When you're a videographer on the move, portability is everything. Whether it's an outdoor action shoot, a multi-location shoot with interviews and b-roll, or a car video that requires riding around a track a few times, the key to building up your videographer kit is a combination of quality, portability, and preparedness. We are going to outline the basics for building your own on-the-go videography kit and suggest some useful products to help you get started.
Choosing a Primary Camera
Depending on your production requirements, the camera you choose needs to support the top end of the medium. While 4K and up is favorable, you also want to make sure your file size is reasonable when you're out and about for 10+ hours. Lower resolutions will extend your media capacity and are great when you don't need the highest quality for something like a YouTube video.
For rich color, high resolution, lens support, portability, and versatility, we suggest looking at compact cine camcorders, mirrorless, and DSLR cameras like the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K Pro, the Panasonic Lumix DC-S5 or HC-X2, the Canon EOS C70 or R5, the JVC GY-HC500U or GY-HM250SP, or the Sony a7S III.
Do You Need Another Camera?
Most interview setups include a second camera for a secondary angle or motion shot. Many creatives use their smartphones for second (or third) cameras, so if the resolution and color depth works for the level of your production, go for it!
There are many lenses, gimbals, and kits available to outfit your phone as a production camera, and some even sell professional-grade cages, gimbals, and rigs for your phone. If you want to capture b-roll or action shots, a gimbal camera such as the DJI Pocket 2 is great to carry along, or the GoPro HERO11 for shots mounted on a car, boat, bike, or drone.
Depending on the production, you likely won’t need too many lenses. For interviewing, you will want a good set of primes for static shots and a wide and/or zoom lens for run-and-gun to avoid focus issues.
Kit or zoom lenses are a good place to start, with options like the 24-70mm Canon EF / Nikon F, 24-70 Sigma EF, and 24-105mm Canon EF / Sony E zoom. You will also want specific primes for those beauty shots.
Adapters are also a must if you work with several different cameras. These wonderful tools keep your operational costs low because they let you work the same rotation of lenses with different camera systems. DZOFilm and Wooden Camera are examples of reputable third-party manufacturers, although big names like Canon and Nikon have their own adapters, as well.
Finally, if you've got a full-frame cine camera, try a three-lens starter kit, which is just the right mobile size to get started. And don't forget those lens filters, especially the circular polarizer if you're shooting cars or through windows to avoid the reflection and glare.
Hold It Steady
You'll need a solid tripod for interviews and steady or static b-roll shots—the lighter the better when you're on the move. A head sturdy enough to support the weight of your rig is important to consider, as well as a panning mechanism and bubble level to make sure you're balanced.
Some sturdy, lightweight options include the Manfrotto 635 FAST carbon fiber tripod, the Cartoni Focus 12 Red Lock System, the Sachtler flowtech 100 MS system, or the flowtech 75 version for lighter setups with a 75mm bowl head.
If you need to be mobile, a shoulder rig or camera cage with handles will help you grip the camera and keep steady. If you're using a Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K Pro, for example, the Tilta cage with top handle allows you to carry the camera easily, as well as add numerous accessories.
A shoulder rig like the Zacuto ACT Universal Cage Recoil Rig is another great option to consider if you are working with a DSLR or mirrorless camera. Its open design enables users to tack on additional accessories with ease, and its highly adjustable components can accommodate multiple configurations with different sized cameras.
Other options include SmallRig’s Basic Shoulder Mount Kit, which offers accessory mounting and reliable body support. Intended for smaller cameras, this shoulder mount is great for stabilizing your camera while providing comfort over long shoots.
Camvate’s Pro Shoulder Rig is another good option, with sleek wooden hand grips, 1/4"-20 and 3/8"-16 camera mounting screws, and a Manfrotto quick-release plate for swapping between devices easily.
Adding a follow focus is helpful if you are using a shoulder rig while in motion, so you're not grasping at your camera when you're moving. Tilta’s wired follow focus with hard stops or PDMOVIE’s Remote Air Pro offer easy focus ability on your rig.
To add some motion using a dolly or slider, the edelkrone SliderONE and iFootage Shark offer remote, motorized movement in a compact form. Axler’s Lightweight Carbon Fiber slider is another good option with a lightweight manual slider for small setups. If you need to pan and tilt remotely, the Vidpro motorized gimbal head or the Syrp Genie II 3-axis motion control kit can help you get professional shots with a mobile kit.
If you need to raise your production value but don't have space for a jib, the lightweight Moza Slypod Pro combines a slider and monopod in one that uses a telescoping motor, and it easily fits into your tripod case. The Slypod mounts quickly onto any tripod and supports rigs up to 9 lb horizontally and 20 lb vertically, offering a variety of angles and a telescoping range of 11".
Lighting the Scene
Having portable, battery-powered LED lights when you're on the road is a must. There are many to choose from, so durability, portability, brightness, and color will be your best criteria to find the right kit. Bi-color lights offer a full daylight-to-tungsten color temperature spectrum, and you should also keep an eye out for a 0-100% dimmer.
You’re going to need good battery life for long days in the field, so consider some low-power options. Videographers commonly use small L-series batteries, which can run many different filmmaking tools including smaller lights, cameras, and monitors.
