Best Gifts for Student Filmmakers

Best Gifts for Student Filmmakers

If you have ever wondered “What do I give to that student filmmaker about to embark on a career of moviemaking and content creation?” Fear not! I have compiled a list of gifts to cover the needs of your aspiring Spielberg, so you don’t have to.

There are many tools a budding cinema student may want to use. While many schools provide the big-ticket items such as cameras and lights, there are many other must-haves that often go overlooked. This list is going to focus on quantity so you can maximize your options and help expand your student’s tool kit in the most economical fashion.

Whether they are looking to direct their first film, write a screenplay, be a master of light, become the next big content creator, or get into audio for film, there’s a little something here for everyone.

Calibrite ColorChecker Passport Video

Calibrite ColorChecker Passport Video

What I like: Saves time in post

What I don’t like: Priced a little high

Function: Color balancing, exposure assistance, color matching cameras

Benefits: Fast and accurate color grading

Learning Curve: Beginner

Though it’s often overlooked on small productions, taking a few simple steps at the beginning of the shoot will save you loads of time when editing. Using a tool like the Calibrite ColorChecker Passport Video allows you to get footage of accurate color and gray-scale charts in your scene so, when you sit down to color-correct, there are accurate references from which to work.

The Passport includes three color calibration targets and a focus target, giving you a wide range of options. They all fit nicely into a pocket-sized hard case that is easily carried with you. Each chart allows for white balance setting, focusing on a subject, color balancing your camera in post and even matching the color of two different camera brands. This is a must-have for anyone serious about video work.

Ruggard Leda Memory Card Case

Ruggard Leda Memory Card Case

What I like: Durable and lightweight, cards fit well

What I don’t like: Easy to misplace

Function: Holds a variety of media

Benefits: Keeps fragile cards safe from the elements

Learning Curve: Beginner

Don’t let your favorite student filmmaker get caught out on a shoot without a way to protect their precious footage. A wallet-sized card carrier like the Ruggard Leda Memory Card Case is all that stands between cards being protected and cards slipping through a hole in the pocket of your favorite jeans.

Ruggard makes cases for a variety of card types such as SD, microSD, CFexpress, XQD and CFast. They feature a polycarbonate exterior shell, a molded-rubber lining, and a snap closure. Cards will be fully protected from weather and impacts. These are another must-have for any filmmaker.

Godox RGB Mini Creative M1 On-Camera Video LED Light

Godox RGB Mini Creative M1 On-Camera Video LED Light

What I like: Slim design, budget friendly, articulating arm

What I don’t like: Limited output, integrated battery

Function: RGB LED Light

Benefits: Simple way to add color and special effects to projects

Learning Curve: Beginner

You can never go wrong with the gift of light. In this case, the Godox RGB Mini Creative M1 On-Camera Video LED Light is a fantastic option for a variety of reasons. This compact, budget-friendly LED is a Swiss army knife of lighting solutions. Any up-and-coming cinematographer needs compact and powerful tools in their growing kits.

The M1 features a wide Kelvin range, from 2500 to 8500K, a full 360° RGB color wheel, 15 special effects, and 40 presets that add speed and creativity to a project. There is also a built-in mic that allows the light to change based on the beat of song. My favorite feature of the M1 is the slim articulating arm that lets you mount it in a variety of positions. The number of ways one can use this light is nearly limitless.

Alan Gordon Enterprises Mini Director’s Viewfinder

Alan Gordon Enterprises Mini Director's Viewfinder

What I like: Affordability, accessibility, lightweight

What I don’t like: Very small, not robust

Function: Allows directors to preview shots

Benefits: No need to set up the camera to see a shot

Learning Curve: Intermediate

The idea of using a director’s viewfinder as a student filmmaker still feels like an alien concept to me. These tools have historically been used by established directors working on big movie sets looking all cool. But in these exciting times, the tools of big-time directors are now accessible to even the smallest budding filmmakers.

Viewfinders like the Alan Gordon Enterprises Mini Director’s Viewfinder provide directors with a budget-friendly way to preview shots before they are made. Instead of setting up a tripod, putting the camera on, getting on a lens, firing it up, and framing up, you adjust the settings on your viewfinder to match what you want and hold it up to your eye.

The Alan Gordon Viewfinder is extremely lightweight. It telescopes outward allowing for toggling between varying film standards including 35mm, super16 and even anamorphic. It can accommodate video formats such as 2/3", 1/2" and 1/3". If your young filmmaker is thinking about going pro, then a viewfinder needs to be a staple of their kit.

