Description image

Dozens of Great Holiday Gifts for Filmmakers

12.2.10 @ 6:13PM Tags : ,

Here’s a list of guaranteed-to-please gifts for filmmakers and would-be filmmakers alike. There’s a veritable cornucopia of presents here, for casual acquaintances all the way up to loved ones (or for yourself). Shooters, editors, writers… something for everyone!


Under $100

FILMMAKER Magazine Subscription – This great quarterly magazine is on sale until Xmas — get one year for $10 or two years for $18. The digital subscription is just $6, which is a ridiculous bargain, especially considering magazine subscriptions make for great gifts: every time an issue shows up the recipient thinks of you. Plus the first 200 subscribers get a free copy of one of the other gifts on this list, and everyone’s entered into a drawing for other bonuses as well. FILMMAKER is an indispensable part of my life, and if you’re in (or want to be in) independent film it should be part of yours too. $6/$10/$18. [FILMMAKER]

Gorillapod Video Tripod – Saw one of these at the PhotoPlus Expo — it’s like a regular Gorillapod, which allows you to attach small cameras to almost anything using the flexible but strong legs, but it has a pan/tilt head with a handle. Très cool; $20. [Amazon | B&H Photo]

Nikon Lens Pen Cleaning System – It looks like a pen, but it’s a lens cleaner. For those times when you’re not carrying an entire camera bag with spray solution and lens cloths. The small, pen-style design easily fits in any camera bag, as the soft brush retracts into pen body to stay clean. $10 for the pen; $16 for the deluxe kit. [Amazon | B&H Photo]

iLife ’11 – iMovie ’11 has some nifty features, and any Mac user can almost always find some use for GarageBand or iPhoto as well. $50. [Amazon | B&H]

Black Rapid RS-7 Camera Strap – Maybe it was the website URL on my PhotoPlus Expo badge, or maybe it was the “Speaker” designation. But for whatever reason, Black Rapid’s rep gave me one of their RS-7 camera straps gratis, which might be the first time that’s happened to me. I got home and attached the camera strap to my 5D Mark II. It was then that I saw the ingeniousness of Black Rapid’s design; it basically makes you into a gunslinger, as the pulley system allows you to carry your DSLR comfortably on your hip and bring it up to eye-level without repositioning the strap itself. Very clever, and I’m not just saying that ’cause it was a gift. $60. [Amazon | B&H Photo]

Think Outside the Box Office: The Ultimate Guide to Film Distribution and Marketing for the Digital Era – A book I’ve been meaning to review on this site for a long time, Jon Reiss‘s guide to 21st-century distribution is a must read for anyone’s who is at the point of distributing a film. Actually, scratch that — one of the book’s many salient points is that filmmakers need to be thinking about distribution and marketing from a project’s inception, as there are no film distribution angels that are going to swoop down and save the day. We have to take our fate in our own hands, and Jon’s book is the one to read in order to do so. $25 print version, $15 PDF. [Amazon | Think Outside the Box Office]

Fans, Friends And Followers: Building An Audience And A Creative Career In The Digital Age – If I had read Scott Kirsner’s book a couple of years ago, I’d be famous by now. I’m only half-joking! This is another book I’ve been meaning to review here, as few books are more well-matched to the NoFilmSchool ethos than FFF. Half of the book is a terrific overview of the state of independent, creative careers, and the other half of the book is filled with practical interviews with creatives who have managed to build a career and support themselves, outside traditional corporate structures. Highly recommended, and I owe Scott a full review — but this recommendation will have to do for now. $16 print, $10 Kindle Edition. [Amazon | CreateSpace]

Ikan Production Slate (Clapboard) – Nothing fancy, but if you’re not shooting with a fancy set of digital sticks, a dry-erase clapboard should do. This one accepts whiteboard markers and, lo and behold, makes a clapping sound. Nothing fancy but it’s cheap. $35. [Amazon | B&H Photo]

