Dear Santa, All I Want for Christmas is...or the BEST Holiday Video Wish List - 2010

Dear Santa,

Oh, yes, I do, I do, I do, I do, I DO believe in Santa Claus! I do, I do, I do! (Otherwise, who’d ever pay attention to my annual video production wish list?) Santa, dear, please remember that Aunt Agatha might not know a hard drive from an HDSLR, but I’m betting you do – and your little elves, too.

The end of each calendar year has many quaint traditions that provide us with a time to gather around with family and friends to celebrate a year that’s quickly passing; to make plans for the year soon to come… and to give and receive lots of gifts – oh, joy! For a video producer, there’s never enough gear, there’s always that one more piece of something that we all want, need, or hunger for, and there’s no better time to compile a wish list than at the biggest gift-giving event of the year. We polled a few video producers, to see what type of video joys they’d like to see magically appear in their stockings, and following is a collective list from several pro and not-so-pro producers – in no particular order.

Tripods and Steady Devices

Santa, you’re a big guy, and you know that handheld shooting isn’t for wimps, it takes skill and a steady hand, but we can all use a little bit of help and the bendable Joby Gorillapod delivers. This object of wonder has legs that can bend securely and grip tightly around all sorts of objects like fence posts, bicycle handlebars and other things to secure the video camera for weird and different points of view.

While we’re at it, I could sure use a couple steadying devices like the BarberTech SteddiePod, or Glidecam’s HD series stabilizers. And for those who have a nifty small camcorder, well, they’re great for a lot of things, but difficult to hold for very long, so we’d love to see a hand-holding device like Cam Caddie’s Scorpion. Heck, throw in the ElipZ handheld gadget from Anton Bauer and Delkin’s Fat Gecko with suction cup support under the tree and I’ll be set.

Don’t forget to look at that more robust solid traditional tripods from Manfrotto, and please, dear Santa, make sure it’s a Fluid Head tripod… for smoother panning shots.

Smooth Moves

Pricey production gear like jib arms, cranes and flying camera systems were once only for rental houses, but are now being manufactured on a smaller scale to fit the new small prosumer camcorder models. With this downscaling, prices have also fallen. Don’t count out the larger class of video gear until you check out what you can get within your budget. We’re still talking about the $1,000 and up range of gear, but it is available. Glidecam, VariZoom, SteddiePod and JonyJib are a few of the companies that specialize in these products.

Lights

What production is complete without a video light or two, Santa, and the Litepanels Micro isn’t the average incandescent on-camera mount. It’s a 3″x4″ panel of about 30 or so white LED lights and it mounts on the cold shoe on top of the camera. Or for a light that’s priced a lot lower and won’t break the bank: Sima’s SL-200 LXI is a cool on-camera light that adjusts for daylight or indoor temperatures.

Of course, we need some full light kits, too. Videssence has the Koldlite kits, two light plus barn doors and stands that come packed in a solid hard case, and the Modkit with long florescence lights that are portable and pack small.

Santa, while you’re in the lighting aisle in the Video Accessories Department at the North Pole, don’t forget to check out Kinoflo’s BarFly kits or the Diva-Lite. They come with cool lights that you can focus and dim to be very soft or as bright as 1000 watts, which pulls only two amps.


Mics

Granted Santa, wireless microphones aren’t on the bleeding edge of technology or sophistication anymore, but this is definitely on our list of must-haves. The Azden 330 Wireless Mic System is simply ideal. The kit comes with both a handheld wireless microphone and a lavalier wireless transmitter. It gives some flexibility to choose the one that suits our needs best at any time and it runs on simple AA batteries that are available everywhere. Is there anything better than that?

Well, every video accessory bag also needs a shotgun mic and you can’t go wrong with the RODE NTG-2 shotgun, boom pole and pistol grip accessory kit. And, shoot, Santa, the elves would have a ball with Blue’s Snowball USB mic. Yep, USB. Plugs directly into a computer and records right into your editing software. Good for voice-overs, boardroom meetings, and recording those little elves singing away in the toy room.

Audio Toys

Santa, every video producer knows that it never hurts to have a good selection of adapters in a video kit. Barrel connectors, XLR to 1/8-inch stereo audio adapters, line attenuators, BNC to RCA video adapters, two-prong to three-prong AC adapters. There are lots of them that you might need. I’ll make a short list of those and tack it up on the fridge – just in case your human helpers check it out. A proper balanced-to-unbalanced adapter such as those made by Studio 1 or BeachTek are ideal, and just might be what some video enthusiasts really, really want but have done without for a while now.

With more and more traditional still cameras entering the video shooting realm, producers are getting nice audio recorders to sync the video for editing. Audio recording isn’t always an option on these cameras, so we need a way to sync our footage with an audio recording device.

Zoom’s H4 records in stereo, and check out a great little controller for DSLRs from JuicedLink.com.

