“What’s in my Gear Bag?”

Here is a quick post. I recently ran across a series of articles at MovieMaker.com highlighting the gear cinematographer’s have in their personal kits.

This motivated me to share the contents of my own kit bag. Let’s take a peak!

1) iPhone/iPad  These are by far the most often used and invaluable part of my kit. Below are the apps I use most (apps are loaded on both my phone and iPad).

pCam Film + Digital Pro: This award winning app has all the essential tools for a DP and/or camera assistant –  Depth of Field Calc, Field of View Calc, Exposure Compensation, Focal Length Matching (my personal favorite), and quite a few more!

Cine Meter ll:  Even when I don’t have my light meter on me…I do!

I still like to use a “real” meter whenever I can, but this fantastic app from Adam Wilt is a very accurate “stand-in” when I don’t have my standard meter. Paired with a incident dome adapter like ones from Luxi or Luma and you have a very versatile tool!

Sun Seeker: Use this to track sun position throughout the day.

Magic Hour: This app uses GPS coordinates to let you know when the sun will rise/set and duration of “golden hour”.

Shot Designer: This is my “go-to” shot diagram app. It’s quick and easy to use and has a great sharing feature.

ARRI Photometric App:  The one is proprietary to ARRI fixtures but is still useful for incandescent fixtures since they all use standards lamps.

Cameras + Formats: This app helps me determine data rates for a wide range of cameras and recording formats.

Adobe Kuler: This is a pretty cool app that creates color boards simply by taking a photo with your phone/tablet. I use it a lot when scouting.

[Update: This app doesn’t seem to work on iOS anymore. If anyone knows why please let me know! Adobe help?!]

DIY Camera Logs/Reports via Google Docs: I created excel based camera log that I use to keep notes of my camera settings, filters, lighting ratios, and other info I want to document. What’s nice is that since it’s cloud based, I always have access to it no matter where I am!

I also use iPhone/iPad to store production related docs in pdf format (Script, Storyboards/Shot Lists, Call Sheets, etc) and personal notes and references (images, lighting diagrams, etc).

2) Incident Light Meter (Spectra Cine lV-A)  I am not a fan of lighting from the monitor. I love the freedom and “connection” I feel to the set, subject, and lights when lighting with a meter!

In a future blog, I’ll show how I use a light meter! In the meantime, here is nice reference: http://www.premiumbeat.com/blog/how-to-use-light-meters-in-videos/).

3) Gaffer’s Glass  This is basically a piece of welding glass inserted into an easy to handle loupe. How does it work?

You simply 1) stand where you want to aim your light, 2) place glass in front of one of your eyes, 3) look  directly at light source (through viewing filter you can see the actual filament of the light and see if it is directly is aimed at you), and 4) direct the light to be pointed straight at you.

A good pair of sunglasses could work here too but try looking at a ARRI M90 at full intensity, and believe me, you’ll want something a little heavier!

Sometimes I’ll also bring a contrast glass as well, otherwise I just squint.

4) Laser Pointer  This is one of the most practical and useful tools on a set. Saves a lot of pointing and saying, “No! The one to the right!”

Another use, and a pretty cool party trick, is to use a laser pointer to locate sources of reflection. How? Basically, all you do is 1) point the laser at the reflection and 2) follow the beam back to the source of the reflection. Try it, it’s great!

5) APS-C Camera (Nikon D60 but hope to upgraded to a Fuji XPro2 in near future)  

[Update 3/10/17: So, I finally upgraded my camera to a FujiFilm XT-20. It shares the same sensor (APS-C) and processor as the XPro2. It’s a fantastic little camera!] 

I like the APS-C format a lot because it is very close to Super35 format, so much so that I often use this a Director’s Viewfinder. I use it for scout photos, test shots, and framing!

Also, if  I want to check my lighting (as mentioned above, I am not a fan of lighting off a monitor), I can snap a quick photo and, “walla!”, I have an approximation of how my image will turn out.

6) Multi-Tool When I did more Gaffer/Grip work I carried a SOG Multi-Tool but now that I’m mostly around the camera I’m thinking of getting something a little smaller.

7) Circuit Meter/Tester  This doesn’t always come out the bag but it has proven useful at times, especially when your working with a limited number of circuits and you want to make sure you don’t overload them.

Rule of thumb (don’t hold this against me…there is no substitute for a qualified gaffer): A standard household circuit is roughly rated for 15-20a. 1000w is roughly equivalent to 8-9amps, so, you could theoretically plug a up to 2ooow or 16-18amps of lights into a standard circuit and be safe.

8) DIY MoneyMaker Sling  I’ve tried the whole “waist pack/belt pouch thing, but they were never really felt comfortable and I always thought they made me look like a “nerd”.

I use the “money-maker” primarily on photo shoots but it also comes in handy to carry my light meter and stills camera. This is certainly not a necessity but it definitely ups the “cool” factor. Think James Bond and less Napoleon Dynamite!

9) Radio Headset/Earbuds  I like to share but there are just some things that don’t need to be shared….like earwax from rental gear!

10) MacBook/Media Reader(s)/External SSD  Use this to offload/back media or when a larger device then an iPhone/iPad is necessary.

11) Knee Pads  This is a life-saver!

12) Gloves  Old habit from Gaffer/Grip days.

13) Safety Vest  Safety First!

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In addition to the items mentioned above, I will usually always have a rain jacket and hat, either on me or in my bag – rain jacket for rain or to keep warm and a hat for keeping my head cool or to block sun as I look though viewfinder.

Below are a few items I would eventually like to add to my kit:

Luxi Incident Dome Adapter for iPhone This adapter + the Cine Meter App turns you iPhone into an Incident Meter.

Spot Meter (Pentax Digital Spot Meter)  I mostly use my incident meter but at times having a nice dedicated spot meter is very helpful. Most projects there will be one onset, so I usually just borrow that. However, I’ve really been wanting to get one for myself.

There are the combo incident/reflected meters like the Sekonic’s but I really like the Pentax (even though you can only buy them used now) because it’s mechanical – has dials and rings. I feel it is more accurate then it’s “newer” digital counter-parts!

Clinometer/Compass  I have the Sun Seeker app on my phone but having an “old-school” compass/clinometer means that I can always track the sun battery full or not!

So, that’s it. Hope this little peak inside my gear bag was enlightening!

Post  No.09

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