The L-Series Battery Kit from Core SWX is a great option. It includes a 7.2V lithium-ion battery and a travel charger, providing around 2 hours of light at slightly less than maximum light output.
As far as lighting goes, the Aputure MC RGBWW is a tiny LED light with a lot of power and can fit in your pocket. Put a few of these in a grid and enjoy their wide color range in many different scenes. The Rotolight Ultimate vlogging kit is great for portable setups, and can even fit around a shotgun mic on top of your camera.
If you are looking for precise color temperature control, Nanlux offers a nifty Spot Light Kit in bi-color, daylight, and tungsten options. The kit also includes a Fresnel and flight case for more specific lighting applications and is great for traveling. The spotlight boasts incredible CRI/TLCI ratings of 96/97 to ensure precise color rendering and is dimmable from 0 to 100%.
The Litepanels Lykos flight kit is another great option to consider for frequent travelers. It includes three Lykos+ LED panels with their respective power cables, light stands, L-series batteries and chargers, a soft box, and a Pelican 1510 hard travel case with the compatible foam set
They Say Audio Is the Most Important
Recording good audio is an important and often challenging part of field productions. Recording with multiple sources to supplement your camera's audio never hurts, and can be accomplished with a recorder like the Zoom H4n Pro, which provides two XLR inputs and two integrated mics for additional ambient tracks.
If you need more inputs and need to mix in the field, the Zoom F6 Field Recorder provides a durable, portable mixer/recorder, and the MixPre-3, 6, or 10 from Sound Devices offer XLR inputs, as well as a timecode generator to sync multiple sources. On smaller productions, Tascam’s Portacapture X6 is a compact option that can record up to six simultaneous tracks at 96 kHz / 32-bit floating point.
Lavalier mics are also good to have on hand for interviews on the run. Sennheiser’s popular EW Series is always a safe bet, as well as RØDE’s Wireless GO II, which comes with two transmitters that are convenient for interviews.
If wireless interference is an issue, try a wired lav such as the Shure WL93. It has smooth tone but requires phantom power, so you may want to try a lav like the battery-powered Sony ECM-44B instead. With either option, you should carry an XLR extension cable in case you need more slack.
Since lav mics are omnidirectional and pick up ambient noise, a directional shotgun mic is a great solution as a primary or backup. The RØDE VideoMic Pro is a low-cost mic that can stay on your camera at all times, and comes with a built-in mount for lighter setups. For a longer reach and excellent quality, a mic like the Sennheiser MKH 416 provides rich sound with very low noise and runs on phantom power.
If you'd prefer a choice to use battery or phantom power and a lower cost, we like Audio-Technica's AT897, which offers a built-in low-cut filter and solid tone. There are numerous camera top mounts and booms to hold your shotgun mic, including RØDE’s pistol grip, for when you need a little more reach.
Of course, there's always the reliable SM58 from Shure, a dynamic mic that provides clear sound as long as you're OK with a mic close to your subject's face. In general, you should always have a backup mic, and always record with at least two sources.
Never Run Out of Recording Media
If you're used to the documentary or b-roll world, you know there is never enough you can take, so always have ample media/SD cards for your audio recorder and video camera. If you are doing slow-motion video or recording with high bit-rate/resolution, make sure you have fast, large-capacity cards.
Also, it's helpful to organize your cards in a case to protect them. Pelican’s 0915 Memory Card Case is a great option for this. It can hold up to 12 SD, six miniSD, and six microSD cards, and features a water-resistant seal. It never hurts to create a labeling system that clearly identifies which devices you have already used and/or formatted. This will help prevent disasters down the line.
Power Is Essential
When going out on a shoot, it is best practice to carry as many backup batteries as possible, and to know how long they last. You can add a battery grip to your DSLR or mirrorless camera to extend your shoot time. Sony’s VG-C4EM vertical grip or Tilta's Side Power Handles can power your camera via a cable or dummy battery. Many manufacturers offer battery plates that allow you to add a high-capacity Gold mount or V-mount battery plate or converter, so your options are plentiful.
You may also consider a compact power station like the Blind Spot Gear Power Junkie, which features a large-capacity battery that can power your camera, as well as other peripherals like your smartphone, action camera, or gimbal.
Packing It All Up
No videography kit is truly portable without functional carrying cases. For quick access on the run, a top-loading bag like Acro’s Dr. Bag lets you access your gear from a single opening. If you prefer a backpack, Manfrotto’s Camera Backpack offers handy foam dividers and pockets to keep your gear organized. If your gear is too heavy, Lowepro’s Pro Trekker RLX roller bag is another great option to consider. For tripods, sliders, shoulder rigs, and other long items, Impact’s Roller Bag is essential. It also has ample pocket space for extras like spare camera plates, tape, and tools.
There are plenty of little essentials that can make a big difference while shooting. Some extras to always have on hand include:
- Gaffer tape
- A white balance card
- Measuring tape
- A pen and notebook
- A marker (or a dry erase/grease pen if using a follow focus with a blank disk)
- Extension cords
- Battery chargers
- Extra batteries
- A coin or a key for tripod plates
- A multi-tool/screwdriver set
- Lens cleaning supplies
We hope our overview and product recommendations have given you a better idea of what to include in your portable videography kit. If you have any tips or recommendations, feel free to drop them in the Comments section, below.