lot of information. It’s also excellent in tight spaces and can be stabilized in post-processing, giving a steadicam feel to your footage.
If you can only have one lens, the 24-70mm is it. Smooth, crisp and versatile, it will cover 80 percent of what you want to shoot with excellent results.
Zooming to 200mm with an f/2.8 is a dream for epic long-range shots; it’ll flatten your background, lending an almost 3D feel when adding a dolly move — just save your pennies, ’cause this glass ain’t cheap.
Wanna add more drama than a high school cheerleading squad? A slider will punch up any shot from boring product to exciting action and is a must for the mobile movie maker. The Konova slider is light, durable and affordable; it can mount horizontally or vertically, giving some creative options.
Think Tank Sling-O-Matic 30
Finding a bag to swallow a 15-inch MacBook, three lenses, two camera bodies and a gaggle of accessories is a difficult task. Featuring a water repellent nylon exterior, YKK zippers, customizable velcro dividers and comfortably padded shoulder strap that can be worn on either shoulder, the Think Tank shoulder sling is perfectly suited for grab-and-go filmmaking and fits as a carry-on under the seat in front of you.
GoPro Hero 3+ Black
The first GoPro cameras were limited in ability and had a distinct glossy fish-eye look to them. Cut to a few years later and the multi-billion dollar company has addressed the naysayers with features like a CineStyle color format, recording options from 4K at 15 fps all the way to 720p at 120 fps, wi-fi, fantastic time-lapse options — and the whole package is tiny enough to fly on a Phantom, mount on a motorcycle or hide in a cafe to steal some shots. Why don’t you already have one?
Manfrotto 055 Photo Video Head
This video head’s fluid cartridges and adjustable counterbalance in “photo mode” plus friction control in “video mode” keep your pans and tilts smooth and steady; the magnesium body means TSA won’t bust it up when you travel.
Western Digital My Passport 500 GB Hard Drive
The only thing worse than missing a shot is losing it when your media card disappears, gets stepped on or becomes corrupted. Western Digital’s hard drive has USB 3.0 for fast transfer speeds and and comes formatted for Mac, which means you can backup your footage or dump another shooter’s media so you don’t have to wait for an FTP link. Tip from the field: make sure the drive and original media travel separately in case there is a lost bag situation.
Ram Suction Cup Mounts
The suction cup mount is the Duct tape of the portable movie kit. Ideal for those necessary car scenes (we obviously use them all the time), these extremely rugged Ram mounts provide the perfect option when a tripod would be too large or obvious. Available in single, double and triple cup configurations, they are well worth the price.
DSPTCH X Gear Patrol Camera Strap
With the limited run of the DSPTCH X Gear Patrol camera straps long gone, you’ll need a connection to get the orange version. DSPTCH’s other colors are almost a substitute.
METHODOLOGY All this equipment (except the two-week loan of the Blackmagic Cinema camera) was tested over the course of six months on Behind The Wheel shoots, music videos and personal projects resulting in a true understanding of the pros and cons to each item.