Top 10 Christmas gifts to buy for the filmmakers in your life
Filmmakers, videographers, cinematographers, they can be a strange bunch. When they’re not watching countless video on vimeo or dissecting scenes from the latest Hollywood flick they’re busy making their own films.
Most enthusiasts want to keep up to date with all the latest kit and they know what is hot and what is not. This certainly makes them quite a challenge to buy Christmas presents for.
Well, thankfully for you, we have rounded up a selection of kit ranging from cameras to must-have kit bag essentials, which should be enough to put a smile on the face of any wannabe James Cameron.
Best Camera for Filming: Panasonic GH4
Since its release earlier this year the Panasonic GH4 has been adopted as the camera of choice by countless film makers. Thanks to a quad-core Venus Engine IX the GH4 can record excellent quality video in resolutions up to 4K. With a 16.05-million-pixel Digital Live MOS sensor, the Panasonic GH4 is also a very competent still camera.
The autofocusing in live view is fast and using the vari-angle touchscreen users can select focus points. In addition, there’s also focus peaking and zebra striping feature to aid with manual focusing. All of this is inside a body that is weather and dust sealed, weights little over half a kilo and measures just 132.9x93.4x83.9mm. With all of these things considered the Panasonic GH4 is one of the best camera to balance, size, weight and video quality into one neat package.
Best Microphone: Azden SGM-990 Videomic Pro
Capturing crisp, clean audio in video is just as important as the images themselves. The built-in microphones on many camera delivers reasonable quality audio but they tend to pick-up wind noise and the quality isn’t particularly good. Using an external microphone will improve the sound quality on a video massively. Many of these can be used to capture audio to an external recorder or simply plugged into a cameras microphone port to capture the audio alongside the video recording on camera.
There’s a huge range of external microphones out there but one of our favourites is the Azden SGM-990 Videomic Pro. When tested we found it delivers a clear, crisp audio and can be used as captured or be balance in post-production to make the sound a bit more dynamic. With a frequency range of 150Hz-18kHz it’s good for the majority of situation and the 150Hz is particularly good as it cuts out a lot of unwanted background noise. It’s constructed from a durable metal and it’s powered by AAA batteries - a big advantage as they’re readily available.
Best Headphones: SoundMagic E10S
As a filmmaker, you need to know that the audio being recorded is right. If there’s issue like a subject talking too quietly, odd noises or a distracting sound it can ruin the take. In order to keep tabs on all of this, it’s a good idea to plug a pair of headphones into the camera a monitor what’s going on. This way it will give the filmmaker an picture of what the final audio of the footage will sound like.
Having incredibly good headphones in these situations isn’t going to be a huge advantage here, as long as the filmmaker can cut out sound background noise and hear roughly what’s going on that’s fine. The SoundMagic E10S are in ear headphones type headphones that prevent the wearer from heading lots of environmental noise. A twisted cable is featured on the E10S to aid in strength and the mostly metal construction means they should easily survive being bundled in and out of a kit bag every now and then. Overall, the sound quality is dense and we found these headphones to be among the best available for under £50.
Best Filter: Tiffen Variable ND filter
A variable ND filter is a very useful bit of kit for any filmmaker as they allow the videographer to have a lot more control over the exposure of the video as well as the depth of field. Many filmmakers will use ND filters slipped inside a Matte Box but this is quite a costly way to achieve the same result and makes a lot more kit to carry.
With the Tiffen Variable ND filter videographers can rotate the ring around the front of the filter and block out between 2 and 8 stops of light. This is great for shooting large apertures during the day resulting in sharp subjects and blurred backgrounds but it can used in all sorts of creative ways. Sometimes, these ND filters are needed just to record a scene that is too bright, commonly in snowy or sandy landscape.
Unlike some of the cheaper options there’s not much colour cast or vignetting caused by the Tiffen Variable ND which is bonus. There’s different size filters for different lenses and the Tiffen filters are available in 52mm, 58mm, 62mm, 67mm, 72mm, 77mm and 82mm sizes. So, if you’re buying it as a present, either double check the size of make sure you keep the receipt.
Price: From £90/From $99
Best Wireless Media Drive: SanDisk Connect
Once an awesome bit of video has been shot it would be cool to watch it back right? Well, the SanDisk Connect Wireless Media Drive is a portable device that allows users to put an SD card into the side and preview what is on the card using an Android or IOS device. Instead of trying to view footage on the back of a camera, it’s possible to watch it on a smartphone or tablet with decent quality sound.
Not just that, but it can be previewed on up to eight devices at once. It does this by generating its own WiFi signal that the smart device can connect to and content can then be previewed via the free downloadable SanDisk Media Connect application for iOS or Android. There’s 32GB/64GB internal storage options on the device so users can download other content onto it and watch that. It’s more than just a tool for in-the-field use.
