A while back, we produced a video series on DIY equipment, but there are some cheap tools that are pretty handy and that you don't even have to build yourself.It's not a stretch to use each of these in almost every shoot. If you're not using them already, consider making a few additions to your toolkit and you'll wonder how you ever got along without them.
1. Foamcore Often on set you'll hear a camera operator asking for a white card. A white card is a white piece of material used for white balancing the camera. Foamcore works well, as you can get a sturdy white piece that is large enough to hold far away from the camera's lens, and it'll still be able to fill the camera's frame when it zooms in. Additionally, white foamcore works really well as a reflector. The matte white finish provides a nice soft fill light when shooting outdoors without reflecting so much sunlight that it blinds your subject. Conversely, black foamcore can work well as a flag when used with low-temperature lights likefluorescentsor LEDs. Keep it away from your tungsten, halogen, and HMI lighting rigs, however; foamcore isflammable!
2. Gardening Gloves If you've ever shot with a 1,000 watt light, you know those things get hot! When your lights have been on for more than a minute or so, even adjusting the barn doors can be a dangerous affair. That's why its always good to keep a pair of gardening gloves close by. Simply turn off your light, and as long as you're wearing your gloves, making adjustments is a breeze. Additionally, since touching the lamp itself with your bare hands is never a good idea (the oils from your fingers can cause the lamp to explode when it heats up), wearing gloves adds an extra layer of protection, even when handling cool lights.
3. C47s (Clothespins) Here is another tool most commonly used for lighting purposes. C47s are extremely inexpensive and light weight. When attaching gels to a gel frame, C47s are often far easier to use than the gel frames clamps themselves. Additionally, C47s are handy for wardrobe purposes. Baggy shirts, for example, can be clipped behind the back to improve the look of the fit from the front.
4. Router Speed Control Dimmers are extremely handy whenever you're using tungsten lights. The problem is they can be pretty expensive! While they're meant for drills, router speed control devices just happen to work perfectly well as light dimmers! When you're shooting in tight spaces, your lights may end up being too intense when you can't back them away from your subject. Throw a couple of these in your travel kit and I guarantee you'll never again have to worry about lighting tight spaces again! (Not a guarantee).
5. Sand Bags Most shooters know should they use sandbags when setting up top heavy lights, but many don't think about how sandbags can help their shooting. Ever tried to get extremely low angle shots where the camera has to be at or near ground level? You have a couple of options: get a table-top tripod or hand-hold it. You could set the camera on the ground itself, but getting just the right angle is a huge pain. Sandbags fix this problem. They can be molded to a variety of shapes in order to cradle your camera at just the right angle. If your shot is a little off, just push the sand around until you've got it right. When you're just getting started with video production and filmmaking, you don't often think of the little things. Being a good shooter requires frequent improvisation and ingenuity. Keep some of these basic tools on hand and you'll be amazed at how much you end up relying on them.