4 Tools My iPhone Will Never Replace

I write a lot about gear and production for a couple of reasons:

  1. I love the topic
  2. We travel quite a bit and we always have to be prepared no matter what, no matter how long the shoot runs, and I like sharing the gear decisions that have been galvanized during field production.

We are huge fans of technology and of course we all have smart phones. They are a godsend for production. Smartphones keep us connected and they provide amazing assistance with specialized apps. You can use your smart phone for almost anything.

But…that's not always a great idea.

Here are four tools my iPhone will never replace:

#1 A GPS:

IanBlog_GPS.jpgWe love Waze for navigation, but it has its limitations. For example, the longest trip you can take with Waze is 500 miles. And there limited points of interest available, too, which means when you are looking for a gas station or restaurant unless you google the address you are out of luck. Also, you'll need to be in an area will cell coverage as opposed to GPS which uses satellites, in most cases this isn't a problem, but some of our shoots take us well outside cell phone coverage.

But the biggest set back occurs when you get a phone call during your drive. Your navigation and your contact will talk to you at the same time. Worst case, you'll miss a turn or an important piece of information. Best case, you'll be annoyed.

I use a Tom Tom standalone GPS. I program my entire itinerary into the device before I start my trip. When I land and get my rental car, I already have the hotel destination and all my locations loaded and ready to go.

Best of all it's hands free. I'm not using valuable battery life on my phone on an extended or unexpected drive to a location.

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#2 A Watch /Chronograph:

It's funny to me, but it seems that nobody wears watches anymore, especially college kids.

At MediaBoss we require our interns to wear a watch on set and that's because we don't allow talent or crew phones on set. They can cause interference with microphones and the inevitable "I swear I turned it to silent!" can ruin the best take of the day. Not to mention, "I was just checking my texts" and the middle of the scene phone-drop. The risks are just not necessary.

A simple, inexpensive watch with chronograph and lighted numbers is an amazing asset. It keeps everyone coordinated and also keeps crew from taking hands off gear or cameras for time checks.

Speaking of time checks, watches are also great when the pushy PR person tries to cut short your 5 minute celebrity interview by 2 minutes. By the time you get your phone out to argue, they are already walking off the set.

Having a watch has saved me from that situation more than once.

#3 A Flashlight


In a pinch the flashlight function of your phone is great, but it's not ideal for extended use.

It drains the battery and takes away the use of one of your hands, making you less useful especially during load out.

At night or in a club, you'll need both hands free and a powerful long-lasting light.

There are a million options, but I like a smaller flashlight with variable intensity and a clip that I can hold in my teeth (gaffers tape is helpful here.) Another option is a headstrap mounted light, which we also keep in our grip bag, it's a great tool in those situations.

#4 A Multi-Tool w/Knife


I know. Smartphones don't have knives. But that's the point. I can't tell you the number of times our crew has saved the day because we have a knife or multi-tool. I never go on set without one.

Whether a screw needs tightening or a thread needs to be cut off somebody's wardrobe, your phone is completely useless.


Sometimes we rely on our smart devices too much.

It's always the little things that hold up a shoot and by being prepared you can do a better job keeping the gremlins at bay.

As always, everything goes in a backpack which goes on every shoot, everytime.

Obviously, we bring more gear than that - a lot more - but these are a great start.

Ian Barrett

Ian Barrett is an award-winning director with 25 years experience Directing and Producing original content for television and film and web.


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