Covering events like weddings, talks, and parties is something a lot of videographers do in their line of work. Because these are live events and you only have one chance to get it right, it can be very stressful and even traumatizing if it’s your first time. You can’t redo a first kiss, or wedding vows, or a first dance! Luckily for you, I’ve written down my top recommendations for gear that every event videographer should own (besides a camera), from my own personal experience, so you only need to stress out about that first kiss.
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A quality case for your phone
A phone is so important to a videographer; it is our time keeper, holds the timeline for the day’s events, and lets us communicate with other team members when shooting in different locations. Sometimes you can’t always keep track of your phone and, in carrying other heavy equipment around all day, your phone will need to be able to take a beating.
Spigen Slim Armor CS Case with Slim Dual Layer Wallet Design
OtterBox is usually the brand that people go to for great iPhone cases, but a few years ago a tech-savvy friend of mine was gushing over his new iPhone case from Spigen. I figured, why not try it out myself? My Spigen case is great. It’s not too bulky, and I’ve dropped my phone countless times and my phone is still in brand new condition with zero cracks on the screen. What I love about this newer model case is that you can keep a couple of business cards inside of them and have them ready when someone asks for one.
($18 on Amazon.com)
A good camera bag
It took me a while to figure out which bag I wanted for my first camera bag. I am a small person, so I didn’t want to look like a Ninja Turtle hauling around a big huge bag all day. I also wanted it to be somewhat weather-resistant. A lot of the camera bags with good reviews were in the $250-$350 range; something I was not down for then as I was just starting out doing freelance work.
What I ended up buying:
Niko Pack Backpack from Chrome Industries
I had been eyeing the Niko Pack Backpack from Chrome Industries for a while because I just love the style of their regular backpacks and all of their products have a lifetime warranty against defects. You can imagine my surprise when I found out they designed a camera bag with the same aesthetics as their regular product line. I’ve been using this bag for going on 3 years now and it’s still holding up strong and it’s been able to accommodate the addition of a 2nd DSLR camera body and accessories. I also always get compliments on this bag. 😀
($180 on Amazon.com)
Fluid video head for tripod
This is just necessary for any videographer looking to get smooth panning shots, or smooth movements in their video. If you decide to go the cheap route and use a ball head or a tripod meant for photography, you’ll be whipping the camera around and getting jerky footage that will need to be edited out. A fluid video head is one investment that is worth it in the long run.
I’ve had this head from Manfrotto for about 2 years now and it is still a solid, expertly crafted piece that goes with me to all of my shoots. You can adjust the different tension settings for getting just the right pan or tilt shots, and it has a leveling bubble to ensure your shots are leveled.
($149 on Amazon.com)
A monopod with video head
Sometimes you will be shooting in tight environments where there’s not a lot of space, or there are so many people in the room that opening up a tripod doesn’t seem like the safest idea. This is where a monopod comes in handy. A monopod, having only one leg, will take up much less space than a tripod, and will still allow you to get steady shots like with a tripod. It’s also important to note that you will want a monopod with a video head on it so you can still get smooth tilting shots.
My recommendation: Manfrotto XPro Aluminum Video Monopod with 500 Series Video Head
What I love about this monopod is the quality of it and the base. This monopod has little “feet” that fold out to help you stabilize the monopod, and you can also get panning shots by rotating the monopod. The feet part is also removable if you decide you don’t like it.
($235 on Amazon.com)
Wireless lavalier microphones
When shooting an event where what the speaker is saying is very important such as wedding vows, or an important guest at a conference, you will need a solid pair of wireless lavalier microphones that aren’t obtrusive to the wearer. What you do is hookup the transmitter on your subject (often times the groom), and clip the tiny microphone piece onto their shirt or coat and aim it toward their mouth. This transmitter wirelessly transmits the audio signal to the receiver end, which usually plugs directly into the main camera. The great thing about lav mics other than the amazing audio quality is that there is no having to sync up audio in post-production. One less thing to think about.
My recommendation: Sennheiser Omni-Directional G3 Wireless Lavalier System
I’ve been using the Sennheiser system for over 2 years now. They are easy to use; just power them on and they’re ready to go.
