That Won’t Break Your Budget!
For those of us in the industry who spend most of our life engaged in activities that many of our friends and family don’t really understand, shopping for us can be a daunting task. Although warned to just get gift cards, sometimes our loved ones insist on getting something more personal. The result can be a gift that never sees the light of day, is re-gifted or we have to make that awkward request for a receipt which never sets well…
It occurred to me that what we need is a guide to assist those who refuse to concede to gift cards. This gift guide is full of inexpensive yet useful tools. Many of these delights are under a hundred dollars and would be a welcomed addition to any HDSLR filmmaker’s tool kit. So if you see some things on here you might like, then email this story to your friends and loved ones who may be seeking a unique way to show you they care this holiday season.
According to my friend Matt Roe, associate producer on the HDSLR feature, I MELT WITH YOU, the best performing compact flash cards were from Hoodman. Considering these were all they used to shoot an entire feature that had a ton of exteriors in and around Big Sur, they had to be tough and resistant to humidity, sand, and the usual mistreatment that goes along during production. According to Matt, they only had about 25 cards, so that means that each card was used multiple times before the end of production, and Hoodman Raw CF cards proved reliable with no data loss and super fast transfers. According to Hoodman, SSD flash is the most stable, reliable and expensive flash you can put in a CompactFlash memory card. SSD flash lasts through 500,000 cycles of life. An 8gb 179.99 4gb is 89.99http://www.hoodmanusa.com/
This is a great product that will always be a welcomed by any shooter. Even if they already have one, card readers are one of the first things to get lost, and this unit is one of the best on the market. This high speed UDMA Compact Flash Card reader was designed with pros in mind. Lexar Professional UDMA Readers are ideal for use with high-speed cards, and they give fast download speeds every time. The Lexar Readers come with a two-year limited warranty. Price $42.99 http://lexar.com
Some of my colleagues may scoff at me for using consumer grade hard drives, but to be honest, I’ve never had a bit of trouble with my Western Digital Elements hard drives. I now have two, and I have to tell you beyond being portable, they are very inexpensive. Yet they are still fast enough to keep up with the highly compressed HDSLR footage. They were marketed as a media source to store and play your video collection, and I just wanted it to get some stuff off of my RAID drive. However, circumstances forced me to use my Western Digital drive as the source drive for a project. I was surprised by their speed and agility while cutting. I can honestly say, I’ve never had any lag during render or play back, and considering their portability and price point, they are always my first choice. $199.99http://www.wdc.com/
If CS5 Production Premium is out of your price range this year, and your HDSLR shooter is struggling to cut their footage, then Adobe Premiere Elements might be a cost effective solution. Just like Premiere CS5, Elements 9 can edit HDSLR footage natively. It can render down to the standard formats including Blu-Ray. Once your shooter is able to sit down and take his footage off the card and start cutting with no transfers, you’ll be worshiped and adored with gratitude. Premiere Elements 9 is both PC and Mac compatible. Price: 99.95 http://www.adobe.com/products/premiereel
This plugin for Premiere or Aftereffects is one of the most fun color grading tools available. If you’re like me and shoot flat, then you’ve got to push out the saturation and contrast in post to get a finished look. Magic Bullet Quick Looks has a variety of presets. Once you add the filter into the clip, the big beautiful Magic Bullet grid pops up with thumbnails of your clip with a myriad of color effects to give your project big feature looks fast. Choosing is fast, and rendering the effects is even faster thanks to CS5. $99 http://www.redgiantsoftware.com/products/all/quicklooks/
Today more than ever, video professionals spend hours and hours at the computer, cutting, writing and promoting. If you’re like me sometimes the pain in my hands and wrist can be unbearable. I happened upon this product in one of the forums as I was trying to find what mouse other editors use. This little charm came up, and after checking out the design and specs, you’ll see why I’m so excited. According to Evoluent, they consulted a variety of people including doctors, therapists and ergonomists during the design process. The end result is this side ways mouse that keeps your forearm wrist and hand in a more natural position preventing pain during your time at the computer. $99.95 http://evoluent.com/
