UPDATE 30/04/17: THIS POST IS A LITTLE DATED NOW AND OUR GEAR BAG IS A LITTLE DIFFERENT. WE WILL UPDATE THIS POST WHEN WE CAN.
Let’s talk gear. The Minty Slippers kit to be specific as well as what gear our sister studio, A Hint of Mint use. What we use to film your day is not something we usually talk about with our couples. The only time we mention anything is if they ask if we will be using one of those big, on the shoulder cameras. We then just say ‘No!’ and tell them our cameras are about the size of your typical DSLR. What we use to create our films should be of no real importance to our couples. Except those who work in film or television and they they just love to talk tech 🙂
But for a lot of our fellow filmmakers and especially those who are looking to get into wedding filmmaking the question of what gear is quite an important one. You will often see some superstars rave about a particular piece of kit but it’s hard to know if they actually like it or if they are just fulfilling their sponsorship requirements. Here at Minty, every bit of gear we use is because we like it and it’s the best at doing its job. For us anyway. Like many we made mistakes at the start and bought gear that we didn’t really need or didn’t necessarily compliment other gear as well as it should have.
Here we will talk about our 2 kit bags. You may not know this but we also run another studio called A Hint of Mint (snazzy huh) which films with our previous generation gear. MintySlippers is our premium brand and aims to produce the highest quality films available in the country. A Hint of Mint uses our previous gear and is crewed by our own shooters and editors and handles our overflow of work but also caters for our couples with a more modest budget. So, in this post we will tell you what is in our Premium, MintySlippers kit bag and our slightly lower end Hint of Mint kit bag.
To start with we will just give you a list of all the gear in our kit bag and a little later in this post we’ll talk a little about why we use that over something else, the benefits it brings to our shooting and any possible downsides. All of this is aimed at giving you the info you need when you look at refreshing your own kit list.
First up, the MintySlippers gear list which caters for up to 3 shooters;
canon 16-35 f2.8 // canon 70-200 f2.8 IS x2 // canon 24-105 f4 IS // sigma 35 f1.4 ART x2
sennheiser mke400 x2 // sennheiser evolution wireless g3 x2 // sennheiser evolution wireless g2 // zoom h6 // zoom h1 // zoom h4n // sennheiser me2 x2 // rycote undercovers // rycote windjammers // various audio leads with connectors // sennheiser locking connector to h1 adapter cable
steadicam pilot // manfrotto pixi // manfrotto mvm500a x2 // manfrotto mvh502ah x2 // velbon dv7000 x2 // cinevate duzi // light stand
kingston sd4/4gb x6 // kingston sda10/64gb x2 // kingston sda10/32gb x4 // kingston sda10/16 x10 // kingston 4gb microsd card x2
eneloop aa batteries x24 // eneloop aaa batteries x6 // peli case 1610 // peli case 915 x2 // walkie talkies with secret service earpiece x3 // canon bp-955 batteries x2 // canon bp-975 batteries x2 // kata lw-97w pl bag for tripods
And here is a little film which shows what all of this gear can produce;
And now the Hint of Mint gear list which caters for upto 2 shooters;
cabnon 5dmk2 // canon 7d x2
canon 15-85 f3.5-5.6 // canon 24-70 f2.8 // canon 50 f1.4 // canon 70-200 f2.8 IS // sigma 30 f1.4
zoom h4n // zoom h1 // sennheiser me2 x2 // rycote undercovers // rycote windjammers // various audio leads with connectors // sennheiser locking connector to h1 adapter cable // sennheiser mke400 x2
manfrotto bhdv561 x2 // manfrotto 501hdv x2 // velbon dv7000 // mini tripod // light stand // glidetrack compact
kingston sd4/4gb x3 // kingston 4gb microsd card x2 // kingston cf/16gb-us x5 // kingston cf/326b-s2 x10
lowepro fastback camera bag x2 // eneloop aa batteries x8 // eneloop aaa batteries x4 // vari nd filters // circular polarizer filters // lcdvf view expander // canon lp-e6 batteries x12 // walkie talkies with secret service earpiece x2
Lets now talk a little more about why we made the selections we did for MintySlippers.
