I often get emails and messages from individuals asking about what equipment to buy, or what tools/software I use to stay on top of things. So I decided to put together a resource page as an easy reference for all your video production, digital marketing and community engagement needs. You’ll also find pictures and write-ups about my actual rig setup at the bottom. I’ll always keep this updated as I make progress on my media for social change journey.
Disclosure: Please note that some of the links below are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase. Rest assured, I have experience with all of these companies, and have owned/used all equipment mentioned. This small token helps me continue to provide free resources for the community. Thank you.
Video and Audio Equipment
Panasonic GH3: I bought this instead of the more popular Canon or Nikon cameras because, as a Micro Four-Thirds camera, both the body and its lenses would be smaller and lighter. I do a lot of running around when it comes to shooting documentaries, so that was important to me. Also love the flip-out screen, and on-sceen audio meters. I bought this camera back in 2013 and have loved using it over the years. I’m currently saving up to upgrade to the newest version, the Panasonic GH5 to get the ability to record internal 4K 10-bit 4:2:2 footage, and improved image stabilization.
GoPro Hero 4 (Silver): This small but tough camera has pushed my creative boundaries. Since it comes with a protective housing that is waterproof, I’ve been able to take some cool shots that my regular camera can’t. It’s also great for just mounting on a lightweight tripod somewhere to shoot a time-lapse while I continue shooting with my main camera. My GoPro Hero 4 (Silver) shoots up to 2.7K resolution, and the Black version shoots up to 4K.
Sennheiser G3 Wireless Lavaliere System: Having a wireless lav system with a clip-on lav mic has been invaluable to my video productions. I cannot stress enough the importance of capturing good audio, particularly when it comes to dialogue. A wireless lav allows your subject the freedom of movement. One of my favorite functions of this model is the ability to scan for clear frequency channels in the location that you’re in. It runs on AAs and is capable of transmitting sound over longer ranges with better audio quality than the cheaper consumer brands. It’s also extremely durable. I bought mine in 2011 and it’s still going strong!
How does the Sennheiser G3 compare to the newer Sony UWP-D11? I’ve found the Sennheiser to have a lower noise floor. It also has a stronger line level output signal.
**important note** Because of the FCC Incentive Auction, the use of wireless mics in the 600 MHz Band will become prohibited by law by July 2020. So make sure to choose systems outside that band, such as the G3 system in frequency range A, which runs from 516-558 MHz.
Sony UWP-D11 Wireless Lavaliere System: A relatively new release as compared to the Sennheiser G3 systems. I own both the Sennheiser G3 and the Sony UWP-D11, and from my experience, see pros and cons for both. The Sony system is great because it has a true diversity reception, which automatically selects the strongest incoming signal to reduce dropouts. It also supports USB powering and USB charging of rechargeable batteries in its battery cartridge. Also, because it has a headphone jack alongside the output jack on the receiver, you can easily plug your headphones there for troubleshooting purposes. What I love the most about the Sony UWP-D11 system is that they also sell a 2-channel receiver (URX-P03D), which can take signals from 2 Sony transmitters! This makes your setup lighter and more compact, as it replaces 2 separate receivers.
**important note** Because of the FCC Incentive Auction, the use of wireless mics in the 600 MHz Band will become prohibited by law by July 2020. So make sure to choose systems outside that band, such as the Sony UWP-D11/14, which uses Channels 14-25 and runs from 470 to 542 MHz.
Countryman B3 Lavaliere Microphone: At 0.2″ in diameter, this mic is small, moisture-resistant, and comes in various colors, making it easy to hide. This has a wider frequency response range and higher maximum sound input level than the EMW Omni. Please note that this links to the version with a connector for Sennheiser body transmitters. Use the following links for Sony and Lectrosonics transmitters.
Countryman EMW Omni: This mic is moisture-resistant, and comes in various colors. Please note that this links to the version with a connector for Sennheiser body transmitters. Use the following links for Sony and Lectrosonics transmitters.
Rode VideoMic Pro Compact Directional On-Camera Microphone: This is one of the most popular on-camera microphones for DSLR shooters, given its high quality sound recording capabilities within a small and light form. It has a built-in shock mount to reduce handling noise, and can connect directly to your camera via an 1/8″ (or mini) cable. It’s also powered by a 9V battery and does not require phantom power.
