Traveling internationally with gear is tough but here are some tips to make that particular headache a little less painful. Follow these eight suggestions and your camera and equipment have a better chance of arriving safely on location. Picture Credit: Boeing Co. Travelling comes with the job. We haul cameras up the side of mountains in Switzerland and pyramids in Peru. At event media pools we battle for tripod space. All of this to get the best shot. But for that to happen, the equipment has to arrive in the first place. Here are some tips to make that happen: 1. Booking Flights Be involved when booking flights. Not all plane types offer enough overhead space for stowing critical camera equipment. As a general rule of thumb, planes with two seats or more on either side of a central aisle will accommodate camera bags in the overhead compartments. If the plane has a single seat row on one side and a two-seat row on the other, then you have a problem. Flying on an aircraft with a single seat row on both sides of the aisle? BIG problem. Unless you are shooting with a Canon 5D MK III and two lenses only, you are going to have an issue. When picking flights, I’ll often hop over to SeatGuru.com to check seating/size of a particular flight. As a last resort, if I’m stuck on tiny planes I will build out the camera and keep it underneath my seat. This is far from ideal, as you’ll usually be forced to gate-check at least some glass under the cabin. 2. Packing Camera teams are known for many things, but traveling light is not one of them. My record for checked bags for a commercial project is 31. Yes, you read that right: 31. That’s a lot of black Pelican or Porta Brace cases piling up at the airport. It all starts with packing. When I pack, I build outwards from the camera, adding accessories as needed. First, I secure the most fragile parts: the camera bodies and lenses. As backup, I try to have enough equipment with me so that if there is an issue with misplaced checked bags, we’ll still be able to shoot doc-style handheld. I always carry on the camera and lenses. I never check them. If you’ve ever seen airline baggage handlers at work, you’ll know why I do this. Sometimes I think they take fragile stickers as a personal invitation to damage something. My favorite bag for smaller body cameras (Not Sony F55 or Alexa) is the Lowepro X200 AW. This bag fits in the overhead compartment of most airlines in the United States (though not small regional carriers) and it fits fine in overhead compartments on all the international flights I’ve taken. However, this bag is not great for traveling internationally in the EU. For that, go with a smaller backpack or shoulder bag. Note: Lithium batteries MUST be carried on as it is forbidden and even dangerous to check them when traveling. 3. Label Everything For trips with lots of checked bags, I always label gear bags individually and in order. Checked bag 1 would be labeled “1 of 31” if I have 31 total checked bags. (To label I use a big black Sharpie on white gaff tape) Checked bag two would be labeled “2 of 32” and so on. When the production crew lands in a new country, we lay out all the checked bags in sequence to make sure everything has arrived. Only when the total number of bags is confirmed do we load the vehicles. Understandably, after long flights, there is usually a rush to load the vehicle and get to the hotel. That’s when most bags are left behind. It’s important to take the time and not forget this important step. Also, don’t forget to label batteries and small pieces of kit. Every bit of loss & damage means more work and expense for you in the long run. My favorite label maker, the LetraTag LT 100-T Plus from Dymo, gets used almost every single day in my office. 4. Boarding Zone All airlines handle boarding zones a bit differently, but the main takeaway is this: if at all possible, board as soon as you can, especially when traveling internationally. In this era of sold out or even oversold flights, overhead space on most major airlines tends to fill up around Zone 3, and this means you are going to get into an argument with the flight attendant about gate-checking your $50,000 camera package. Many airlines let you pay a little extra to board near the front of the plane. My advice is it’s worth it. This increases the odds of your cameras getting to the destination in one piece. 5. Media Pass Not all airlines will accept it, but often having a media pass of some kind will translate to cheaper checked bags at the airport. Many networks will issue you these passes but with each pass being completely different, there is nothing to prevent your small production company of four employees from creating a media pass in Photoshop, laminating it and handing it to the airline employee during check-in. Sometimes the pass will not be accepted but you’ll be surprised how many times it will be, and that can save you and the production several hundred dollars. HERE is United Airlines’ policy and cost breakdown on media passes/credentials. 