Okay friends, this post is brand new, custom developed, and chock-full of ninja awesomeness.
Last year, 11 Tools Every Ninja Needs was our most popular blog post. This year, we’ve updated it to become something much bigger—The Ultimate Ninja Gear Guide.
We’ve broken down the best tools for ninja filmmaking into every category: camera, lenses, lighting, support, audio, and business/education.
For each piece of gear you’re going to find:
- Our suggested ninja skill level. Who is it for? Beginner, intermediate, or advanced.
- The price range the tool or resource falls into.
- A detailed review on why it’s perfect for a ninja filmmaker
- Bullet points of all the key features
- Links to directly rent and/or buy that tool or resource
- Product images, tutorials, and videos
Ready to get started? Dive right in by choosing your category.
Cameras Lenses Movement Lighting Audio Support Edu + Biz
We even have some brand new videos so you can see the gear in action.
You can see why we’ve chosen to call it The Ultimate Ninja Gear Guide.
A ninja approaches filmmaking like no other.
There are three main things we want to learn from the ninja; how to be strategic, how to be stealth-like, and how to stay a step ahead. And the tools we choose play a large role in us, as filmmakers, staying strategic, stealth, and a step ahead.
Strategic means that the ninja is choosing tools that are versatile. They work in a variety of situations and in a variety of ways. For example, a monopod is highly strategic as it can be used for static and moving shots, it can mimic a crane or slider, and can be used as a long pole in a pinch (say you need to get black foil to cover a light on the ceiling).
Being stealth-like is all about the experience you create when you film. We like to think of it as a conversation, and not a performance. Ninjas will not make their presence known and make you feel as if you need to act or perform for them. Be one with the people in your film for the most natural behavior in front of your camera.
And staying a step ahead is the central tenet to Ninja Filmmaking. Always be proactive, instead of reactive. Starting out, we often chase the story. Something awesome happens and we start covering it a few seconds later. We stay there until something else steals away our attention. But the ninja filmmaker is always looking into the future, predicting what will happen next, and being ready before it happens.
After all, that Red Epic may have more dynamic range and a wider color space than our brains can process, but if it’s always trying to catch up with the story, we’ll take the Canon C100.
To be a true ninja filmmaker, you need to choose tools that are strategic, stealth-like, and allow you to stay a step ahead.
Click on any category and dive right in.
[do action=”pullquote-tweet-withurl”]At its core, ninja filmmaking is about being proactive versus reactive. Check out the Ultimate Ninja Gear Guide[/do]
What a wonderful, comprehensive list.
After attending the Still Motion KNOW tour, the first thing I purchased was the monopod and I haven’t looked back since. I would never have believed the versatility and results from this piece of equipment. By far and away one of the biggest “bang for the buck” recommendations you could get. Thanks!
I also purchased the Zacuto Z-finder. I don’t how you can effectively focus a DSLR in video mode without it. I just wish Canon and Nikon would build in a high quality display right into the view finder where it belongs. I am really uncomfortable with the extra weight and bulk this adds to the DSLR. With a properly designed camera, this seems unnecessary.
I would humbly suggest some black foil to add to the list. Although not needed for most shoots, it comes in very handy to block or shape light.
Thanks again for the great information!
Gotta love that monopod. We sure do 🙂
And thanks for the black foil suggestion. It’s certainly a great tool and something that is always part of our lighting kit. In fact we find it so useful that we gave it the first spot on our 10 Things That Could Save Your Life tutorial. Couple that with some gaff tape, a utility tool and several other things and you’re set.
That being said though we need to be mindful of how much we carry and still be able to stay ahead like a ninja so blackfoil didn’t make this list. A ninja would listen to the light first and be creative in how we work with it while putting story first.
Great to hear you were able to join us at KNOW! Will we be seeing you on any of the StorytellingWithHeart stops these next several weeks? 🙂
A few things from the list are, indeed, the must-haves but others – not so much. MoVi and 10. Kessler Kwik Release Receiver are not the first things that come to mind when you think of “ninja” approach, imo.
