As we approach the holiday season, it's time to start knocking those gift lists out of the way. If there's an aspiring filmmaker on your list, but you don't know what to give them to help kickstart their film production careers, then look no further―we've got you covered! In this gift guide we'll suggest a variety of products that we feel would benefit every beginner filmmaker.
The shoulder rig is a slept-on piece of equipment that deserves more recognition. It stabilizes camera footage while allowing the operator to retain a lifelike "handheld" appearance. On top of all that, it's one of a few stabilizers that allows the camera to act as a direct extension of the operator's body, enabling super-quick and accurate shot placement. Of the types of stabilizers on the market, it's also probably one of the most economical. The CAMVATE DSLR Shoulder Mount Rig is a great option; its uniquely designed offset Z-bracket system allows users to place the camera in their line of sight comfortably without blocking one's vision.
Gimbals are motorized stabilizers that ensure footage comes out looking buttery, silky smooth. There are many types of gimbals available, with varying features, but their main purpose is to keep a camera steady throughout three axes―pan, tilt, and roll. Typically, higher-priced gimbals feature stronger motors, which can allow for heavier cinema rigs; lower-end models are typically designed for lighter, more compact setups. This is essentially the case with the DJI RS3 Pro and the DJI RS 3 Mini. Both do an exceptional job of smoothing out camera movements; however, one may be better suited than another for an individual, depending on their shooting style and camera rig setup.
If there's one thing that consistently just gets better and cheaper, it's memory/storage solutions. If there's also a surefire item that no filmmaker would ever be unhappy to receive, it's more memory. I'm just going to say this: we love more memory.
SD cards are just about the most common form of memory in most modern cameras, and you can't really go wrong when purchasing one as a gift. The only thing I'd look out for is read and write speeds. If you're purchasing an SD card for a prospective filmmaker, you want to be wary of the card speeds because some SD cards are not equipped to handle larger, high bit-rate video files. To err on the side of caution for video purposes, when you're shopping for SD cards, be sure to get one that's at least V60 rated for speed. While V30 can work for some video cases, there's a much greater chance it may not be fast enough to operate with some video cameras. The Lexar 128GB Professional 1667x UHS-II SDXC Memory Card (2-Pack) is a pretty sweet deal and certainly worth considering.
A key component of any sort of filmmaking is post-production. When your filmmaker is editing any sort of footage, it's vital to be able to work off a reliable and fast drive that can handle the workload. The Samsung T7 is an excellent gift for any aspiring filmmaker; it doesn't have to be exclusively used for video purposes, but can also be used to store pretty much any type of data. It's a rugged and shock-resistant drive, making it perfect for tossing in a bag worry free.
Having all the gear in the world is dandy, but without proper power solutions to keep a shoot chugging along, technology just winds up being over-engineered paperweights. Videographers love and crave sustainable and reliable power solutions, which is why a battery would be an excellent gift. You may be thinking, "Well what if I don't know what kind of battery my dear pal needs?" Luckily for you, an extremely adaptable energy solution exists that can power a plethora of situations and video gear from lights, cameras, monitors, and so much more: V-mount batteries! These batteries do require somewhat of an external rig or battery plate setup to be mounted properly since they aren't custom designed to fit specific power compartments like a proprietary camera battery. Once set up properly, these batteries can drastically extend a shoot before needing to be swapped for another battery. The reason is that V-mount batteries carry exponentially more power compared to a traditional camera battery. The vast majority of V-mount batteries also feature a D-tap output port, which is a port that can easily be adapted to a camera, light, or other device via what is called a dummy battery.
The SmallRig VB99 Mini V-Mount Battery is a sleek battery that features a convenient LED indicator that clearly depicts how much power is remaining. It's got D-tap, 8V, 12V, USB-A, and USB-C outputs, making it extremely adaptable to a variety of devices.
Another great option is the IndiPRO Tools 2 x Micro-Series 98Wh Li-Ion V-Mount Batteries with Dual V-Mount Battery Charger Kit. In this kit, you get two long-lasting V-mount batteries, as well as a dual charger that will make charging easy and accessible.
Microfiber Cleaning Cloths
You can never have too many cleaning cloths. I repeat: you can never have too many cleaning cloths. With enough use, camera gear is bound to get dirty, dusty, maybe even wet, and, in those instances, a trusty microfiber cloth is a camera operator's best friend; they're non-abrasive, super economical, and can extend the lifespan of your camera gear. I never leave my house without one.
The ZEISS Microfiber Cleaning Cloth is a fantastic, high-quality piece of fabric that measures 11.8 x 15.7". If I could custom-order a full-sized blanket from ZEISS of this same material, I would, it is that soft.
For something a little more compact, and for those who want to rep their favorite camera store of all time, we have the Spudz Microfiber Cleaning Cloth with the B&H Logo. It's a compact 5.5 x 5.5" cleaning cloth that can fold up into a tiny little pocketable pouch, perfect for those who like to travel compactly.
For those hard-to-reach or more sensitive areas on video equipment, like the camera sensor, lens contact points, or any other spot that requires a delicate touch, an air blower is the way to go. Sensor mouth blowers beware, lest they end up on this year's naughty list. Set that future Spielberg in your life down the right path with something like Giottos' Rocket Air Blaster Medium Dust-Removal Tool. It comes in three sizes: small, which is perfect for the traveling videographer, medium, which while still compact emits a heftier blast, and, of course, large, for those instances when maximum oomph is required. What's great about these blowers is their one-way valve design, which ensures that after a successful blow is completed, the dust won't be sucked back to the same spot when refilling with air in between pumps. It might not seem like a big deal, but it gets real old real quick when the very thing you intended to blow away keeps finding itself back before your eyes.
If you want to get all the cleaning bases covered in one go, a solid cleaning kit is always a respectable choice. This Sensei DOC-CK Deluxe Optics Care and Cleaning Kit is a great option to consider; it's got a blower, a microfiber cloth, pre-moistened lens wipes, a lenspen, and some more goodies, all in a snazzy travel case.
Filmmakers are masters of throwing and cobbling together an assortment of doohickeys and doodads, from Frankenstein camera rigs to sets which, to the outside eye, look like the aftermath of a voracious tornado yet somehow appears picturesque on camera. Remember, it's all about how the shot looks, not what's behind the scenes, which are probably being held together by hefty lengths of gaffer tape. It holds stuff together, it marks stuff, you can label it, it's available in different colors―just buy the gaffer tape. Filmmakers love gaffer tape.
We hope this gift guide was able to provide you with some new and unique gift ideas for the budding filmmakers in your life! If you're a filmmaker reading this, what would you like to receive as a gift that's not on this list? Let us know, below, but the obvious answer is the ARRI Signature Prime 6-Lens Core Set. Someone give it to me, please.