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What Am I Missing?
Video production equipment is not just one item or another, even though most people seem to only envision the digital video camera itself. The reality is that a complete list of production equipment is going to include a whole range of devices from microphones to audio equipment to lighting kits to grip equipment that will be used to design the set location. All of these pieces work together to end up capturing video and audio that can be later used to create a finished video product. When you are putting together your set of digital production equipment you often forget what you will need beyond the obvious, so here is a list of some of the most important digital video production equipment that you may be forgetting.
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What people are often missing when they are purchasing a package for their HD video camera is an external HD monitor to use on set. This HD monitor is intending to give you a general idea of how the image will look once it is finally recorded, especially when it comes to framing and quality. This HD monitor is not going to bypass the need to focus and calibrate using the viewfinder on the HD camera itself, but is a great way for the Director to help communicate about what they want in the image. This piece of equipment is likely to be only used for actual film productions and not for home videos, but it may end up being essential. It is going to require you a lot of space in your production set up, often times competing with other video production pieces for dominance. What you have to note about the HD monitor is that there is no prescribed model for what this should be, and you can even use an HD television as a proper monitor depending on the room that you have and the correct connection cords.
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Portable Hard Drive
The digital video and HD worlds are ones of digital video files at their core, and newer HD cameras are bypassing any tape formats at all. Instead, formats like the Panasonic P2 card allow you to transfer your files onto your computer to then be ingested by the non-linear video editing program you are using. Most users are going to need to have a portable hard drive to transfer the footage, and eventual post-production project, from workstation to workstation. After each shoot, you will have to take the contents of the digital storage card and then put it onto your project specific hard drive. It is always a better idea to have a portable hard drive that is specific to your project, as well as another location for backing it up. This is one of the most overlooked pieces of video production equipment because it is not used immediately on set, but since this is where your footage will be stored it is going to be fundamental at all stages. It is important to find a large and reliable portable hard drive, so the size of the hard drive space will then match the size of the project. This will usually run around a hundred dollars, but it really ends up depending on the brand.
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For those that are working with sensitive video cameras and need the images to be precise, such as with narrative filmmaking, they are going to need to be able to measure the light in the area. A light meter will do this, allowing you to measure the light in the area when you are lighting it. Here you can match the iris settings on the camera to what the reading on the light meter. You can then find out if you need to increase or decrease the light, especially for specific areas of the frame that are the focus or are not lit appropriately. The Gaffer and the Director of Photography will be unable to really know how the area is being lit without a real light meter and it is going to be fundamental during the set up process of each scene. It is just as important for documentary or more unplanned filming as you will be able to quickly know what camera settings will end up with a usable image. The price of these will range quite a bit, but they will usually go anywhere from a hundred and fifty dollars to several hundred. Light meters are a heavily used object, so having a good one is going to save you professionally.
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Though they may not sound like high tech pieces of production equipment, extension cords may be the most crucial part of an active film set. Production locations are all about electricity, running lights, associated pieces of video production equipment, and a range of other items. In most real world situations, and even in the studio, you are not going to be able to run power directly from the location where it is needed. Instead, you are going to have to be running extension cords in a number of directions, especially since you should balance out the sources so that it does not blow a fuse. Keep several of these on every set and you will find that they are some of the most used pieces of video production equipment.
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A color meter works much in the same way as a light meter, except that it is designed to measure the color temperature rather than the light intensity. The color meter will read the color of the light so that you can try to match the different light sources so that the video image does not look as though it has split colors. This is going to be a necessity if you are using additional lights at a place that is already lit by either natural light or in house lights. The color meter is much more expensive than the light meter and you can expect to spend over a thousand dollars on it, but for serious Directors of Photography this is going to be a must have item.