Not only will a camera bag help to protect your camcorder, but it’s also a convenient carryall for your essential video accessories. Spending a few minutes gathering the right tools can save you time, money and aggravation. The better the contents of the bag, the less aggravation you’ll later have. But just what should you take along? Here’s our list of indispensable video accessories that the well-equipped videographer will always have handy.
We always recommend using headphones while you shoot. If your camcorder’s got a headphone jack, use it. A good set of headphones lets you monitor your audio while you shoot so you can detect that subtle hiss or hear that distant siren that could ruin an otherwise perfect shot.
2. Wireless Lavaliere Mike
A wireless lav will let you put some distance between your talent and the camera, and it won’t call a lot of attention to itself.
Don’t forget to bring mike cables to your shoot. Many videographers include at least two: a long and a short cable. Wrap and store them properly to avoid crimping and tweaking. They’ll last longer and work better if you take care of them.
4. Handheld Wired Microphone
An on-camera mike will never have the clarity or direction of a well-placed external microphone. A handheld mike is required equipment for interviews and on-screen reporter-style talent.
Be prepared for all situations with the right adapters to get audio and video in and out of your camcorder. You’ll likely need to adapt an XLR mike cable to your camcorders mini-input. The well-equipped shooter will have an adapter for every possible situation. They’re inexpensive and you can keep them in a little ziplock in a pocket on the side of your bag. Many productions have been halted for lack of a simple $2 adapter. Don’t let it happen to you.
6. Standard Batteries
Make sure you have new batteries for your mike, if it requires power, and any other device that relies on battery power. Periodically rotate batteries to ensure their freshness. A dead 9-volt could cripple a wireless mike and put an early end to an important shoot.
7. Camera Batteries
Always carry a fully charged camcorder battery as a backup. You never know when a shoot will go long or a battery will fail. Many shooters carry two extras, just in case.
8. Blank Tape
Keep an extra videotape or two for when the shoot goes long or you suddenly get inspired to rewrite the shot list. You can never have too much tape on hand. Replenish as soon as you use your backup.
9. Labels and Pens
You don’t want to spend an hour fast forwarding through tapes looking for that special shot. Labels save time. Keep a felt-tipped marker in your bag with the extra labels that come with the videotapes. Some videographers use a roll of masking tape to make labels.
10. White Card
Unless you want everyone looking a sick shade of green, a white balance card is essential. It can be as simple as a white handkerchief, a piece of white paper or some foam core.
A collapsible reflector will allow you to redirect light to better illuminate your subject. Even a car windshield reflector or some aluminum foil will do in a pinch.
12. Lens Filters
Keep a polarizing filter handy to reduce reflections and glare (a must if you’ll be shooting anything on or around water). Other filters allow you to enhance the look of your shots as you shoot, adding color to any sunset or adding a soft glow to a romantic scene. They’re inexpensive and they work extremely well.
13. Accessory Light
A camera-mounted light can save the day when you have absolutely no alternative to shooting in a dimly lit environment.
14. Lens Tissue
Carry a photographic lens cleaning tissue or brush to remove dust, dirt and moisture from your lens. Never use facial tissue or your shirt sleeve, as either can badly scratch your lens.
15. Makeup and an Applicator
Whether you’re covering up the shine on your subject’s forehead or you need to recreate Frankenstein, make up works great. At the very least, carry some clear powder.
16. Power Supply
Conserve your battery power and shoot using the power from an electrical outlet whenever it’s conveniently available.
17. Gaffer’s Tape
A roll of wide gaffer’s tape will come in handy, too. Use it to tape down your cables (if you dog ear a corner it’s easy to take off when you’re done) so people won’t trip, or for any of a thousand other applications.
18. Battery Charger
Pack your battery charger so you can re-charge wherever you find an available outlet. If you drain one battery, it can recharge while you shoot with your backup.
19. Clamps and Fasteners
A couple of ordinary clamps from the local hardware store can be extremely useful. Among other things, they will let you fasten a reflector to a tripod or attach a gel to the front of a light.
20. Extension Cord
You never know when you’re going to need one to reach that outlet that’s close, but not quite close enough.
21. Power Strip
A six-plug power strip is an excellent accessory for certain types of shoots. Use it to power your camcorder, a monitor and a light or two.
22. Weather Gear
If you shoot outdoors it’s a good idea to carry a flexible plastic camera cover to protect your camcorder from the elements. It isn’t necessary to spend a lot of money to protect your gear, some shooters find that an extra large clear freezer bag works just as well and takes up less space in your bag.