Here's a brief list of hardware and gadgets in my kit bag and software and web applications I have up and running on my Apple notebooks. I'll add or tweak it as things come to mind and as apps come and go. (Slowly being updated in January 2011)
My field reporting kit for is largely based around the following:
15" MacBook Pro
Sony Z1 mini-DV video camera
JVC GY HM 100 video camera
Panasonic Lumic GH2 camera
Miller DS10 'Solo' DV tripod
Canon G10 compact digital camera
various Sennheiser microphones
1TB or 500 GB Lacie Rugged and i-omega firewire hard drives, and
Moleskine notebooks and Muji biros/pencils!
Apple 15" MacBook Pro
15" MacBook Pro is a step up in price and weight but its performance has really cut down precious time in rendering and compression.
Sony HVR-Z1 video camera
Quite a muscular camera. For me its versatility to switch between 16:9 and 4:3 has paid off to meet the different needs of clients. The Z7 is the Z1 successor and is now on the market. My Z1 has served me well since 2005.
JVC GY-HM 100 video camera
Panasonic Lumix GH2 camera
One the latest additions to the kit bag. So far I use the Lumix 14 mm 2.4 and the 14-140 mm lens. Awaiting some micro four thirds adpaters to use other lenses.
Miller Solo DV tripod
Aussie made and solid. Great lightweight set of legs. The bag often doubles up to carry my clothes on short trips in-country.
For radio I use the Sennheiser MD-46, an all purpose reporter mic. For the Z1 I mount either a ME-66 shotgun mic or the shorter ME-64 (prefer the ME-64). I also use the Sennheiser EW-100 wireless mic system. A small spare Sony lapel mic is always around as a back up for my mini-disc. For windy conditions I strap on a Koala fluffy microphone protectors.
Sony MZ-N910 mini-disc
Yes folks, I still like the portability of mini-discs and using removable media. A flash recorder is on the horizon but for now the standard mini-disc player does the job.
i-omega & LaCie Rugged 1 TB & 500 GB portable hard drive
I usually buy a new one for each project. Compact hard drive that are USB/Firewire powered. No need for mains power. Offers Firewire 400 and 800 (i-omega). Great for digitizing and transfering video on the run. Remember to take the included USB power cable with you if the drive needs a little extra juice for printing to video tape. I love the orange rubber protection that encases the drive. It's like the 4WD of portable drives.
Canon G-10 digital camera
I'm already on to my second G-10 as the first one was stolen. It's a proper manual camera in a compact size and has consistently delivered excellent images. One client of mine even exhibited large posters from images produced from this camera. A couple of point to keep in mind though. The G-10 shoots video but does not shoot in HD nor does it have time-lapse. The G-12 is a very worthy successor with the flip out display.
Kodak Zi8 pocket video camera
The HD image quality of this little camera in good lighting conditions is stunning. If you're a VJ, give this camera some consideration as a pocket-sized second camera. Useful for filming from a second position or just to keep in your pocket on assignment for filming something unexpected when your main camera is packed away. The Zi8 also has a mic input.
iPhone 3GS 16 GB
The iPhone is like my portable office. Email, social media apps, photo apps, RSS feeds, Audioboo, live streaming video apps... The list goes on. I bought my iPhone in Belgium - unlocked though those sorts of restrictions are easing up with German telcos.
Nokia N82 mobile phone
Whether it's my email, twitter apps (twibble and dabr) tumblr, qik, kyte or whatever, this quite compact mobile phone has been good investment. These days it's a co-pilot to the iPhone but is always handy as a second phone on trips. Moreover the N82 snaps pics with an impressive 5 mega-pix camera and has probably the best flash for a phone camera.
I also use the Nokia N82 with a bespoke cable for an external microphone for my wireless lavlier microphone. You can check out some of the apps I'm using for mobile reporting in this post.
Other gadgets in my kit bag
Thumb drive/Memory Stick
Powered by two AA batteries this is a simple audio amplifier with three output headphone sockets. It will boost levels by 40 per cent. I often use it to feed raw audio that needs a little extra into the laptop or as a headphone splitter when translating video/audio with a fixer/translator. It also saves the internal battery power for my iPod and mini-disc player and is helpful when trying to work on planes or in noisy environments.
Leo Sullivan's 'Dinky Link'
Lightweight plate to mount a wireless microphone receiver on the side on a Sony Z1. Available from Leo via www.thecameraclass.com.au
Belkin AC Anywhere
Converts 11-15 volts DC to 230 volts AC. Lightweight and easy to plug into a car cigarette socket and charges up anything. I have thrashed mine all over Africa charging up camera batteries and anything else I need power for in 4WD's while on the move. If you know you're travelling in regions where power is unreliable I'd recommend bringing something like this along.
