By Brady Betzel
I love to tinker with every type of gadget that I can get my hands on, from After Effects plug-ins to GoPros and their accessories. But sometimes I forget the basics like a simple tripod, camera bag and a light.
Whether you’re a hobbyist or a product reviewer, like me, who enjoys shooting and getting great images, you will always need the basics. So here are my Top 3 prosumer filmmaker necessities:
1. The Adorama 3Pod V2AH Tripod
One thing that is a necessity for any filmmaker looking to get a stable shot is a tripod. If you are going cheap you can get the basic tripod without a fluid head for probably $100 to $125, but if you really want to be able to pan and tilt fluidly, you will need to find a tripod that can support a fluid head.
The Adorama 3Pod V2AH tripod is an aluminum, three-section tripod that includes a fluid head and is priced at $179.95. It comes in a high-quality, heavily padded carrying case, has a max height of 77-inches, comes with a sliding quick-release plate and two-way fluid pan head.
After unboxing the tripod I immediately noticed the sturdiness and build quality. Since I work in broadcast television, I see a lot of professional gear, and while the 3Pod V2AH isn’t quite the same as some of the high-end $1,000 tripods, it’s stable and smooth enough for anyone running and gunning with a DSLR, or any small- to medium-sized camera for that matter.
The included half-bowl fluid head is awesome for the price. You get the standard two-direction pan and tilt, as well as a handle that can be set for someone who is right handed or left handed. When setting up the tripod, it only took me about 15 minutes before I felt fully comfortable with its adjustments, bubble levels, locking mechanisms and quick release plate. It felt pretty familiar, pretty fast.
What I really liked about the over-six-foot height of this tripod is the ability to create pseudo-jib like movements in a pinch. Whether you are a semi-pro filmmaker, a wedding videographer or just a person like me who always wants great equipment, the Adorama 3Pod V2AH aluminum tripod with fluid head and three-year warranty is worth a serious look.
2. Adorama Flashpoint CL-500R Lights
Your filmmaker toolbox should also include a good lighting set. You’ll be amazed at the quality improvement you will see with just a simple lighting set-up. If you don’t have the want or money to purchase a full three-piece lighting set with stands, your next best bet is to at least have one.
If you occasionally shoot products for reviews, you may be able to get away with just one light, a bounce card and some creative use of natural lighting. When I was in college, over 10 years ago, I would have to rent lighting kits that weighed tons and would burn your skin off if you touched them. Luckily for us, LED lights are now in full swing.
The Adorama Flashpoint CL-500R LED circular light is lightweight, dimmable and, best of all, has a 50,000-hour light life. It’s also easy to use and set up. Its 500 LEDs run at a color temperature of 5600K — a typical daylight temperature — that is dimmable from 100 percent down to 10 percent by a knob on the light or remotely if you purchase the remote dimmer.
When I opened the CL-500R I was impressed by the carrying case and just how lightweight the light actually was, weighing in at around two pounds. Once I mounted it on a standard 7-8mm umbrella shaft with a 5/8-inch mount, I wanted to adjust the brightness and found that there was no discernable flicker while dimming. I was excited since I’ve seen other “affordable” lights that produce flickering when being dimmed.
The Flashpoint CL-500R LED is a great light at $200 — it will add quality and production value to your still product shoots, wedding videos, commercials or even YouTube video blogs.
2. Tiffen Domke Journalist Series Herald Canvas Bag
Number three on the list is a good equipment bag. Now I know this might be a little expensive for the wedding videographer or semi-pro filmmaker but I promise that the quality is superior to most other equipment bags you have used.
In particular I took a look at a black Journalist series, Herald Canvas bag made of Cordura Nylon, which is a very resilient fabric that can withstand most stains and, if necessary, can be dry cleaned.
When I first touched this bag I was impressed at how sturdy it felt. The leather wrapped handle and steel hardware really help set this bag apart. While this bag does look nice, it doesn’t necessarily feel like it’s an attraction for thieves. However, if you know what this bag is you may know that the contents are most likely valuable so don’t leave your bag unattended. In any case there is also a numbered identity plate that can help track your bag if it goes missing.
Inside, The Herald has multiple high-quality pockets and a movable divider that is sturdy yet protects your equipment. Lately I’ve been looking to find a bag that can hold everything: a tablet, my GoPro and its accessories, my DSLR, my iPhone and maybe an additional lens. The Journalist Series, Herald Canvas bag is definitely the solution for me, with a special zippered pocket made for an iPad-sized tablet, a special key ring strap, expandable exterior pockets, side rain hoods and even detachable shoulder straps. It even comes with a tin of refinishing wax to refinish the exterior when it gets worn down. It weighs in empty at around 3.4 pounds and measures just over 16-inches long, 4.5-inches wide and 10.25-inches high. I like the narrower Domke bag, but you can find other models with varying sizes and colors at www.domkephoto.com.
At $269.95 the Herald camera bag by Domke isn’t the cheapest equipment bag, but it is one of the highest quality bags you will touch. If you have a DSLR, some GoPros, as well as your iPhone 6 and a tablet that you want to carry together, this is the bag you want and can trust.
In the end everyone interested in videography needs the basics: a tripod, lighting and equipment bags. Based on my un-scientific testing, the Adorama 3Pod V2AH aluminum tripod, Flashpoint CL-500R light and Tiffen Domke Journalist Series Herald bag are great places to start. You can get more info and basic equipment ideas at www.adorama.com as well as at www.domkephoto.com.
Brady Betzel is an online editor at Margarita Mix in Hollywood. Previously he was editing The Real World at Bunim Murray Productions. You can email Brady at firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow him on Twitter, @allbetzroff.