Mixed Bag of Tricks
Each of us has a “mixed bag of tricks” or “go bag” that we take on every assignment. It holds the little gadgets that we, as professionals, use to handle those situations that always pop up and befuddle the newbies. I asked that you help me pass on some of those tips and many of you agreed. Here are some of your shared secrets.
One of the very handy items in my mixed bag of tricks is a bed sheet-sized piece of black cloth. The cloth serves various purposes, as outlined here by Mark Suszko. “In the van, I use it to cover my gear. If you are peeking in through the windows looking to steal stuff, it makes all the cargo ‘disappear.’ It serves as a negative fill in some lighting situations, and even as an out-of-focus background for interview shots that need a limbo effect. If you’re shooting reflective surfaces like a window, it can make you and the camera disappear from the reflections.” Mark says he also uses a polarizer to help combat reflections. My cloth is double knit because no matter how you pack it, it doesn’t show wrinkles.
Several readers listed a homemade double-sided microphone clamp made from two spring mic clips connected back to back. Normally used to attach a wireless stick microphone to the handle of the camera, it can also be used to clip your mic to a table edge, PA stand or gooseneck. The clips are available at Radio Shack as part #33-372.
The idea of using a rubber doorstop wedge as a camera support for low-angle shots came to us from Alexa Eggold of Gallup, N.M., who also uses it as an angle prop to tilt objects on a tabletop, as a fixer when a table or chair wobbles because of a short leg, as a chock to keep a wheeled cart from moving unexpectedly, and, of course, for holding doors open so they don’t close and lock behind you as you move your equipment into a venue.
Mike Miller of San Francisco gets multiple uses from a large clear trash bag. The bag protects equipment from rain, dust, sand and the like without obscuring controls or limiting functionality. It can help prevent lens fogging if you seal the camera inside before moving to areas of differing temperatures. In a pinch, it can even help keep the venue clean.
Some of the other go bag goodies you wrote about included:
- A set of jeweler’s screwdrivers, a set of hex keys (Allen wrenches), a reversible (Philips/standard) screwdriver, a wire clipper and needle-nose pliers for in-field repairs and adjustments.
- Several feet of gaffer’s tape wrapped around a AA battery (to save space).
- A dozen or so unlined 3×5 cards. (For white balance, note taking, slates, and reflectors for tabletop photography.) I keep mine clean in a plastic holder that also contains some spare business cards.
- A thumb drive memory stick. (For copying and transferring client files in the field.) I also keep test patterns, equipment manuals and other useful files on the stick.
- An LED flashlight. In addition to the obvious use, I have used mine as an emergency camera light. A spare flashlight held just outside the frame is lighting the inside of the first aid box in the accompanying photo.
- AA, AAA and 9 volt batteries with a safety clip to prevent accidental fires. If any of your equipment uses unusual batteries, be sure to have spares of those. Also keep a small battery tester.
- Several feet of “trick line,” “tie line” or some other type of cord.
- Rubber bands, which can be used to secure other items in the kit until needed.
- A mini first aid kit with bandages, disinfectant, and hand cleaning packets from a fast food restaurant.
- Foam earplugs to protect your ears when you’re working in high-noise environments. (It’s good to have more than one pair so you can protect others in your crew.)
- A tri-tap triple AC connector and a ground adapter. (I like to have everything serve more than one purpose, so this tri-tap, which has an internal light that indicates whether power is present, also works as an outlet tester.)
- And, of course, a lens cleaning kit.
All the items in my kit fit in an old fanny pack, which makes it easy to keep the kit handy and makes it less likely that I’ll leave it behind.
If you have any other “must carry” items, please share them by sending me an e-mail at DVTips@nbmedia.com.