Thoughts that occurred to me as I was loading up the car. Which stuff to take?

The Blanton Museum.

My friend, Chris, came over yesterday to borrow a microphone for a video he's making with a fashion designer. But you never just need one part and by the time Chris was out the door he was struggling with armfuls of gear. You need this to do that.

It all started innocently enough. He wanted to borrow a shotgun mic. But then we discussed who was going to run sound and it turns out he's going to go solo on the project. All of a sudden the subject of "where to put the microphone???" comes up. We both know better than to just stick it on a camera but if there's no one there to hold onto a pole what do you do? Well it just so happens that I have a microphone boom holder. It's a small device that lets you balance the pole on a light stand. But to use the holder you need a grip head. So I reached into a bag and grabbed a grip head. But the stands Chris has are kinda flimsy (am I a stand snob?) and we quickly decided he might need a medium sized C-stand to hold the grip head, the adapter, the fully extended microphone boom and the microphone. So we added that to the pile. Good to go, right?

Well, we might as well add a sandbag to the stack for safety. And as we were getting ready to haul this stuff to his car we started talking about the idea of using a lavaliere microphone in addition to the shotgun so Chris asked if I had a wireless lav set up. Well, I did and I didn't need it myself this week so we added that to the stack. At that point I remembered to ask Chris if he had XLR cables for the shotgun. No? We scrounged up a twenty footer and a back up. 

By this time a soft rain had started to fall. Little drops clung to the panes of glass on the studio door and that brought up the next line of inquiry. Chris had hoped to shoot outside in some sort of bucolic oasis but the rain might make him change plans. Nobody really wants to drag their Sony F55 video camera out in the rain and I'm not that thrilled about my mics getting soaked either. So we started talking about lighting. In short order we decided that Chris might want to use a small set of hot lights because the rooms he would be shooting in now weren't that big and, for the most part, the light in them is pretty controllable. We scrounged around and found three Lowell Tota-Lights with  500 watt bulbs in them and we added them to the stack. Almost done....

But this necessitated some sort of light modifiers because no one really wants to use a Lowell Tungsten light bare and head on. We decided on Westscott Fast Flags so I loaded my friend up with three frames and a bag full of diffusers. But the frames need to go on some sort of support so that meant at least a few more C-Stands and every C-Stand needed a grip head. And a sandbag.

We could have gone in a different direction but the fluorescent fixtures are heavier and bulkier and I had the LEDs marked for my use today. 

We loaded everything in Chris's Honda and off he went to create. "If you give a mouse a cookie..."
"He's going to want a glass of milk."

I guess my point is that there's always a way to do stuff on the cheap or without the right gear but when you really start thinking through a project you come to understand just how many interdependent pieces there can be. And in my opinion it's always better to cover yourself for probable changes with rational contingencies rather than to court disappointment. Especially if that disappointment is on the face of your client....


  1. Kt,
    Reminds me of my last home improvement project. A simple paint the bathroom. But...if I do that I also need calk around tubs and sink. And why not replace the basin and faucet while I'm at it. And that lighting fixture sure could be replaced before new paint is applied. One thing leads to another. Of course its the wife and I are the only ones who will need to be pleased. And the time it takes is on me not a client.

  2. VSL Grip & Audio Rentals. I was going to borrow..er rent that Lav.

  3. How nice of you to help out a fellow shooter, and giving him what he needed, rather than what he wanted. No wonder you're also teaching at Etsy.

    I think that story is also a good reminder of the importance of first-hand experience of actually shooting a gig. Even if it's just a practise gig. As opposed to yakking about shooting online, for example.
    You don't know what you really need the most until you have actually stumbled through an assignment or seven. The stuff you end up needing the most and asap is often not quite the same your GAS-infected mind may be telling you.

    So your buddy was lucky that he came to borrow a mic from you. Had he not got all the other stuff and instructions he needed, he would have learned the lesson above for sure, (or a lesson about just winging it;), but now he also had a chance to pass the assignment with flying colours.

  4. Just to clarify, my classes are at Craftsy.com which is an online instructional site, not at Etsy.com which is a craft selling site.


Comments. If you disagree do so civilly. Be nice or see your comments fly into the void. Anonymous posters are not given special privileges or dispensation. If technology alone requires you to be anonymous your comments will likely pass through moderation if you "sign" them. A new note: Don't tell me how to write or how to blog!