Sennheiser MKH416 Shotgun Microphone: The beauty of shotgun microphones is its ability to pick up audio from a distance in the direction you point it, while minimizing sounds coming from the sides. This is one of the most-used shotgun mics among industry professionals. It captures excellent sound, is highly sensitive, and is rugged. Please note that this requires phantom power and does not run on batteries, and also has an XLR connection.
Sennheiser MKE 600 Shotgun Microphone: If you’re not ready to invest almost a grand into an MKH416 shotgun mic yet, the MKE600 is a great choice at 1/3 the price. It is also directional, with side noise rejection and a switchable “Low Cut” filter to minimize wind noise. It has a slot for a AA battery, which enables you to use this mic even without phantom power. If you plan to shoot outdoors, it is worth investing in the set that comes with a windshield.
BeachTek DXA-SLR Ultra 2-Channel Active XLR Adapter: Many people ask what I use to get 2 channels of audio into my Panasonic GH3 camera. Well, this is it. With 2 input channels, this XLR adapter will take audio signals from my shotgun mic and my wireless lav mic via XLR or 1/4″ cables, and send a stereo output to my camera via an 1/8″ (or mini) connection. It gets you 30dB of gain, supplies phantom power and comes with a headphone monitor jack.
Zoom H4n: This portable field audio recorder is capable of recording up to 4-channels at a time, and comes with built-in XY stereo microphones that can be adjusted to a 90° or 120° recording pattern. I often use it in situations where sending audio direct to my camera is not possible, and thus requires me to have a dual audio system running. Just like the BeachTek XLR Adapter, the Zoom H4n also has 2 XLR or 1/4″ connector inputs, making it easy for me to plug in both my shotgun microphone and wireless lav at the same time. It runs on 2 AA batteries and records to SD or SDHC cards. Zoom has since released a newer version of this item called the Zoom H4n Pro.
Important Note: After a few years, my Zoom H4n has lost its ability to be powered up for long by AA batteries. What used to run for hours off AA batteries, now dies within 10 minutes. I have also experienced this same issue on a Zoom H5. Fortunately, I’ve been able to get around this issue using a portable power bank and USB cable to power the unit via USB.
Video Production Support & Accessories
Cold Shoe Extension Bar: As I often shoot alone and don’t have other people managing audio or lighting, I need to have as many accessories securely tethered onto my camera as possible. That means the single cold shoe mount that comes with most DSLR cameras isn’t enough. Enter the cold shoe extension bar – giving you more room to mount other accessories such as a shotgun mic, a lav mic receiver, a monitor or even a an LED light. Movo makes these cold shoe extension bars in varying lengths from 4″ to 16″. I would recommend getting a bar at least 6″ long.
Manfrotto Aluminum Monopod: As a documentary filmmaker, I often have to move quickly to keep pace with the action. This makes shooting with a tripod very cumbersome for me. But I still needed something to help keep my shots steady. That’s why I’ve opted to shoot with a monopod. I wear a cheap fanny pack, stick the monopod in, and I’ve got a great combination of mobility and stability. From my experience, the flip-lock levers are much better than the twist-lock types because the twist-lock types have a tendency to become loose as you run around, and it’s super annoying to have your monopod retract on its own when you’re in the middle of a shoot. Pair it with a strong ball head with quick release plate and you’re golden.
Important Note: The monopod linked has a minimum height of 19.29 inches. If you’re as petite as I am, it will be too long to shoot comfortably with. My personal monopod has a minimum height of 15″. I did not recommend it here because it has twist locks.
Manfrotto 496RC2 Compact Ball Head with Quick Release Plate: As this piece is what supports your expensive equipment when you’re on the go, I recommend investing in a good, strong, reliable ball head with quick release plate. Do not skimp on this part! I’ve found this one from Manfrotto very versatile, with a smooth, easy-to-adjust ball head and also very strong. I like it’s double-lever locking mechanism, where the base plate will only come off if you push both levers, so my camera will not accidentally come off.
CineSquid: I have found this super useful as a car mount. The three suction cups, and the GorillaPod are very strong and stable. I’ve mounted cameras as big as the Canon C100 with no issues.
