The easiest way to save time while on set is to arrive organized. Pre-production doesn’t stop at the script level. It’s a thorough process that runs all the way up to what goes in your bags. This requires thinking about how you operate, what you need (and don’t need), and what makes sense to you. While it helps to be generic so others can catch on to your madness, what matters most is that you know where your gear is and how to access it as quickly as possible.
The standard way to organize is to start off with the tools you need. A pelican case with dividers (or custom foam set) is a perfect solution for keeping your gear organized and protected. Another simple solution is a bag that comes with dividers pre-installed. Many camera bags come with configurable dividers that can be customized to your liking. Utilizing their organizing capabilities can go a long way when keeping your gear in order.
But what if you already have a bag but don’t have divider sets? Many manufacturers make replacement divider sets for their bags (or their dividers might just fit other bags, too). Using divided pouches and bags to organize your gear is just as quick and efficient. Having a bunch of gear in a single bag is great, if you can find what you’re looking for quickly. Using bags and pouches with built-in organizers can help. Many times, they’ll even slot into a larger bag for easier transportation.
Take Think Tank Photo’s Cable Management series, for example. The Cable Management series are durable pouches that have built in dividers to hold some of your basic gear. Clear, plastic windows on the front allow you to see what your contents are immediately without having to guess. Some pre-wrapped cables and your light meter might be the contents of one pouch. Or you might choose to use one as your bag for your spare batteries and chargers. They come in three different sizes, so they have something for most scenarios. Pack the pouch and add it to your gear bag for easy access to essential tools.
Another option comes from Tenba’s line of Tools collection. Similar to the Think Tank Photo pouches, the Cable Duo pouches add built-in elastic loops for cable management (no more Velcro ties, which is cool) and a whole second side for generic packing. Both sides have the plastic window, so you can still see what’s in the pouch without opening it up. It’ll be a bit thicker, due to the second side, but you’ll have more room for gear in the same pouch.
Staying with the Tenba Tools collection, if you want to organize with dividers but don’t want to have a full bag, the Tool Box series is up your alley. Tenba took the functionality of a divided bag (like their awesome line of camera bags) and made it into a stand-alone pouch. Their largest model, the Tool Box 8, starts out with 11 separate compartments, perfect for GoPro cameras and accessories. But then, of course, the dividers are adjustable and removable to create your own configuration. Lenses, small camera bodies, flashes, light meters, and even wireless mic packs fit. With the same plastic window on the front, you still see what you have.
So, can you just purchase a bag with pouches that come included?
Cinebags does a great job with their production bags to include a variety of removable pouches. They don’t have plastic windows, but they have belt loops so they can be added to a belt, so that gives them a bit more functionality than just an organizing pouch.
On a different end of the spectrum, Tenba has their Shootout Actionpack 14L that is specifically designed for GoPro shooters that are on the go. What looks like a simple backpack with the capability to have a water reservoir inside, actually contains 4 individual organizing pouches that are designed to hold your various GoPro Cameras and accessories. If you want the functionality of a day pack and the ability to organize a large amount of small accessories in one pack, this pack could easily used to organize and transport tools for set work without looking like a camera bag.
The phrase “time is money” couldn’t be more true on set. No matter if it is just you and your client or on a set of hundreds of people, if someone has to wait on you for anything, you’re wasting time and someone is forming an opinion of your work. The pouches and bags mentioned can help you get organized and ready for set life.