We went with the C100 as they were just the natural next step up fro our previous DSLR cameras. The same great look but sharper, cleaner and with a low light capability that makes shooting in a cave a dream. A single BP-975 battery will last you for an entire day of shooting with the camera only being turned off when not in use for long periods and using lenses with IS. It features dual recording which has already saved our bacon. In slot A we have a 64gb card which can hold around 6 hours of footage. In slot B we have smaller 16gb cards which we change after each major part of the day. This gives us a single card at the end of the day to capture with lots of smaller backup cards should anything go wrong which has happened. The other reason we change cards and not just leave 2 large cards in the camera is, what happens if someone steals your shiny, tempting camera? It’s the age old ‘dont put all your eggs in one basket/camera’. We use Kingston cards as they are cheaper than Sandisk, carry a lifetime warranty and function just as well for a 3rd of the price. So far we don’t really have any bad points. It’s a little heavier than a DSLR with battery grip as we dont use the top handle. With the handle it can add quite a bit more.
This is a blog post on it’s own so I will keep it short. The 24-105 f4 has IS which is useful and with the C100’s amazing low light capability the loss of a stop or two of light isnt a deal breaker. The canon 70-200 is just an amazing lens and the IS is a must for video work. The sigma 35 f1.4 ART series lens is unbeatable. The canon equivalent is a little long in the tooth and is due a serious update but will it ever be able to compare to the Sigma ART series? It’s sharper than a ninjas best set of cooking knives. And that’s all I have to say about that.
Now a question we get asked a lot ‘MintySlippers doesn’t use Manfrotto tripods!!???!!???!?!?!!!!’. Yes and no. You don’t want your tripod to be too heavy but you also need it to have a few features that sadly the Manfrotto and other big players lack. We use Manfrotto heads on a Velbon set of legs. The Manfrotto 502 head is an amazing bit of kit and designed for these C100 cameras. They are solid and smooth although have a huge downside, they moved the locking knob from the left to the right and for many they are holding the handle with their right hand and have to release that to lock it off. Seriously Manfrotto WTF!!!! Your messing with my mojo! Anyway. Back to the Velgon legs. Weighing in around 1kg less than the Manfrotto equivilent and costing just £89 for legs with a fluid head (more on that in a moment) it seems like it’s too cheap to be any good. Given most Manfrotto or Sachler legs will set you back several hundred £££’s. But these things are a real find and I thank another filmmaker for putting us onto them. They have the ability to be small and compact for those times you are stuck up by the choir or can be wide and stable for those times where you need it. There is a middle spreader so each leg can be adjusted to their own individual height, again great for when you are in the choir and have a step to negotiate but they also have one of those little windy handles to raise it up when needed. Something which higher end tripods lack but is sooooooo useful. You need to quickly crank up the camera to shoot over the top of Brian May’s hair and get the shot (true story), you just release the lock, turn the handle and the rock gods locks are no longer an issue.
The fluid head supplied is no good for your day to day shooting but makes a great head to put on your slider. So for your £89 you get a decent set of legs and a head you can use. Speaking of sliders we have settled on a Cinevate Duzi and are quite happy with it. It’s small and light and buttery smooth. My own criticism is it’s lack of a friction brake so in a way it’s too smooth. For that we have to use our finger to slow things down.