GorillaPod: I love this versatile, flexible tripod with legs I can bend around almost anything. I’ve used it not just for my camera, but also for lights and mics – basically wherever I need extra support on set.
Edelkrone Slider Plus: My issue with most sliders is that they take up so much room. As a documentary filmmaker who often works either alone or in small teams, I need to be as light and mobile as I can. So when Edelkrone released its SliderPlus, I was super excited. This is the only slider I have seen that extends along with the camera as it slides, essentially giving you more sliding distance than the length of the slider. That means I get the same amount of sliding distance from a smaller, more portable slider.
PadPrompter: My favorite thing about this portable iPad teleprompter is that it folds flat like a laptop, making it so easy to carry around. I’ve used this for talents who have long pieces to camera and may not want to memorize all they have to say. With the beam-splitter glass built-in, the on-camera talent can look directly into the lens while speaking, and with a little practice, deliver every line perfectly without anyone suspecting that he/she was reading a script.
Panasonic Eneloop Pro AA Batteries: I switched to using rechargeable batteries when I realized just how power-hungry camera and audio equipment can be! I was going through batteries at such a fast rate, I wanted a more environmentally-friendly solution. Click the following for their AAA batteries.
SanDisk Extreme 32GB SDHC Memory Card: This Class 10 UHS Speed Class 3 memory card is fast enough to capture full HD video recording, minimizing stutter and dropouts. And at write speeds of up to 90MB/s, your clips are written onto the card faster, so you can start your next shot more quickly without missing any crucial moments. I like the 32GB storage size because it gives me sufficient space for about 1.5 hours of footage on my camera. If you prefer to have more space, click the following for their 64GB cards.
Transcend 32GB SDHC Memory Card: This is a Class 10 UHS Speed Class 1 memory card. Fast enough to capture full HD video recordings as well. It’s cheaper than the SanDisk cards, and I have not experienced any issues with my Transcend SDHC memory card.
Ape Case ACPRO4000: This is my most-used camera bag as it’s big enough to hold 2 of my mirrorless cameras, 2 sets of wireless lavalieres, shotgun mic, XLR Adapter and accessories. Also has 2 side pockets with clasp straps to hold my monopod and gorilla pod. I also got this because it’s a roller bag. After hurting my back from frequently carrying too much heavy equipment, and having to pay hefty medical bills for chiropractic treatment for a year, I realized the importance of having wheels on your camera bag! The bag is durable, easy to roll, and water resistant. And it also comes with a padded laptop compartment for those times you need to offload footage at the end of a shoot day.
Case Logic SLRC-206: This backpack holds my Panasonic GH3, sound equipment, laptop, small tripod and accessories comfortably. It’s smaller than the Ape Case, and does not have wheels. I use it in situations where I will be constantly on the move, and require mobility. I love the easy-access cradle at the top so I can grab my camera at a moment’s notice, as well as its solid, waterproof base, so it stands upright.
Crumpler Six Million Dollar Home: I use this water resistant camera sling bag on days where I’m just doing location recee or research, and only need my camera, and maybe one shotgun microphone, with enough room for my wallet and keys. The carrying strap is thick, durable and comfortable. The flap seals shut with both velcro and clasps, and gives you the option to ‘hide’ the velcro if you prefer faster, quieter access.
Adobe Premiere Pro: This is a leading video editing software used by industry professionals. I made the jump over from Final Cut Pro 7 to Adobe Premiere Pro about 2 years ago. What I love about it is its ability to take many video formats without the need for transcoding, its robust options for color correction, and its seamless integration with other software in the Adobe Suite like Photoshop, After Effects, and Media Encoder. New to Premiere Pro? Learn the basics in just 90 minutes.
Screenflow: This software for Mac is capable of recording both picture and sound off my computer screen, as well as anything from my camera video camera and microphone. It’s great for making tutorials and screencasts, and comes with some handy editing functions.
Mpeg Streamclip: I love this versatile software because it’s absolutely free, and it just works. I use it all the time to convert my videos from one format to another, or compress them to make smaller files.
