4 min read

6 Hacks for Shooting In The Field

From travel bags to DIY rigs to baby powder, here are six hacks that freelance video producers need to know.
6 Hacks for Shooting In The Field

From travel bags to DIY rigs to baby powder, here are six hacks that freelance video producers need to know.

1. Take your gear as a carry-on.

If you’re flying to an assignment location, you may be worried about how to pack your expensive camera gear. Storyhunter videographer Morgan Cardiff, who has covered stories all over the world, including Africa, North America, Asia, and Europe, where he lives now, is an expert at the art of the carry-on: “You can usually get away with a 40lb backpack and carry your tripod in your hand. As long as it fits within the size limit, [the airline] rarely weighs them. It also keeps the valuables on you and removes the risk of enthusiastic baggage handlers.”

Storyhunter freelancer Justin Lovett, who has reported in fourteen countries in the past two years, brings a monopod, two tripods, and a light stand, all in a baseball bat duffel bag. “It’s way cheaper than a camera tripod bag, and super light, so I can pack it and then pull it out when [I need it] in a different country.”

Detroit Bug Eating Festival shot by Justin Lovett on assignment for Fusion.

2. Bring your own power strip.

Justin says that he always has at least six charged batteries in his backpack and even takes a six-outlet power strip to charge multiple devices at once. Keeping extra batteries on you will ensure you aren’t anxiously checking your camera’s battery life halfway through a shoot.

3. Keep extra memory cards on hand.

We’ve talked about the importance of having an external hard drive for transferring footage while on the road, but having extra memory cards during the shoot may be even more important, as is having a memory card holder. Morgan suggests keeping your memory cards organized: “Left side for empty memory cards, right side for full. Make sure all cards are clear at the start, and never clear [one] until you have double backups at home.”

A freelance videographer, Hunter Boone’s favorite memory card is the Toshiba FlashAir card, an SD card that allows you to instantly download and send pictures and video through its wifi hotspot. “It’s great for when I get hired to shoot a venue live and the band (or the venue/event itself) wants to post photos to social media on the fly.” Hunter has used this card to transfer photos to media companies such as Sony Music, MTV, and Comedy Central.

“The first time I used a FlashAir card was the night I shot with Pete (aka @DonsLens) for Comedy Central at Comic Con last year. It was a DJ show with Blake Anderson from Workaholics and I had a laptop setup backstage so I could edit and post live. Pete laughed pretty hard at my setup and handed me his Canon 50mm f1.4 Art Lens and gave me his Toshiba FlashAir card and I snapped this shot. I bought the same lens and FlashAir card the next day.”
— Hunter Boone
Photo of Blake Anderson by Hunter Boone, uploaded to his Instagram with the FlashAir card.

4. Make your own dollies, tripods, & stabilizers.

When he can’t bring all his equipment, Justin says his monopod always goes with him as a “bare-minimum,” and “if at all possible I always make sure to have at least one tripod as well.” Having this essential equipment not only important for getting stable shots, but a monopod or tripod can also double as a makeshift shoulder rig or help you capture an impromptu tracking shot.

If you don’t have a tripod, however, filmmaker and Storyhunter CEO Jaron Gilinsky has used cars, street signs, barricades, and even his own wallet as a tripod, rearranging cards and cash as needed in order to get the correct angle on uneven ground. “Using inanimate objects as tripods is not only effective, but it can sometimes lead you to a creative shot you wouldn’t have thought of otherwise,” Jaron said in a quick interview in Storyhunter HQ.

If it’s a long b-roll shot you’re after, Morgan suggests using a car: “Need some stable b-roll but don’t have a stabilizer? Have someone drive to get smooth stable shots.” Other things with wheels like skateboards and shopping carts can work as dollies or stabilizers as well.

5. Carry gaffers tape with you.

Covering your camera logo with black gaffers tape may help deter thieves looking for expensive brand names.You can also use black gaffers tape to hold down cords or fix equipment while on-the-go.

6. Offer baby powder to your interviewees.

Alex Pritz, a documentary filmmaker based in East Africa, suggests offering baby powder to the subjects of your interviews in the field: “I try to keep some baby powder with me so interviewees can dab off sweat! In the Sub-Saharan sun, interviewees often get quite ‘shiny’ and it’s nice to offer them something to stay fresh and not so reflective.”

Video shot by Storyhunter filmmaker Alex Pritz on assignment for The Huffington Post.

What are some other hacks you’ve used while shooting in the field? Let us know in the comments below.

By Jindalae Suh