On-Location Essentials: Must-Have Equipment for Remote Film Shoots

Published on in Advice / Tips & Tricks

One of the great things about the technological advances of recent years is that it’s made film equipment both more portable and affordable. This means that even small independent productions can choose great locations to shoot in. Want to film your horror movie in a cabin out in the sticks? You can do that. Need to get a mountaintop establishing shot? You don’t have to haul huge amounts of heavy equipment up there with you.

That said, making the most of remote locations can depend on the type of equipment you take with you. You don’t want to get to the area only to find that you don’t have the right tools or that you’re missing a software platform that would make life a little easier. Let’s explore a few of the essential types of equipment for remote shoots.

Communication Devices

When on-location, keeping your crew connected is a must. This is simple when you have a small group in the same space. But what about when your people are in different spaces? After all, equipment is affordable and accessible enough now that even indie productions can have a second unit taking care of scenery and other shots simultaneously to the core cast shots. Therefore, one of the essentials for keeping everyone in sync and safe is a set of good communication devices. 

Often, the most effective comms tools for remote film shoots are radios. There are various practical benefits to investing in portable radios for your team. Firstly, they’re simple to use. They don’t require a lot of training to use as your crew members simply select the right channel and talk at the push of a button. Sure, you could use cell phones, but radios don’t require you to fit plans or minutes into your budget. Particularly if you’re in the wilderness, one of the key pluses is that radios are rugged enough to withstand a lot of punishment, whereas cell phones might become damaged.

First Aid Kits and Knowledge

Having basic first aid skills in the wilderness is essential to be safe on set, but having the right supplies is also crucial. Ideally, your first aid kit should include equipment that you can use to treat cuts, burns, and stings as well as splint larger wounds. Particularly if you will be filming in a difficult-to-reach location, or if your film requires strenuous activity, you should also be familiar with the early warning signs of cardiac arrest, including chest comfort and difficulty breathing, so you can act accordingly. 

Taking a wilderness first aid course is also highly advised, as it may take a long time for help to come to your film set if there is an emergency. You should never assume that you will be able to get medical personnel to your area quickly, so having several crew members on set with a basic knowledge of backcountry medicine can be crucial here.

Protective Gear

Much of the equipment for remote film shoots involves quite sensitive and expensive technology. This might include cameras, lenses, and even the computers and monitors in your video village. Unfortunately, outdoor environments can damage even the most expensive equipment. Weather — not just rain, but also heat — can affect your tools, as can dust. It’s important to get some gear that protects your items from damage.

Some of the items worth investing in include: 

  • Equipment stabilizers: Wind can easily knock over expensive equipment, damaging it in the process. Equipment stabilizers can help to both prevent equipment from falling and minimize shaking during filming. Some of these are weighted to prevent falls while others you can anchor into the ground. 
  • Waterproof covers: As much as possible, get waterproof covers for each piece of equipment that is exposed to the elements. Most cameras, monitors, laptops, and other items have tailored covers readily available. This obviously safeguards against rain but also against dust. Wherever possible, aim to buy weather-sealed equipment. This reduces the condensation issues that covers can cause.

Alongside investing in protective gear, it’s important to adopt some practical measures that ensure the longevity of your equipment. This begins by ensuring each member of the crew interacting with an item is properly trained in both its safe use and preventing damage. Storing equipment correctly back in their cases when not in use can also prevent issues such as condensation and corrosion. Throughout the shoot, it’s essential for crew members to regularly clean the equipment, both to remove dirt but also to check for signs of wear so these can be addressed. The last thing you want is for a stray grain of grit to cause problems further down the line.

Power Solutions

One of the big challenges of a remote film shoot is that of getting sufficient power. Almost all of your gear will require electricity, from cameras to lighting rigs. This is difficult enough if you’re shooting in a city, but if you’re in remote areas, you may not have sources of mains electricity to pull from. This makes portable power solutions among your most important equipment must-haves.

This begins with bringing along as many fully-charged batteries for each of your pieces of equipment as is practical. There are battery packs—the Anker PowerCore series or Goal Zero Sherpa, for instance—that can power a wide range of electrical items. It’s not always ideal to rely on batteries for everything. But if you lose access to your main power source, they can save your shooting day.

Depending on the size and length of your shoot, it may be worth either hiring or purchasing a couple of small portable generators. You can get these both in traditional gas-fueled and more sustainable solar-powered varieties. They help ensure you have reliable access to power throughout your production, particularly for high-powered items such as lights. Wherever possible, investing in energy-efficient filming equipment can push their reliability and cost-effectiveness further.

Conclusion

The equipment you choose for your remote film shoot makes a difference to your production. This should include items for effective communication, alongside tools that help protect your valuable gear. In addition, you may want to consider alternatives to full-crew location shoots. Drones can minimize crew while capturing great second-unit shots. Green screens and virtual LED backgrounds can give the impression of outdoor spaces while giving you greater control of the environment. Tech is there to help whether you’re heading to the wilderness or staying in the studio.

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About the Author

Charlie Fletcher
Charlie Fletcher
Charlie Fletcher is a freelance writer from the lovely “city of trees”- Boise, Idaho. Her love of writing pairs with her passion for social activism and search for the truth. When not writing she spends her time doodling and embroidering. And yes, she does love all kinds of potatoes!

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