Alex – i think that’s the beauty of collaboration – we’ll all have a different perspective. It’s when we come together and celebrate that that we can build something bigger.
For us, the Movi allows you to be incredibly swift – and that is so central to the ninja.
The kwik release is small, but if you hard mount a camera to a crane or other tool, or you have different plates – it is a huge time suck
Great article! The Canon C100 has been crucial for me. It’s light and makes for a nimble shoot with beautiful results. I don’t have a budget or a MoVi so I like to use it with the Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 lens because of the vibration control.
Absolutely agree about the C100.
And yes image stabilization certainly helps but if your story calls for more than that consider building it in your budget to rent the tools you don’t own – we do it all the time. This helps keeps overhead down while still resourcing the project with the tools needed.
The MoVi in and of itself isn’t going to make a better film but with it being so easy to use it provides opportunities for us to all push our storytelling through camera movement, in ways that may not be possible without a larger crew, or more gear or years of steadicam training.
What is your thoughts on the C100 vs C300 vs the Epic?
The c100 is reportedly 30% smaller but if feels like more than that. It has an update in ergonomics as well, which is great for staying as quick as possible. The C300 is an strong camera, but we often use that in more produced or slower cases where we have the time to be slower and perhaps we also need some slow-motion or less compression in the image.
The Epic, on the other hand, is a very strong camera in image quality. In speed though, it is severely lacking. Start up times, glitches here and there, and general mobility are all very un-ninja-like. The Epic is a great fit for a produced shoot, but certainly a tough challenge for anything that moves quicker.
I love this! great job guy’s! If you could add 9 more things to make it 20 tools every ninja should have what would the other 9 pieces of gear be?
They would probably be a good deal of things you find on here 🙂
The Kessler P.Bloom pocket dolly mini – I never leave home without it. It is light weight and easy to carry – not only can you use it add movement on shots but it can be used used as a crude shoulder rig – you can lock it off and use to get cool ground level shots
My best Ninja technique is research; my second is writing the script for the story. I use some of the equipment on the list, but I work on attitude and story. My equipment works because I take care of it.
I use a 7″ monitor which attaches to my custom rig. All of my stuff attaches to it including my pre amp and shotgun mic. It has feet so I can set it on a table, put it in my tri or monopod. I can also hang it from my neck…..with all attached to it. I do not have to look for or attach anything during the shoot. It is my studio in a stick. I also put a 4 track audio recorder on it – it’s only 16″ wide.
I attended KNOW in Toronto, and am trying to get to the new lecture.
Keep up the good work.
You bet. Being a ninja isn’t about being fast (well, maybe 10% of the time it is :P) but rather it’s about knowing what you want to say and having the ability to be ahead of the game.
And thanks so much for coming to KNOW. If you can make it out to join us we’d love to see you again in Toronto next month for StorytellingWithHeart and pick up some more ninja filmmaking skills 🙂
As usual, a great post and thank-you!
Was wondering what tripod and head you are using for the C100? I am thinking of purchasing, and am thinking about the additional requirements for support. I noticed you upgraded your monopod.
Thanks for sharing your knowledge!
We run with the carbon fibre line of tripods from Manfrotto. I don’t remember the exact model number for the legs but we use both the 504 and 509 HD heads and they both work very well for the C100. The new monopods are awesome with that top-loading feature but the good ol’ 561 bhdv-1 still works just as well if that’s what you have 🙂
Really like your website and work but I can’t visit workshops because I live in Germany.
Just wonder why you use the Z-Finder and not the C100 Z-finder pro?
And why do you use a Video mic Pro for ambient sound and not a stereo mic?
Carry on ninjas and maybe come to Europe
Thanks! We’d love to bring our workshop to Europe one day.
I believe you can use any of the Z-Finders on the C100; just need the C100 bracket attachment.
