The following lesson was created by Vimeo for its Vimeo Video School . It’s used here with permission. Look for a new lesson each week.
It’s the day before the big shoot. You have a lot to consider before simply strapping that camera around your neck and running off to become the next Michael Bay on Vimeo. It’s called camera preparation and everyone does this a little differently. The most important thing is to set up a routine.
Check out this short video on how Jared Abrams  preps his cameras with focus and dead pixel tests.
I interviewed filmmaker and all-round rad guy, Zack McTee , about how he preps for his shoots.
AA: Do you have a routine you always go through before a shoot?
ZM: Yeah definitely. One thing I can tell you I always wish I would do is make a checklist and catalog of everything I need to bring. It always seems like you forget something.
AA: Just like packing for a trip and you find out you forgot your toothbrush.
ZM: Totally. I’m not completely sold on the idea that you can remember everything you need to bring, so I think a checklist is important the night before a shoot. I always go through all my equipment, pack the bag nicely, double check that all batteries are charged, all cards are formatted, and all lenses are cleaned and ready to go. As for my rig, I’ll usually customize a setup depending on the shoot I’m going on. Different shoots call for different setups. So I’ll put together a rig that is going to work for the given scenario, take a photo of the rig for reference (in case I forget), and then break it down and pack it up in the case.
AA: That’s also a good idea for being certain you’re leaving with everything you brought. How about other gear?
ZM: Check you tripod bag, make sure the plate is on the tripod, you don’t want to show up to a shoot and realize your dove plate was on your dresser at home. I always have to remember to count my bags when I leave the house. There have been numerous occasions where I leave in a hurry without grabbing the tripod bag.
AA: Yikes, and if you’re traveling far, that could be disastrous.
ZM: Actually, if you’re traveling to a shoot by plane you should decide ahead of time if it’s worth the cost of checking your tripod bag, and sometimes even your light kit — if it’s a small kit. Most times you will find that you could rent that kind of gear locally for less than the cost of checking it round-trip.
AA: I’ve never rented before, is it really that big of a difference?
ZM: You can get a tripod for $20.00 a day instead of paying $100.00 round-trip. Plus, it never hurts to tell the client about the money you saved them by not checking bags.
AA: Awesome. Thanks for this wonderful insight into the nights before your shoots.
ZM: No problem. Thanks for the inquiry.
- Set up a routine.
- Make a checklist.
- Think about the location and tailor your gear to fit.
- Take a photo or itemize a catalog for safety.
- Count your bags.
- Remember you can rent gear, too!
Because I love you, I’ve created a basic checklist you can use and easily add your own things to. Download the PDF !
Professional crews take a lot of time preparing their cameras for a shoot. Here’s a two day time lapse video of Vimeo member Dave Jacobsen  prepping a 35mm Panavision camera.
Check back next week to learn how to make a time-lapse video or view more lessons at the Vimeo Video School .