I had this idea for a blog post series about “what’s inside my tool box.” I thought it might be a good resource for up and coming ACS as well as just a general think tank for established ones looking to slim down, expand, or pivot. Hopefully if people like this one, we can do some other peoples from different countries, positions (2nd ac, remote head tech, travel ACS, etc.).
Name: Tiffany Aug
Position: 1st AC
Job type(s): scripted, live to tape, multi-cam with some domestic travel
Location: USA Los Angeles
Years in: 17
I’ve seen several incarnations of a tool kit over the years. I started out with a doctor’s bag type tool bag and eventually transitioned over to a hard case when I started traveling more. Soon, that became heavy and cumbersome when I was day playing so I settled on a rolling hard case. Specifically, the Seahorse SE830 with exterior dimensions of: 21.9" x 13.90" x 8.90" and interior dimensions of: 19.50" x 11.00" x 7.80". Empty, the case weighs 9.33 lbs. and is the FAA maximum size for carry on (not that it really matters as it’s filled with tons of non-TSA safe items).
It can be kind of intimidating and definitely is not organized enough for some ACS but for me, I know exactly where everything is. I’ll go piece by piece through everything and by the end of the tour, you will too.
I’ll start at the top left pouch of the lid and work my way around. As you can see this pouch is labeled “Power cables/ BNC” so it should be no surprise as to what’s inside.
Starting from the left and going across the top row you have:
- 3 sizes of 75-ohm BNC shorties for trouble shooting or just if I need a right now replacement for a timecode, onboard or receiver cable.
- 4 pin female XLR to p-tap male power cable. Good for if I need to power a 12v camera or device off a battery, battery plate, or to hot swap or just to test power.
- 2 pin female lemo to p-tap male home-brew cable with extra length. This one was made for a specific purpose (I believe it was an owner/op package with a lemo only accessory and we didn’t have a power cage for the Alexa mini. So, I ran this puppy off a gold mount battery married along the camera body power cable. Now it lives on in my tool kit “just in case” I find myself in the same situation. (unregulated and definitely for my own use only)
- A p-tap splitter shorty, we all have those preps when the rental house doesn’t have one and your lemo cable shit the bed and now you need an extra p-tap.
- P-tap extension cable for when my splitter is too short.
- 4 pin male XLR to p-tap female for when you only have a block battery or 12v power source that terminates in 4 pin XLR (a battery plate with no p-tap on it) and need to power an accessory via a p-tap cable.
- 4pin XLR shorty I made this for my 1303 to save wear and tear on the actual 4 pin on the monitor but later switched to a Rencher Industries hot swap box so this moved into my tool kit for emergencies (when you have a device whose native 4 pin is on its last leg) (I had a DP who owed a lighting monitor where this was the case so we used this jumper to swap between ac and battery power all day without taxing the built in port and still being low profile enough to fit the monitor into its case for travel between locations)
- Arri Alexa EXT to ethernet cable with barrel (for working with mini router) I use this in situations when I didn’t know I was going to need remote access to the camera at a distance longer than the in-camera Wi-Fi can provide
- Tv logic power cables. One 4 pin XLR to ta3 (mini XLR) and one p-tap to ta3. Were more handy back before Smallhd took over the small monitor game (for my jobs/clients) but they still come in handy in a pinch when rigging monitors or using someone’s backup.
- 2- 5v USB to p-tap power converters. For powering mini routers because dits never have one and the USB port on many cameras is inconvenient for shooting in dusty environments (like the desert that is Los Angeles) (typically you have to leave the media door open to utilize the USB on a lot of cameras so this is a better way to power mini routers while keeping my media door closed and media safe from dirt and dust.
- USB multi tap cable (lightning, USB c, mini USB) aka “squid” cable. For when your operator forgot to charge their phone and obviously also doesn’t carry a cable of their own.
- 2 pin lemo male to 4 pin hirose male. I own a lot of old dp7 monitors and while I keep power cables with them, sometimes it’s nice to have a spare for if I have one out of the case.