The VideoMic Pro allows us to capture sound coming from a specific direction while isolating it from noise you may not necessarily want to use. In some cases, we can even capture usable dialogue when the subject is close to the mic.
Curious if you’ve ever considered Micro Four Thirds gear. In the hands of a professional crew with a ninja mindset the MFT gear seems like it has incredible storytelling potential.
The Panasonic GM3 has great codecs that produce solid, gradable footage and shoots 60fps. The GH4 will shoot 96p and 4k with external 10bit 4:2:2. Both include the ability use the unique Extended Teleconverter mode that provides 2.4x magnification with no image degradation. You can pair these with the Panasonic equivalent of the Canon 24-70mm 2.8 the 12-35mm 2.8 image stabilized zoom. The IS on the Panasonic zoom is great. I’ve shot both and for video the Panasonic has the same image quality and is much more versatile with the IS and ETC modes. And I can’t wait to try the new image stabilized Panasonic 42.5mm 1.2 lens. That will be a high IQ, low light, image stabilized ninja dream.
The Olympus EM1 has a solid codec and 5 axis stabilization that’s like alien technology. You can shoot with the super sharp Olympus 75mm 1.8 like you’re on a steadicam.
You can even shoot RAW or ProRes with the same lenses using the tiny MFT Black Magic Packet Cinema Camera.
Anyway, I love what you guys do and admire your storytelling skills. It would be great to see what you could do with these powerful, nimble MFT video tools.
Technology is amazing, isn’t it? There are so many tools you can choose from to tell your stories and we have no doubt that MFT cameras are really pushing that.
Thank you for pushing us to try new things and we’re excited to continue to share our experiences with you on the blog 🙂
Hi Guys – I love this list!
I was wondering whether you could offer any advice… I’m weighing up getting some form of rig for my camera (5D MK3) … I am doing more documentary style work and some storytelling through weddings and small corporate clients, however I am also looking to do some short films soon too.
I have had a shoulder rig before, and I found that I rarely used it and found it a pain to use… so I was thinking I should get some kind of small “shotgun” style rig like the Zacuto Marauder, but this seems to be very basic and my monopod seems to be just as good (would you agree?)..
I’m also thinking that I would like to attach my audio recorder (tascam DR-60) and perhaps an Atomos device (although not sure how necessary this is) to my rig as they help to get better footage and audio and I think I’d like to have them with me or at least have the Tascam, since the audio on the 5D is woeful, but to have this alone when shooting alone is quite a pain and would thus necessitate a rig of some kind, but then attaching things like this would make the small “shotgun” style rig unusable and remove it’s only advantages which are its lightweight and it’s speed.
Any advice you have on this matter would be greatly appreciated… if only to help organise the multitude of thoughts in my head, I keep rolling the options around in my head and it could be a situation of “gear blindness” where “want” has over taken “need” haha… But if there is any opinion I can trust.. I know it’s yours!
The shoulder rig and monopod both have their own strengths and it really comes down to how you want your story to feel. We like the monopod because it allows us to move fast, stay ahead of the story, and provide incredible stability when we need it.
For attaching accessories to your camera, we’d suggest using a a Cinevate Simplis quick-release plate and joint. That way you can quickly separate the camera from the attachments to stay small and free up your hot/cold shoe slot.
I love many of your suggestion for the need to have (which I own) such has the Zacuto z-finder for the C100 which I feel is a must to achieve critical focus during event, wedding and documentary work.
The monopod is a great tool, the ice light is a fantastic portable lightweight light, the C100 is a formidable camera in the field (on paper it’s so so) and the Scrim jim is the basic tool of any lighting situation to either reflect, diffuse or cut light.
I am disappointed with your microphone suggestion. Sound is so important and the C100 allows for better microphones and control. I feel this is something that needs to be leaned, control and used.
My one piece of equipment that I love and that you didn’t suggest is my Sigma 18-35mm f1.8. This wide to standard big aperture zoom lens is sharp, great at rendering colours and flexible enough.