($630 on Amazon.com)
A reliable back-up audio recorder
Always have a backup plan. The same goes for getting good audio at a shoot. The lavalier microphones are excellent as your primary source of audio for a single speaker, but you should also have a backup recorder in case something goes wrong with your primary source. Maybe it was too windy and all you hear in the lav audio is the rumbling wind and you can barely hear the groom’s vows (yikes!). If you also happened to have a backup recorder hidden somewhere nearby, away from the wind, you might not have to tear out all of your hair stressing out that you don’t have usable audio.
I like this bundle because it comes with the windbuster and SD card that you can designate just for the H4n. I don’t really see the need for the cables and the remote although it might come in handy if you placed the H4n Pro in a spot that’s not easy to access.
($230 on Amazon.com)
A good on-camera microphone
This goes in line with having a backup audio source that will possibly save your ass later. Most cameras today have decent built-in microphones, but you will still eventually want to upgrade to an on-camera microphone with a wind cover.
The VideoMic GO isn’t just a replacement for your camera’s built-in microphone, it is a shotgun microphone meaning that it will pick up the best audio from whichever direction it is pointed at. Think of it just like a shotgun, and aim it at the appropriate speaker or direction you want to capture audio from.
($119 on Amazon.com)
Cables is where it gets messy for me; sometimes you need them and sometimes you don’t, so it’s not something I think about a lot. However, if you’re shooting a a same day edit at a wedding, you should always definitely carry cables in your gear bag. When you present the same day edit you will probably be hooking up a laptop to a projector (which you might need to supply or rent), and you will also need to hookup the audio component to the DJ’s soundboard. The DJ might not necessarily have the right cables or adapters to hookup your laptop to their soundboard so it’s a good practice to always assume the worst and bring your own.
I would recommend getting an XLR cable of at least 25 feet. This may seem like a lot, but depending on the size of the venue, you might not always be close to where the soundboard is. You might be filming from the back of a large room while your audio source is way at the front of the room.
($19 on Amazon.com)
Cable Matters 3.5mm 1/8″ to XLR Cable Adapter (6 ft.)
This adapter can output audio from most headphone jacks and make adapts to connect to the standard size XLR cable. Because this is just the adapter, you don’t have to go long like the XLR cable for this one. It’s really up to you.
($9 on Amazon.com)
Reliable SD cards
Everyone I know seems to have a bias towards a certain brand when it comes to SD cards based on having traumatizing experiences with certain brands. I’ve been really fortunate in this regard in that I’ve never had an SD card crap out on me.
My recommendation: SanDisk Extreme Pro 64GB SDXC UHS-I Memory Card
I’ve been using this brand and size card for over a year now after switching from the Transcend 64 GB High Speed 10 UHS-3 Memory Card – no reason for switching other than reading the great reviews the SanDisk was getting at the time. I’ve found that 64GB is a lot of space and I’ve never come even close to filling up my cards. You should always offload cards after every shoot anyway.
($41 on Amazon.com)
Hardshell SD card case
My recommendation: Pelican SD Memory Card Case
Don’t even think about having your SD cards loose in your camera bag, or gathering sweat in your pocket! SD cards carry sensitive, once-in-a-lifetime/your job depends on it- data. It is only right that you treat it as such and invest in a great storage case for them. I love this hardshell case from Pelican. It holds up to 12 SD cards, has a weather-resistant seal, and barely takes up any space in your camera bag. More importantly, the polycarbonate outer shell means that it can take a beating.
($18 on Amazon.com)
Laptops don’t always have a built-in reader and in this case you will need one to transfer footage from your SD card to your hard drive.
My recommendation: Transcend USB 3.0 Super Speed Multi-Card Reader
There are many options out there but this one from Transcend is my favorite and I’ve given them to friends before as gifts because it is just so useful, especially when the built-in reader on my laptop decides to crap out.
($18 on Amazon.com)
AA batteries are an often-overlooked accessory for me. It is really easy to forget this one but you will need batteries to power your audio devices for the entire day so these are a necessity in a videographer’s arsenal.