6. Insurance Insure your equipment with production-specific insurance when traveling internationally and make sure that your insurance covers damage, loss and theft outside of your country of origin. Depending on the length of your trip, production will generally be able to cover your equipment and you, but asking for proof of insurance in all cases is a best practice. 7. Carnet Picture Credit: Boomerang Carnets There is a specific document that is hated by production crews and camera ops everywhere. This document also confuses customs officials worldwide. It’s called a Carnet or ATA Carnet. A carnet is an import and export document that essentially states that the expensive equipment you are bringing into the country isn’t being brought in for sale. After you fill it out, the document lists all your gear plus a basic description of each item along with its serial number. At each country’s entry and exit point, customs officials are responsible for stamping and signing the document and verifying that the gear is in fact entering and/or leaving the country. In practice, most customs officials rarely check the gear and, if they do, they tend to check only a couple of batteries and then send you on your merry way. Using a carnet isn’t free as there is a cost to acquire the document, but it provides added peace of mind for the production, and in most countries it’s a necessity. Make sure that you get the document signed upon returning to your country of origin or you could be asked to pay a fine. On a six-country travel show last year we used this company to help us prepare our Carnet, but the leg work of recording all the serial keys off the gear still usually still falls on the camera and audio departments. 8. Power Usage Picture: Arild Vågen When I first started out my career as a shooter/producer, I had the privilege of filming at the beautiful Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey. With me was my trusty 4-light Arri kit, and my crew and I promptly got to work setting up lights in a side courtyard of this exquisite building. We plugged in the kit and promptly blew the circuits to part of this 1400-year-old wonder of the world. Lesson learned. I will never forget the electrician who took great pains to tell me in his native Turkish exactly what he thought. Take this to the bank: the power standards of my and your home country may not be the same. When planning out your lighting, especially for smaller documentaries, take a look at the power capabilities of the country where you are filming. If there is any doubt, I strongly suggest bringing a Litepanel 1×1 kit and filming using Gold or V-Mount battery adapters. You can charge the batteries at the hotel and not worry about plugging into whatever local power system you are dealing with on site. Note: These batteries may charge significantly slower in some countries, so plan accordingly when traveling internationally. Check out THIS handy site with voltage and adapter type for most countries. For narrative work, you’ll normally have a budget for local Grip and Electric, and they will be familiar with the power situation in the country. Did I miss anything? Share your traveling with gear tips below.Read more
The Pelican Air range of cases has been announced recently. Apparently, they boast all of the strength we’ve come to expect from Pelican while reducing the weight by up to 40% – winner. We had a chance to catch up with Pelican at NAB 2016 in Las Vegas and discuss the technology behind their lightweight and durable products. Pelican Air – lightweight and convenient solutions It looks as though Pelican are set to continue innovating their lightweight case technology and, as consumers, we’re going to continue to benefit from their commitment to reducing the effect gravity has on our poor legs. With the Pelican Air range and whatever comes next, we may finally see a time where every day isn’t legs day.Read more
Earlier this week we released an article on the top 10 camera kit stocking fillers for under $100, now its time to build your filmmakers tools box! Below are ten great items you should consider taking with you on set. #1 Sharpie $1.69 OK, so they won’t all be as boring and obvious as this. But who couldn’t be pleased with a Sharpie filling their stocking? All departments will make use of this one, which is exactly why you should carry a few spare as guaranteed they’ll go walkies on set. #2 S-Biner $3.38 The Carabiner is a great tool, but it’s less widely used S-Biner is equally useful item on set. Use it where ever you need quick access to an item or tool from both sides. I have one for my belt clip to carry around some camera tape for quick access, great for quick access to me or handing over to an assistant. #3 1/2″ Flourescent Tape Pack of 4 $7.95 What’s a camera setup nowadays without a healthy clad of fluorescent tape? I like the 1/2″ (12mm) stuff as it’s easy to carry around and store in your camera bag. This pack of 4 is essential, great for distinguishing one item for another; I’ve labelled up all my batteries and chargers with coloured tape so it’s much easier to pair. #4 Bean Bags $9.79 You’ll find most focus pullers carrying these around, but they’re useful for lots of different crew. These ones aren’t industry spec’d or anything, just simply bean bags toys. They’re great for setting markers for subjects and actors; simply throw them down on the floor. Quicker and less messy than tape, easy to to see for subjects hitting their mark, useful for visual effects cues also. #5 Rip Tie Carabiner $12.50 Familiar Carabiner clasp on one side and velcro strap on the other. Rip Tie Carabiners are a great for organising cables and accessories to mount of the side of a mag liner or hanging off the side of your field mixer where you need quick access. Good for keeping small items secure in the back of a travelling van also. Listed is a pack of two, I recommend grabbing a few pairs! #6 Gaff Tape Holder $14.95 Gone are the days of seeing John Wayne on a set, but this little tool ensures his legend still lives on. As an operator, I do just fine with my S-biner and 1/2″ camera tape, but for the gaffers and multi skilled assistants out there, this is the tool for your belt. Access to gaff tape is never quicker than with this bad boy. It only takes one hand to grab, very handy when you’re up a ladder. #7 Pelican Flashlight $22.58 Flashlights (or torch) are another very handy item to have on set, it took me a while to stop using my phone as my main portable utility light source. The Pelican Flashlight is well built, a quick button press on/off on the rear (faster than a twist) and has a belt clip on the side for safe attachment. #8 Gerber Multi-tool $31.79 A multi tool is absolutely essential for anyone in the technical side of filmmaking. The Gerber gets the nod here as it has open facing tools, meaning you don’t have to open the jaws of the pliers to gain access to your driver heads, knife, scissors etc. This particular one has a great fold out carabiner too. #9 Lastolite Grey and White Pop Out Card $32.88 I don’t go anywhere without this bit of kit. Grey card on one side, white card on the other. It’s compact (12″/30 cm) and pops out like a mini reflector, very useful for obtaining critical exposure and white balance. I find it particularly useful for setting the white balance of Sony Alpha and FS cameras that can be a little more challenging with colour in mixed temperature lighting. #10 X Rite Color Checker Passport Another tool permanently residing in my tool bag, the X Rite Color Checker Passport is a very compact, folding color chart and great card. I find the Lastolite easier to use as a grey card, but the X Rite comes into it’s own as offering a portable solution for color reference; it’s literally the size of a passport. Next up will be our top 10 for Kit Bag stocking fillers, a personal favourite of mine. If you have any useful items of your own that you’d like to share, please add them in the comments below!Read more
Yes this CF card case costs only $12 and it still does what these cases should do with a long time quality. These CF and SD cards are rugged pieces of plastic, but it doesn’t hurt to have an additional layer of ruggedness around them. After all they hold our precious footage. Cases like these will not only protect the cards from brutality, but also from water and dust and most importantly keep them all in one place so they don’t get lost easily. I tend to throw my cards into the smallest pocket of my camera bag and I never had problems with that technique, but when I’m on an important shoot I like to have a safe place and use these cases. [polldaddy poll=5213219] The $12 noname CF card case from ebay is great. I’ve used it a lot and while the rubber is wearing off a little it still holds CF in place and the quality is very good. It feels solid and not cheap at all.You can get it on ebay (US) and here (EU 8€) (shipping included) I can also tell you that the case above doesn’t hold SD cards very well. For SD you should get another case like ebay (US) or here (EU) (not tested) If you’re interested in these cases but don’t want them shipped from China, here are several other affordable items from B&H: Gepe Card Safe $19 Gepe Card Safe Mini $13 HPRC Crushproof $24 Pelican Case for 8 SD $20 Pelican Case for CF $20 (Maybe we can get some more together in the comments)Read more
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