How to create a video shoot pack list

Staying organized can be fun! Seriously!

When heading out on a video shoot, whether it’s your first or hundredth, remembering to bring enough gear to pull off the shoot is essential. With all of the cables, batteries, ​lenses, cases, stands and other parts that need to be part of the kit, it can be easy to miss something. So what do many of the pros use to stay organized? A pack list.

Just as shot lists remind us which shots we need to get, a pack list keeps us organized and makes sure the only thing we need to worry about on shoot day is keeping our client happy, and getting the best possible result from the day.

Forgetting something silly can turn a good day bad, and damage a relationship indefinitely.

So, where to start and what to include? My own personal pack list consists of a few different sections. First of all, I have spots to list the cameras that will come along on my shoot. Unless I’m working with a team, I rarely sport more than three cameras. Next to spots for each of the cameras there is a space to note how many charged batteries and clear memory cards I have packed to go with each camera. This sounds basic, but a run to Best Buy to replace a faulty memory card that needed a test can waste a heck of a lot of shooting time.

Next up, I list all of the lights or light kits I’ll be bringing. Like most small freelancers I have an assortment of lights I choose from, depending on the shoot. I have a space to mark down the make and model of light, and a space to note any bulbs, cables and test status of any related equipment.

Even LED panels that last a lifetime are worth a test - electronics can fail or be jostled from a previous shoot. Anything that requires a battery gets tested and the battery charge status gets noted - if a recharge will be required, I’ll be sure to pack the charger too.

After I know my visuals are covered, I make notes for any audio equipment I’m bringing.

Microphones, mixers, boom stands, and more. Wireless microphones tend to be battery hungry, so I make notes about the state of the batteries in any wireless devices, and note how many extra new batteries I’ve brought along. I note any cables, AC adapters, or other related equipment as well.

Pro tip: for power hungry devices that use traditional batteries such as AA, AAA, or C formats, I save a bit of dough by using good quality rechargeables. I’ve been very impressed by Sanyo’s Eneloop batteries. Once charged, they hold their charge up to 90% for a period of 10 years. I charge a bunch and leave them in my camera bag, ready for next time.

Beyond the essentials, I have checkboxes for many of my large production tools, such as tripods, sliders, jibs, or dollies. I leave a notes section open for any other details I don’t want to forget. I list all of the lenses I’m planning on bringing here, anything I’ve borrowed or rented (staple the rental agreements to your pack list so it doesn’t get lost), and any particulars about the client or location.

The final element is a little yes or no section reminding me if I need to fill up the car with fuel, pick up cash from an ATM for parking and incidentals, or if I should expect anything from the client in the way of a deposit or payment.

Making a note is a great way to make sure you stay on top of your video agreement.

Wait, you don’t have one of those yet? We’ll cover that one in an upcoming article.

The trick is to make these notes as the packing is taking place. It would be easy to make a “wish list” of sorts and still forget to pack the necessary parts - if I’m ever unsure, my older pack lists sit in folders for each of my shoots so I can refer back to past shoots. While some of these things sound like a pain, creating a pack list will actual lessen stress on shoot day greatly, and allow you to enjoy the experience and create a better product for your client.