We selected the Zoom H6 as our main field recorder for a few reasons. We were familiar with the Zoom brand and reputation and workings for one, it has 4 XLR inputs (and with the plugin module can handle 6) and given we sometimes use 3 wireless units and take a board feed at the same time this meant we didn’t have to tie up 2 H4N units to do the same job. It has a PAD function for when you plug into a DJ’s soundboard. The Zoom H4N, H6 and other units always expect an un-amplified input. This is why when you plug into a DJ’s board you are often lowering the volume all the way down and it’s still too lout. By activating the PAD switch your telling the H6 to expect an amplified input and adjust things accordingly. The H6 has a great feature that each input can now be controlled independently. So quiet reading on input one can be set to level 6, loud priest on level two can be set to level 4 and so on. This is also a curse as with the H4N you could use the rocker to dial the volume to precise levels and even down to 0.1 if needed. With the H6 level changes are quick but less accurate. As with the H4N it features a number of limiters, compressors and low-cut filters for filtering out wind noise and air con units but this is also another reason for me to get on my soap box. With the H4N you could change the low-cut filter while recording so you could dial in the exact level you wanted to get a clean feed. With the H6 you need to STOP recording to apply a low-cut. You then set it, see if it’s better and then change if needed and only then can you start recording again. A real problem for when your filming and the air-con comes on half way through your ceremony and you need to apply your low-cut filter. Again, Zoom WTF!!!!
We use Wireless units as it means we can monitor the audio and ensure the groom hasn’t turned things off while he takes a whizz or pulled a cable out. We also carry Sennheiser G2 and G3 units on different bands. This means we can often tune our receivers into the venue/church wireless and pick up their feed so the priest doesn’t need to wear another lav mic. We still have a G2 unit even though the frequency is re-allocated as many churches and venues still use this for their own transmitters so this allows us to pull their feed.
We use the Zoom H1 as a grooms pocket recorder and connect it to a Sennheiser ME2 microphone using an adapter cable that takes the ME2 screw thread and converts it to a normal jack. This means the groom is wearing 2 mics for the ceremony. One wireless back to my H6 and one wired. This covers us for any failures or interference that may happen.
The H4N is our lectern/ambient mic. We use only 4gb cards in the H4N as it speeds up boot up time. Ever noticed how your H4N takes an age to boot up? I bet you have a 16gb or 32gb card in there. Swap it out for a smaller card (and a 4gb will last you all day if thats your thing) and you will notice it’s much MUCH faster. This problem does not affect the H6 but we still use small cards as we swap them out after each part of the day.
Another question we get asked is why the Sennheiser MKE400 and not the Rode VideoMic Pro? For us we like how small it is, especially when compared to the Rode. We use the C100 and DSLR as it helps us not stick out too much and makes our couples feel more at ease, not something you can do with a great big mic. The size also means the Rode catches a lot more wind when using a Steadicam or similar device. The Sennheiser is made from metal so is solid and the shock absorbers are not something that will just snap over time. We are also very happy with the audio quality compared to the Rode. It’s more expensive by about £100 but worth it in our opinion.
Eneloop Rechargeable Batteries
I think these things warrant their own little section. Typically event shooters will use Alkaline AA and AAA batteries with their gear. We used to but to keep costs down you don’t replace them before each shoot. Which means levels can get a little low and its often a gamble to turn up and hope things last out. Rechargeable batteries are a great way to ensure that at the start of each shoot all your gear has fully charged batteries. They also save you money too.
We like the Eneloop over conventional Ni-MH rechargeables as they have a few advantages. First, they don’t loose charge when not in use. Not at the rate of normal rechargeables. With a typical Ni-MH rechargeable you can have a battery that’s almost dead if you haven’t used it for a couple of weeks. Eneloop keep their charge and only loose a few % each week. They also have a longer lifespan. Normal rechargeables can loose 60% of their capacity after the first year alone. We used to replace ours each year. Eneloops loose just 30% of their capacity after 5 years. Our 3 year old batteries are still going strong. And finally comes recharging. To recharge a normal rechargeable AA you need to let the charger run for around 10 hours. This happens if the battery is 90% full or 1% full. With Eneloops their chargers are smart chargers and only apply as much charge as needed. This means we can top up all our batteries (30 of them) in a single day vs over the course of a week. Another little fact, if you ever buy any AA batteries from Apple for your magic mouse or wireless keyboard they are just rebadged Eneloops. If you do use rechargeable batteries in your Zoom audio device there is an option in the menus to tell it they are Ni-MH and this gives you a more accurate battery reading.
If you have any questions or comments then do leave them below and we will do our best to get back to you.