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What’s in My Bag: One-Man Band Video Gear for Documentaries

Austin Crow

When traveling the globe as a one-man band, one of the greatest challenges you’ll face is packing light while still bringing everything the job requires.

Top image via Shutterstock

My job requires me to travel across the world and shoot documentary footage by myself, only using what I can fit in my backpack. As a single shooter, this doesn’t leave me with a lot of options on what gear I can bring, especially when I carry on everything. It’s taken about three years of experimenting to get to this point, but here is what I consider my (almost) perfect one man setup.

Backpack: Mountainsmith Spectrum Camera Bag

Mountainsmith Backpack

It all starts with the bag — and this is the bag for me. Half of the bag is dedicated to camera storage, and the other half functions as a regular backpack. When it comes to traveling, I’m easily able to fit a hoodie, snacks, phone charger, laptop charger, and all of my camera gear. The best part of all is that it does’t scream, “Please steal me! I am obviously a camera backpack!”

Camera: Sony a7s

Sony a7s

When it comes to size, this thing is perfect. It’s small, has all the video features I need, and can pretty much shoot in the dark. Other than its poor battery life, in my mind it’s the perfect travel camera.

Lenses: Canon 24-105mm f/4.0L

Canon Lens

Along with an EF to E lens adapter, this lens practically lives on my camera. Its wide range allows me to work quickly and run around without switching out lenses. The f4 minimum aperture is not as fast as I’d like, but paired with the a7s, it works in almost any lighting environment. Not to mention it’s super sharp and can create some great depth of field when all the way in to 105mm.

Lenses: Zeiss 50mm f/1.4 ZE Planar T*

Zeiss

This is probably my favorite lens that I’ve ever owned. I shoot all of my interviews with it, and in situations where I have control over the environment. It definitely doesn’t get used enough, but it’s built like a tank and creates a beautiful image.

Sound: Rode VideoMic Pro

RODE

When I’m not shooting dialogue or an interview, the VideoMic Pro lives on my camera as well. It’s the smallest shotgun microphone I’ve owned so far and fits perfectly into my backpack build. The sound quality is great and it’s quite durable.

Sound: Rode RodeLink FM Wireless Filmmaker System

RODE WIRELESS

If someone’s talking, they’re wearing this. A super easy, fast to set up wireless system that goes straight into the camera. You can get seriously far from the receiver and still get clean audio.

Support: Benro Aero 4 Tripod

tripod

Its ability to fold up smaller than almost all video tripods on the market right now, paired with its light weight made the Aero 4 an easy choice. It gets the job done without being too much to haul around.

Support: P&C Prime Video Shoulder Rig

shoulder rig

Nothing beats a good shoulder rig. This can be broken down and fit in the top portion of my backpack when I’m not using it. When I am using it, I keep it small and compact to draw as little attention to myself as possible. It’s kind of hard with the flashy colors — but I’ve got to admit that’s part of the reason I got it in the first place.

Note: I do not carry the tripod and shoulder rig on flights, but they both fit on my back when in the field.

Miscellaneous: Macbook Pro 13” Retina

MACBOOKImage via Macworld

It’s light, reliable, and completely capable of handling an edit if I have to throw something together. Not to mention the battery life is pretty great.

Miscellaneous: 2TB Portable Hard Drive

Hard Drive

At the end of the day, everything I shoot ends up getting dumped here. Out of all the expensive equipment on this list, my hard drive becomes the most looked-after piece of gear on a trip.

Miscellaneous: Batteries

So many batteries. Every kind of battery. Bring more batteries.

Conclusion

My rig might not be perfect for everyone, but it works well for me. That’s all that matters — finding a set up that works for your needs. If your gear is getting in the way of you telling a great story, then you might need to look over everything again. And on a final note, if you ever see me at the airport, please do not rob me just because you know exactly what’s in my backpack.

What’s YOUR light loadout? Got any travel tips for filmmakers and videographers? Let us know in the comments below!