Regardless of the holiday you celebrate, this is the season of giving. Chances are, you know someone who works in video and has been very, very good this year. If you’re stumped on what to get them, we’re here to help with twenty gift ideas for filmmakers.
Below, you’ll find some of the best gift ideas for under $500. Of course, we won’t judge if you get inspired for a little personal shopping while you’re at it.
The Best Gift Ideas Under $500
As any videographer knows, video equipment tends to be very expensive. For instance, most DSLR or mirrorless cameras and camcorders are over $500, so you won’t find any on this list. If you’re looking to buy a camera as a gift, head over to our overview of the five camera features you need to know to make a solid purchase decision.
Of course, $500 is a lot to spend on that special someone. A lot of the pricier products on this list are great group gift ideas if you can find a few friends who want to help make someone’s holiday a little extra special. It’s also possible to find many of these items secondhand at a significant discount.
1. A TRAVEL-SIZE TRIPOD SYSTEM
Whether creating a film, taking portraits, or setting up for a timelapse, a tripod will always come in handy. However, the last thing you want to do is pick out a cheap or flimsy model since tripods ultimately have a very important job supporting the camera. In light of those considerations, a tripod system from Oben makes a solid choice.
They are super lightweight and strong due to their carbon fiber design. When folded up, they measure just 12-25 inches depending on the tripod you choose. This compact size is ideal if you’re on the go. Oben tripod systems range from $168 to $350.
2. A DURABLE CARRY-ON GEAR CASE
Pelican is well-known for its impressive line of high-performance protective cases. Their range of products extends to photo and video cases as well. For the filmmaker in your life that’s always flying across the world, the 1510 Protector Carry-On Case is exactly what they’ll need.
Some filmmakers feel much more comfortable keeping their gear close, and avoid checking their gear bag when traveling. Measuring in at the maximum airline carry-on size, this is the perfect case for bringing their valuable film gear right on the plane with them. The case is waterproof, dust-proof and crush-proof, with a price point of $199.95.
3. A 4K DRONE THAT FITS INTO YOUR POCKET
I know what you might be thinking – aren’t most drones $1,000 or more? Generally, you would be correct.
However, in 2020, DJI launched the all-new Mavic Mini 2, an upgraded version of 2019’s Mavic Mini. This drone is extremely powerful for its tiny size. On DJI’s website, you can even see the device being put into a pants pocket – that’s how small it is.
Still clocking in at an ultra-light 249 grams, this little guy can now record in 4K vs 2.7K from last year’s version, and fly for just over thirty minutes. While this won’t replace the pro-level Mavic 2 Pro or Phantom series, this drone might be the perfect grab-and-go option, especially at a mere $449.
4. A POWERFUL HANDHELD GIMBAL
If you’re shooting on a DSLR or mirrorless camera, this is an excellent gift for someone looking to create cinematically smooth shots for their films. Handheld gimbals offer 3-axis stabilization, which makes shots steady and shake-free.
The Zhiyun-Tech Crane v2 is an amazing option because it breaks down small enough to be brought along for most shoots, as opposed to more complex gimbal systems. The Crane v2 clocks in at $399.
Alternatively, you could opt for the slightly more expensive DJI Ronin-S handheld gimbal. DJI has a long history of making the highest quality when it comes to stabilizers, and the Ronin-S is no exception. Coming in at $559, it may well be worth the extra money.
5. A CAMERA THEY CAN TAKE ANYWHERE
GoPros have been a regular feature on wishlists for years, and for good reason. After all, it’s the action camera used around the world for anything and everything extreme. This tough little camera has been updated almost every year, and this year is no different.
The updated Hero 9 Black has improved in every way, including HyperSmooth 3.0. This allows you to take bumpy footage and magically smooth it out. The resulting improvement to footage quality makes life much easier for anyone trying to incorporate GoPro footage with footage from bigger cameras.
The tiny size, and new add-on accessories, make the Hero 9 Black a serious contender as a one-stop-shop. The camera is currently available for $399 on the GoPro site.
6. A 360 Camera
Similar to the versatility of an action camera, 360 cameras are becoming more commonplace than ever.
Originally used almost exclusively by extreme sports enthusiasts, 360 cameras have found their way into a lot of different production sets. Since they literally capture everything around you, it can make for some extremely unique video experiences, or solve coverage problems on set.