LaCie Rugged USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-C External Hard Drive

LaCie 2TB Rugged USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-C External Hard Drive

What I like: Rugged and durable

What I don’t like: Protective exterior makes it less slim

Function: External hard drive

Benefits: Back up your footage on-site

Learning Curve: Beginner

It’s been a long day of production. The footage is finally offloaded from the SD cards to a hard drive. In the process of moving the hard drive to a bag, it slips, falls, hits the ground, and shatters open. It’s all gone. This wouldn’t be a problem if that hard drive had been a LaCie Rugged USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-C External Hard Drive.

The Rugged series of hard drives from LaCie provide all-terrain support for anyone looking to transport footage without worrying about a little rain, falls, or being crushed. They vary in size from 1TB up to 5TB and feature up to 130 MB/s of data transfer speed.

Young filmmakers don’t often have the benefit of working with dedicated personnel to handle footage on set, so they frequently end up doing it themselves. Too often is a good transport drive overlooked when offloading footage on set. And at the end of the day, you can never own too many hard drives. A Rugged drive is always a great gift—for any filmmaker.

ProTapes Pro Gaffer Tape

ProTapes Pro Gaffer Tape

What I like: It has a million uses

What I don’t like: A little pricey for a single roll

Function: Lightweight multi-use tape

Benefits: Secure various cables, lighting, grip equipment

Learning Curve: Beginner

Sometimes the simplest tool can be the most important tool. It can also be the most overlooked. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve been on set and realized that I forgot to pack the most crucial item in my bag: gaffer tape. ProTapes Pro Gaffer Tape has been serving me well for fifteen years.

This durable tape can be used in endless ways on all kinds of productions. It offers high tensile strength and has a waterproof backing for standing up to the elements. It tears off the roll easily, can stick to most surfaces, and most importantly, it can be removed from many surfaces without leaving residue. I’ve used gaffer tape to secure cables, fix broken clamps, cover holes in set pieces, create Venetian lighting modifiers, give actors marks on the floor, secure a boompole to a stand, and on and on. A young filmmaker’s imagination is the only limitation of this wondrous tool.

Tiltaing Mini Matte Box

Tiltaing Mini Matte Box

What I like: Budget friendly, compact

What I don’t like: Only one filter tray

Function: Blocks glare from lens, allows for filters over lens

Benefits: Add high-quality filters to your shoot and protect the lens

Learning Curve: Intermediate

Every aspiring filmmaker has seen one on the end of a professional camera rig. Even if they aren’t sure what they are for, they want one. Aside from street cred, matte boxes serve multiple purposes and the Tiltaing Mini Matte Box is no different.

Many of the higher-end matte boxes in the film world are designed to work with large cinema cameras and lenses. For a young student filmmaker, it’s more likely they will be working with DSLR or mirrorless bodies and lenses. So, it makes sense to use a smaller matte box designed for cameras and lenses of that size.

The Tiltaing Matte Box attaches directly to the lens, eliminating the need for rails and additional rigging weight. It fits around lenses with diameters ranging from 67mm up to 82mm and can be adapted to larger cine lenses of 85mm if needed. This is perfect for photo glass. The matte box also accommodates a single 4 x 5.65" filter and includes a carbon fiber top flag for blocking glare and bright reflections from hitting the lens. For the aspiring filmmaker, this matte box is a great stepping stone for getting into the world of cinema.

TASCAM DR-40X 4-Channel / 4-Track Portable Audio Recorder

TASCAM DR-40X 4-Channel / 4-Track Portable Audio Recorder and USB Interface with Adjustable Mic

What I like: Multi-application, compact, budget friendly

What I don’t like: Only 2x XLR inputs

Function: Audio Recorder

Benefits: Useful for setups beyond video recording

Learning Curve: Beginner

Filmmaking is a visual medium, but the sound that accompanies those visuals often gets forgotten when young filmmakers are just starting out. Good audio is the sign of a professional project so it should not be neglected. When starting out, it’s good to have a trusty audio recorder like the TASCAM DR-40X on-hand for such occasions.

The DR-40X is extremely versatile. Beyond its on-board microphones, it has dual balanced XLR-1/4" combo inputs to accommodate microphones for video shoots, podcasts, and music. It can capture up to four tracks of high-resolution audio and features USB microphone support, bus power capabilities, stereo safety tracks, auto-level, limiters, low-cut filers, and much more.

There are numerous features packed into the DR-40X that make it a go-to recorder for a wide variety of applications. Just add your favorite microphone and you’re good to go.

This list could have easily been twice as long but there are only so many hours in a day and you need to get your hands on a gift for your student filmmaker before the holidays are here. There is a little something for everyone on this list whether they are a director, writer, cinematographer, or even a podcaster. These tools cross mediums and are not just useful for one type of profession but for many. And as a budding filmmaking, wearing many hats is the best way to grow and learn about the medium as a whole.

What other essentials would you add to this list? Let me know in the Comments section, below!