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. Honestly, it's not too different than the military, so you can't go wrong reading the Army Leadership Field Manual, as well.
Choosing a Primary Camera
Depending on your production requirements, the camera you choose needs to support the top end of the medium. These days, 4K and up is trending, but you also want to make sure your file size is reasonable when you're out and about for 10+ hours and that you can shoot in lower resolutions to extend media capacity when you don't need the highest quality for say, a YouTube video vs. a film that will be shown on a cinema-size screen. For rich color, high resolution, lens support, portability, and versatility, I'd look at compact cine camcorders, mirrorless, and DSLR cameras to compare such as the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K Pro, the Panasonic Lumix DC-S5 or HC-X1, 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. There are many people using 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. Most will go for a dedicated solution if you want to capture b-roll or action shots, so 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. Take a look at some of the choices we suggest for matching a B camera with your A camera.
When you're running around going through numerous setups in a day, you probably won't need too many lenses, but if one of those choices is interview, make sure you've got a set of decent primes for static shots and your wide and/or zoom lens for run-and-gun to avoid focus issues. Kit or zoom lenses are helpful to get started (for example the 24-70mm Canon EF / Nikon F, 24-70 Sigma EF, 24-105mm Canon EF / Sony E zoom) but also helpful to get specific primes to add to your collection for those beauty shots.
We also recommend grabbing some adapters if you tend to work with several different cameras. Adapters are wonderful tools for keeping your operational costs low, as they enable you to work the same rotation of lenses with different camera systems.
DZOFilm offers many different mounts for such applications, although we will specifically hone in on their PL Lens to Sony E-Mount Adapter to best exemplify their functionality. With stainless steel construction and a flocked interior to seamlessly adapt PL lenses to your Sony E-mount camera, this little piece is meticulously crafted to fit snugly on your camera.
The built-in 1/4"-20 support foot is a much-appreciated addition for reducing stress between your camera’s lens mount and the camera itself. We also like DZOFilm’s thoughtful inclusion of a lens port cap to help block dust and other debris from entering your camera while the adapter is in use. Durable construction and useful accessories are consistent throughout DZOFilm adapters, so we recommend considering their gear for your kit.
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 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.
We like the ACT universal cage for its modular and durable construction. 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.
The included Axis Micro mount is great for those who want to add on an external monitor, while the trigger and tactical handles feature ergonomic and intuitive designs for seamless shooting or adjusting. If you value style, the wooden grips are an appreciated touch that also provide tactical upgrades for those who prefer sturdy finger grooves.
If you are looking for something a bit less involved or more budget-friendly, SmallRig’s Basic Shoulder Mount Kit offers accessory mounting and reliable body support. Intended for smaller cameras like our Zacuto option, this shoulder mount is great for stabilizing your camera while providing comfort over long shoots.
The included 1/4"-20 threads are handy for converting to a tripod with ease, while the dual handgrips contribute to an overall smooth and balanced shooting experience. We especially like SmallRig’s universal rod system, which makes it easy for users to fit your rig with multiple accessories including monitors, mics, and lights. The optional shoulder pad is a nice bonus if you are looking for more comfort, and it only weighs around 6.7 oz, so you don’t have to worry about too much additional weight on your rig.
Camvate’s Pro Shoulder Rig is a solid middle option if you are looking for something between our two picks in terms of function and style. With sleek wooden hand grips we have seen in the ACT cage, the Pro Shoulder Rig has a lot to offer for camcorders or DSLR cameras.
This Y-shaped lens support bracket includes 1/4"-20 and 3/8"-16 camera mounting screws for various configurations of different lengths. The Manfrotto quick release plate is handy for swapping between devices quickly and will work with either a solo camera or a camera cage. Of course, the 15mm rod system can accommodate other rod accessories like external monitors, recorders, or batteries, so you never have to compromise your gear to enjoy stability and comfort.
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 Universal Cage Recoil Rig or the SmallRig Basic Shoulder Mount Kit offer accessory mounting and also additional body support. If you're using a shoulder rig and in motion, it may help to add a follow focus so you're not grasping at your camera when you're moving. The Tilta wired follow focus with hard stops or wireless Nucleus Nano or PDMOVIE 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, or the Axler Lightweight Carbon Fiber slider offers 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 may also benefit from a 0-100% dimmer. You might need long battery life in the field on long days, so low-power options are an important consideration, too. Of battery options, the most common for videographers is the small L-series battery, which can run a lot of smaller lights and cameras, as well as monitors and other filmmaking tools.
If you are looking for a solid L-series battery for your setup, we recommend this L-Series Battery Kit from Core SWX. This kit includes a 7.2V lithium-ion battery and a travel charger to provide around 2 hours of light at slightly less than maximum light output. While it has been designed specifically for the TL-BT200 LED light, this kit is capable of powering other L-series compatible products, making it a versatile tool in your gear kit. The battery has notably been outfitted with a Sony InfoLithium microchip and the charging system is compatible with Sony batteries, so Sony fans can enjoy more charging flexibility.
