We’re still a few weeks away from 2017 and I already know what one of my resolutions is because I’ve been working on it lately. As part of this resolution, I’ve put together this gift guide for those of you interested in exploring this new endeavor with me. I consider myself to be a visual storyteller and one of the inclinations of story growth is to broaden the ways and means in which they’re told. That’s why I’ve been focusing a lot on learning about video and vlogging. Vlogging is the lovechild of traditional blogging with the explosion of video. Instead of typing out a post containing my thoughts, I’ll record myself talking to you with a camera as the proxy. It’s partly terrifying for me because I tend to be super self-conscious and its that terror that excites me the most. Rest assured that I’ll be sharing more about my foray into vlogging (along with the vlogs themselves) soon.
I’ve been refining the gear that I use so that it’s small, lightweight and portable without giving up on quality or performance. Because 99% of my online shopping is done at Amazon and B&H Photo/Video, the product URLs will go to one, the other, or both. Let me know what you think of this gear and if you have your own recommendations in the comments section.
Here’s the first thing I learned about video: it requires a metric sh!t ton of storage. Because most of vlogging will be done while on-the-go, it’s important for me to have sufficient storage to keep all of it handy. Remember, it’s not just a main clip that you’ll be recording. One of the things I’m quickly picking up is the importance of b-roll, or the filler clips that help prevent monotony and facilitate in clip transition.
Back in January 2015, I recorded a First Look video for the newly announced G-Drive ev ATC (All Terrain Case) by G-Technology. Since then, I’ve brought at least one of these bad boys with me on every single trip I’ve gone on. While it’ll protect your data from all manner of shock, dust and water, it’s the peace of mind knowing that my data is safe from the generally rough rigors of travel. The way I see it, if you go to great lengths to capture the content of your story, shouldn’t you also go to equally great lengths to protect it? While you can use any of G-Technology’s G-Drive ev drives within these ATC cases, I’ve invested in their super fast SSDs.
While I’m at it, I will say that I am exceptionally proud to be a part of G-Technology’s G-Team. It’s a pleasure to align so closely with a company who makes the very products that I rely on every single day for my creative work.
It’s not like I just woke up one morning and thought, “You know what? I’m going to start vlogging.” This is something that has been simmering for a while with several false starts. All the while, I’ve discovered other vloggers and became enamored not only with their stories, but the way they told them. If there was one thing I picked up, it’s that you always need to have a camera with you… pointed at you. Removing the pessimism of narcissism out of the equation (because that is mandatory), it makes sense to have a camera that is small—yet powerful—enough to have with you all the time. More importantly, if you’re constantly going to be filming yourself, then it’s critical to have an LCD that can fold entirely upward or outward so that you can review yourself in frame. Again, this isn’t about being vain. It’s about making sure that you’re in the frame.
To that end, I absolutely love the Sony RX100 IV. It’s the only Sony camera I know of that has a fully flippable screen that can also shoot 4K video and high frame rate clips to the tune of 960(!) fps. Now, Sony has since released an update to the line with the RX100 V, which brings lightning fast AF and burst shooting, so it’s worth researching that as well. I think the price difference is about $100, so it may very well be worth it.
Because I also want to be able to “run ‘n gun” with these types of recordings, it’s important to be able to place the camera on any surface, especially uneven ones. That’s where the Platypod Pro comes in. By tuning any of the three adjustable feet, you can fine-tune how the camera sits on a surface. The kit linked to above doesn’t include the ballhead in the photo, but any travel ballhead will do the job perfectly. I recommend adding a ballhead (even though you can mount your camera directly to the Platypod Pro plate) because it’ll allow you to quickly pivot and rotate the camera.
Joby Gorillapod Focus with Ballhead
If I had to guess, I’d say that the Joby Gorillapod is possibly the most ubiquitous accessory that any vlogger owns. Aside from its obvious utility as a tripod that can be wrapped around all manner of objects (hello, hanging camera!), it also serves as a mini selfie-stick of sorts. If you think about it, you can’t be expected to record vlog footage only while stationary, which means that you’ll be recording yourself while on the go… at arm’s length. Unless you have an exceptionally wide wingspan, you’ll probably want to have the camera another 7-10 inches from you and the Gorillapod can do the trick quickly by folding the legs together and bending them slights to angle the camera slightly above you.
I went with the Gorillapod Focus with the included ballhead because it is rated to support heavier cameras, which comes in very handy if I’m shooting with one of the bigger boys.
Exolens by Zeiss Wide Angle Lens & Bracket kit
Exolens by Zeiss Macro Lens
Exolens by Zeiss Telephoto Lens
It goes without saying that I won’t have one of my Sony cameras with me wherever I am. However, it’s safe to say that I will have my iPhone with me and wherever that goes, my small-yet-amazing Exolenses go with it. These lenses were forged by off in the distant lands of Zeiss (of which I am a very proud Global Lens Ambassador) and the photo/video reproduction is stellar, especially when paired with the iPhones 4K recording capabilities. Admittedly, the wide-angle and macro are my favorite lenses but the telephoto will instantly double your focal length—optically—and give you the same benefits as the iPhone 7 Plus with its dual lenses.
Unfortunately, these lenses are designed to work specifically with the iPhone 6/6s, iPhone 6 Plus/6s Plus and iPhone 7, so Android and iPhone 7 Plus users will need to look elsewhere for comparable options.
Adam Elements iKlips Duo 128GB
Remember when I just wrote about the benefits of using the iPhone’s 4K recording capabilities? Do you also remember earlier on when I wrote about how video requires a metric sh!t ton of storage? Yeah, it’s super easy to fill up the onboard iPhone storage, especially when you’re recording all of your clips in 4K (which I do for reasons that I’ll explain later on in a separate post). Sure, you can wait for your cloud-based backups but that takes way too long, especially if you need the clips right away.
That’s where the iKlips Duo by Adam Elements comes in and, to be honest, it’s brilliant. All you have to do is connect the Lightning end to your iPhone, launch the iKlips app, and copy (or move) the video files you want to the embedded flash storage. Then, connect the USB end to your computer and, Viola!, you have your video files. I discovered the iKlips Duo randomly while explored the IFA Expo in Berlin a few months back and immediately knew that it needed to be a part of my workflow.