Low-Budget Tools For Filmmakers on Set

While packing for a film or video shoot, there are certain tools filmmakers cannot leave off their list and should have close to them at all times. For a director it might be something like a viewfinder, while for a camera operator an AC pouch. Depending on the size of the video crew, and the scope of your film production, these essential tools and equipment on any given shoot will most likely differ. As an example: when our production team films "talking head" shots where the subject has a long list of specific things to say, we'll bring along a teleprompter. On the other hand, bringing along a teleprompter on a run-and-gun style shoot is simply not manageable nor essential.


Essential and Low-Budget Tools (No Excuses!)


Let's set aside for a moment the obvious equipment needed like a camera package, production lights, reflectors, mics, tripods and lenses. Having said that, it doesn’t matter if you’re a solo videographer on the go, an entire film crew, or anything in between, the following suggestions are cheap and essential tools you’ll eventually need on your shoot and should always have on set with you, no matter how small your budget is:


-Tape (all kinds! Gaffer, marking, two-sided, colored etc. There’s never enough)

-Zip ties

-Pegs / Clothes pins

-Extension cords / cables

-Screwdrivers (I have some on my keychain)

-Extra batteries & cards

-Markers / Pens / Notepad

-Extra earphones

-Leatherman/multi-tool (if you seriously don’t have one, get one! It’s worth the investment)


Camera operator tools from an AC pouch

Most of our video shoots here in Austria come from corporate clients. Ranging from multi-camera interviews and testimonials, conference/seminar coverage, promo videos and on-set production assistance. So our video teams and camera crews are usually small, consisting of 2-3 people: An on-set production manager and a few camera operators (where one might take the responsibility of the director role).


So on those low-budget situations where the video crew has a few extra pair of hands to carry equipment to and from the film set, essential tools start becoming (dare I say) “less essential” but more convenient to have as you keep adding to that list. To name a few:


-Sand bags

-External monitor

-Camera slider

-Portable generator

-Light dimmers

-Apple boxes

-Carts/trollies

-Teleprompter / Autocue (for specific shoots)


Cameraman using an external monitor during a presentation coverage shoot

Not as essential, but also Low-Budget Tools (so again…no Excuses!)


I also think it’s also important to mention some “maybe not so obvious” cheap tools to have on set. Things that a camera team might not use on such a regular basis, but believe me, the film crew will be glad to have them handy when the situation arises:


-Sunscreen

-Lens cleaning pen (when you don’t have time to whip out a lens cleaning kit)

-Hand sanitizer

-Garbage bags (simple and easy to protect gear from unexpected rain)

-Wet wipes

-Powder (harsh lights on actors, shiny foreheads anyone?)

-Flashlight

-Aspirin

-Phone charger / power bank

-First aid kit

-Granola/Power bars

-Cash (you never know when needing a cup of coffee becomes a matter of life and death on set)


Camera team taking down equipment after a video shoot


Of course these tools and lists are in no way, shape or form the only essential and “not-so-essential” things to have on a video shoot. A run-and-gun videographer’s equipment needs will be different than that of a full video crew with multiple camera operators. Through years of good and bad video shoot experiences, these tools are simply what our camera team, production managers and film crew learned to always have readily available while shooting.


I’d be curious to know what things you think I left out, and what you find absolutely necessary to have on your own film and video production sets.

Posted by Vitor Goncalves

Vitor is a filmmaker, cameraman and editor based in Vienna, Austria. He is the owner of Reel Arts Media.

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