The Insta360 ONE X2 improves on previous models in almost every way. It has its own FlowState stabilization, captures video in 5.7K, and a multitude of capture and editing features. At just $429.99 for the camera, this is an amazingly versatile gift.
7. A VERSATILE GEAR CART
For the one-person film crew, this cart will be a lifesaver. This multi-cart from RockNRoller is a must-have for traveling from location to location with a ton of gear.
With a 500 lb load capacity, the recipient will be able to bring all their cameras, lights, audio equipment, and more wherever they need to. It folds flat for easy transport, and its durable wheels allow this cart to go nearly anywhere it’s needed.
Bundle this gift with some hook straps, bungee cords, or a shelf add-on, and they’ll be good to go. We recommend the RocknRoller Multi-Cart R6RT “Mini” which is $190. RockNRoller does offer several other larger carts, all of which are under $400.
8. A PORTABLE LED LIGHT FOR EVERYTHING
For certain types of shoots, bringing a whole light system can be a struggle. The Boling Pocket LED RGB Video Light is a practical choice for filmmakers who need to travel light.
This LED light offers a full range of colors along with percentage dimming for extreme precision. A built-in mounting arm makes this an extremely versatile choice. It could easily be used as a main light, with diffusers, or with one of the nine special effects. For a full review, this video from Fstoppers provides a hands-on look at this portable LED light.
Similar to the Mavic Mini, these lights are extremely small and will fit into pretty much any bag. At $139, getting two of these lights will set up your favorite filmmaker for any situation.
9. The Biggest Ring Light
Ring lights have become the video meeting accessory du jour as many of us working from home seek to even out lighting and look better on screen. And for good reason: they’re a simple and effective way to cast flattering lighting on a subject without a complicated setup.
They’re extremely flexible and can be used to emphasize detail, create unique color effects, cast halo shadows, and more. Their ability to cast relatively even light on your subject while allowing space for your camera or phone to be front and center might be exactly when filming at home.
Neewer offers a full set for $135.99. This includes an enormous 20-inch ring light, extra batteries, phone clamp, AC adapter, and stand.
10. A SHOTGUN MIC FOR YOUR CAMERA
If filmmakers could have an audio expert on every shoot, we’re sure they would. However, that’s not particularly realistic. This Rode Video Mic NTG Hybrid is a great option for when they’re flying solo. This shotgun mic attaches right to the camera, and can produce really great audio in a pinch.
A mic like this is highly directional, so it captures audio mainly from sources directly in front of it. At rode.com, you can pick up this mic by itself for $249.00.
This kit includes the on-camera mic, a mini-boom pole for handheld use, a wind protector for shooting outside, and cable converter to use the microphone with larger setups. That’s quite a lot in a relatively small package!
11. A BENDY TRIPOD
There are going to be some situations where a normal tripod just isn’t going to cut it. That’s where Joby GorillaPods come into play. These extremely durable and bendy tripods are meant to be used just about anywhere.
GorillaPods have rubberized legs that help them grip and hold on to nearly any surface you can think of. The impossible shot becomes possible with one of these handy tripods.
Options range from small tabletop models to the GorillaPod 5K, which can hold cameras up to 11lbs. When in doubt, go with the biggest GorillaPod to make sure it’ll be able to handle whatever camera your filmmaker uses. The Joby Gorilla Pod 5K is $104.95, but smaller options are under $40.
12. A Video Capture Card
These nifty little devices let you take an HDMI signal and convert it into USB. While that seems like a very straightforward application, it allows you to do amazing things with live video.
If you own an action camera or DSLR/Mirrorless camera, this capture card, combined with the right HDMI cable, will allow you to connect it to your computer and use it as a webcam. While we’re stuck at home, this is going to dramatically upgrade your live stream and video conferencing set up.
Back in March, these all but sold out immediately. However, this BlueAVS Audio Video Capture card is only $19.88 on Amazon, making it an extremely affordable way to upgrade your webcam.
13. A Hard Drive That Can Survive Anything
While you might not be going on crazy video adventures in the near future, preparing for them now might be worth it. Backing up your footage is something any video person needs to do on a regular basis. Having extra physical protection for your hard drive is never a bad idea especially if it’s not an SSD.
That’s where the LaCie Rugged Mini external hard drives come in handy. These hard drives have a drop, shock, dust, and rain resistant exterior shell. In other words, this hard drive is ready for anything you throw at it. With storage sizes ranging from 1TB up to 5TB, there is plenty of room for multiple projects. Prices start at $69.99.