Several firms make theses small USB powered digital TV adaptors which let you watch TV on your laptop. Great for recording local TV programmes/news bulletins. Tip: they often come with a small antenna that has a magnet in the base. I remove the magnet to avoid harming other electronic equipment in your kit bag.
Screwdrivers, knife, plyers, saw etc
I always take a small one with two AA batteries. The top removes to make a stable base for the torch. Makes the perfect candle to work/eat by during power cuts.
Kit Bag Extras
- extra pair of headphones for backup or for a translator to use. Often I grab aircraft headsets for the foam ear pads or just as spare set;
- cinch cables for daisy chaining or ripping audio from any audio source;
- large headphone adaptor is also useful;
- cat 5 ethernet cable;
- extra firewire cables and adaptors;
- pair of lightweight cables with alligator clips and strong enough to handle 240 volt. Handy for improvising electrical connections;
- 240 volt electrical surge protector adaptor (I use this in countries where mains power supply is erratic.)
Rain jacket for Sony Z1
Petrol PRC-S-HDV (Update 19/5/09 I used this in Georgia recently. Think carefully about your sound. While your mic might be dry, the sound of rain falling on the jacket can play havoc - even with a fluffy. I stuck a wireless lavalier mic on my interviewee and got reasonable results.)
I use soft bags with see through mesh side for cables. Easy to show to airport security without having to unravel everything and make cable spaghetti.
Kit Bag... the story my ongoing backpack problem
I have a good camera bag with a shoulder strap but I have yet to find my perfect backpack to carry a Sony Z1 and laptop together and importantly, with a Sennheiser shotgun mic already mounted.
My current short haul alternative is a CaseLogic backpack with a small hack - a new zipper providing a wider opening stitched in by my local tailor. This is great for carrying both camera and laptop on planes - particularly if one encounters the absurd UK one bag regulation. However, it's still a little awkward to pull out the camera quickly.
I sometimes use a LowePro AW200 camera bag with the internal dividers ripped out. I love it's compact form and it's light but there's not too many pockets for extra items. This bag does slide neatly into a larger backpack for hiking.
The camera bag I am using the most at the moment for day trips is the Kata 3N1-20. I perhaps should have gone for the slightly larger 3N1-30, but the 20 is OK. The zipper system is a little odd if you ask me, so like every other backpack I've done a little tweaking. The solid 'handle' on the top is useful and I like the oblong shape. I find there's just enough room in the pockets for spare tapes, cleaning kit, extra batteries and a wireless mic system.
With all of camera backpacks, the camera is laid on the side to lower the bulky camera profile.
So, attention manufacturers of backpacks. There's a market for mediim sized DV camera/laptop backpacks that make it easy to access the camera and don't look like camera bags.
I picked this trolley up about two years ago and it has saved my back on many trips. It has a clever system for extending wheels to make a wider base. This makes it really stable running around airports or going over bumpy surfaces. I've modded mine and added rubber cords/octupus cables. That way you can use it with any bag and not just the Kata Insert system.
Video: Final Cut Pro
Yep, FCP has it all. Enough said. I also love using Compressor on the MacBook Pro.
A music composing and audio editing software included in the bundle of apps on a Mac. The latest version is not bad for multitrack editing. I've even used it to record/edit radio magazine programmes on journalism training courses.
Video Compression: Visual Hub (Update: This software is discontinued, but it looks like a stable open source version is on the way.)
A professional tool at entry level price. Worth checking out. An all purpose compression and converter tool for several video file formats.
Video Compression: MPEG Streamclip
A professional tool and it's free. This is a great back up for compressing video in many flavours. Broadcasters are even issuing specs for VJ's to use this tool.
As the name suggests, this online tool lets you download a FLV file of any video on YouTube. I then use VisualHub to covert FLV files into something more practical for video editing such as mp4 or DV.
A lot of the bugs affecting multi-track work have been ironed out and I use it regularly for producing radio features in the field. It's also a powerful little application for converting wav/aiff files to mp3 and vice-versa. I often use it for editing narration/voice tracks for video work too. If you're in a hurry use a cinch cable to daisy chain your notebook to the mini-disc player or video camera and record directly into Audacity.
Twitter makes connections and harnesses the power of human filtered recommendations. I'm using Twitter for micro blogging, research and discovering new contacts and sources of information. It is proving to be a very helpful tool to quickly search topics in the field.
This iPhone application is heaven sent for any radio producer. The quality of audio recording using the iPhone will make any studio sound engineer lean in closer for a listen, and probably give you the thumbs up for more than acceptable broadcast quality. Using an external micrphone on the iPhone takes that a step further.
Tumblr makes blogging very easy.
Sometimes someone emails a document or sound file that you can't open. Media Convert is an online tool for converting a variety of file formats.
Offers more options than Wiretap and is my preferred application for quick audio recording on my Mac notebook.