PluralEyes 3: Thinking back to my days in college when I had to manually sync sound to video brings back nightmares. That’s why when I discovered PluralEyes, I was super excited. Just import your video and audio files, click a button, and it magically syncs them up! It even works for multi-camera shoots. It relies on sound waves to do the syncing, so just make sure that your cameras are still capturing audio.
InqScribe: When I was an intern at Kartemquin Films, a big part of our duties was to transcribe hours upon hours of documentary interview footage. With multiple films in production at the same time, the volume of footage we had to get through was massive. Inqscribe worked wonderfully in helping us get the job done quickly, with the ability to play the video and type the text in the same window, and the ability to do things like add a timestamp for timecode, start/stop the video, or jump back 4 seconds at the touch of a shortcut key. You’ll have all these functions even with the free version. You just won’t be able to save an InqScribe format file… which is fine because you can copy/paste your text into a word doc at the end of each day. Honestly, I used it so much that I didn’t mind paying the $99 to license the full version.
Switch: Switch makes it easy to covert any piece of audio between 40 file formats. It’s even free for non-commercial use!
WeTransfer: When I am working with teammates or clients and need to send a large file that exceeds the tiny limit (25MB) that e-mail has, I use WeTransfer. You’ll be able to send large files up to 2GB and make them available for download for up to 7 days for free.
My Gear Setups
I’ve been asked to go further in-depth on how I build my rig for various filming situations. To give you a clearer idea, I’ve included some pictures from set with write-ups about each one.
My One-Woman Band Setup – DSLR/Mirrorless Cameras
When I purchase equipment, one of my biggest priorities is portability. As a woman with a smaller build (4’11”, 90lbs), I need a rig that I can move around quickly with, and can fit into bags I can carry myself.
Image by Ronit Bezalel
Whenever I am tasked to handle both camera and sound on my own, this is my setup. I use my Panasonic GH3 with 14-140mm f/3.5-5.6 lens. The zoom lens gives me flexibility to change up my frame on the go, as I seldom have time to switch lenses while shooting. I also own the Panasonic 45-200mm f/4.0-5.6 lens, which is super useful for filming events. On a micro four thirds camera, the equivalent focal length is actually 90-400mm, which means I can be pretty far away and still get a good tight shot.
I would eventually like to invest in the newer set of Panasonic lenses (12-35mm f/2.8 and the 35-100mm f/2.8) so I can work better in lower light conditions. Note that I purchased the GH3 back in 2013, and am saving up to upgrade to a Panasonic GH5 next. The GH5 has many improved features such as the ability to record 10-bit 4:2:2 in 4K resolution internally, and improved image stability to accommodate handheld shooting.
Image by Lisa Teh
To enable my mirrorless camera to have 2 channels of audio, I attach a Beachtek DXA-SLR Ultra Audio Adaptor below my camera. This model provides low-noise preamplifiers to give you 30dB of gain. It allows me to control the audio levels using knobs, and can supply phantom power to my mics if needed. The Beachtek XLR adaptor gives my setup 2 XLR audio inputs, and sends the audio signal to the camera via a 1/8″ 3.5mm stereo cable to the 1/8″ mic input on the camera.
Image by Lisa Teh
Because most DSLR and mirrorless cameras come with only one hot shoe mount, I use a 4″ Rycote cold shoe extension bar to enable me to attach more accessories to my camera. I usually have my Sony lavaliere receiver and my Sennheiser MKE 600 shotgun mic + Rode shock mount affixed on the bar.
I wrap both the cables from the receiver and from the shotgun mic around the extension bar to keep them out of the way before connecting them to the XLR inputs on the Beachtek XLR Adaptor. The Rycote extension bar I currently own is no longer available online. The link provided leads to the newer version. Mine sometimes swings loose while I’m on the go. I hope to replace it with a different brand, perhaps a Movo DSE6, next.
Image by Lisa Teh
For stability/mobility, I use a monopod with a Manfrotto ball head with quick release plate, in combination with a cheap fanny pack. This allows me the freedom to move around quickly, and even get on my knees fast to capture a low-angle shot. For situations where I want to get a high angle shot, I can also extend my monopod and tilt the swivel LCD screen down to get the shot.
My One-Woman Band Setup – Canon C100