We definitely agree that sound is important in storytelling. If capturing critical dialogue, then using a proper shotgun/boom setup or wireless lav mic is a necessity. But when you’re moving fast and dialogue isn’t a priority, then we usually prefer to run with the Rode VideoMic Pro on auto gain. Over 60% of the field audio in A Game of Honor was captured using the Rode mic and it wouldn’t have been possible if our shooters were concerned with dialing in audio levels during highly unpredictable events.
THANK YOU SO MUCH! It is very good sum of what we need, why we need it and how to use it well. 🙂
Hey stillmotion guys and gals – I caught up with your road show on the weekend in Vancouver, BC. So much information, I feel a little overwhelmed. I’m heading to Havana, Cuba for a family vacation in July. No team, just me, wife, and one kid (the other one has to go to Brazil to see the World Cup, poor her). I’m not planning on shooting a documentary, but I’d like to tell a story about this trip and about Cuba using what I learned in the Storytelling with Heart workshop.
Here’s my dilemma – I don’t want to bring a bunch of expensive equipment that might get lost/stolen/damaged, but I’d still like to get reasonable quality, and use the same gear for stills. So I’m thinking of getting a Canon T3i, Manfrotto compact monopod, two lenses: EF-S 18-55 mm f/3.5-5.6 IS Type II Lens and EF-S 55-250 mm f/4-5.6 IS Type II Lens. The camera comes with an external mic jack (stereo, 3.5 mm) so I’ll be bring microphones as well. The whole package is under $800, and I figure I can give it to my daughter (who’s interested in making film) after the vacation.
Sorry to spring the “cheap challenge” on you, but just wondering if you think this is something that might get me some reasonable video (provided I do everything else adequately) and also provide my daughter with some equipment to get started.
Loved the workshop by the way!
We’ve shot a national TV spot using the T2i so you can absolutely tell a great story with your set of gear. You might struggle a bit in lowlight situations but cameras now handle high ISOs really well so just bump it up to where you’d feel comfortable with the noise tradeoff. You’d be surprised at how much you can do with very little 🙂
Enjoy your trip!
Hey guys, great insight as usual. I’ve been working with a couple manfrotto mvh500a’s since it’s release which I love but both of them have started to squeak and rattle pretty severely at the ball joint. Have tried some lubricants but it keeps coming back. Do you have this problem? What do you use? Thanks!
Jared – If you take an allen key and slightly loosen up the ball joint at the bottom, it’ll help with the squeaking. WD-40 will help clean up the joint but a silicone based lubricant will keep it smooth over time.
Hey guys! Great post as usual. I wanted to see if you had any problems with the monopod squeaking and what kind of lubricant you use. I’ve tried many but haven’t come up with something that lasts very long.
What Custom picture setting do you use for the C100 or do you have a custom one you have made?
I’m curious to find out what blog platform you’re utilizing? I’m experiencing some minor security issues with my latest blog and I’d like to find something more safe. Do you have any suggestions?
Hey, thanks for the great info.
I’m just about to jump into the brushless gimbal stabilizer (probably the Movi or Ronin) and wondered what setup you guys use with the 14mm 2.8L lens? Guess I’ve never quite understood hyperfocal distances and exactly how to setup a 7D with this lens to get the best depth of focus when running at night (so at f2.8). Any tips on where to focus/distances etc? It’s easy during day at f8 but not so good for dances at a wedding at f2.8.
Thanks again guys!
hi!,I love your writing so a lot! percentage we communicate more
approximately your post on AOL? I need a specialist in this space to unravel my problem.
May be that’s you! Looking ahead to look you.
I love this post! It’s exactly what I’m looking for these past few months. Just want to ask what you think of the Canon XF200 vs. the Canon C100. Is the C100 worth the extra cost? Or do you think the XF200 is fine as is. It’s a brand new camera just coming out!
