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2.2 Tools and Accessories

Packing your camera is a given—but what else should you take? In this lesson, you’ll learn about various tools and accessories for capturing great video and sound.

2.2 Tools and Accessories

Welcome back, I'm Cindy Burgess for Tuts+. In the previous lesson, you learned about the pros and cons of different types of cameras for recording video. In this lesson, we're going to focus on some of the tools and accessories you might want to pack along. None of them is essential for recording video, but they can help you record better video, and that's why we're here, right? The first nice to have tool is a tripod or other stabilizing device. Shaky video is one of the hallmarks of amateur video. So anything you can do to make your shots smoother and steadier will improve the quality of your images. Tripods come in a wide range of sizes. My full size one is holding up the camera we're using right now, as a matter of fact. Some tripods are designed specifically for travel. They fold up small, usually less than two feet long, and they're often made of carbon fiber or titanium so they're light and strong. Some tripods have bendy legs so you can attach your video camera to things like tree branches or fence posts. You could even get little tripods like this, how cute is that, which you can attach your smartphone to with a mount. If you're a photographer, you may have a monopod, which you can use to stabilize your camera for capturing video as well as still images. A popular tool for smartphones and action cameras is the so-called selfie stick. These don't take up much room and they are a great way to get yourself in the video. They can also help you record smoother video because they're easier to hold steady than just the device itself. These also come in handy if you want to record video from a higher angle, like when you're in a crowd. This one, for the GoPro, actually doubles as a float so your camera won't sink if you accidentally let go of it while you're in the water. Another nice to have tool for recording video is an external microphone. Most people rely on their device's built-in microphone to capture sound, or they ignore sound altogether. But as you'll learn in the next chapter, good sound is an essential part of video storytelling. Now there are different types of external microphones you can get. Most of them are quite small and attach directly to your camera or even your smartphone. We're going to be looking at the different types of microphones and their function in more detail in the next chapter. One final tool that you might want to pack along is an external light. Think of all the times you've relied on your camera's flash when you're taking photographs. This is the equivalent of a flash for video. Most video cameras don't perform very well in low light conditions. Our shots end up looking dark and grainy, like this video I recorded in Costa Rica. Little battery operated lights like this attach directly to your camera or your smartphone, and can really improve the quality of your video in dim or dark locations and allow you to record at night as well. So tripod, external microphone, and external light. Those are the three nice to have tools to pack along for capturing better video. If you're going to take anything extra, I recommend taking one or all of these. Anticipating your subject matter will also help you choose the right gear for your journey. For example, if you're recording video with a DSLR and you plan to visit a national park full of wildlife, you'll probably want to take along a telephoto lens. But you may not want to bother with this extra bulk and weight if you're staying in the city. If you're recording video with a GoPro, these little guys, you know that there are tons of accessories you can get depending on what you want to attach the camera to. There are mounts for dashboards and helmets and handlebars, surfboards, you name it, pretty much any kind of sport or adventure you can think of. What or how many you take is up to you. Same goes for recording video with a smartphone. A whole industry has sprung up in the past few years based on creating accessories for these devices. I'm constantly amazed at the little gadgets you can get to help you capture better images. Everything from macro and wide angle lenses that will clip right onto your phone, to sliders and dollies. Again, it's really up to you what you take along. There are numerous apps you can download, both free and paid, to improve the look of your video. One of the most powerful apps for both iPhone and Android is FilMic Pro. You have to pay for it, but it gives you full manual control over things like focus, exposure, and frame rate. It's worth spending a little time before you leave to check out some of the different video apps that are available for your particular smartphone. Here are some other things you might want to consider packing. First off, a lens cloth. Not just for cleaning the lens, but also for cleaning fingerprints off those LCD screens. And as a special bonus, you can also use it to clean your sunglasses, and in my case reading glasses. Spare batteries and memory cards. You might be touring all day with no opportunity to recharge your batteries or recharge your camera. I always pack as if I will find no video supplies on my trip, no matter where I'm going. You'll also need to pack any cords or USB cables that you use to charge your camera. One thing I've learned to take because I always have more than one device that needs charging is a small power bar. Look for one that has surge protection, especially if you're traveling to developing countries. This will protect your expensive gear from any spikes in voltage. And of course, you might need to pack an adapter for the electrical outlets as well. If you plan to capture a lot of video or you'll be traveling for a long time, you might very well want to bring along a laptop and an external hard drive to transfer your video to. Video files are huge and you're gonna find you'll need the extra storage space. This might mean packing a card reader as well, if your laptop doesn't have slots for memory cards. I also like to take a small daypack for carrying my camera and a few essentials while I'm out touring. This one is water resistant and hardly takes up any space at all. Finally, if your camera has the ability to use filters, you might want to pack a polarizing filter. These can decrease reflections and glare and increase the color saturation in your images, especially if you're traveling to bright sunny locations like the beach or a ski resort. What I like to do is organize all of my cords and accessories with Ziploc bags. These are great because they come in all different sizes. You can see what's in them and they seal up so that nothing falls out. They can also protect your electronics from the elements. I'll have more on that in a later chapter. When it comes to packing, it goes without saying that you'll want to take anything of value on board with you if you're flying. I use a backpack like this as a carry-on for my camera gear and my laptop. The bottom has separate compartments which you can customize and adjust. This holds all of my gear snugly and keeps it from bouncing around. There's even a compartment at the back for my laptop. All the expensive stuff, cameras, lenses, microphones, computer, goes in this and it stays with me. The rest, tripod, cables, extra batteries, goes in my checked luggage and I hope and pray it arrives. So there's a lot to consider before you leave. But bottom line, you don't need $50,000 worth of equipment to shoot good video. In the next chapter, you'll learn how to capture video like a pro, no matter what kind of camera or accessories you're using. I'm Cindy Burgess for Tuts+. Thanks for watching.

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