Monday, 16 February 2015

Prepare Equipment for a Video Shoot Like a Pro

If you asked ten different production people how they pack their gear you’d get twenty different answers, ranging from “Just throw it all in the car and go” to “I spend two hours before each shoot carefully packing bags and arranging things in the perfect manner.” In the end, your method doesn’t really matter as long as all the gear you need makes it from the office to the set (and you can find it), but I’ve compiled a list of some of my most helpful tips for packing so you never find yourself stranded without the gear you need.

Probably not the best way to pack before a shoot.

1. Know your essentials - As a videographer there are few things I can’t accomplish as long as I have a camera, batteries, and memory cards. I, of course, also want to have a tripod, monitor, extra lenses, sound equipment, etc., but these are the first three things I pack and the first three things I sound off when double-checking equipment. If everything else vanished from my kit, I would still be able to accomplish something with just these bare essentials.

2. Have backups in place - So you’ve got all your equipment set up and ready to go when all of the sudden your camera won’t turn on. Uh oh. Could it be the battery? Is the camera itself malfunctioning? Are the lens contacts faulty and causing the camera to shut off? There are so many possibilities and so many things that can be checked. This can be no problem at all if you catch the issue early, but if talent is in the hot seat and ready to begin, this can be one of the most frustrating and nerve-racking experiences you’ve ever had. For this reason we always travel with two cameras, multiple batteries, and multiple tripods. That way we’re always covered if one of our essentials fails on us.

When nothing on set is working like it’s supposed to.

3. Test your equipment before hand - This is the number one way to prevent problems like those listed above from occurring. By running routine camera diagnostics, doing monthly tripod maintenance, and replacing old batteries, you can avoid these issues 99% of the time. This should be an important step in anyone’s pre-production checklist, otherwise you’re going to find yourself in hot water with the client and the director.

We put all of our gear through rigorous testing methods before adding it to our kit.

4. Charge your batteries - This is arguably one of the most important steps in preparing for a shoot. Getting on set and finding out that you don’t have enough battery power to make it through the day puts a lot of unnecessary stress on the whole crew because now every location becomes a game of “find the outlet” (this may seem easy but you might be surprised at how hard an outlet is to find when you need one). Set up a charging station in your home base so that the first thing you do when you get back is put the batteries on the chargers, thus ensuring you’re always ready to go.

When I finally find an outlet on set.

5. When things do go wrong, keep a clear head and find a solution - This is more of a general life lesson really, because if something can go wrong you can bet good money that, eventually, it will go wrong. This can be gear left behind, batteries not charged fully, or sound equipment not working on set. The most important thing to do in situations like these is to stay calm and discretely let the director know. Clients and talent have a lot going through their heads and may already be under a lot of stress, so the last thing they need is to know that you're freaking out because something isn’t working. When something goes wrong, try to find a solution rather than panicking. As frustrated as your director may be, I promise it’s not nearly as bad as if they find out afterwards when it’s too late to do anything about it. When possible, always correct the issue on set rather than trying to deal with it afterwards (your post team will thank you).

When nothing is ok and the client asks “Is everything ok?”

I had to learn a lot of these lessons the hard way, as did many other media professionals. Hopefully our mistakes help your production days go smoothly no matter what issues you run into. Always remember that, no matter how bad the problem seems, there’s always a solution on hand; you just have to think creatively to find it.

What situations have you found yourself in where you had to use creative solutions to make something work? Do you have a pre-production work flow that helps you make sure you’re always prepared? Reply below or tweet us @Swagger_Media

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