Matt: Remote Camera Gear List
After our Master Class on remotes in Episode 24, listener Ben had a question:
Would it be possible for you to link to recommended products that might work well as a remote “starter kit”? In the podcast magic arms, super clamps, and safety cable were mentioned, but there seem to be quite a few options available.
Also, I’ve never used Pocketwizards, but when using them, do you just leave it transmitting the whole game or are you frequently turning it off and on depending on the game situation? For example, if you have a remote camera aimed at home plate and the transmitter is “on”, is it firing every time you fire your camera in-hand? If that’s the case you would end up with tons of, likely useless, photos of batters and such if it goes off every time you’re shooting something else with your in-hand camera. Then again I’m not sure how cumbersome it is to turn the transmitter off and on again as the game situation changes. So I was just curious how firing the remote camera works with the transmitter basically.
First things first, here is the gear I use for remotes:
The mini tripod is great for behind-the-goal remotes for soccer, and sometimes I will use it for a close remote camera at my feet while shooting basketball.
The safety cables are a must if you are setting your remote somewhere that it can fall more than a few inches. Use more than one, and connect them to different parts of the setup just in case.
The super clamp is the base, and can hold up to 33 pounds. You need to make sure you can attach it to a stable surface.
The Magic Arm attaches to the super clamp, and comes in different setups, but this one is the one I have found the most useful. Variable friction is important as it allows you to make fine adjustments to the positioning. The camera plate attaches the camera to the arm. For extra stability in rough environments, some people use 2 arms. The time a monster dunk bounced my 14-24mm off the backside of the backboard would have been a nice time for 2 arms.
You need something to trigger the remote camera and Pocket Wizards are the industry standard. I use Plus IIs simply because I haven’t had a great reason to upgrade yet, but if you are starting out get the Plus IIIs. The Plus IIs are cheaper, but are old tech and have only 4 channels to the Plus IIIs 32. This matters if you are using remotes at an event where a bunch of other photographers are also using remotes. You need a cable (other than the one that comes with the Pocket Wizards) to fire the camera, and make sure you get one that is marked “Pre-Trigger” so that your camera stays “awake” and ready to accept the signal to fire. Which cable you need depends on which Pocket Wizard and camera you are using. For example Nikon pro cameras have a 10-pin connector, and Nikon consumer cameras have other varieties.
Keep in mind that using a pre-trigger cable will simulate half-pressing the shutter button continuously, so make sure you have a full battery.
To answer the second part of the question, it depends on the circumstances. A remote in the rafters or behind the backboard means you need to set up early and wait until everything is done before you can check your cards. One behind a soccer goal or clamped to the vertical support of a basket or behind home plate you can usually check at halftime. One at your feet or nearby you can check more often.
How often it fires is up to you. You need to leave the remote camera and its Pocket Wizard on, but the Pocket Wizard on your hand-held camera you can switch on and off depending on whether you want the remote to fire. Another option is to use the Pocket Wizard off camera and operate it via the fire button. For instance, When I set up a backboard remote, I will sit at the opposite baseline and shoot handheld in that end and fire the backboard camera with just the Pocket Wizard fire button when the action is near the hoop with the remote.
The bottom line is testing and practice are important for remotes. You need to learn the gear and its possibilities, and you have to make sure you’re using it safely and effectively.