With an eight hour battery life it’s really useful for just watching movies back while traveling or even having a showreel on for other people to see.
Price: £65 (32GB), £90 (64GB)/$70 (32GB), $120 (64GB)
Best Action Camera: GoPro Hero4 Black Edition
At the moment, the GoPro is the best selling camera in the world. Although, it’s easy to think of GoPro and think of people hurtling down mountains at an insane speed or skydiving into some kind of hellfire. But, in reality there’s a lot more application for a GoPro then just extreme sports and lunacy.
The recently released GoPro Hero4 Black Edition records in 4K resolution at 30fps, 2.7k resolution at 50fps and 1920x1080 HD at 120fps - the 120fps being suitable for creating slow motion video. In addition, it can shoot 12-megapixel still images as well as timelapses. As the GoPro is so small a light they’re excellent for having as a second camera, shooting point of view footage or simply just having to hand when the big video cameras packed up in the bag. It would likely be a welcomed addition to any videographers kitbag.
Best Micro SD Card: SanDisk Extreme MicroSD
When filming video, particularly in high resolution and at high frame rates it’s easy fill up numerous memory cards in a days shooting. Most videographers will always want more memory cards to shoot more footage. It’s just easier that way. No need to go back and delete off the card, just shoot and worry about it later.
Many cameras will use an SD card format or cameras like a GoPro will use MicroSD. By sliding a Micro SD card into an adapter, they can fit the SD card format so it’s not a bad idea to invest in a MicroSD card. Consistently, the SanDisk MicroSD cards perform brilliantly.
In testing, the write speed of the SanDisk Extreme MicroSD was 68.2/mbs, which is more than enough to write full HD 1920x1080 resolution video at 60 frame per second.
Price: From £30/From $15
Best Backpack: Benro Range Pro 500N Backpack
It doesn’t take long to amass quite a collection of video kit and it will need protecting when being stored away and being carried from location to location. The choices of luggage is endless but for those that want to travel around and have quick access to their kit, a good backpack is hard to beat. Out of all backpacks we have tested the Benro Range Pro 500N is about the best for a medium sized kit.
With dimensions of 38x32.5x54cm it will hold two DSLR cameras with lenses attached, four additional lenses, a couple of LED panels and a microphone. Also, a 15-inch laptop can be slid into the front pouch, memory cards in the side pockets and a tripod can be strapped to the side.
A ergonomic ventilation system ensures air can flow around the back so it doesn’t become sweaty and uncomfortable to wear while walking long distances.
Best Power Bank: Ravpower RP-PB19 Deluxe
A powerbank is essentially just a giant battery pack. By plugging a cable into the USB port on the power bank it will charge the connected device. This included a multitude of different cameras such as the GoPro Hero4, Sony NEX series, Sony Alpha and many more.
By carrying a high capacity power bank, it’s possible to get more usage from your camera batteries while on location and also it’s a handy back-up for phones and tablets. The Ravpower RP-PB19 Deluxe 15000mAh Portable Charger/External Battery Charger is one of the best Power Banks we have tested and it has a huge battery capacity.
For example, a GoPro Hero4 battery is just 1160mAh allowing the Rav Power Charger to replenish the batteries nearly 13 times before needed to be recharged.
Best LED Panel: Rift Labs Kick
Kick Light was a cool product that came to life after users pledged over $210,000 to put it into production on the crowdfunding website KickStarter. It’s different from most other LED panels. It has its own built-in WiFi signal that can be connect to by an Android or iOS device.
Once connected, inside the app, it can be turned up and down in brightness, changed in colour temperature, set to strobe, set to a custom colour and more. At 1m the Kick Light has a Lux reading of 210lux on full power which is not as bright as many LED panels but it more than makes up for it in its feature set.
On the underside of the Kick light is a tripod mount but the unit itself is design to slide over an iPhone in order to use the iPhone as a controler. All-in-all this little light is great for adding dynamic lighting to a shot.
Best camera for slow-motion video: Phantom Flex
What do you get the filmmaker that has everything? Why, the Phantom Flex, of course. If money is no object this Christmas, prices for this awesome camera start at just $50,000 (Around £30,000) and can be as much as $150,000 (£95,000) depending on what model you buy.
It's capable of shooting 1980x1080 resolution HD video at a frame rate of… wait for it… 2,570 frame per second. 4k resolution footage can be recorded at 1000 frame per second. That means it's capable of shooting John Woo-style Bullet Time video. If you want to know what we are talking point watch this Phantom Flex video sample.
Price: Available to rent from Greendoor films