Documentary Film Camera Kit – You have the vision, the crew, and the story you want to tell in documentary form, but what else do you need next? The next thing you will need is a documentary film camera, microphones for capturing your audio for your documentary, and a few other documentary camera tools.
If you are looking for ideas to fill out your documentary film camera kit, here are 10 camera kit essentials for documentary filmmaking that you may not have thought of yet.
Extra Camera Batteries
Running out of power in a documentary filmmaking camera during a pivotal interview could be disastrous. Especially when an interview is giving a heart-wrenching account of something from the past, and you don’t have the guts to ask them to start over.
So the key to having a complete documentary film camera kit is having a few extra sets of batteries for your camera and other gear like lavalier microphones for a trouble-free shoot. Seasoned filmmakers pack more batteries than they need, and the good thing is that most batteries are cheap enough that you can load up in advance.
Camera makers usually offer higher capacity batteries compared to generic ones on the market today, so think about that before loading up your documentary film camera kit with some needed extra camera batteries.
Anti-Fog/DeFog Lens Cleaner
With documentary filmmaking, you never know where and when you will be shooting to get your shot. You could be filming outdoors on a cold and dry day, and then run immediately into a warm indoor space to continue the shot. If this happens, your camera lens will fog up as a result of this airy change.
In worst-case scenarios, this could slow down production as your camera team has to deal with cleaning up your camera lens. Adding an Anti-Fog lens cleaner in your documentary film camera kit will help you in times like these. Unlike normal lens cleaners, defog solutions help keep the fog away for constant shooting.
Documentary filmmakers tend to do more roles on set than just direct. So, having a multi-tool that has a small pocket knife, screwdriver (standard and Phillips head), and a few other little tools on hand and in pocket’s-reach can be priceless when you’re shooting.
Whether it’s for tightening a loose screw on a tripod, to taking apart a clamp and putting it back together, multi-tools are incredibly useful and should be in any Documentary Film Camera Kit.
Something to keep in mind when carrying around this type of multi-tool when you are filming is that it might be allowed in highly secured areas where a knife may not be allowed. Browse Multitools and pick out the right one for you.
Extra Lighting Gels
Despite their name, lighting gels aren’t gels but rather simple sheets of translucent plastic, popular among studio photographers and available in many colors. Lighting gels are an essential part of any Documentary Film Camera Kit.
Placing one over a light source can alter the entire mood of the space in which you’re shooting or fix undesirable lighting conditions. Depending on your chosen color, you can warm a room, add fluorescence, or create a dreamlike, surreal atmosphere.
Because you can also layer them, the creative possibilities with gels are essentially endless.
On-Camera LED Lights
Sure you can shoot your documentary with a low-light camera, but shooting handheld in any situation where it is dimly lit and wished you had just a little more light on your subject, you need a LED light for your documentary film kit.
Fortunately, many small, battery-operated shoe mountable LED lights can insert a robust punch of brightness into any scene. For the best results, add a LED light that’s dimmable and allows you to adjust for color temperature which will help you in any lighting condition.
You’re always going to need to hang, fly, or mount something to something while shooting your project. There are tons of ways to do that, but you’re going to want to keep a bunch of clamps handy when the time comes to do so.
Flexible clamps are a very useful component of any lighting kit. They can hold flags in place to block extra light and all sorts of things.
Plus, many flexible clamps have a clamp with at least one very wide end that can clamp onto a tripod leg or light stand easily. A multi-use accessory for your Documentary Film Camera Kit.
Related Article: 10+ Best On-Set Production Gear Tools For Filmmakers
Clothespins, or “C-47s”
Just like flexible clamps, Clothespins, or “C-47s” in industry lingo, are an essential part of any filmmaking lighting kit.
The lowly C-47 attaches gels and diff to barn doors, levers pictures away from walls to avoid reflections, can be reversed to pull scrims from hot lights, can break down into camera wedges to level a hi-hat (or stray apple box), holds up the edge of a 4-by floppy so the director can get to video village, keeps doors from closing, marks your coffee cup… the uses are almost endless.
Large plastic clips are fantastic to have in your camera bag compared to the traditional clothespins due to their durability and don’t take up much extra room in your bag.
Most cinematographers use a UV lens filter to protect their cameras, especially if they have an expensive lens. UV lens filters restrict dust and dirt from coming into contact with the lens. Basically, this protective cover shields the lens.
If you shoot outdoors and in environments with large amounts of UV radiation, this filter will prove as a valuable piece to your Documentary Film Camera Kit. The filter can block sand, grit, or other particles in the air from getting near your lens. If rain or water droplets get on your lens filter, it’s easier to wipe these off your filter than your lens.
This is especially so if your lens filter has a multi-resistant coating.
Waist Belt Production Pack
A fanny pack was a fashion accessory in the ’80s that everyone carried. Fanny packs disappeared from the fashion world for years, but they are making a comeback, and on a film set, you will be thankful you have one.
The film industry term for a fanny pack is a waist belt production pack, and they are perfect for those documentary filmmakers always on the go and need filmmaking accessories with them at all times.
Having a production pack with many zippered padded compartments is perfect for keeping little filmmaking items and accessories within arms’ reach on your waist.
I find them useful during guerrilla-style documentary shooting where I need to carry different lenses, batteries, lens filters, filter wrench, wallet/identification, memory cards, etc.
Compact First Aid Kit
If anyone that will be part of your crew is clumsy like me, you will need a first-aid kit handy. If you are a run-and-gun documentary filmmaker or a documentary filmmaker that shoots mostly interviews, things can go wrong on a set, and it’s best to prepare with a lightweight first-aid pack that can be carried with you all the time.
Look for a first-aid kit that is small enough to be unnoticeable when you’re carrying it but will contain enough medical supplies to handle cuts and bruises along the way. You may never need a first-aid kit on set, but you will be happy you have one if you need it.
Want to Learn More About Filmmaking?
Become a better filmmaker with the MasterClass Annual Membership. Gain access to exclusive video lessons taught by film masters, including Martin Scorsese, David Lynch, Spike Lee, Jodie Foster, James Cameron, and more.
This is just a small list of tools for the filmmaker looking for accessories to fill out a documentary film camera kit. You may have these valuable tools in your filmmaking kit right now, but if you don’t, maybe thinking about adding them to your gear kit, you never know when you might need them.
If you liked this article, please help me share it via a tweet, stumble, pin, or Facebook share would be much appreciated!
About the author: Trent (Imdb | Youtube) has spent 10+ years working on an assortment of film and television projects. He writes about his experiences to help (and amuse) others. If he’s not working, he’s either traveling, reading or writing about travel/film, or planning travel/film projects.
Browse the best camera equipment deals available at your favorite retailers: