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
As part of our aim to strengthen the connection between us and our readers, we decided to give our talented audience out there a stage to express themselves and share their success stories in our new weekly TALENT FEATURE. We hope that with time, these guest posts will become a source of inspiration to our colleagues wherever they are. If you are interested in participating, please upload your video to our VIDEOLOG and follow the rest of the submission process by reading the information here. (Intro by Johnnie Behiri) Ben Hamner and AJ Aguirre are two filmmakers from Texas working to make a living doing what they love. Their shared passion for film led them to create their own production company, Round III Media, in June of 2015. They set out to create the highest quality travel, lifestyle, and action sports on the web. Their first video together was viewed over 36 million times, and their YouTube channel Round III now has over 110,000 subscribers. Over the past year, Round III has made videos for Mercedes Benz, Samsung, Goose Island Brewery, and more. Name and age: AJ Aguirre (25) & Ben Hamner (20) Currently based in: Dallas, TX Language (s) spoken? English Occupation? Full time filmmakers with Round III. How did you get started in our industry? Ben and I both got started making videos at a young age and were mostly interested in filming action sports. We both filmed a variety of wakeboarding, wakesurfing, skateboarding, etc.. That is where we learned to shoot and edit. Fast forward many years, I had just graduated from Baylor, and Ben was finishing his freshman year when his brother introduced us. We quickly found that we had similar passions and filming styles, and decided to invest everything we had to form Round III Media. Our first video together was “BSR Super Slide The Royal Flush in 4k” which launched in June of 2015. It went instantly viral on YouTube, getting over a million views in its first 24 hours and being featured on news and entertainment shows around the globe. That gave us the confidence that we were really onto something, so Ben decided to take time off from school to pursue Round III full time, and we have spent that last year traveling and filming with our friends. Current assignments: This summer we’ve had the incredible opportunity to work with Samsung to experiment and create content with their new prototype 360 VR camera. We’ll be launching a skydiving 360 VR experience on Facebook and Youtube later this month. We’ve also been working very hard on a new project for our channel that we’ll be releasing in the next few weeks. We can’t say very much about it now, except that it’s unlike anything we have done before and we’re really excited for everyone to see it. What types of productions do you mostly shoot? We focus on high quality 4K travel/adventure and extreme sports productions. Skydiving is starting to be one of our specializations, as there aren’t many people in the world jumping out of planes with Red cameras. We’ve since added Nicholas Lott to our crew, who is our highly experienced camera flyer and capable to fly it. We hope to someday film for Hollywood and other large productions in need of skydiving videography. What is your dream assignment / job in our industry, and what are you really passionate about? We are very passionate about filming unique experiences and capturing them in a way that isn’t your typical GoPro video. We would love to make an “Art of Flight” type movie someday: that is our main goal and dream right now. BrainFarm is a huge inspiration for both of us. We are always writing down ideas for things that have never been done before, and we’re working hard to get the funding and resources needed to make them a reality. Fingers crossed! In the work that you are presenting us, now that it is done, what would you have done differently throughout the production? We would have planned the video out somewhat beforehand! We literally just booked travel with our close friends and filmed EVERYTHING we got into. We are very against making fake experiences or fake emotions for the camera so there was never any directing really. “Action” is not a word in our vocabulary. We just shoot. Which is why we ended up with a little more than 15 hours of footage that we had to sort through for our Summer Dreams video. Sitting down and editing that into a story was the biggest puzzle of our life. I can’t even begin to calculate how much time we spent editing and picking through different versions before finally settling on the edit that we released. What current camera, lenses and sound equipment do you use? Red Epic Canon 14mm f/2.8 Zeiss 50mm f/1.4 (my favorite) Canon 85mm f/1.2 Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 II What’s is your favorite light equipment and why did you choose that kit over other solutions? For the type of shoots we do, we generally stick to natural lighting as we are always on the move. Do you use drones or gimbals in your productions? If so, what is the most effective way you’ve found to deploy them? In the past, we’ve used the DJI Ronin, but recently upgraded to a MōVI for weight and headache savings. Over the last year we’ve worked our way through several DJI Phantom 3 Pros, but are looking to upgrade to an Alta soon. For deploying, it just depends on the situation, usually we have someone hold it as we take off, as that is more fun and gets others involved. What editing systems do you use? Premiere Pro, After Effects and DaVinci Resolve. How much of your work do you shoot in Log and what is your preferred way of colour correcting? We shoot everything in RAW, and color grade starting with the RedLog color profile. Color grading is my absolute favorite part of editing. How frequently do you travel, and do you have any tips when it comes to packing your gear? In the peak of filming, we are traveling weekly for a couple of months. Currently we are only traveling maybe once a month while we are working on our current projects locally. When we do travel, we LOVE our Pelican carry-on cases. Our main tip would be to really consider what needs 1-2 inches of foam around it and what doesn’t. That space adds up quick and when you’re on the move, you can’t carry multiple cases and bags efficiently or cheaply. We initially underestimated the benefit of traveling as light as possible. If you want to learn more about Ben Hamner and AJ Aguirre creative’s work, head over to their home page. Participate in our initiative: share your talent and creative work by following these steps.Read more
