HDSLR Gear That Saves the Day

I’ve been working on a short film project recently with my church (along with our in-house video director/my very good friend Nick, and some very talented volunteers). The short film is something we plan to use as part of our Easter morning service later this month.  We’re shooting it entirely on the Canon 5D Mark II and Canon 7D. We shot most of the scenes in one day at two locations (around 25 total set ups for a 16+ hour shooting day).  Yesterday, we wrapped up with the intro scene, which calls for the lead character in a vehicle talking on a cell phone.

I thought I would share some of the random little tools that really saved the day and helped us get the shots (and audio) that were critical to this production.

In the top image, you see me lying underneath my sweater while trying to get a proper exposure for a wide shot of the truck pulling into a parking lot with some commercial buildings and sky in the background.  I spent a lot of time with a sweater over my head today while I adjusted exposure because it was a bright, sunny day.  I would do well to pick up a Zacuto Z-Finder for the next one of these we shoot.

In the above image, you see a Rode NTG-3 shotgun mic with a shock mount on a Joby Gorillapod, which we used to angle toward the actor. It’s hard enough to try to shoot video inside a car.  Now, we’re trying to find a place to position a shotgun mic, keep it out of the frame of both cameras, keep the mic from vibrating (hence the shock mount), and kill as much ambient noise as possible – such as radio, A/C (it got hot in there during takes), and general hums, bells and whistles…

If you ask me, everyone needs a Gorillapod or two in their camera bag.

A Zoom H4n is capturing the audio and providing phantom power to the NTG-3.  We’ll sync the audio from the 5D and 7D using PluralEyes for Final Cut Pro.

One the hood, you see the 7D mounted to a Manfrotto 241V suction cup, which we used as our second camera to shoot through the windshield and get the actor in the driver seat.  I sat in the passenger seat with the 5D Mark II handheld.  The suction cup mount was critical for the second camera.  Without it, we simply wouldn’t have had that second shot (as much as everyone wanted to see me on the hood, it wasn’t going to happen).

In order to get an audio waveform to sync with the 7D on the hood and the mic in the car, I stood outside of the driver seat in view of the camera and clapped at the start of each take.  Both the 7D and Rode NTG-3 picked up the clap, which gives us a reference on the audio waveform to sync later.

The 7D on the Manfrotto 241V suction cup gave us this shot.

You learn so much by doing.  And that has never been more true for me than shooting this short film.  We’ve shot it all on a $0 budget – except for the gear that my pal Nick and I have had on hand (and lunch covered by the church one day).

Planning and preparation, though, was the key to actually getting it shot.  Had we not storyboarded the script, there’s no way we could have shot this thing – especially the 16+ hour day of shooting.

Storyboarding the film also allowed us to plan the shots within the confines of the gear to which we had access.  Fortunately, we were off to pretty good start with a 5D and 7D – at least in terms of the “look” the cameras provided.  However, little accessories like Gorillapods, suction cup mounts, reflectors, foam core and even a sweater really saved the day when it came down to getting it done.



  1. Jocelynne says

    Excellent narrative. I always appreciate these sorts of how-to articles because they can give so much practical information to those of us who have small budgets. So, thanks to all who participated. Good shooting.

  2. says

    Great article! I would love to see the results, both from photographic and Church point of view.
    Please email me at paul{at}remektek{dot}com{dot}au -if you can.

    God Bless,