14. Browse the Moment Marketplace
Moment is a somewhat new company in the photo/video world, but they’ve been able to produce a lot of amazing gear in their short tenure.
Starting on Kickstarter in 2013, focusing on high-quality lenses for your smartphone, Moment has expanded to become a full-fledged marketplace for mobile and DSLR filmmaking products alike.
Phone lenses, camera bags, phone cases, drone ND filters, classic cameras, lessons, and so much more. It’s a safe bet that you’d be able to find something on this site for your film enthusiast.
We personally love the Moment Rugged Camera Sling. This bag is perfect for a grab and go set up, with enough room for your camera, an extra lens or two and several accessories. The 6L bag comes in at $99 while the larger 10L is $149.
These gift ideas are excellent stocking stuffers that are bound to come in handy, or at least make them laugh.
15. EXTRA EVERYTHING
Ask anyone that has ever worked in film, and they will tell you how important it is to have extras. We’re talking about extra batteries, extra SD cards, extra lenses, extra straps, extra lights – the list could go on forever.
If you know the type of gear your intended recipient is already using, you can easily stock up on a few extras they’re bound to appreciate.
16. GAFFER TAPE
Anyone that has ever worked on a film will know that you can never have too much gaffer tape. Think of this as the go-to solution for just about any problem that could come up on set. Get a range of colors to provide more options for its use.
17. FUN FILMMAKER HAT OR T-SHIRT
Nothing lightens the mood on set like a humorous piece of clothing. CafePress has thousands of great options to help your favorite filmmaker express their passion through style.
18. PERSONALIZED NOTEBOOK
Inspiration can strike at any moment, so having a dedicated place to jot down ideas is a must. This customizable clapboard journal on Etsy is high quality and perfect for taking on-the-go. Depending on the customizations requested, the price starts at $35. Etsy, similar to CafePress, has a ton of other small gifts for filmmakers.
19. Videography Apps
While these gift ideas might not come in a box, they’ll still have a big impact. You’ll have to figure out a clever way to deliver these items, but we’re sure the recipient will be thrilled.
A very popular app is the Artemis Pro Viewfinder app. This app allows a filmmaker to use their phone to line up shots they are planning on shooting. Priced at $29.99, this app is used by Oscar winners and film students alike.
Tracking the sun might not seem like a major part of filmmaking, but the sun can cause real problems for videographers if not taken into account. This Sun Seeker – Tracker & Compass app uses 3D augmented reality to show the solar position of the sun.
For daytime shoots, this information can be crucial for planning shots and keeping track of the light you have remaining. At a cost of $9.99, this app takes the guesswork out of tracking sunlight.
Lastly, for the mobile filmmaking enthusiast, an app like Filmic Pro can really change the game. This app allows complete control of your phone as if you were shooting on a DSLR camera. It even allows for color grading profiles and utilization of different frame rates and resolutions.
Filmic Pro is available on iOS and Android for $14.99
20. Online Classes
One gift that keeps on giving is new knowledge. No matter how good someone is at their craft, there is always room for improvement. Classes are one of those gift ideas that never go out of style.
Websites like LinkedIn Learning or Skillshare are very popular, but recently, a new contender has emerged called MasterClass. With a full catalog of classes taught by extremely successful producers, directors, and actors, this could be a great gift for your favorite filmmaker.
Directors like Ron Howard, Judd Apatow, Spike Lee, and more have produced classes on MasterClass to help you take your own work to the next level. Classes are $15 a month billed annually.
If the person you’re shopping for has to direct on-screen talent, acting classes could make for a great present. Here in NYC, HB Studio has fully embraced the digital shift by offering classes at a multitude of levels completely online.
While this might sound scary to someone more accustomed to being behind the camera, understanding the process from the perspective of actors and actresses can really enhance your work. Expectations will be better aligned, communication with the talent will improve, and hopefully, they’ll make some great connections to boot.
Bonus: iPhone 12
They say the best camera is the one you have on you, and in 2021 that is probably going to be your phone. While these phones are well over $500, the brand new iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro are going to be your best bet if you’re interested in upgrading.
While the best smartphone for photos is debated every year, it seems that without fail, iPhones come out on top each year in the video department. This phone paired with some of the accessories above will create the perfect grab and go set up.
If you can think of any other delightful, affordable gift ideas for filmmakers on-the-go, share your ideas in the comments below! You never know, you might just help someone out in a pinch.