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Stuff-A-Must For Your Gaffer's Bag (Ditty Bag)

by Jim Powell

 Every video, audio and Internet engineer and many talent have a gaffer's bag aka ditty bag for last minute unforeseen problems that arise on sets and those common problems that we all face.  Over the many decades in this business, I've worn out many.  Now producing and engineering multi-camera and multi-microphone video productions for location business conferences across the U.S.,  I have many bags and Pelican Cases designed with the same methods of this bag, to back up my back ups.  These tips are from many years of real life lessons. 

wWhite Gaffer’s Tape - (1) Does not show through clothing materials like black tape will.  (2) Used for labeling microphone locations on traditional mixing boards.

wDr. Shoals’ Molefoam - Available at most drug stores. For placing lav microphones on inside of shirts.

wPaper Clips - To mount a lavaliere microphone onto a piece of plastic to form a pressure zone microphone

wColor Coated Plastic Ties - Great for keeping your cables orderly. The color coating will help you tell cables apart.  Hint:  Monoprice.com has some great values on cable ties (all black).

wDog Collar or Bungie Strap - Helps secure cable to pants leg for hardwire situations.

wVOM (voltage ohm meter) - (1) For tracking down audio interruptions in cables.  (2) Checking batteries before use.  Even brand new batteries sometimes lose power by sitting on the shelf to long.  

wFreezer Bag (zip lock)  - (1) In humid environment or in rain, this will help keep your microphone transmitter dry.  (2) Wonderful for quick-find items in a jumbled ditty bag.  Example:  All mini plug cables together.  All USB cables together.  Etc. You can see through the bags.  Quick find helps save time on time limited setups.

wNonlubricated Condom - As above, in humid environments or in rain, this will help keep your microphone element dry.

wMicrophone Cage - Some microphone manufacturers make a small metal cage for the mic element. This can eliminate clothes noise.

wMedical Tape - Use this on bare skin. Will not pull on hair as gaffer’s tape will.

wWindscreen - Most lavaliere kits come with at least one windscreen. I suggest you get a second. They have a tendency to disappear. Try for a generic. Brand name types, especially the one that came with your system, will have a premium cost.

wAlligator Clips - Preferably, use ones that have plastic coatings over the grips. If you have a brake in connections while shooting live events, an alligator clip to hold the connection together can save your audio.

wSoldering Iron, Flux and Solder - With heavy bending and usage, cables and connections will ware out. This usually happens on a shoot. If you do not know how to solder, learn. It’s not difficult.

wDouble Sided Stick Tape - This can help stabilize garments when they rub and cause mechanical noise.

wFresh 9 Volt and AA Batteries - These are not the ones that you planned for on the shoot. These are the backups when you brought too few of each. Trade out each month.

wClothespins aka Hollywoods - As with mounting gels on lights, clothespins along with rubber bands can also mount audio cables over doors, across ceilings and such.

wRubber Bands - Wrap these around loose cables and attach cables to tripods. Can also be used to attach cables to talents belt loops.

wShine Free Powder - Use this face powder to remove hot reflections of light from the foreheads of talent. NOTE: For hygiene safety, use a separate sponge for each talent. After use, throw it away.

wCover Stick - Use a lighter than skin colored "cover stick" to lighten the inset between the eye and the nose bridge. This area tends to be very dark causing light problems. The lighter stick color will help reduce the problem.

wExtra Hold Hair Spray - Helps hold fly away hair. After a light spraying, lightly pat the area which is the culprit. I prefer a pump to an aerosol. When traveling possible environment problems in airplane luggage holds may cause an aerosol to rupture.

wLarge trash bag:  (1) During the summer, taking a camera from an air conditioned room into outside heat causes moisture to condense on the recording head.  This will shut down the camera until the moisture is dissipated.  To reduce this possibility, place the camera in a sealed trash bag and tie it with a wire tie.  Then wait a minimum of 5 minutes to allow the camera to come up to the temperature of the outside.  This should stop this problem and you can take it out of the bag.  (2)  Trash bag can also protect your camera if it starts to rain. 

(Revisit this location often. New items will be added periodically.)

*"Molefoam" by Dr. Shoal’s and "Shine Free" by Maybelline are trademarks by their respective companies and are mentioned only as educational information for the viewer.

**All information mentioned above is for the consideration of the viewer and any use of the mentioned items is at the risk of the user. Jim Powell or associated companies are not liable for any complication due to usage.

From "The Business of Talent" by Jim Powell

Copyright Jim Powell 1998, 2018.   All rights reserved.  No reprint without written permission is allowed.

The above is for the educational purposes of the reader.

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