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 $189.95.
If you’re in an extra giving mood, pair this case with the Trekpak divider system which allows for more customization and organization to fit the needs of any filmmaker. This accessory comes in at $119.95
3. A 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, earlier this year DJI introduced the all-new 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.
At an ultra-light 249 grams, this little guy can fly for thirty minutes and record in 2.7K. 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 $399.
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.
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 Hero8 Black now has a feature called HyperSmooth 2.0, which takes bumpy footage and magically smoothes 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 options make the Hero8 Black a serious contender as a one-stop shop. With the camera at $399, you could even throw in some accessories to complete the package and still keep the price under $500.
6. 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 $119. RockNRoller does ofter several other larger carts, all of which are under $400.
7. 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 $149, getting two of these lights will set up your favorite filmmaker for any situation.
8. 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 VideoMic Pro Plus 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. You can pick up this mic and an accessory kit for $359.95 at B&H Photo.
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!
9. 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.
These gift ideas are excellent stocking stuffers that are bound to come in handy, or at least make them laugh.
10. 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.
11. Passport Holder
If your filmmaker travels internationally for their productions, a passport holder is a smart gift they might not think of for themselves. Since passports are one of the most important requirements for international travel, keeping this little book safe is non-negotiable.
Of course, there are a ton of options to choose from. Take note of what your filmmaker might like and check out this amazing list from Smarter Travel. Options range from hard cases, neck-wallets, group passport holders, and more.
12. 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.
13. Travel Mug
This stainless steel-lined mug in the shape of a popular lens is bound to make them smile at a low price of $9.99. After all, keeping your energy levels up while on set is really important!
14. 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.
15. 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.
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.
16. Pro Viewfinder App
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.
17. Sun Seeker App
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.
18. Celtx Software
For those who are serious about scriptwriting and video production, Celtx offers collaborative tools to improve the planning process. The Celtx platform includes writing tools, storyboards, budgeting, shot lists, scheduling, and expense tracking, starting at $15/month. With all those features, any filmmaker will be prepared for their next big shoot.
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.
19. Online Classes
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. Class passes start at $90.
20. Acting Classes
If the person you’re shopping for has to direct on-screen talent, acting classes could make for a great present.
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.
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.