My recommendation: Panasonic Charger Pack with eneloop 2100 Cycle Rechargeable Batteries (4 pack)
I prefer rechargeable batteries for my devices because it doesn’t produce as much waste as using one-time use batteries and then throwing them in the trash. Depending on how many devices you use that take up batteries, you might also consider buying more batteries.
eneloop AA Batteries (4 pack) w/Charger – $18 on Amazon.com
eneloop AA Batteries (4 pack) – $13 on Amazon.com
A good hard drive
As with SD cards, everyone has their own biases with the different brands. I absolutely do not trust Western Digital after losing my entire music library in a hard drive crash. After losing what took years to build, I just can never trust their products for my own projects ever again. I also know some people who LOVE Western Digital and swear by it. Since then, I don’t really stick to any particular company when it comes to hard drives; I read as many customer reviews as I can and make a decision from there. Recently, I’ve seem to have gravitated primarily towards Seagate, and I have had no problems whatsoever.
My recommendation: Seagate Backup Plus Slim 2TB Portable External Hard Drive USB 3.0 + AmazonBasics External Hard Drive Case
This bundle from Amazon comes with an AmazonBasics case to protect your hard drive from knocks and debris that can get stuck in your connection ports. There is also room to store the USB cable for the hard drive.
($72 on Amazon.com)
It is important to take note of what the weather will be like on shoot days, especially if you will be shooting outdoors. Both iPhones and Android phones come with basic weather apps, but I recommend using a more robust app like Dark Sky to get more in-depth information.
Dark Sky Weather (iPhone/Android)
What I like about Dark Sky is it’s easy-to-use interface, detailed data for the entire day, and most of all, it’s precipitation map feature that displays the path of precipitation in your local area for up to the next hour.
This is another instance of “cover your ass.” It might not rain on most of your shoots, but having a rain cover on hand just in case is a good idea.
The rain cover fits over the entire camera while it’s on the tripod. You can access all of the camera buttons through two holds in the sides, and the back of the cover has a clear window so you can still view your camera’s LCD screen. The front of the cover can adjust to the size of your lens and fastens tight with a velcro strap.
($15 on Amazon.com)
Another one of those “just in case” items to have in your bag is a multi-purpose tool.
My recommendation: Leatherman Wingman Multitool with Nylon Sheath
The Wingman multitool from Leatherman has every type of tool you might need on a film: scissors, screwdriver, pliers, a knife and more.
($43 on Amazon.com)
A quarter in your back pocket
Yes, you read that right. Carry a quarter in your back pocket whenever you shoot! This simple tool comes in handy when tightening or removing tripod plates. Even when you think the tripod screw is on there pretty tight, the screw sometimes comes loose from being in use all day; you will need to tighten it throughout the day and having this simple tool in your back pocket really comes in handy.
I know that fanny packs are supposed to be uncool unless you are wearing it in an ironic, hipster way, but they can be very handy on a shoot. Even camera assistants on film sets sometimes have a production pouch that slides onto their belts and it holds their tools, notebooks, and pens. Get a non-flashy fanny pack to store your phone, extra batteries, cards, or even lenses so you’re not running back and forth to your bag just to grab small items.
My recommendation: Herschel Supply Co. Tour Hip Pack
I would go with black since black is the videographer’s official color. You don’t want something too flashy that will draw attention to yourself, and you also don’t want to go too big or you might be tempted to fill it up with too many unnecessary things.
($45 on Amazon.com)
Extras – not necessary, but worth a thought
Battery grips are useful if you don’t want to change batteries as often or don’t have time to. The type of battery grip you will need will depend on the exact camera model you own so do your research.
Power strip with surge protection
If you have space in your bags for a surge protector, these can come in handy if outlets are scarce and you need to charge multiple things. They will also protect your sensitive electronic items from surges. It is important to note the Joules rating on your surge protector. A surge protector with a Joules rating of at least 2,000 Joules should be enough for your expensive equipment; this one from Belkin protects for up to 2,320 Joules.
Belkin 7-Outlet Power Strip Surge Protector with 6-Foot Power Cord – $13 on Amazon.com
I’m not completely sold on rolling carts. They can come in handy on big film productions where a lot of gear needs to be moved around constantly, but for most video gigs, I feel like they get in the way. If you have a bad back or can’t carry a lot of weight, throwing your gear onto something with wheels is a good option. I think these depend on how each videographer works.
The featured image for this article is by Jon Flobrant.