- 2 pin lemo male to p-tap male. For powering accessories where I might need to test or replace the cable quickly (if spares aren’t on the cart or we ran out).
- 2 pin lemo male to 2 pin lemo male for powering accessories if we need to change or trouble shoot a cable quickly.
- Barrel power adapters (for if your barrel power accessory came with the wrong size barrel power cable) (happens so much more than you’d think, especially in owner/op packages).
That about covers the small power cables and video cables I carry with me (there’s others but they’ll be covered later). You’ll not a lot of this is for when I’m working with a production owned/ operator owned camera package or a rental house that can’t furnish everything for the backups that I’d like at prep. Obviously in a perfect world these issues wouldn’t arise, but nowadays they just seem to be getting more common. The key is to make sure your cables are 100% functioning so you can at least just use them for trouble shooting.
Next up we have a pouch named “fasteners” which refers to cable fasteners and is mostly what’s inside. Along with a few other non-fastener items that just needed a place to live So, from left to right we have:
- Pouch storing b cam placards so people know who they’re dealing with (they’ll still ask you “which one is b camera”)
- Zip ties of varying length/thickness. Helpful if you travel for airport security to re-zip tie your case if they had to clip ties to inspect items (leave them on top of everything so they are the first thing they see when they open the case).
- 3d printed ¼-20 cable keepers as well as some p-tap blockers (useful in wet and dirty environments to make sure open ports stay dry and clean).
- Cable wrap. It’s important to not this does not have to be a single use plastic, I unwrap cables at the end of jobs and save them here to be reused on future builds.
- Gear ties of varying length for a cable that might need to quickly unfurl
- Bongo ties
- Dual lock for when someone has an accessory with dual lock on it and I need to marry it somewhere (otherwise I’m not the biggest fan of this item)
- A safety pin (should be a paperclip here too) or “Teradek pairing tool”
- Some dual size Velcro wrap nice for multi-point cable marrying
- Bottom row left are some antenna adapters/extension cables that if I have to use I know I’m in trouble. Mostly for when I’m running a sad Wi-Fi dongle situation out of a VariCam or f55 and the antenna on it would otherwise be buried under other accessories. It’s saved me a few times on VariCam shows but honestly, it’s easier to just run a mini router.
- Next up are some different patterns of wireless antennas. Good for when you’re on location and linear antennas aren’t working or if your operator is incapable of not breaking them
- A pile of various Wi-Fi dongles I’ve collected to work with Sony/Panasonic cameras in a pinch when the camera mounts somewhere access to it will be difficult but we didn’t’ have prior knowledge of the rig so I have to come up with a remote camera control option on the fly
- Some glass elements for emergency foreground effects
- ½” jar for covering the markings on a Preston ring so I can write on them at will without having to trim down 2” with scissors
- A dreaded bag of miscellaneous small and mostly metric screws. These are from over a decade of finding a strange screw on my cart shelf at the end of a show or in the bottom of a case or the floor of the camera truck. I just put them here so later if something is loose or missing a screw I can rummage around to see if I have the missing link.
- Camera log book. The log book is for one day or shorter jobs with no 2nd or if my 2nd doesn’t have a log. I think it’s important to always have a log of at least what lenses we used for certain shots. I run into it a lot on commercials where they “forget” to tell me we needed to match a shot from 2 locations ago now and just expect I’ll remember everything about it.
- Mini siemens star. This was a gift and came in a multi pack but the back is useful for if we need a mini insert slate on tabletop/macro jobs
- My saftey pass card from contract services featuring a vintage photo of me when I was 21 years old. This will work with most us airlines to get media rate for checking your gear as media credential. Also, I’ll always have it with me in anyone asks to see it on a studio lot, which so far in the past 16 years of working in L.A. has been 0 times.