Vimeo Plus Membership – The video hosting service of choice for enterprising filmmakers everywhere, Vimeo’s Plus plan gives online video sharers more storage space, more control over sharing, more advanced statistics… more of everything, really. Vimeo’s great as a free service but I’ve been very impressed by the benefits of their Plus plan, even if I’ve done a terrible job to date of utilizing it (i’ve got a new video coming out next week, though…) $60/year. [Vimeo]


$100 to $500

Final Draft 8 Screenwriting Software – Know someone who wants to be a screenwriter? Here’s the industry standard software. J.J. Abrams was quoted as saying, “even if you don’t own a computer, I recommend buying Final Draft.” I wouldn’t go so far, but if you’re reading this you have a computer. Works on both Macs and PCs. $175. [Amazon | B&H Photo]

Flip UltraHD Compact Camcorder – I have the previous gen model of this compact wonder, and it’s crazy that 720p, 60fps video is possible on such a small device. You’re not going to shoot your magnum opus on it, but… well, why not? Paranormal Activity 3, anyone? $170. [Amazon | B&H Photo]

Rode VideoMic Condenser Microphone – If your DSLR has a mic input (which all but the cheapest do), you’re going to want something better than the on-camera mic. For professional shoots you’ll have a separate sound man with a boom and/or lavalier microphones, but the next best thing to that is mounting this Rode mic to your camera shoe (where you would attach a flash unit) and plugging the 3.5mm mini plug into your DSLR. Great audio for the price, and you can always attach it to a boom for those times you’ve actually got a crew. $150. [Amazon | B&H Photo]

Zoom H1 Handy Portable Digital Recorder – Need to record separate system sound with the Rode mic, or any other 1/8″-based microphone? The Zoom H1 is a handy (befitting its name) solution that won’t break the bank. Records to Broadcast Wave (BWF) or MP3 at very high quality, to a SD card. And it includes a built-in stereo mic for recording interviews and foley-type work. $99. [Amazon | B&H Photo]

Zoom H4n Handy Portable Digital Recorder – Probably the most ubiquitous portable audio recorder to be found on DSLR shoots, and for good reason (I own a Sony PCM-D50, which sounds great, but I regret not buying a recorder with XLR inputs). The cheapest high-quality recorder to use with XLR mics around. More about the H4n in the DSLR Guide’s audio section. $300. [Amazon | B&H Photo]

Lenses! There are way too many to list here and it all depends on your camera, but in the DSLR Guide I mention that you can buy used manual lenses and adapt them to your HDSLR; more details here. Here are some top used lenses to search for on eBay: Zeiss 28mm f2.8, Zeiss 50mm f1.4, Zeiss 85mm f1.4, Zeiss 135mm f2.8, Leica R 28mm, Leica R 35mm, Leica R 50mm, Leica R 60mm, Leica R 90mm, Leica R 135mm.

Lensbaby Composer Special Effects Lens – I love this lens. The Lensbaby is a special effects adapter that allows you achieve decidedly analog, beautiful, defocused shots (both still and motion) on your DSLR. It allows you to shift your focal point all around the image; you’ll see a couple of example shots in a trailer I’ll be rolling out next week (yes, next week, finally!). You can also get a number of attachments allowing you to achieve other effects like a pinhole photography look. $255. [Amazon | B&H Photo]

Canon PowerShot S95 Digital Camera – Manual controls are rare for compact cameras, as are fast lenses — but the S95 offers both. My last PowerShot has long since died, but I’m always partial to Canon’s consumer cameras over other brands as I think the colors just look better. The S95′s got a fast f/2.0 lens and offers 720p video to boot. $390. [Amazon | B&H Photo]


$500 and up

Canon Rebel T2i – Still the best deal around for a 1080p-shooting HDSLR with 24p and all the other features we’ve come to expect from the latest Canon DSLRs. If you’re buying it as a gift for someone, however, you might want to get it with a bundled lens (instead of body-only) so they can actually use it when they take it out of the box. $700 (body only), $750 and up w/ lens. [Amazon | B&H Photo]

Canon EOS 60D – Arguably the top choice of DSLR shooters everywhere now, the 60D’s key feature is its articulating LCD screen. The only circumstance I’d recommend a 7D over the 60D (as they have the same size sensor and are otherwise on par features-wise) is if you’re shooting mostly with a field monitor — the 7D outputs a hi-def HDMI signal, whereas the 60D does not (but the articulating screen makes up for this on shoots sans monitor). $999. [Amazon | B&H Photo]

