The following article contains suggestions for items that you may not know exist, but you might just end up wanting. These accessories can make your production life a little bit better. In researching this article, I took the opportunity to peruse the accessories that B&H Photo sells, and if you have a day to spend doing so, I¡¯d recommend it¡ªthere are more than 22,000 accessory items to look through, everything from replacement parts for quad copters, matte boxes, underwater gear, and much, much more. However, if you don¡¯t have that kind of time, not to worry, I went through the first seven-odd thousand items for you, and I have to say it is far reaching and sometimes thought provoking. For example, I was unaware that you could buy a printed brochure for the Cokin Z-Pro series of filters, but you can. However, there is an amazing number of items and replacement parts that you may not have realized were available, so after you read through this article, I¡¯d recommend scrolling through the list.
Replacement Tips for your A-Clamps
The ubiquitous ¡°A¡± clamp or spring clamp¡ªyes, you have a bunch of them and they see a lot of use. Somewhere along the line, the little protective tip will come loose and fall off. Now, you could go around the set liberating the protective tips from someone else¡¯s spring clamps, or you could buy replacement tips for 2″ clamps. So don¡¯t be ¡°that guy,¡± and since there is a 10-piece minimum purchase on this item, you could be a friend to your fellow crew members and share the wealth.
Sticking with the ubiquitous theme, let¡¯s turn our attention to batteries. Yes, you can purchase a large variety of batteries from B&H, both disposable and rechargeable, but this just raises the question: once I open the package, how do I carry these around without having them scatter inside my kit bag? Again, not to worry¡ªwe have you covered. Dot Line and Watson both make plastic cases for AA batteries, and you can probably put AAA batteries in them, as well. These keep your batteries organized and ready. However, what if you are looking for more storage, color-coded cases, and the capability to dispense one battery at a time? Then check out the Storacell system, which is innovative, protects your batteries, and is available for different battery sizes and carrying capacities. The version named Moonshine glows in the dark, so you can find replacement batteries for your flashlight, even if your flashlight batteries have died. It only needs about half an hour of exposure to light to glow for up to 8 hours¡ªbrilliant. However, if you aren¡¯t into hard plastic, check out the fabric battery holder from Think Tank, and if you¡¯re into carrying items on your belt, then check out these battery pouches from LensCoat.
Action Cam Wrenches and Mounts
GoPro, GoPro , GoPro. It seems that GoPro is everywhere, but what you may not know is that there are a variety of tools that have been developed to make using your GoPro easier. Two of these tools are available to help tighten that odd-shaped thumbscrew on the GoPro mount. There is ¡°The Tool¡± by GoPro, which you can attach to your key chain, and will double as a bottle opener, for when it is time to celebrate the success of your shoot. However, offering a bit more in the style department is the FotodioX GoTough Sharkbite Wrench, available in black, blue, gold, green, and red. It can also attach to your key ring, and has a built-in bottle opener. Either tool is functional, and will get the job done, but I know which one I would want. While we are on the subject of GoPro, check out the section of Action Cam mounts¡ªyou never know, you might just find that gold colored aluminum extender for your GoPro you¡¯ve been dreaming about.
These Bubble Levels are a Shoe-In
At this point I¡¯d like to suggest a bubble level for your camera. I know, I know, you spend several hundred to several thousand dollars for your camera, and yet it doesn¡¯t come with a bubble level. Unless you are only doing run-and-gun?shooting, a bubble level is nice to have, but no camera comes with one. Well, you are in luck: both FLM and Vello make bubble levels that slide into your camera¡¯s hot shoe. What if you don¡¯t have a hot shoe? Then cast your gaze upon the MYT Works ?”-20 Bullseye Level, a bubble level with a 1/4″-20 threaded screw¡ªperfect, and great for all those cages that have threaded accessory points.