There are major differences between the XF200 and the C100. The C100 has a more cinematic image due to its large S35mm sensor. The C100 also needs lenses, which will up the cost a lot, but it gives higher quality and more creative freedom. The C100 is more work, but will DEFINATELY give a nicer, more cinematic image if you know how to use it.
I love my Epic but it is heavy for run and gun situations. A monopod would help out alot, especially on an event shoot I did with a few other cinema guys a week ago. Thanks for the information. It really helps
Hello there! I would like to share with you that for events instead of the shootshack I have found great help using the Lowepro s&m light utility belt, with two 100AW lens exchange cases attached to it. It is a great product! I keep 2 lenses in there, I can change them very-very quickly and be ready to shoot in a few seconds.
Also using a monopod sometimes is a bit slow, not as fast as I would like. So I attach a Manfrotto quick release plate on my dslr, and two receiver plates, one on an Edelkrone pocket rig and the other on the monopod, so I can change between them quickly when I need a bit more versatility.
Also check out a new product from Edelkrone that is coming up, the pocket slider. It is a very small slider with only 20cm movement but sometimes that is all you need ☺.
Paired with the Befree Manfrotto tripod (small but steady and versatile) you can have great results!
Thank you for all your help!
To me Ninja style is what you can do with a single real run-and-gun camera like the Sony HXR-NX30 (as explained in a Cameraman’s Review) or the even smaller 4K Sony AX33. You guys are more like gizmo collectors or gear merchants supporting gizmo makers to sell more of their gear. Canon C100/C300, Sony FS7/FS100 have nothing to do with Ninja videography. I used to be a gizmo collector until I read the book of a real professional solo shooter (Run ‘n Gun Videography by Joe Caneen). It’s totally misleading calling your huge and cumbersome gear collection Ninja style.
Miklos, if you change the definition of the what we are discussing, then of course you can also change the destination.
We’ve defined Ninja as stealth, strategic, and staying a step-ahead. And this gear is what allows us to do all of that – from Superbowl features, to the middle of the Kalahari filming a documentary – every story benefits from a true ninja filmmaker.
Ninja, to us, isn’t about being a solo shooter. That is far from strategic. Their is boundless potential in collaboration and we, as a studio, celebrate that daily. But, if shooting solo is your jam, then certainly the gear we chose might not be the best it for you. This is much more about being adaptable, it’s about allowing the gear to fade away so you can have interpersonal skills, and you can predict and be ready for what’s next before it happens.
Apologies if this isn’t for you. But the content is very detailed, thoughtful, and they are all real-world solutions for us. So let’s keep it constructive.
I’m confused, Mikey… you object to Patrick’s “gear merchant” approach to selling stuff, and you base your opinion on a book… you BOUGHT… from someone “selling stuff”? And you seem might impressed by “official reviews” that want to “sell stuff”. BTW, son, the way things are done in the UK by Caneen does NOT mean they’ll work in America. Try thinking for YOURSELF and then deciding who’s approach is best FOR YOU. But don’t make that determination for the rest of us.
Wow, are you saying StillMotion AREN’T professional? I hope not… Cos that is just silly talk. Gizmo collectors? Again, silly talk. Try NOPE. Their work and results speak to a different interpretation than “gear merchants supporting gizmo makers”… Misleading is getting max results from the least amount of gear. And winning MAJOR awards for their work. Have you actually seen their work? It’s amazing.
I think you have to concede that StillMotion get amazing results with small amounts of gear.
Congrats on another edu resource to be proud of! Really well done. I notice more and more that when I’m training new shooters so much of my advice to them is informed by what I’ve learned from you guys over the years. Really handy to have organized, well-thought-out posts like this to direct them to. Many thanks!
Thanks Justin. So awesome to hear. Lots more coming too!
Hello! Guys you are awesome!!! Thank you for your work.
I am from Belarus. I have translated your video to russian language. I hope you not angry for this)
Guys, in Lenses. Swap Canon 24-105 and 24-70 😉