East Grinstead photographer and filmmaker Nitsan Simantov. Wedding photography and commercial video production in London and West Sussex.

Gear: Kit size, travel-ability and setup time.

Here I would like to discuss an important choice every filmmaker has to make. How much should you be buying and carrying with you? Here are some things to consider to make that choice.

Choosing your kit size

Comfort during shooting.
This is important. For example, the size of your camera makes a big difference to how easy it is to get around during the shoot. If working with assistants you can have them carry some stuff from place to place during the day, but if not then a kit you can move yourself can be important. Some things add comfort, such as a monitor for easier focusing, while others take away from comfort, such as moving big jibs around or having a heavy camera. Everything I recommend in this book is aimed towards maximum usability with the least amount of unneeded weight.

Setup time
A very important thing to consider when choosing your kit. Smaller kits are not always faster to set up, but often with less equipment you end up getting the shots much faster. It should be a good balance between something that gives you the shots you want while not slowing you down too much.

Keeping your kit smaller often also keeps your costs a lot lower, or allows you to invest more into the really important things while keeping the total budget the same. Again this comes down to finding what works for you.

Travel method and distance
When long traveling is needed I limit what I take to what can be carried comfortably. Even if you are a strong person, you want to keep as much energy as possible for the actual shooting not waste it during travel unnecessarily.

Examples of kits for Independent filmmakers:

I've put together some examples of reasonably priced kits for an independent filmmaker that should allow for high quality production while still being fast and comfortable to use and easy enough to carry to the shoot. Keep in mind these are just examples, and this is coming from a person living in Europe where public transport is a lot more common than America and other places where cars are used more often. More information about the items and their use will be given throughout the book. Lets start with the largest:

Narrative work:
Method of travel: One car. Lets assume any actors will arrive separately in their own cars.
People who can carry stuff: 2-3 people.

  • 5D Mark III camera.
  • 6 lenses: 14mm, 24mm, 35mm, 50mm, 85mm, 135mm.
  • Large Lowepro bag to fit camera and lenses.
  • Tripod and fluid head.
  • 150cm slider system.
  • Glidecam.
  • Jib/crane.
  • Audio kit, as needed. (More about this in the Audio section of this book.)
  • Backup camera, backup audio. (More about this in the "Important Items" chapter)
  • Lots of batteries and cards.

Live event shooting:
Method of travel: Train or cars.
Carrying gear: You and two additional camera operators.

  • Three cameras, as suitable.
  • Three support setups, as needed. Often you would have each shooter using a different method of stabilization to get the most variation. For example one would be using a stabilizer and a wide lens, another would be on a video-suitable monopod with a zoom lens, and another could be using a slider for some slow sliding shots.
  • A small bag for each shooter, ideally something they can wear without getting in the way, such as a small sling bag.
  • Audio kit.
  • Lots of batteries and cards.
  • At least one backup camera, but ideally more. Backup audio.

Commercial video:
Method of travel:  Train, taxi, etc.
Carrying gear: Just you.

  • Sony A7s.
  • Audio kit (See the audio section of this book for more info).
  • 4 lenses: 14mm, 35mm, 50mm, 85mm.
  • Lighting kit.
  • Tripod, slider and fluid head.
  • Backup camera, backup audio.

Personal projects or traveling for fun:
Method of travel:  Flights, walking, biking, etc.
Carrying gear: Just you. Assuming that if you're traveling with friends they probably don't want to carry any of your stuff. This is specifically talking about the kit you carry with when shooting, so we are assuming a battery charger will be at home or in a suitcase at the hotel room, etc. 

  • Sony A7S
  • One or two small lenses of choice. Personally I like the tiny Voightlander 35mm f1.4, and I will likely also take a small wide angle lens, such as Sony's little 16-50mm.
  • Camera strap.
  • Crumpler belt/shoulder bag. Very small and very comfortable.
  • Batteries and cards, as needed.