10 Tools All Video Pros Should Have On Hand

Published on in Advice / Tips & Tricks

by Cinematographer & Editor Sean Benson, DigitalBrew

These 10 tools are for those who want to enhance their awesomeness in their video production and/or want to uphold a professional video service for clientele. These aren’t just 10 things that maybe you should check out sometime, think of them as part of your “Video Kit”. If you want to be the video pro who’s confident and ready to go when asked to do a job, then you need to have some things in place. Before going “out there,” you should set up the resources you need in a way that they’re accessible at all times.


Inspiration

If someone comes to you with a project or you yourself want to make something, it’s good to start by compiling a collection of references to start to paint a picture of the style and content needed. Plus, if you’re working with others it will help you stay on the same page. 

Have a head start. Seek out and bookmark some go-to sources of inspiration to that you like. It could include a photography blog, youtube channels, or Vimeo Staff Picks. And guys, don’t be afraid to use Pinterest. Pinterest is a part of Digital Brew’s production process. You can read all about that here

Film-grab.com is also a site I love to browse through for visual inspiration. You’ll already have a place to get started when it’s time to brainstorm.

Knowledge and Community

One of your tools in you Video Kit should be a pipeline to the video world. You’ll be more valuable and make better decisions if you’re current and up-to-date in what's going on.

You can join trade organizations in your area or broader online, join a Facebook group of filmmakers or forums. You can choose to get email updates if you want on new interesting projects and begin to follow filmmakers or videographers whose work you appreciate. This is a great way to network as well!

Check up on new video technologies and how filmmakers are using them, from time to time. Know what sources you like to get this info from. Could be on Twitter, a cinematography blog, podcast, website, here’s a good one right here: https://www.cinema5d.com/.

Don’t waste time on sources that don’t interest you. In fact I just unfollowed a bunch of film twitter handles that I realized were serving me no real useful info. They were just hogging up space on my feed. Get that out of there! 

Don't feel like you need to overwhelm yourself with information, or even care what everybody else is doing. You do you. Just don't stay in your own little world all the time either.


Actors

You’re probably going to need actors at some point, right? Don’t settle for your untalented, never-will-amount-to-anything, loser cousin.

Know how to get access to actors. Use a site like starnow.com or nowcasting.com. There's other good ones too. It’ll find actors near your area. Check out their work and ask if they have any video examples if they’re not already posted. Then bring a good selection into auditions.

After working with some actors be sure to get the contact info of those you might want to use again in the future. Obviously they don’t work for free. But now you know people. You’ve got real connections!


Editing Presets

Improve your editing efficiency by creating your own effect presets in your editing software. Think about if there’s something that you do over and over while editing your videos and if there’s a way to streamline it. 

For example, I use Adobe Premiere and while editing audio I’d always drag and drop and resize “cross gain” on audio clip transitions to smooth out each and every cut. Now I’ve made my default audio transition 4 frames long and gave it a one-key shortcut. Select all and press W. Done.

You can also download a bunch of really smart presets that save time. For Premiere Pro you can download some for free here: http://premierepro.net/editing/jarles-premiere-pro-presets-version-1-0/


Locations

Know good filming locations around your area for a variety of different purposes or scenes.  Places with good backgrounds or an interesting or practical look. Whatever you like. What ever could make for a cool scene or add production value. Just have multiple in your reservoir. 

Examples: city skyline, soft lit forest, cool buildings, some indie diner/cafe with owners who love creatives. We found a trendy nightclub room with all the party lights and lasers! Rent by the hour, but still...

Be aware of the noise level for recording audio. And keep a log of these places with photos for reference.


Cameras
This seems like the most obvious tool. But I'll just touch on one thing with cameras. You need to realize when the camera you have now is no longer stacking up, if you have an older camera. Sometimes people get used to their camera quality, and aren't paying attention or looking at the quality of new cameras within that bracket. Definitely not saying you need to go for a RED or anything like that. I'm going to guess that's not in your budget, currently. But just don’t be at the bottom of the every climbing spectrum of acceptable cameras. As the best get better, the lesser get pushed off of a ledge one by one, you could imagine. 

And of course it depends on what you’re shooting video for. But this kind of goes back to Tool number one, keep an eye on the level of quality out there. 


Equipment

I’m not really going to get into what all equipment you need to shoot quality video. If you're reading this you probably have a grip on at least the basics of that. But here are some extra things that in my opinion, really help to have on hand. 

Pocket tool. Stop using your keys to screw on a tripod mount to your camera! You look ridiculous and unprofessional (talking to myself here mainly).  

Histogram. I always add this to display settings in camera even if the image looks exposed correctly. Depending on how bright or dark it is where you are, your perception of the viewfinder or screen can deceive you. Ever swear it looked good in camera and then on the computer it's all overexposed and blown out? Dang it!

Snack bars. Ok this isn't really equipment, but you know how it goes. You're shooting well into lunch time, working late, or maybe there's no time for breakfast. If you're working on an empty stomach for long enough, your performance and decision making, as well as creativity and thinking on your feet becomes more and more difficult. Plus it's just plain miserable. Video pros need to be on their A game.


Post FX

Film school usually only dabbles in compositing effects, if at all. At least mine anyway. But I’ve learned how valuable it is if you can handle a bit of compositing and post-effects in a program such as after effects. You don’t need to be a big shot at it, but knowing a few simple tricks like masking out unwanted objects, motion tracking, green screen, stabilizing footage, and maybe even adding a bit of motion into your clients logo at the end of a video can go a long way. You’ll be a more well rounded and valuable video pro. Link to video co pilot basics (or find a more up to date one on youtube)


Online Delivery

Use an online platform to hand off your completed work to clients, if you have clients. We use Vimeo and it’s very easy. Depending on how many videos you plan to upload a week, you may want to get one of the paid subscription plans. You upload it, your client streams it wherever in the world they are, they tell you if they want changes or not, then they can download it right there. DVDs are done. Please stop sending people your videos on DVDs so that they’ll stop expecting videos to come on DVD. We just had to mail a DVD overseas. Do you realize people have laid thousands of miles of shark-proof ether cables across the oceans so that you can press a button and you’ve got your video? https://youtu.be/XQVzU_YQ3IQ


Back up drives

You need external hard drives to store your work and you need a copy of all your work on a separate storage device in case one fails, breaks, or gets corrupted. Which WILL happen to you, someday. What you can do is keep two hard drives that mirror each other. Once those fill up, then you get two more drives. 

It feels good when someone comes to you for  video work because they know you're organized, reliable and ready to go. And you'll feel more in control and on top of things if you've got resources deliberately in place to keep you ready for action. A true video pro.

image courtesy of Google

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