And speaking of audio syncing, Santa, this next one is a bit odd, we’ll admit. Have you ever seen that clapper thing on a movie set? We’ve always wanted one of those. They’re pretty cheap – they start at about ten bucks, but can go far higher depending on materials and complexity like LED numbers and wireless connectivity with the camera.

In the Bag

I’ll need a big bag or two – something that rivals your magic sack to carry all of this great stuff, Santa, so don’t forget the bags, cases and backpacks out there. A guaranteed useful gift is a proper camcorder case or bag. You’d be amazed at how much stuff video hobbyists and pros alike have to haul along when they go out to shoot. There are tons of varieties, from companies like Case Logic, Petrol and Tamrac, as well as some robust travel cases from companies like Porter Case and Pelican. There are custom-built cases for individual camera models, but even generic cases work well for the cables, adapters, spare batteries, microphones and the host of other small items that typically need to be lugged around when we’re out on a shoot. Lots of pockets and good padding are requirements here.


Wearable Gear?

Here’s something you should look into for yourself, Santa. With all the high tech gadgets that we carry around these days, it’s no wonder that a company has evolved that specializes in clothing customized for the gadget driven consumer – SCOTTEVEST. James Bond gadgets and Dick Tracy talkie-watches aside, you gotta stow your stuff somewhere, Santa, and the red fleece jacket with the huge black disco belt just ain’t cutting it anymore. I’ll bet you’re packing GPS now, but where do you pack it? With a little imagination, you can easily see how those same clever clothing channels that they designed to run headphones to your snug and warm iPod are every bit as useful for running, say, battery cables to your camcorder from a battery pack nestled snugly inside your vest.

Animations and Stock Video

We’ve been talking mostly about gear to help us shoot better footage, Santa, but let’s not forget the footage that helps us edit better stories. I’m talking about stock animations, video and music libraries, all a necessity in today’s video production library. Check out the Stock Footage Buyer’s Guide for a variety of media and footage from Artbeats, Digital Hotcakes and Digital Juice to name a few, and there are several reputable royalty-free download companies listed in the advertising section of Videomaker magazine or on our website, too.

Dubs

For the video producer who does a lot of DVD duplication, Santa, look at duplicating systems from companies like Primera’s Bravo series which burns in Blu-ray or TEAC’s systems. Don’t forget discs, LOTS of discs from Verbatim. For larger orders than we have time to process ourselves, there are duplication companies like WTS Media who do it all for you.

Key Toys

Every computer comes with a keyboard and mouse, but the video editor has different needs than the word processor, and there are several manufacturers with the video editor in mind. Bella Corporation and WorldTech are just a few of the companies that specialize in making the editor’s workflow a little bit easier. From joystick shuttles to specially mapped and color-coded keypad shortcuts, every editor will feel like a pro with these toys in their hands.

Assorted Accessories

There are tons of random accessories that videographers need that range in price from $.50 – $50, Santa, so we won’t break the bank with these, but they’re high-value in a pinch! Mic stands, pop filters, windscreens, gaffer’s tape, light reflectors, extension cords, power strips and pancake makeup are just a few. Check out Scapa waterproof gaffer’s tape in multiple colors and ExpoImaging’s ExpoDisc Video: A white balancing aide designed to act like an 18% gray card when placed at a camcorder’s lens. Don’t forget all those VHS tapes of Holidays Past you need to transfer – Check into the quick n’ easy video transfer device – Pinnacle Video Transfer.


Gift Bags, Certificates and Camp

Another class of accessories that are always a welcome addition to the shooter’s kit are cables and wire accessories. Cable reels, cable ties, cable hangers and wire markers take lots of time to accumulate. Great sources of these are the video catalogs and mail-order houses, Santa, so if you don’t feel comfortable assembling this thoughtful and pragmatic gift yourself, a gift certificate stocking stuffer would let video shooters pick and choose what they need.

If you want to hint to your human assistants, Santa, to impress the shooter in their family, tell them to put together a simple field kit with some of the easy-to-forget items that are always useful in any shooting situation. Start with a small gear bag packed with a mini-flashlight or penknife, a small roll of gaffers tape, two Sharpie-style markers, a roller ball pen and one of the zippered battery cases available from camera stores with spare batteries for lights and mics. If you shop carefully, you can assemble the whole kit for under $50. The videographer will appreciate the kit long after this holiday season is just a memory.

Santa, all this might be a bit overwhelming for you to carry or for the elves to manufacture, so perhaps a gift certificate from a company like Studio 1 where you can pick and choose from XLR audio adapters, LED lights, mounting systems and reflectors or check out BC Media, Inc., which has an assortment of tools for HDSLR shooting and other stabilizing devices. And, Santa, don’t forget to look at the huge assortment of video toys from Adorama, Abe’s of Maine, B&H or Video Guys – they have a direct link to Santa’s Video Production Toy Shop and you can find them listed in our magazine too – wow! Videomaker, a one-stop shopping place for the holidays! Now that should be tops on Santa’s own Wish List.