Moving on we have the “rigging” bag. This bag is a favorite of mine on jobs where the camera package was being provided by an operator or production company and “has everything with it” except, of course, everything you’ll need to build it correctly and comfortably. So, starting again from the top row left:
- A female baby pin to ¼-20 adapter for when the Teradek receiver doesn’t have anywhere to mount except to a dying piece of melted Velcro on the back of a Flanders monitor with no battery plate. Also handy for the director’s handheld monitor that you continuously find jauntily balanced on miscellaneous pieces of set decoration.
- A smattering of 15mm iris rods with different extension threads as well as a Ratworks bolt on rod that was a gift from a friend. I use 15mm because it’s the standard in Los Angeles which is my home city. If I were smarter I’d have some 19mm to 15mm bushings here too so I could be more versatile. Maybe I’ll treat myself for the new year.
- A baby pin to 3/8-16. For when I need to rig a monitor or something to a stand or provide the grips with a point for stabilizing camera.
- A 3/8-16 machine handle for adding a 90-degree handle off the side of the top handle or from the inside of the spider grips.
- A steel eye bolt for safety chains or when a frog clamp shows up with no corresponding eyelet.
- 2nd row left is a 90-degree rod turner, for if you need to send an iris rod off camera at an angle. Mostly used when mounting a light to camera or making an iris rod handle for an actor to hold onto for POV shots
- 2 identical 15mm iris rod starters. For if I need to add a rod for motors on the side of a camera. Having 2 identical is clutch for limiting rod flex (the 19mm crowd will be flexing their superiority here as it’s not as big an issue on 19mm rods)
- Next, I have 2 different WCU cheese plates for mounting my hand unit to a monitor or focus station. A lot of smaller rental houses/consignment shops I’ve been to don’t carry any cheese plate for this hand unit. I believe both of mine are different generations of Lenz cameratools plates.
- An extension block for top handle by Jim Candreva for any Arri locking pin 3/8-16 hole on the camera. This puppy has saved me a few times when I needed to improv a 9x16 “quick change” option for camera as well as just space accessories out on the side of some lumpier cameras. I have other length handle extensions I just stopped carrying them as more rental houses started carrying them and you’ll see later I have a preferred top handle in general.
- Next is a 3/8-16 mounted cheese plate extension. It’s great on a mini when you need to mount something towards the back of the camera without all the weight of going to a full side cheese plate
- A blue, 90 degree 1/4/20 mount for use with Teradeks when you’re only on camera mount is 90 degrees from where you’d ideally like to mount the transmitter. Very specific but small and can come in handy in a pinch.
- Finally bottom left is a Preston single channel cheese plate by Aaron Haesler. Used for mounting your single channel unit to a monitor cart or focus station. Much like the WCU4 a lot of places I’ve rented from did not have an existing option for this hand unit so I bought and carry one.
The final pouch on the lid is my ultralight control arm system pouch. This pouch is by no means the extent of ULCS items I carry with me as you will see later. It’s mostly spare parts and small adapters for building out whatever arms and support I’m using.
Top to bottom left to right we have:
- A single clamp arm featuring a Kondor blue quick release ball adapter on one end and standard ¼-20 adapter on the other in blue and pink colorway
- A single clamp dual cutout clamp arm featuring a Kondor blue quick release ball adapter married to a Kondor blue sled (tape holding Arri locking pin sled on) with a ¼-20 ball adapter with non-captive screw on the other end (hence more tape holding screw in)
- A 15mm iris rod ball adapter
- A 90-degree Arri locking pin ball adapter
- On the second row we have A non-captive ¼-20 screw head on a cine lock quick release adapter
- A cine lock ball adapter on sled
- 2 1/40-20 blue ball adapter
- 2 ULCS quick release sleds (one ¼-20 and one 3/8-16 with Arri locking pins) I use this system on the bottom of my 1303 to mount my camera control device (iPhone) and my hand unit while still being low profile enough to slip into and out of the case without damaging foam/cutouts
I think I should take a moment now to finish the lid of my case by addressing the loose accessories velcro-ed in the center. These ended up there out of convenience if for any other reason.
