Are These 5 Dirt Cheap Filmmaking Must-Haves in Your Gear Bag?

Any gear that is under $100 is worth a closer look.

It's a cruel joke that filmmaking is as creatively gratifying as it is expensive. Well, it is most of the time—expensive, I mean. Sometimes, when the clouds part and the heavens shine down upon us, a piece of equipment reveals its glory to us, its visage a beacon of hope, its price tag a cape of redemption. Good cheap gear and supplies is what I'm talking about here, my fellow broke-ass filmmakers, so what are some items that are not only essential but also reasonably priced? In this video, Chrystopher Rhodes of YCImaging lists five must-haves that won't burn a hole in your pocket.

Here are the items Rhodes lists in the video:

  • Gaff tape: This is a no-brainer. Gaff tape is essential. You can use it to secure wires to the floor, label your gear, or mount a lav mic to your talent. Its uses are limitless.
  • A nifty 50: A 50mm is a must-have in your camera bag. Rhodes talks about a Canon 50mm f/1.8 STM in the video, but there are plenty of other great 50mm lenses out there, many of which won't break the bank.
  • RØDE VideoMicro: When you need decent sound when you're on a budget, RØDE offers a tiny camera-mountable mic, the VideoMicro, that comes with a dead cat and shock mount. It's inexpensive at $89 to $59, it's highly reviewed, and it's powered by your camera.
  • 3Pod V3AH tripod: To be honest, I've never heard of this tripod before, but the 3Pod V3AH, according to reviews, is much like other barebones workhorses: it's light, reliable, and gets the job done. If you're looking for an inexpensive tripod, there are several things to consider, like weight, height, leg construction, and max weight support. Also, does it come with a 1.) centerpost, 2.) quick-release system, 3.) level? What kind of head does it have? (If it's a cheap tripod, the legs, head, feet, and centerpost (if it has one), might not be modular, or in other words, you won't be able to swap them out for something else you like better.
  • Variable neutral density filter: Everybody needs an ND filter in their camera bag, period. These filters come in two flavors: fixed and variable. Which one should you go with? Well, that depends. Some swear by fixed ND filters because they're more affordable and higher quality, but others swear by variable ND filters because not having to lug around a whole set of NDs is super convenient. Try both and decide for yourself.

What are some other cheap must-haves that you should keep in your gear bag? Let us know in the comments below?     

Your Comment


If you have a cropped sensor, would a nifty 35mm be appropriate (since it comes out to about 52mm)?

May 12, 2018 at 12:50PM

Jeff Lutz

Depends. 50mm is/was pretty popular on movie cameras too, but I think the 35mm is more versatile for a smaller sensor. The cheapest 35mm lenses tend to cost considerably more than the cheapest 50mm lenses though.

May 12, 2018 at 12:58PM


I wouldn't shoot anything with variable ND if you want your people to look like people. The polarizer isn't worth the convenience.

May 12, 2018 at 12:59PM


I've made my living over the last four years shooting commercials and using variable ND filters. I'm not filming Superbowl commercials or anything, but I've never had a client notice any skin tone issues because of variable ND's. Of course, I eventually plan to graduate from them to better filters, but starting out, they've worked just fine for me.

May 12, 2018 at 1:47PM

John Haas

Good tips! Inexpensive things to go building our gear bags or add to an already full one....the nifty 50 and filters I already have, going to look into the other suggestions

May 13, 2018 at 5:41AM

Luis Garcia

I recommend considering how well a lens handles higher ISO. My old-school Nikon 50mm has a lot of noise at 800. I primarily use my Rokinon 35mm cine lens which equates to 54.25mm on my D3200.

May 14, 2018 at 7:19AM, Edited May 14, 7:19AM

Freddy Long

Black wrap aluminum foil. Use it to flag and shape light, black out windows, and other uses I've yet to think of.

May 14, 2018 at 7:20PM