What is a production studio in a bag? It is bag that contains everything you may need in order to shoot wherever and whenever you want in an efficient and effective manner. I am not promising crane or slider shots, however, for everything else, my production studio bag works quite well. I have developed and perfected my bag for a few years and the items in this bag have been directly influenced by my experience as a filmmaker.
Someone once described my style of shooting as “ninja” shooting. And no, this was not a racial comment… but the fact that when I shoot, I get in and get out stealthily and quickly. I attribute this style to necessity. 1.) Having to work alone on micro budgets. 2.) Being a 5’2” Asian female, which makes carrying bulky and heavy equipment everywhere not very convenient. This bag is great for independent solo shoots and for travelling. Let me break it down for you, just in case you are ever looking to build something similar.
NOTE: Don’t be intimated by the cost and amount of equipment. I accumulated everything very slowly based off of each project. Basically, I made it a goal that on every project I go on, I collect at least one piece of equipment, whether this means something small like a SD card or something big like a lens. Anyone can do it. You just have to be patient, which I am awful at by the way… so if I can do it, you can too.
Bag (LowePro 350): $150
I really like this bag because I can carry about 4-5 lenses, camera, plus sound equipment comfortably. In addition it fits my giant 17′ Macbook Pro, which I bring along to dump footage or playback stuff. On the Lowepro website the bag goes for $160, but I’ve seen it on ebay for $80-125.
I use a Canon T2i and I absolutely love this camera. It is the best bang for the buck. Though not full CMOS like the Canon 5D, which allows for better low light shooting (easily compensated with a lens that has 2.8 or smaller f-stop) the footage is pretty much the same as the Canon 7D, which costs double. You can easily get a Canon T2i with a kit lens for $800-900, best deal ever. The newer version, Canon T3i, is just as bad ass. The cool thing is it has a screen in the back that can flip around, a feature I would totally pay extra for.
This changes for different people based off of preference. I really like the Canon 24-70 mm 2.8 ($1300-1500). It is a very versatile lens and does well in low light. I also REALLY like the Tokina 11-16 mm 2.8. I just discovered this lens and love the wide shots it gets. Beautiful lens that costs between $650-750. One day, I would like to get the 70-200 mm 2.8 IS, but it’s a $1750 lens. For the time being, I have a 75-300 mm 4-5.6 lens that works fine in daylight. Finally, I have used my 50 mm 1.8 kit lens for a while, and will eventually upgrade it to the 1.4 ($300), as well as the 18-55mm kit lens that I would like to upgrade to a Tamron 17-50 2.8 ($325).
You should expect to spend a good 2K on lenses and probably more.
This is the part that people always don’t spend enough money on. Sound is so important. The first indicator of an amateur film is sound. Unfortunately, though the DSLRs yield great image quality, sound is definitely on the weaker side. Most people use a dual system for sound recording (record on a separate device and sync later). I am still learning and perfecting how to do sound, but these tools have really helped me out.
Zoom H4N ($250-300). This little mixer is awesome. It records sound and you can plug in two XLR inputs to hook to an external mic system. I use this in conjunction with a shotgun mic
Rode NTG-2 . This is a great shotgun mic and you can get one for about $250-300 on ebay.
Syncing can be a beyotch. As a result, I have learned to really appreciate having a Rode Videomic, which costs only $200 and plugs directly into the camera through a mini jack. The sound quality is definitely not as good as using a dual recording system, but this set up helps to save a lot of time. I would use this as backup in addition to the dual sound system with the Zoom H4n + NTG-2 shotgun.
Get at least 4 of these suckers and 2 chargers. I have 6 I believe. It sucks when you are shooting non-stop for 2-3 hours and run out of battery life.
SD Cards: $300
I have 6. This gets me through a 7 hour shoot, no problem. Don’t get anything smaller than 8 GB or it becomes a pain. I like 16 GB or larger.
Mini Hard Drive: $300
I really like the G-raids. They are much more costly, but I find that they are much sturdier and dependable. Bring a mini one on the trip so that you can constantly dump footage
Macbook Pro: $1,500
I love carrying this with me so that I can watch footage and edit wherever and whenever I want to.
- Pocket knife/Leatherman – Great for loosening tripod plates, screws, etc.
- Intervalometer (for time lapse shots). Super cheap, costs like $20.
- Cineskates – allows for moving shots, but portable ($315)
- Tripod (must have for still shots)
Software (selected few)
- Final Cut Pro 7
- Magic Bullet
- Adobe After Effects
- Mpeg Streamclip (to convert DSLR footage to Apple Pro Res 422)
- PluralEyes (to sync sound)