- Here we have a pair of cable wrangling gloves for when things get gross
- My mini router and its cables for when I need to quickly and cheaply provide myself with remote camera access. Obviously, there are other ways to do this, most of the items in this case are for when a productions plan changes abruptly and we were unable to properly prep for the situation.
This moves us to the bottom half of the tool kit which fleshes out a lot of what you may be thinking is missing from the categories covered in the top.
Starting with the top layer (above) we have a few more pouches for easy grab and go access.
- Starting to the left is a letus shoulder pad that I carry for when my operator forgets theirs or the show was not supposed to have any handheld but some has been added on the day. (often, I have an operator who takes theirs home over a hiatus and forgets to bring it back)
- Top row left is a pencil bag of expendable like items I keep (detail later)
- The sloth bag is cine lock/Kondor blue quick release shoes/sleds
- Bottom row green and black is a tool pouch is disrepair
- Finally, my tackle box of small screws and adapters
More in depth walk through of all of these follows.
- From top left 2 side Velcro wrap
- Various filter tags
- Eyepiece chamois oval
- More zip ties
- 2nd row and 3rd row left are writing implements (stabillo, wet erase, dry erase, sharpies, pens)
- Camera wedges
- Camera user button labels
- Eyepiece chamois round
- 3rd row right more cable wrap
Next up is the cine lock/quick release bag.
- Pretty self-explanatory but this is where I keep my Kondor blue and cine lock quick release systems as well as the spare screws and locking pin sleds that go with them
This is the contents of my tool bag, which is separate so it can easily be brought to set or left on the cart shelf if need be for easy access or easily stowed back in the case.
- Starting left top row is a pair of small non-stick scissors
- A variety of screwdrivers Phillips, flat, and jewelers
- American standard Allen key t handles in 3/16 and 5/32
- A pair of channel locks
- Metric Allen key t handles in 3mm and 4mm
- 2nd row left is a Leatherman with knife, needle nose pliers etc.
- A gel pen for writing on black surfaces
- Speed wrench
- American standard Allen key set
- A small crescent wrench
- High power flashlight
- And a set of metric Allen keys
This is my tackle box of screws/adapters/small items probably a lot to go through item by item but I’ll do my best.
- On the lid to the left is some chart tape for taping off frame lines or moving a witness mark on a lens
- Watch batteries for specific accessories (lens lights etc.) as well as fuses for battery plates
- A large washer for 3/8-16 that doesn’t fit into the sections
- 3/8 to ¼-20 step down inserts
- Top left section of the bottom of the case are ¼-20 to 3/8-16 step ups
- BNC barrels and adapters
- ¼-20 screws and nuts
- 3/8-16 tie downs and nuts
- 2nd row memory cards, zoom bats
- Longer tie down screws, level, some longer tools
- 34rd row left 3/8 bolts/non-tie down screws
- Some spare antennas antenna adapters 2-way screws
- Various washers
This brings me to the body of the bottom part of the case. I’m going to break items out piece by piece. With photos below.
Top layer of the main section is mostly additional ultralight pieces:
- SmallHD locking pin to Kondor blue monitor arm
- Ratworks top handle spud with ultralight handle and Kondor blue quick release sleds
- Ultralight long clamp with cutouts
- 2 various sized ultralight arm extensions
Next up are battery/power components:
- Top left starts with a v-lock to gold mount adapter which was especially clutch for trouble-shooting early wooden camera d-box issues on the Venice
- A gold mount to 4 pin adapter good for Steadicam builds as well as low profile power with accessory power on certain cameras whose only accessory power is via the p-tap on the battery plate
- A cleans camera support quick release place with Velcro cutouts on the bottom
- A belt clip gold mount battery plate with p-tap accessory power for when you need a belt battery
- A 4 pin to 4 pin XLR with female p-tap for camera and accessory power from a block
- A swit brick to 4 pin cable
The next layer down are some more hardware tools and tapes:
- My laser tape measure with its pouch
- 16” steel tape
- A fiber tape with pouch
- Mini RBQ (custom mill job to make it fit with the newer model QRP that Sachtler started making
- A set of torx keys that I never used to carry because typically if something is using a torx it’s not to be tampered with outside of official service but with the influx of owner ops who needed a lens mount changed etc. I started having to carry them.
