Bits and Pieces from my Kit

Earlier this month (March 2014), there was a Local 871 meeting for Commercial Script Supervisors. One of the topics discussed was Kit Rentals. Are we getting our kit rentals? If so how much are we getting? What should we be invoicing and what is included in our kits? The last bit about what is included in out kits was a light bulb moment for me. After hearing from Michele Tedlis, I realized I’ve only been including a tiny fraction of what I carry around on my invoice.

In trying to get a better handle on exactly what I use on a regular and occasional basis, I thought I’d photograph the items and put them in this post. Be advised, I am one of those “what if I need X” people, so I carry more than I use on a day to day basis but all items have been needed and used at one time or another. I like to be as self sufficient as possible.

Standard Blurb:  It is not necessary or recommended for you to use or purchase all or any of the items I use. This is just a guide and you should choose what works best for you and your workflow. :-)

In previous posts, I’ve talked about the major pieces I use for HD capture. There are other items I use that just make my day go smoother.

HD SDI Cables

I have a lot of them in various lengths. I used to borrow them from VTR but sometimes (especially with 2 or more cameras) there would be no extra cables to spare or I would be the last to get hooked up (and I hate that!). So, I’ve been purchasing my own cables. The length I’m most comfortable with is 25 feet. I rarely need more than that if I am taking my feed from the director’s monitor(s). I do have one cable that is 35 feet and a few that are 18 inches and under. Those lengths have served me well.

My only issue is that I do not have any of the soft, very flexible and easy to wrap cables (I’m very bad at wrapping cables). I have been buying them from eBay without input from my VTR Gurus. I have now asked and have been advised to check out Canare LV-61S cables or cables from Clark Wire & Cable (I don’t have a model number yet).

I did purchase some Canare (pronounced like canary) cables from a seller on eBay (before I asked my Gurus) but they are not the soft flexible type. In fact they are very thick and heavy. I’m sure they will prove to be very sturdy but they are heavy! You can see one of them in the picture below at lower CR corner with the blue bungee ball.

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You may also notice on the far right the orange and blue cables in a black sheath. These were my 2 camera setup cables (the yellow is for a single camera). They were joined together about every 18 inches with tape then  wrapped with  a 25 foot Techflex ¾ F6 Split Sleeving. I cut about 6 to 8 inches off the sleeve to make it easier to split the cable between monitors (the cable does come split down the whole length but shortening it made it easier for me to work with).

Connectors

I carry several different connectors to use with my cables.

  • If I should need a cable longer than 25 or 35 feet, I carry some barrels to connect enough cables to get the length I need.

  • The T-connectors, in case I need to share the “Switched Out” port wit someone (usually when there is no VTR on the shoot but there are monitors).

  • I use Right Angle connectors because I don’t like my cables sticking straight out where they more easily get damaged. The angle allows them the hang naturally (really important with the heavier cables). I make sure I use a short bungee for strain relief.

  • I have some RCA to BNC connectors as part of my SD legacy (those cable will still work with HD).

Velcro and Bungees and Straps Galore

I don’t if one can have too much Velcro. I use the heavy duty Velcro on the underside of any table that my laptop is mounted on. I can attach all kinds of stuff under the table without any of the items getting in my way or getting misplaced.

All of the other bungees, wires and straps are used when I need to jury rig something. If I’m on the back of a camera car or on a boat, I tie everything down with the appropriate fastener. I use the big green wires to attach my beach umbrella to my cart (no, I don’t always get a pop-up).

Lights

Though both laptops have back lit keys, sometimes I just need more light. I have a big LED light that clips onto my cart for general overall lighting. A USB Led light for those times when I can’t use the big light but still need a little more light. A flashlight which charges via USB for the dark walks though woods or along uneven ground at 5 AM. If my hands are full and I have to walk in the dark, I have a headlamp (I hate it but is better than breaking an ankle).

Power

Most of the time I have easy access to power but once in a while I may have to work off my laptop battery for an hour or two. I use a 4 outlet 25 foot reel extension cord to power my laptop, lights, the UpDownCross converter, cell phone charger or whatever I might need. I bought my reel at a local home improvement store. 

I also like to carry some alternate sources of power for my non-laptop items.

  • A 15,000 mAh Power Bank (that’s my Verizon hotspot and micro USB cable attached to it). It will charge my phone and tablets - 3 items via USB-. This really comes in handy on long plane rides.I can only find the the 12,000 mAh version available now.

  • A short 4 outlet extension for travel jobs. The yellow 25 foot reel is too big to pack most of the time.

  • A few smaller battery banks

 Sometimes, if I’m working from a Pass Van or  People Mover, I might have need of a power inverter. I have a couple of them. The big one is 175 watts and the taller (cup sized) inverter is 200 watts.

Once upon a time (8 or so years ago), a very kind video guy had a block battery made just for me. I think I paid $300 for it and for a time it came in very handy. It has 2 outlets powered with a 400 watt inverter inside. It is so very…very…heavy.

Laptop batteries last much longer now and I have more access to power, so I haven’t used it in several years. The last time I recall using it was on a golf course where we moved around a lot, had no generator and could not use putt putts. I’d use up my laptop battery first then connect to the block battery. I would recharge both at lunch (sometimes from my car if necessary). I’ve also used it in Pass Vans when there weren’t enough ciggy outlets to go around.

Now, I keep it around as part of my home earthquake kit.

Miscellaneous Items

  • Various USB cables (I have way more than you see pictured here)

  • Wall chargers for those USB cables.

  • USB 3.0 Hub

  • SD Card readers

  • Headphones

  • Several thumb drives

I keep the connectors and most of the smaller bits & pieces in this green bag which fits inside my cart (Size: approx 11.2” x 6.7” x 3.3”).  I like use brighter colors whenever I can because the colors make what I need easier to find and easily differentiates my belongings from everyone else’s who tend to use all black items.

 One item that people seem to always comment and ask about are my Hoodman Sun Shades. I’ve had them for years. They are good for cutting down on glossy laptop screen reflections and for privacy.

  • Bug spray

  • 50 SPF Coolibar Umbrella (good for sun and rain). I actually have 3 sizes of reflective umbrellas. Portable, golf size and beach.

  • Paperclips

  • Small toolkit

  • A paintbrush for cleaning dust and dirt off my laptops

Okay this post is getting way too long. I think I’ve covered most of what I carry. There may be a sequel to this post but before then I’ll talk about my rigs. Later! :-)