Even more things for freelance filmmakers to keep in their toolbox
So, you’re a freelance filmmaker. What’s your specialty? Whether it’s directing, cinematography or sound, you still need to be prepared for anything that might come up. Pulling through is what gives your client a good impression.
Last week our list covered all those things that you will always use on set, no matter your position or type of shoot. This week we take a look at those items that will be a lifesaver for each department. Add the ones you will need to your kit.
When handling the lights and camera on set, you will have specific needs. As a freelancer, you often need to stay on a budget, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be covered. Take a look.
These 5 things will help you stay on top of things with your camera, tripod and moving shots. Achieving proper video footage is the main thing your client will pay attention to. If your moving shots are bumpy or your focus is off, that is what they will take away from your work. Good video is good for your reputation amongst clients and fellow freelancers you might work with in the future.
- 1/8” masking tape. When autofocus is not an option you need to be sure the image is sharp. You can tape two pieces on to a lens, one on the edge of the focus ring, the other next to it on the body. By using a very thin marker or sharp pencil, set your markers and be precise. When you need to switch a lot of points, number them or color code them. Sometimes the masking tape you have already works, or you can rip it, but this saves time and nerves, especially when using a short wide angle lens. This is especially practical when a follow focus is not available but can be preferred in some cases anyway.
- Microfiber cleaning cloth. Make sure the front of your lens and any filters attached is smudge free. You can get individually packaged ones as well.
Pro tip: Don’t film food without plenty of these on your side. You can use it to shine something in your shot as well, like a glass or your own glasses. Being able to see on set makes you seem more professional.
- Sandbag. Steady your tripod or help your moving shots. Sometimes a little weight is all you need to make your moving shots smoother and up the production value of your service/product. Find out how to make your own. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_dhraNcdOwg
- Non-hardening modelling clay. Mainly when using tracks. Even when expecting an even ground, there may be the unexpected bump or crack and you can smooth it over or fill it up.
- Cardboard or a thick blanket. A cheap DIY dolly. The best part is that you can keep it with you always in case the need for a dolly shot comes up unexpectedly and you have not planned for better equipment.
These 4+2 things will help you control your light better and fix problems it may be causing on camera. Become a master of light on set, it’s pretty cheap too!
- Baking paper. Made to withstand very high temperatures, and excellent for diffusing light. Make sure you have wooden clothespins to attach it, plastic will melt.
- Tin foil. A cheap back up reflector you can fit anywhere. Comes in handy especially when you need to reflect some light from a small surface (perhaps an open book someone is reading on screen).
- Black cardboard. Use it to stop bouncing light, to cut off light from a window to better direct light, to prevent lens flares if they’re not your thing. The first two you can also do with black fabric, shouldn’t be too thin or at all shiny.
- Hairspray. This one seems odd, but saved a shoot for me recently, so I’ll always keep it with me. This can mattify a surface that may be reflecting too much light and messing up your shot, like a shiny door. And it’s usually easy to clean off. Sandpaper can do the same usually, but its effects are irreversible. You don’t want to leave anything ruined behind and ruin your relationship with your client.
- Styrofoam. A big flat piece. Bulky to always have, but makes a great white reflector. It’s cheap enough, you don’t mind cutting it up to fit your needs, and light enough that you can tape it to anything, even the ceiling.
- Light bulbs. This is kind of obvious. A bulb burning out on set can be a disaster. When possible, have a backup or at least plan beforehand where you can go and get one in the middle of the shoot. Also, your practicals may be too bright or too dim on set, so it’s good to have some household bulbs with low and high watts.
Your sound department is usually way more low maintenance than your cinematography department, but remember, good sound can make up for a bad shot. Pay attention to both. We mentioned batteries and extension cords in part one, but here are some more things to help our your audio.
- An extra pair of headphones. Of course, your boom man/woman will have their own good ones, but accidents happen or the director may want to listen in as well by using a splitter.
- Adaptors. Jack to mini jack and the reverse, jack to xlr and the reverse. Be prepared to pair up any equipment you may need to.
- Blanket. Why do we need another blanket on set? You can use it to block off outside sounds or stop slight echo your set may cause. Keep it in your car, but it can be too much to carry to every shoot.
On-screen figure’s appearance
Whether you’re filming a movie, a commercial, a show, an interview or a documentary, you want to pay attention to the way those on camera look. You may not have someone in charge of costumes, set design or makeup, but that doesn’t mean you should not care. Attention to detail is important for all freelancers.
- Face powder. You can simply get a clear one to help keep their skin matte. You don’t want the audience to be distracted by shiny skin. An indoor set is almost always very warm due to the lights.
- Sewing kit. Repair torn clothes or replace a button that came undone. Don’t let small things like that ruin your shoot.
- Hair ties and bobby pins. Don’t waste time looking for something so simple. Time is precious.
- Adhesive putty. Great for the times you can’t use tape. Also, perfect for putting up posters or anything else you may have, in order to hide other things on set, like cracks, stains, copywritten materials, etc.
- Clothes. This is tricky, so it depends on the shoot. Imagine you’re interviewing someone and they’re wearing stripes. Avoid the Moire effect by making them change into that black t-shirt you’ve been keeping with you. It’s always best to talk about clothing before the shoot.
It seems like a lot, but many things will be in your house already, the rest are cheap. Just pack them up!
They say that anything that can go wrong on set, will go wrong. So expect it and solve it. Take care of your crew and cast. Respect your workspace. Be professional with your client and give the job your 110%. And stay creative!