- 2 mini Cardellini clamps
- A ¼-20 threaded clamp I put on the end of ultralight arms to hold flags or crystal/other foreground elements
- A 2-way clamp for holding brows and flags to camera
The final chunk of main compartment accessories are as follows:
- A neck strap for handheld monitor or LCS that doesn’t have one
- A blower bulb with sensor filter. You’ll note you will not see a can of compressed air anywhere in this post, this is simply because it cannot be safely checked onto an aircraft so I leave it for local shows to purchase in expendables, in the case they want me to provide expendables I have a blower bulb for them or will bring a can separate on my cart.
- Coroplast brow for quick flagging light
- A medium siemens star for quick focus checks in the field
- Insert slate that’s seen better days
- And a new addition, the light widow angled tray for improv-ing an ARF angle with a filter in your matte box
My toolbox now looks like this with all the items removed that have already been covered. So here I’ll go box my box through the final 4 compartments of my case.
Power and Levels:
- From the top left is a beat-up circuit tester. Usually the electricians can help out but on the rare occasion they aren’t around having the ability to know what plugs are good on set or even in the camera truck can cut down troubleshooting quite a bit
- Next is a cube tap pretty self-explanatory I try to only keep one so when they don’t return I only lose them one at a time
- A ground lifter, not that anyone likes having to use these but sometimes you have to
- A spare port cap, much like the ground lifter you hope to never need this but there’s always the odd occasion the one from rental goes missing and it’s best to have something to cover the sensor until a replacement can be arranged.
- Gorilla tape for water resistant seals
- The second row starts off with various different levels
- Some batteries for when a show doesn’t have a good supply of expendables on hand.
Next up is my communications compartment:
- My walkie headset
- My listen only comtek headset
- Backup walkie headset
- Various short antennas for when you’re tired of breaking folding chairs every time you stand up
- Headset components for field repairs
- Headlamp, not really on theme for this compartment but it fits nicely and is convenient for quick access
Then the solutions and lens cleaning box:
- Deodorant wipes (because sometimes you need something stronger than panchro for improvisational deodorant)
- A tiny sprayer of lens fluid (usually I rely on my 2nd or a full-sized bottle of panchro/ kimwipes on my cart for regular cleaning but for in a pinch one day or quick travel jobs this is a backup)
- Small bottle of triflow non-aerosol so airline friendly
- Tweezers for changing your ground glass when you go between super35 and full frame and need to adjust your finder in the field. Also effective against splinters.
- Some red loctite for when you need a screw to stay in place.
- Advil multivitamin
- Some Teflon lube for when triflow will be too wet/pick up more dirt
- Lens chamois
- A pack of lens tissue (see note about how I rely on kim wipes etc. regularly and this is a backup)
- Standard Jar of googley eyes.
Last but not least the much-anticipated Velcro section:
- Some 2-sided Velcro ties with captive punch out for wrapping around a cable
- Some cuts of both sides 2”
- 1” soft side Velcro
- 1” hard side Velcro
- 2” hard side Velcro
- 2” soft side Velcro
Final note that I did drill a hole into the outside support wing of my case to be able to clip a tape string to as it took up too much space when stored inside.
There you go, so from full to empty the complete contents of my 1st ac tool kit. Thanks for scrolling. I hope some other people are inspired to do a walk-through of their own kits or that at the very least this has provoked some thoughts or inspiration in others in regards to their own kits (if only to do better organizationally than I have).
I’d love any questions comments concerns obviously this isn’t the one and only case I bring with me to a local or long-term job. It has been, many times the only case I bring to travel jobs and short one day last minute gigs or when I’m explicitly told “don’t bring anything you won’t need it”.