Guest Post by Matthew Horvath, Pack Films
Hello! I am Matt Horvath of Pack Films. I started out in video as many start - without a plan!
As an 18-year-old with no particular interests beyond sports and video games, I thought that video or photography sounded like a fun career when choosing my major in college.
Little did I know that I actually managed to select something that clicked with me. I had barely picked up a camera, and I started at the bottom with the basics of learning still photography.
A few years later I managed to land an internship at a video production company in Nashville that was owned by AOL (they still exist! who knew?), and that developed into my first full-time job producing and coordinating projects.
My goal being to shoot and edit myself, I kept creating admittedly not the best work on the side, and I eventually secured a job at another production company as a shooter/editor.
My skillset grew tremendously and my responsibilities expanded into directing corporate and commercial projects, and hundreds of interviews later, I left that position to found Pack Films in 2016, and haven’t looked back.
Pack Films is a production company with a focus on keeping crews size small, project timelines long, and bringing a story-driven, doc-style approach to brands.
The Nikon DSLRs are a holdover from my still photography focus. They were great to learn on, but with technology changing they’ve really been eclipsed by mirrorless cameras like the Sony A7sII and Panasonic GH5, so I avoid using the Nikons except for weddings.
When I decided it was time to get a more feature-packed camera with internal NDs, XLR inputs, and the like, the Sony FS5 was a great choice. Most often I am running and gunning, and I love the size and weight of the camera.
The stepless ND filter is amazing and has changed the way I shoot exteriors (cloud come through and block the sun? no problem). It has internal 8-bit 4k, 10-bit 1080, and a raw upgrade path that really future-proofs the camera when using an external recorder.
As you can see, a lot of stills lenses. Luckily, Nikon makes some great glass. I have an interesting opinion on lenses - for what I do, I value light weight and portability over a little bit of speed, and it can be more cost effective to boot.
My favorite run and gun lens is the 17-35mm 2.8D. Using the speedbooster, it becomes a 17-35 f2, and with the clear image zoom of the FS5 to extend the long end of that range it’s very versatile. This is also my go-to lens for gimbal work.
I also enjoy using the 85mm 1.8G. The focus ring has a great feel to it, and bokeh is stellar on this lens. Fantastic for interviews.
The Aputure Deity is a great shotgun. It’s a reasonable size and weight, the audio quality is clean, and the build quality is excellent. I haven’t put the waterproofing to the test (and hopefully won’t have to) but I like the feature.
I’m also a big fan of the Sennheiser AVX system. I’ve used Sennheiser G3 lav packs many times, and maybe I’m just unlucky but I always run into interference issues. The AVX just works: you just turn on the transmitter and receiver and go. The receiver’s design is streamlined too as one lightweight piece with no wires.
The Tascam DR-40 gets the job done. Just a solid no-frills handy recorder. The Tascam DR-05 is small enough to drop down inside a pocket, which is handy in situations where a wireless mic doesn’t make sense. Just have to keep in mind it doesn’t have an XLR input. I normally use the Giant Squid Audio Lab Lav with it, but I’m not a fan of the sound quality or the size and would buy something else next time.
The LyxPro boom pole is solid for the price - it’s not carbon fiber or anything but I usually mount my boom on a stand, not handheld, so not a big deal for me.
I heard about the Alzo 3200 from Caleb with DSLRvideoshooter a few years ago. I haven’t seen too many other people using this light, but I’ve yet to find something that’s a better combination of build quality, output, and weight for the $$.
It’s around as bright as a 400w Joker, cool to the touch, low power draw, and dimmable. The all-metal construction means that they travel really well too. I rarely point this directly at a subject; I’ll either shoot through diffusion, a chimera, or bounce off walls and ceiling.
I’m all about high-output daylight balance lights. The YN600 has a lot of brightness for the price point (super cheap, like $100), and I commonly use it as a fill or hair light. I have a small softbox for it, because I’m not a fan of the look of bare LED panels.
The Neweer 160 LEDs are good in a pinch as an on-camera light (though I exhaust all other options before ever doing that). In addition, I’ve used them as hair lights, and a fun fact/cool trick is that they are just the right size to fit in most lamps. Just unscrew the bulb, and the base of them will fit inside the hole. Now, you have a daylight balance practical with a dimmer.
I purchased my Miller tripod secondhand, and it’s built like a tank. I don’t use it for a lot of run and gun, but when I’m capturing an event or doing teleprompter work or commercial projects it’s great. Using a true counterbalanced head makes a huge difference.
I use the Manfrotto head on the Ravelli legs (the Ravelli head is terrible). This is my lightweight and travel setup, and I commonly will mount my slider directly onto the legs with head on top. I have a Cinevate Duzi v3 - I love the build quality and smoothness of the slider, but my biggest nitpick is actually the way it locks. Having also used the Rhino slider I might choose that if doing it over again, or maybe the Duzi v4 with integrated flywheel which wasn’t around when I bought mine.
Big thanks to Digital Filmmaker for releasing lots of information on the Letus Helix and Helix Jr.; it helped me feel prepared when I purchased my Helix Jr. I got the aluminum version and upgraded the battery and plate, and it flies my FS5 with 17-35mm lens. I love the form factor and battery life of the Helix Jr, it’s a great gimbal!
Manfrotto makes a great video monopod, and I’ve used this one on many projects for years. I recently got my hands on one of their newer X-Pro monopods, and I can say it’s an improvement over my old classic so I’ll probably upgrade eventually!
I’m new to drones! Call me behind the times. I recently picked up a Mavic, and am still in the process of learning to fly and certification. I’m super excited for this addition to my kit. I love the portability of the Mavic.
The Porta-Brace Cargo Case Camera Edition is my primary camera bag. I can fit a pre-assembled FS5 inside, eliminating the need to remove top and side handles every time I pack. Porta Brace makes good bags, and I recommend this one.
The biggest perk is that turned sideways, it can fit in the overhead bin of even small hopper airplanes. I’ve been able to carry on my camera while traveling with others forced to check their Pelican 1510s.
I rarely carry C Stands in my Sachtler C Stand bag. But it can hold a surprising amount of kit stands, travel tripods, etc. as long as you keep everything well padded inside so it doesn’t get damaged. Good as an airport checked bag, it is well built.
I have a put a ton of miles on my Rapid Dominance Messenger Bag. When I shoot events, it’s perfect for keeping the essentials on my hip - a few lenses, extra batteries, and extra cards. I’ve used it for years and did not expect it to hold up as well as it has. The camera insert keeps my lenses protected.
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Thanks! - Digital Filmmaker