In conclusion of our top 10 must-have gear posts we look at Kit Bag Stocking Fillers. Christmas is literally days away but there’s still time to cram in a few extra presents in those stockings! Check out our favourite list of sub $100 for your kit bag. #1 AA Battery Pack Holder $4.95 AA batteries are still pretty popular in gear, particularly sound kit and compact lighting. Their universal nature means there’s rarely a shoot location where AAs aren’t available to purchase close by. Battery holders like this not only help keep your bag organised, but it can help catalogue AAs in accordance to how much charge level they have. These are handy because they come in different colours and sizes. The different colours means you can buy a variety that can signify the charge levels left in a particular set. Fresh ones goes in a green holder, barely used in an yellow and so on.. #2 Think Tank Red Whips $7.95 If there were a candidate for my favourite piece of kit from all three articles, these may be it. Think Tank Red Whips have become an integral part of my kit bag. Billed mainly as cable organisers to which they do a fantastic job, but highly useful in a number of scenarios. A simply bungee chord and toggle tensioner ensure you can quickly coil and secure your cables, being bright red they are hard to lose also. This is a pack of 10 but go nuts, once you start dividing them up among your kit you’ll want more and more. #3 Tenba Messenger Wrap $13.95 Ever have that odd shaped bit of kit that you really struggle to fit properly in any of your bags? Or maybe you travel a lot and try to squeeze precious bits of kit into your personal clothes bag without padded dividers. The Tenba Messenger Wraps solve your un-protected gear woes. Quite simply their big padded clothes with velcro on each corner, wrap your gear up and you’re good to go, genius. They come in 3 sizes – 10″,16″ and 22″ and a selection of colours accommodating small items like a mic shock mount up to a Macbook Pro. #4 Cocoon Grid It This clever organiser comes in varying shapes and sizes. It’s an elastic grid which neatly presents your accessories. You can arrange each Grid It in a number of different ways according to your preference. I have one for my card readers and another for laptop accessories. #5 Pixel Pocket Rocket $16.75 No better way to keep cards organised on the go than the Pixel Pocket Rockets by Think Tank. They cater for a combination of SD, Micro SD, Compact Flash and CFast cards, simply pick the one that suits you best. They have a belt clip to ensure the wallet stays with you at all times and a clear window for each card so that you can quickly identity them. I use a simple and popular technique of having cards facing out for clean, and reversed for ones with full data on. #6 Cable Roll Up The cable roll up is a great way to organise your cables, whether they’re HDMIs and BNCs for you camera kit or USB3s and Thunderbolt adaptors for your laptop. It’s useful for pens and other small accessories like lens cleaners too. #7 Think Tank Battery Holder $17.75 These have been around for a while, I’ve used them since shooting video on the 5D back in the day. Originally listed for Canon DSLR LP-E6s, but I’ve found they loosely fit Sony Alpha batteries too. These are a great way to store your batteries, airport security will be happy each terminal is isolated from another and you can easily install a forwards/backwards facing procedure for full and empties. #8 Think Tank Cable Management 10 Think Tank clearly invest a lot of time into making useful kit bag accessories, here’s another one of their products. The Cable Management bags are very useful, clear front for easily recognizing accessories inside and a nice little pouch on the back for a business card. I keep my lav mic kit in the Cable Management 10 and use the business card holder for storing spare batteries. #9 Tenba Toolbox 4 Another accessories bag worth checking out is the Tenba Toolbox 4. Slightly more substantial than the Cable Management bags with a more rigged side and padded inserts. It also has a clear lid and has a set of elastic loops on one side for securing bits and bobs. #10 Tenba BYOB 7 Camera Insert #29.95 Our final item is the Tenba BYOB camera insert. This is the perfect accessory for keeping your kit organised in a bag without dividers. Whether you’re travelling and want to keep it all in a personal traveller or just like your more fashionable bags! Another great use is when paired with the Packlite Shoulder bags, these are fantastic for travel and getting over the headache of paying for an extra bag as carry on. Check out our article here for more on that. The BYOB range come in a variety of sizes, each present a healthy selection of divider sections, clear zip pockets, business card holders and loops for lanyard accessories. That’s it for our Top 10 lists for Camera, Tools and Kit bags.If you haven’t already check out Part 1 on Camera Kit and Part 2 on Tools. I hope you’ve enjoyed them and have a great festive period!Read more
Tenba has designed a new line of shoulder bags that fold into literally no space or weight. The Packlite line comes in 4 sizes and coupled with their BYOB camera inserts offer a highly portable over-the-shoulder system. I found myself quietly applauding the above video as I watched the Packlite unveil. I have the very same dilemma every time I travel for work. Every ounce counts when packing your gear for abroad shoots, and it often means compromising on common workflows you’d undergo on home soil. As a self-sufficient shooter a shoulder bag is a necessity for carrying extra lenses, batteries etc. But it’s one thing that can be a pain to pack, adding size and weight to your luggage. The Tenba Packlite solves this problem, a shoulder bag folding down into a palm sized package; it’s reminiscent of those ponchos you buy at theme parks to stay dry on water rides. But how does something so lightweight keep your gear protected and safe? Well, the Packlite does need an insert in order to work. Tenba make a line of BYOB camera inserts for each of the 4 sized Packlite bags. Some may think this defeats the purpose of a collapsible bag, but providing you’re doubling up the duty of your inserts in your main bag (by slotting in a Tenda BYOB insert) you’re saving a lot of space. Tenba Packlites are made of water repellent nylon and feature self-healing YKK zippers. The 4 sizes can carry anything from a mirrorless camera plus a couple of lenses up to a full sized DSLR with spare 70-200mm lens; there’s even a cold cooler insert if you want to switch your camera gear out for some beers. Tenba Packlite and BYOB inserts are sold separately; you’d need to buy both to get the complete package. For those interested I’ve paired the below items into their 4 respective sizes. Packlite 7. Bag | Insert. Mirrorless Camera plus 2-3 lenses Packlite 9. Bag | Insert. Mirrorless or compact DSLR plus 2-3 lenses Packlite 10. Bag | Insert. Mirrorless or DSLR plus 2-3 lenses Packlite 13. Bag | Insert. DSLR plus 2-3 lenses inc. 70-200mm size.Read more
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