Enough about me. Let's talk about my stuff. Page after page all we ever really read about is industry gear, but we all know that there are many other non-industry specific tools that go into getting your average production completed; this month I've been asked to rant a little bit about my stuff. Besides, with tax day just around the corner you probably need some good write-off ideas anyway.
Let's start with the obvious must-have tool of just about every production, no matter how big: computers. Laptops are strewn about a production site like No. 2 pencils these days, and given the processing power that's available to us in such small packages there's no wonder why.
I'm a recent convert to the Macintosh cult so my current laptop of choice is Apple's 17" PowerBook G4. It handles all of my standard needs such as email, spreadsheets, and word processing as well as many of my more processor-intensive tasks such as digital content creation and conceptual design rendering. On top of all that, running the VirtualPC program allows me to run many of the industry-specific programs that are only made for the Microsoft Windows OS. Tweaking WYSIWYG drawings, referencing Wholehog®PC showdisks, and even using MA Lighting's grandMA On PC software to network directly with consoles can all be done from my laptop these days, even when I'm on a Mac.
When more serious processing power is needed I turn to my desktop computer, a Power Mac G5 with an amount of RAM that I would have thought to be ridiculous just a little over a year ago. Coupled with a 23" display, this computer cuts through my larger renderings in a fraction of the time that it would take the trusty PowerBook. This aluminum monstrosity has been given a new Pelican case to keep it secure when traveling and has now become a standard piece of luggage on some of my longer trips.
Long-term stays in cities away from home are an all too common occurrence in our line of work and there are several toys I take along to make work more enjoyable. This might seem trivial, but you have no idea how vital this stuff can be on the road. I have a standard set of things that I always take with me, which include pictures of my wife, step-daughter, and dog. These are the simple things that I like to have in my hotel room to remind me of home no matter what the length of stay might be. However, on most extended stays I find that it's great to have some of the other things from home that I wouldn't normally be given at a hotel or job site.
One of my favorite pieces of kit these days is my mountain bike. Honestly, it can be really great to have a bike at your immediate disposal even if it's just to get away for a little while and clear your head. I currently use Montague's Hummer Tactical Mountain Bike. This bicycle was originally created as a Defense Advanced Research Projects (DARPA) project for US Marine paratroopers. The goal was to create a bike for rugged desert use that could be folded up like a Swiss-army knife and tied to the bottom of a parachute pack for skydiving insertions. Since I prefer to land at my destinations via tarmac these days, I've opted to accessorize my bike with its Airliner Case. The case checks in as luggage and has removable casters to aid in getting it to and from the baggage claim.
A very recent addition to my favorite long-term trip toys is Microsoft's XBox. Yes, I admit it: I've broken 30 years old, and I still play video games. According to statistics I'm a healthy, well-adjusted male, which can only mean that everyone else is just as screwed up as I am. My newfound XBox obsession has spawned from a chance encounter of playing a game titled Halo2 on XBox Live, Microsoft's online gaming community that enables players around the world to challenge each other over the Internet. More importantly, I'm able to play against some of my closest friends back home while on the road. There are few things more satisfying than screaming, “How ya like me now?” at Johnny and Frank while I blow them up from the other side of the planet.
So now you're saying, “Dierson's off on another tangent again and there's no way he could possibly use this on a production”…Wrong! This baby plays DVDs and I can review rehearsal DVDs, write out accurate cueing by reviewing SMTPE time code stamps on content, as well as preview conceptual storyboard DVDs all from the comfort of my hotel room. It's also a lot nicer to review this type of stuff on a large TV instead of the laptop screen.
Some of the most useful tools on the job are the ones that we take for granted. My cell phone is one of my indispensable pieces of equipment. I'm on a record second year in a row with the same model cell phone, the PalmOne Treo 600. This all-in-one phone and PDA combo carries my daily life's information in it. When the call for the next booking comes in I can check availability, block in the dates, and instantly access the phone numbers of crew personnel that I want to have booked on the gig, or a suggested replacement for myself if the dates are already booked. There's no racing to my backpack to find an organizer or the annoying response to a producer asking if it's possible to just call him back later. The info is instantly available. Add to that the PalmOS-based programs that can calculate beam angle, beats-per-minute, currency exchanges, global positioning, time-zone changes, and email and you've got one extremely powerful device in your back pocket.
One piece of equipment that I'm growing more dependent on every day is my digital camera. For most purposes a small digital camera works fine and choosing the right one really depends on what you intend to do with it. I tend to have higher requirements than most when it comes to digital imaging so I've been carrying Canon's EOS-1D Mark II digital SLR. With an 8.2 mega-pixel CMOS sensor and a host of standard Canon lens options, I can scale it to whatever the task at hand may be whether it's taking shots of raster image alignments or the basis of my next batch of digital content for the production.
It's amazing what we take for granted these days. When you think that less than a decade ago we weren't running around the planet with cell phones, email, or digital cameras you tend to wonder how things ever got done. Perhaps people just pedaled their folding bikes harder to get their tele-faxes delivered faster.