1 – Sony FS700 camera rig with rails and other rigging
2 – Storage and backup equipment
3 – Notebooks – production planning, interview notes, location details
4 – Apple® MacBook Pro® 15"1
5 – Tools
6 – GoPro® cameras and assorted mounts
7 – Tripod
8 – Hand-held radio
9 – Sennheiser G3 lav mic kit
10 – Lenses
I often get asked what gear we use on a shoot, and it’s a hard question to answer succinctly because every shoot requires different equipment, and every shooter prefers his or her own way of doing things. But there is a core kit of gear we need to get the basic job done at motorsport events. Not included here are all the creative “modifiers” such as filters, additional cameras, and Kessler slider, etc.
1. Sony FS700 camera rig – the base camera unit is expanded with rails and other rigging to easily switch from tripod to shoulder-mounted shooting configurations for “run and gun” shooting. Featuring a mix of Movcam® and Redrock Micro rail components, the setup includes a follow focus wheel, matte box to control lens flare, and a Marshall monitor. We use primarily Canon L-series lenses, mounted with a Metabones Speed Booster™ adapter. The onboard microphone is upgraded to a Sennheiser ME66. The Sony FS700 will shoot up to 240 frames per second slow motion in high definition.
2. With multiple cameras rolling all weekend, plus onboard cameras and GoPro trackside cameras, the demand for storage and backups is high. We use G-Tech™ and LaCie® hard drives with Thunderbolt™ connections while on the road, and larger RAID arrays back at the edit suite. ThinkTank’s media wallets are great for storing a lot of SD and CF cards and they fit in a pocket comfortably when on the run. We often use upward of 60 SD cards over the course of a weekend when all the GoPros are installed in the rallycross cars.
3. I go through a lot of notebooks in a season. From production planning and interview writing to rally camera location details, I make copious notes to keep myself organized and on track. I’ve tried using iPhone®1 and computer apps, but nothing beats pen and paper for convenience and ease of use. There’s something about physically writing something down that helps get my thoughts in order, too.
4. An Apple MacBook Pro 15" is an essential tool for our production, field editing, and footage organization. The entire operation is run off this laptop. It’s also handy for posting updates to the Formula Photographic Facebook® page!
5. The team mechanics hate loaning out their tools, and it's important to be self-sufficient and prepared at all times on a shoot – it's also a key part of being “professional.” A multitool, a good combo screwdriver, and clippers are essential items for us, especially for installing onboard cameras. Not pictured: electrical and gaffer tape.
6. GoPros and assorted mounts. These changed the game for everyone. When traveling light, I usually take four to six of the Hero2 and Hero3s. At rallycross events, when we are covering three different cars, we have a separate case full of 30 GoPros and all the mounts we could possibly want. We consider these “disposable” and often put them in risky places such as on car bumpers or on the apex of a turn. The mini tripod pictured is similar to a Gorilla Pod, but was something I discovered on a WRC shoot in Europe and is made by Xtreme Video.
7. A good tripod is worth its weight in gold. Literally. You will pay through the nose for a good tripod, but it’s one of the most important elements of your kit. This Miller Solo carbon with DS-20 head is a great compromise between mobility and stability. Nothing beats a full Sachtler or O’Connor tripod for fluidity and stability, but we often are running through the woods or around a racetrack from location to location, and the Miller is perfect for that. The FS700 rig fully built up is probably at the maximum weight range of the DS-20 head, though, so it might see an upgrade soon.
8. When we are out in the forest waiting for rally cars, it’s always handy to have a ham radio to stay on top of what’s happening. We use hand-held units that will receive most transmissions, and sending is not much of a concern.
9. Good audio often is more important than the video image. We carry several Sennheiser G3 lav mic kits for mic’ing up drivers or team members for that “fly on the wall” documentary audio.
10. I stick with a few key lenses in my travel kit, and expand on that arsenal when baggage budget and need arise. The two primary lenses I use are the Canon 70-200 2.8 and Canon 24-70 2.8 Series II. I pack a 2x extender for those times when I need to boost the 200mm max focal length (which is quite often at track-based events). The 85mm and 24mm primes normally stay at the office unless I bring the 5DmkII as a second camera. Having worked with a set of older cine-modded Zeiss lenses recently, I probably will be picking up some of those shortly. Declicked lens-operated aperture and permanent focus rings are nice things to have.
Also pictured are various batteries and chargers, an LED light, and a Zoom H4n audio recorder. When we primarily shot with Canon 5D cameras, the Zoom was an essential part of piping good-quality audio into the subpar audio system of the DSLR. Now the Zoom is used to iso-record sound when we are shooting slow motion on the FS700. That way, if we want to show the clip in regular speed later, we have the audio to accompany it (when shooting at high frame rates on slow-motion cameras, the audio is not recorded internally).
So that’s the base kit. The photo is missing a few small items and the cases all the gear is packed in. When budgeting for a shoot, always remember to factor in the excess baggage fees on airlines these days! They can really add up if you don’t have status with the airline. The core camera and essential pieces required to complete a shoot are carried on the plane with us. That way, if all the checked baggage gets delayed or lost, we may not have our full complement of creative tools and equipment, but at least we can continue the shoot.
We’d love to hear about your own essential items of gear and packing tips in the comments below!
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