Take 5: Five Essential Items for Your Camera Bag

Remember the old American Express credit card commercials? At the end of each one a powerfully-voiced announcer would command, "Don’t leave home without it!" As a result, many people made sure they had their AmEx cards before walking out the door for an evening on the town. It’s in that same spirit that I now reveal to you five things that belong in every videographer’s camcorder bag. Don’t leave home for your next shoot without them!

1. A full day’s supply of juice Without power, you’ve got nothing. If you lose juice, your day is done. Make sure your bag has what you need to get the power you want. That means extra batteries, fully charged and ready to rock, an extension cord long enough to reach a nearby plug and your camcorder’s AC power adapter. Leave home without these and you might find yourself heading back early.

2. A hard-wired external microphone Because your camcorder’s built-in mike provides crummy sound, at best, you’d be nuts to go out on a shoot without an external mike. When it comes to reliability, you just can’t beat a hard-wired model. The hand-held variety is always a good choice. You can use it to conduct an interview, mike a speaker, record some on-the-spot narration or capture ambient sound without having to shove your camera an inch from someone’s face. Remember to pack a long mike cable and the adapters you’ll need to plug into your camcorder, too.

3. A set of headphones You wouldn’t shoot video without looking through the viewfinder, so don’t record sound without headphones. How else will you know if your mike is picking up the hum of the refrigerator or the buzz of the overhead lights? Pack a pair of headphones and use them whenever you record important sound. You’ll avoid a lot of post-production headaches, and you can pocket the money you’ll save on aspirin.

4. Extra tapes Whatever you do, don’t run out of tape. Talk about an embarrassment; imagine how helpless you’d feel if you were shooting a wedding when you discovered that the ceremony would run longer than your only 30-minute tape. You would miss the vows and the couple would have to turn to Uncle Charlie’s home videos to have a record of the event. Or, imagine running out of tape five minutes before your daughter is handed her diploma. Always, always, always pack extra tapes, keeping at least one unwrapped, easy to find and ready to pop into your camcorder in a heartbeat.

5. A clean white T-shirt Huh? That’s right, a piece of clean, white cloth, like a cotton T-shirt, is an essential accessory for your camcorder bag. It’s a versatile tool that takes up very little space. Hold it in front of the camera to set your white balance, stretch it over a piece of cardboard to use as a reflector, drape it over your LCD viewscreen to shade it from the sun. You can even use it to wipe dust or moisture from your camcorder’s body and the sweat from your forehead. After the shoot, you can put the shirt on and look like Fonzie.

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