Unless you’re excited by the prospect of receiving a dozen or more lens caps this year, you might drop a subtle hint by sending our budget-minded gift guide to your loved ones.
We’ve crawled the internet, written production assistants, and searched our memories of film school for the best gifts under $100. Here’s what we came up with:
Collapsible Light Reflector
Recommended by: Ben P.
A lack of controlled lighting is perhaps the biggest giveaway of amateur footage, as underexposed shots and hard shadows can very easily ruin an otherwise perfect scene. Meanwhile, cheap light sources like hardware-store floodlights aren’t often an improvement over no lighting at all, as they can introduce a host of new problems like inconsistent color temperatures.
Fortunately, the best light source—the sun—is free. It just needs some diffusing and redirecting every once in a while, and a 5-in-1 Collapsible Reflector is pretty darn good at this. Available from a variety of manufacturers, collapsible disk reflectors normally come with a removable, reversible cover to give you several flexible light modification options: white, silver, and gold surfaces for varying warmth and intensity; a black surface for flagging; and a translucent center for one-stop diffusion. You’d be hard pressed to find a better $20 investment. Seriously.
The iRig Pre
Recommended by: Adam
Not having a proper microphone jack can really limit the audio gear—and audio quality—available to a DSLR videographer. And, sadly, a lot of cameras on the cutting edge visually are still far behind when it comes to audio.
The iRig Pre is a device that helps remedy this by allowing DSLR videographers to record directly to their phone or tablet using professional equipment and XLR cables. It’s essentially a preamp, phantom power provider, and headphone output in one. The device is compatible with both iOS and Android and comes with two custom apps for recording and playback.
Vimeo Plus Membership
Recommended by: Zack
The best footage is worth very little if no one can see it, so consider the gift of video sharing this year with a Vimeo Plus Membership. The streaming service of choice for many professionals, Vimeo is more tailored to the niche filmmaking community than its competitors. This generally means it houses less “fluff” and can translate to more engaged, social, and supportive audiences.
Basic membership with Vimeo is free, but professionals wanting more can upgrade to Vimeo Plus for $59.95 per year—which boosts the upload limit from .5GB to 5GB per week, removes all banner ads, and moves you to the front of the line for instant video conversion. It’s also got some killer aesthetics, giving you an ideal stage for your video masterpieces.
For Close-Up Shooters:
Recommended by: Brian
Lenses, as you probably know, can be pretty darn expensive—often more expensive than the camera bodies they attach to. One way to get more use out of a lens rather than simply buying another is to add a set of extension tubes between the lens and your camera.
What are extension tubes? They’re essentially adapters that extend your lens farther away from your sensor—shortening your minimum focal length and lengthening your reach. Because they simply extend your hardware, and don’t add glass or gears to it, they also preserve your optics and focus capabilities, so you retain more quality than you would investing in an inferior lens. The tubes come in a variety of lengths and can often be stacked for additive effects.
$24.95 and up
For Binge Watchers:
Recommended by: Ashley
In an age that’s seeing more and more media fans cutting the cord, devices that provide access to streaming services like Netflix, HBO GO, and YouTube are really proving their worth. Among the top ranks is Google Chromecast, a tiny $35 plug that inserts into your TV and lets you stream content from your phone, tablet, or computer.
With a laundry list of apps available, the device basically turns your phone into a remote control—and your internet connection into a streaming media library. Of course, you can also use it to show your own photos and videos when you run out of Breaking Bad episodes.
Unlimited Downloads of Stock Video
Recommended by: Alamo the office dog
Unless you unwrap a helicopter this year along with a few drones, some 4k cameras, and a gift certificate for unlimited airfare, you might have a hard time capturing as much footage as you’d like on your own.
That’s precisely why we’ve worked so hard to break down the barriers standing between you and accessible content. For just $99*, you gain access to unlimited cinema-quality content for a year with a VideoBlocks subscription. And not just stock footage, but After Effects templates, backgrounds, and more.
$99 annually (*for a limited time)