Canon EOS 5D Mark II – Still my personal favorite HDSLR because of its (almost) VistaVision-sized sensor, the full-frame 5D also takes stellar still pictures. Note the pros and cons (of the latter, the 5D doesn’t do 60p, and outputs a 480i HDMI signal). $2,500. [Amazon | B&H Photo]

Panasonic GH2 – The GH2 isn’t available just yet, but it has a chance to be the best deal going in the video-shooting still camera world (I can’t call it a DSLR, because it’s an EVIL cam, not a DSLR). For more on why the GH2 is one to watch — and might be worth waiting for — see this post. $999. [Amazon | B&H Photo]

Steadicam Merlin Camera Stabilizing System – The Steadicam Merlin is a camcorder stabilizing system perfect for DSLRs and other small camcorders. It utilizes a metal gimbal for smooth camera movement, without relying on a vest or arm (which are great, but not always necessary for DSLRs, and are more expensive). The Merlin is designed by Garrett Brown, who invented the Steadicam and whose work you may recognize from such steadicam-heavy classics like The Shining. $799. [Amazon | B&H Photo]

NoFilmSchool Hackintosh Components – Looking for presents for a technically-minded Mac user who likes to get their hands dirty? You can buy them a bunch of PC components that, with a bit of elbow grease, come together to make one fast Mac. Make a holiday activity out of building the NoFilmSchool Hackintosh — fun for the whole family? Maybe not. Anyway, here are the complete lists of components you’ll need. There’s a cheaper machine for around $1,100, and there’s a more expensive one for around $1,500. Just be sure to toss in one of these video cards as well. [NoFilmSchool]

Panasonic HDC-SDT750K 3D Camcorder – If you’ve been bitten by the 3D bug and don’t have hundreds of thousands of dollars (or millions like, say, Mr. Avatar), this is probably the best option in the consumer/prosumer range. 1080/60p and image stabilization to boot (handheld 3D is, as you can imagine, headache-inducing). $1,400. [Amazon | B&H Photo]

Apple iPad – Come on, everyone wants one. It’s the fastest-selling electronics device in history. It’s the computer for when you’re not using a computer. Anecdotally, everyone I know who has one (and I don’t… yet) loves it. Plus there are a cornucopia of mobile apps for filmmakers available, though I’ve written about how the device might change filmmaking, above and beyond the ways it already has to date. $500 and up. [Amazon]

Panasonic Camcorder AG-AF100Panasonic AG-AF100 – It won’t quite be out in time to make it into a stocking (and a large stocking it would have to be), as Panasonic’s first prosumer entry into the post-HDSLR world hits shelves in January. But I’m sure whoever’s on the receiving end won’t mind waiting: the AF100 pairs a large sensor (not quite 35mm, but close) with actual pro video camera features. Imagine that. $4,795. [B&H Photo]

RED EPIC – Well, up top I said no one’s going to give someone else a RED EPIC, but hey, if you really like someone, here’s one way of showing it. If your loved one is a filmmaker, this beats a Lexus in the driveway. RED’s selling a limited number of hand-machined EPIC cameras for $58,000; Peter Jackson’s using 30 of them to shoot The Hobbit (presumably, because it’s in 3D, this means they’ll have 15 rigs). Theoretically you need to be a RED ONE owner to buy one, but I’m pretty sure if you’ve got fifty grand lying around they’ll make an exception. $58,000. [RED]


Have any experience with some of these items? Got some other gift ideas? Let others know in the comments…

[Photo by Mark Paciga]

Related Posts

No related posts.

COMMENT POLICY

We’re all here for the same reason: to better ourselves as writers, directors, cinematographers, producers, photographers... whatever our creative pursuit. Criticism is valuable as long as it is constructive, but personal attacks are grounds for deletion; you don't have to agree with us to learn something. We’re all here to help each other, so thank you for adding to the conversation!

Description image 12 COMMENTS