Lens Port Caps
How about lens port caps? Yep, cameras usually come with them, and no one thinks that much about caps until one goes missing. Or what if you get an adapter? Many lens adapters are really meant to change the mount of your camera, which is especially useful if you have more than one lens that needs to be adapted to your camera. Instead of adapting each lens, just adapt your camera¡¯s lens port (mount) instead. But adapters often do not come with caps, so what to do? Don¡¯t wait until you need a port cap¡ªyou can find caps all over the B&H site. For example, I was faced with this quandary when adapting my Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera to PL mount with a FotodioX PL to MFT adapter. I wanted to leave the adapter on the camera, but that would leave the sensor exposed, so I needed a lens port?cap, and I like to have a spare, just in case. However, PL Lens port caps aren¡¯t so easy to find new, and although I did try to make my own¡ªI failed in that endeavor¡ªit was time to bite the bullet and spend the money. Here were the choices I came up with: Vocas makes a nice plastic cap with a locating cutout on each of the tabs, so you can mount your lens port cap easily in any configuration. The Wooden Camera PL Port cap is surprisingly not made out of wood; the Blackmagic Design PL lens port cap and the Bluestar PL-Mount Port Cap, plastic, and it has four locating cutouts. I ended up buying two caps, because I like having a spare, which isn¡¯t a bad idea if you already have one lens port cap. Check out the links to the caps above, and leave a comment below, letting me know which cap(s) you think I bought.
Tap Adapters and Connectors
For powering accessories, I really like this Customizable Male/Female P-Tap port adapter from Maxell. First, it allows you to create a power cord for your specific on-camera accessory that powers from a P-Tap (D-Tap) connector, and you get to plug another P-Tap into the back of this plug to power another accessory. Small, functional, and DIY, just what I like to work with. However, if you like to build your own cables, you probably fret about polarity. Did I wire up my connector properly? What about the power source I¡¯m plugging it into? Is that worn, can I accidently plug into it with my connector reversed? Sure, you could stop and check your cables and polarity every time, but if only there was something that could confirm the polarity for me before I let the magic smoke out of my expensive accessory? Well, I found it. The Lentequip Safe Tap Connector¡ªnot only does it confirm polarity, but the LED indicator changes color when your battery is low.
As far as powering accessories goes, here is a neat little item. It is a Bescor AC to DC adapter, but it isn¡¯t what you think from the name. It adapts a car lighter plug to a two-prong female Edison socket without converting the DC power to AC. Why, you may ask, would I want a socket that normally delivers 120 volts AC power to deliver 12 volt DC? Simple¡ªthere are lights that can take an AC or DC bulb, such as the Bescor VS-65. So if you have a 12 Volt DC bulb in your light fixture, then this adapter allows you to power that light fixture from your car¡¯s lighter socket, which is something you come to appreciate when shooting in cars and you don¡¯t have a process trailer to provide power for your lights. Certainly, it gives you more control than using one of those automotive emergency lights that plug into your car charger. So, if you have a light that allows you to swap the AC bulb for a DC bulb, this is a nice little adapter cable to keep in your kit.
Sticking with the powering theme, let¡¯s talk about laying cables across the floor. Remember: safety first, last, and always. Sure, you can throw down a rubber mat or tape down the cords, but what to do on carpet? Safcord Cord and Cable Protector¡ª6 feet long, and available in black, gray, navy, taupe, and yellow. Taupe? Yeah I know, it is kind of a mushroom color, but don¡¯t worry about how it is pronounced, no one knows for sure.
Hot-swappable battery solutions have become very popular. Let me be clear: using two batteries to power your camera has become very popular recently. This allows you to swap out the drained battery while the second one continues to run the camera. What¡¯s the big deal? Why not just power-down and swap? Boot-up times. Having to shut down the camera, swap batteries and then reboot the camera has become intolerable on set. Now, as mentioned above, most solutions allow you to mount two batteries on the camera simultaneously. Effective, but not the only option, and something I was happily surprised to find that had already been built is a battery plate with an internal battery or capacitor that allows you to pull a drained battery and replace it with a fresh one, without powering-down your camera or losing power to accessories. Maintaining the same profile as your regular battery plate, only thicker, these battery backup (hot-swappable) plates are made by Bebob Engineering, BLUESHAPE, and Switronix.
I hope this article has helped alert you to some items that you may not have known about, but will find useful in your day-to-day production life. Please feel free to check out a similar article from last year, that lists even more lesser-known items.