I recently got the Think Tank Photo Sling-O-Matic backpack, and it’s by far the best camera backpack I’ve ever had. First, I don’t like bags, I like backpacks. Despite my resistance to bags, I have to admit they truly are more practical for packing and removing your camera, lenses and other gear unlike my backpack which always seems jumble everything in transit. And forget trying to open it up while standing unless you want to play Russian roulette with your lenses. The Sling-O-Matic combines the best of a backpack and a bag allowing you to swing the bag around and open it from the side which gives you access to everything without having to set it down. The sling is versatile. You can flip it back and forth without disconnecting it so you don’t kill one side of your back. The Sling-O-Matic is truly a work of art, very well made exceeding what I’ve come to expect from other manufacturers. If you only get one bag for your camera, get the Sling-O-Magic from Think Tank Photo. They come in different sizes and range in price from $129 to $189 http://www.thinktankphoto.com/
An inexpensive way to get some truly awesome effects is the Lensbaby system of lenses. If you’re shopping for a shooter that does a lot of skateboard or extreme sports vids, then a Lensbaby with Fisheye optics would be a an awesome gift. There are three base levels that are available in an SLR or PL mounts. Once you’ve got the base lens, then you can add a variety of optics that range from the Fisheye to Glass and even plastic optics. The lenses themselves range from $100 to $350 with the SLR mounts, and $300 to $490 for the PL mounts. The optics which work on both the SLR and PL mount lenses run from $34.95 to $149.95 http://www.lensbaby.com
Known as the nifty-fifty, the 50mm 1.8 lens is a great little prime that captures sharp images. Although its plastic exterior and feather weight make it seem like a cheap alternative, the 50mm 1.8 packs Gaussian optics providing an amazingly sharp focus no matter what the distance from your subject. The color balance is excellent for a standard lens. I personally shoot with the 50mm 1.4, but for the money, you can’t beat this little treasure which can serve as a great back up. Friends of mine that have it, say they keep it on their body more than any of their other lenses costing five to ten times the amount. $99.99 http://shop.usa.canon.com/
Leave it to Redrock Micro to create rigs that are small, light yet provide a huge source of stability and support. The Nano line actually consists of seven rigs. The great thing about all of the Redrock Micro products is they are all interchangeable and can be easily upgraded, making them a great investment that can grow with your needs. I personally own the RunningMan, and I can tell you it is by far my favorite piece of support gear. I would no more take my camera out to shoot without my Nano Runningman then drive my car with no gas. Because of the amazing stability, versatility and the fact I can break it down and take it any where, it’s always with me. Prices range from $110 to $610. Right now they have free domestic shipping through the holiday season. http://store.redrockmicro.com/holiday2010
Based on the overwhelming success of the Z-finder, Zacuto released the Z-Finder Jr for budget conscious professionals who want to achieve razor sharp focus. The Z-Finder Jr offers a 2.5x magnification and is adjustable to fit your eyes. The Z-Finder Jr comes complete with a viewfinder, two Extender Frames, a Mounting Bracket and a Lanyard. Zacuto also includes a lens cap because if the sun is allowed to shine directly through the Z-finder lens, it will damage the LCD screen. The Z-Finder Jr. retails for $265. http://www.zacuto.com.
Next to the XLR recorders, this is probably “the” mic of choice for the HDSLR shooter. The RØDE VideoMic is a professional grade shotgun microphone. This microphone is designed specifically for cameras. The VideoMic is powered by a standard 9V battery and has a low battery warning LED which can be a life saver. The VideoMic also comes with a switchable high pass filter to reduce unwanted rumble. The VideoMic attaches to any HDSLR right on the shoe, and connects to the camera using a stereo mini connector. $149 http://www.rodemic.com
Vimeo was created by filmmakers and video creators who wanted to share their work with a community of like minded industry professionals. It’s not the only HD web video site, but it still remains to be the website of choice of professionals to showcase their work and enjoy a social community with their fellow filmmakers. Although it’s free to have an account, a plus membership allows the user access to faster and unlimited uploads, unlimited channel and group creation. Even if you’re buying for someone who already has a plus account, you will simply add 12 more months to their existing account. $59.95 http://vimeo.com/plus
If all this information has made you even more confused, and the thought of trying pick out any of these items paralyzes you with anxiety, then there’s still something that’s better than just any old gift card. That’s a gift card from the number one seller of pro and prosumer cameras and accessories, B&H Photo/Video. Trust me when I say, this will be thankfully received and again, it shows an acknowledgment that you support their endeavors while not pretending to know the particulars of what exactly it is they do. B&H gift cards range in price from $20 to $250. http://www.bhphotovideo.com