Learning the Craft

Speaking of Videomaker, a subscription gift to our magazine or our Videomaker Plus+ membership is a gift that keeps on giving all year long. Another gift giving idea that is nearly always appreciated is a book. Videomaker sells a great group of books and videos that can inspire and inform budding shooters and editors of all experience levels. Sign up for our eNewsletter to learn about specials on bundles for DVDs and downloadables as the holidays get closer that only eNews subscribers will hear about. For other fun video-centric toys, check out the Videomaker Merchandise hats, shirts, books and training DVDs.

We’d also recommend other, less video-specific books. Books on art theory and composition, perhaps written for filmmakers and film students, make great gifts for the videographer. After all, the fundamentals of shot composition and even editing have changed very little from the early days of the cinema.

All of these items can be found in most video websites or catalogs. Check out our buyer’s guides for specific items – you’ll find many listed on our website or in the pages of our magazine. Prices on gear can vary, so look around carefully and thoroughly before buying or having the elves build them. And remember, Santa, it’s important to buy from trusted sites so you don’t get short-changed the charger or associated cables that go with the item you bought. Read our How to Buy Gear (And Not Regret It) Buying Tips.

Finally… for the Video/Photo geek in all of us, Santa, check out the coffee mug and thermos we found mentioned online that replicate Nikon and Canon camera lenses. Any photog or videographer using these at an event will get smiles and inquiring looks. Most have to be custom ordered, and they aren’t cheap, but camp is the name of the game, here. The only downfall I can see is hooligans snagging them from a car’s cup holder, thinking they’re expensive lenses just sitting there.

Still need ideas? Check out Filmtools tool belts, camera cleaning supplies for and an assortment of goodies just for the video producer.

And so to All, a Good Night

Well, Santa, I guess that’s just about it. I know NORAD tracks your whereabouts nowadays, and now we can too at www.noradsanta.org beginning December 1st, so, I’ll know when you’re over my house – I’ll be watching! Fly Safely!

For all our video enthusiasts reading this, if you want to share your thoughts, tell us what’s on your Wish List. Check out this list a few of our forum producers assembled and feel free to add your own “Video Gear Wish List”.

Sidebar: Gear Bag Stocking Stuffers!

You don’t want Aunt Suzy picking out that special Bling-Bling camcorder, computer or your preferred editing software , so here’s a list of a few more essential and just-for-fun items that won’t break the bank. Place this hint list…er…wish list in conspicuous view to add to your gear toolkit. We hear Santa relies on his human helpers a lot!

Headphones – From tiny earbuds to noise reduction ‘phones, you need something to monitor your audio in the field and when editing. Don’t go too cheap; bad phones might not filter out crackles or hum.

Lens Filters – We always recommend you place a transparent filter over your lens to protect it from scratches and flying rocks (well, if they’re small rocks…). You can replace lens filters easily for not much coin, but repairing a cracked lens can cost you the price of the camera. Check out Tiffin and Cokin’s filters and adapters, and while you’re there, check out Cokin’s cool magnetic filter holders.

Lens Converters – Redrock makes some cool accessories for camcorders, including lenses, adapters and converters. The Redrock Achromat Lens is a 10x lens that shoots very crisp, clear extreme macro shots. www.redrockmicro.com.

Rip Ties – C’mon! You’re not still using those green veggie ties you scrounged from the grocery store, are you? Rip-Tie makes ties from color-coded short strips for bulk reels to tabbed and Velcro shorties – it’s hard to decide which is best. A dozen of each, please. www.riptie.com.

Hoods – Some prosumer camcorders come with sun glare hoods. For the others, Hoodman has some great affordable Velcro-attachable hoods for both lenses and viewfinders. www.hoodmanusa.com .

Wind Screen – Sound pops from the wind can ruin good video. You don’t have to have a pro cam or break the bank to find a decent windscreen. Rycote’s WindJammer screen is perfect for on-camera mics. www.rycote.com .

Speakers – If you’re editing with the cheapo speakers your computer came with, you’re not getting the best audio experience, and your movies deserve better. KRK’s Rockit series begins at $299 MSRP. www.krksys.com.

Wrap It Up – “Fits like a glove.” Here’s something fun and cool to protect your camera from life’s little “oops” moments. Kata Camcorder Guards have transparent windows and are easy to use. The adjustable body wrap fits all size batteries. www.kata-bags.comwww.kata-bags.com.

O’Rourke, Hansen, Davis are all video producers at various levels on the ladder and all spend way too much money on video gear but always crave more. Video-related gifts are always greatly appreciated!

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