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—with their wide color range, they can pull off many different scenes. The Rotolight Ultimate vlogging kit is a great option for portable setups, and can even fit around a shotgun mic on top of your camera.
If you are looking to lock in on a specific color temperature, 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%.
Also included in this kit is a 45° reflector that can be added onto your configuration to achieve even higher output. The Fresnel attachment is handy for narrowing the spread of your beam, taking it from 45° to 10°. With special effects like paparazzi, fireworks, and explosions, among others, creators can experiment with the Spot Light in more cinematic applications. We also like the wheeled flight case for an easy carry if you need to take this kit on-the-go.
If you are looking for something all-encompassing, the Litepanels Lykos flight kit is a great option to consider for frequent travelers or for someone seeking a one-stop-shop option.
Included in the Litepanels Lykos flight kit is virtually anything you could ask for - 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. This is an incredibly compact and functional set that has clearly been designed with intention.
The LEDs are powerful and adjustable with a color temperature that is variable from 3200K to 5600K. They also boast a high CRI/TLCI rating of 96/96 for exceptional color accuracy and can be dimmed from 0-100% to best meet your lighting needs. We especially like the battery-powered option for on-the-go or impromptu setups. Compact, all-inclusive, and easy to use, you would have a hard time finding a better comprehensive kit for your configuration.
They Say Audio Is the Most Important
Recording good audio is often more important—and sometimes more challenging—in field productions than getting the visual. If you wish to record using multiple sources and your camera's audio input isn't sufficient, a recorder such as the Zoom H4n Pro provides two XLR inputs, as well as 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.
Lavalier mics are a solid, portable solution for interviews on the run. Sennheiser has popular wireless kits that are durable and come with mics with a clean sound, and the RØDE Wireless GO II comes with two transmitters, which is convenient for interviews.
If wireless interference is an issue, try a wired lav such as the Shure WL93, which has smooth tone but requires phantom power, so you may want to try a lav like the battery-powered Sony ECM-44B.
For both wired lavs, you may want to carry an additional 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, I've relied on Audio-Technica's shotgun line for indie production, specifically the ultra-durable AT897 workhorse, which offers a built-in low-cut filter and solid tone. There are numerous camera top mounts and booms to hold your shotgun mic, but when you need just a little more reach and you're on the run, RØDE’s pistol grip can come in handy.
Of course, there's always the standard go-to SM58 from Shure, which is dynamic so doesn't need power and provides clear sound while preventing most outside sounds—that is, if you're OK with a mic close to your subject's face. Good rules to shoot with: always have a backup and always record with at least two or more 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. It's also helpful to know which ones you've used and which ones you've formatted to prevent disasters, so come up with a system like flipping them around or labeling with Sharpie™ or tape.
Power Is Essential
Always have at least one battery backup when out on your shoot, and it helps to know how long yours last so you don't lose a shot. As many batteries as you can carry works best. Adding a battery grip to your DSLR or mirrorless camera can extend your shoot time, such as the Sony VG-C4EM vertical grip, or a handle like one of Tilta's Side Power Handles that holds a battery and can power your camera via a cable or dummy battery. Numerous manufacturers offer battery plates that allow you to add a high-capacity Gold mount or V-mount battery plate or converter offers power outputs, so your options are plenty.
You may also consider a compact power station such as the Blind Spot Gear Power Junkie that provides power not only to your camera using a large-capacity battery using a dummy battery, but has USB outputs to power other peripherals such as a smartphone, action camera, or gimbal. And since portable battery charger packs are plentiful these days, don't forget to bring one or more for your phone or other peripherals.
Packing It All Up
All this equipment needs to go in a case, and make sure the one you choose not only can fit your gear, but that it can keep it safe. For quick access on the run, a Dr. Bag such as the one from Arco offers quick access to your gear with a single opening. Backpacks with multiple pockets and foam dividers such as the Manfrotto Street are the most mobile, though if your gear is too heavy, a roller bag like Lowepro's Trekker RLX can help for when you just can't carry it all on your back. A case for longer items, such as your tripod, slider, or shoulder rig, like the Impact roller bag, is also essential, and should have ample pocket space for extras like spare camera plates, tape, and tools.
Now, What Did I Forget?
Believe it or not, the adage still applies: gaffer tape will always be needed in every situation, so always have a roll on hand. Always consider bringing a few extra accessories to make sure you're prepared for any situation: a white balance card, measuring tape, gloves, a pen and notebook, a sharpie (or dry erase marker / grease pen if using a follow focus with blank disk), C47s, clamps, an extension cord, battery chargers, extra batteries, coin or key for tripod plate, a multi-tool or screwdriver set, and check out this article on lens-cleaning supplies.
Let us know what you put in your videography kit below!