Video Gear for Traveling Road Warriors and Frequent Flyers
Do you frequently travel with your camera? Here are a few pieces of must-have support video gear for traveling video pros.
Even seasoned traveling videographers and filmmakers can get stressed out when it comes time to pack up their gear. Check out this checklist of essential video gear for shooters on the move, plus some rules and tricks for getting through security faster.
Image from Philip Bloom
Depending on your location, you may not have access to electricity while you are shooting. Make sure you’re charged up and have plenty of batteries before arriving. Also, traveling with batteries is a huge pain in airports. You need to carry-on all of your batteries. Don’t put batteries in your checked luggage unless you want dogs sniffing your bags before a SWAT team destroys it.
You need to know each batteries wattage as well. As long as each individual battery is under 100 Watts, then you shouldn’t have any problems in the airport. Passengers are only allowed to carry 2 batteries that are over 100 Watts. Also, make it a habit to put some gaff tape over the connection points. It puts security at ease, and will helpfully help you get through checkpoints faster.
Don’t forget that you will also need to charge all those batteries when you make it back to a hotel. Be sure to bring battery chargers and surge protectors. If necessary, bring quality travel adapters, car chargers, and/or portable usb chargers for your phone and laptop.
If you find yourself low on power in the middle of nowhere, you may have to get creative. Check out this video from Tim Johnson at Whitespace Films. He figured out a way to use his Canon LP-E6 batteries to power his Sony a7s.
Wait. So the first two things on a travel list are batteries and memory cards? YES! You will need a lot of them. It’s always better to have too many memory cards rather than not enough. If the cost of memory cards is a factor, then invest in a portable hard drive or at least some thumb drives. You’ll definitely want an external hard drive that does not need power. Just keep in mind that if you are constantly dumping footage in the middle of nowhere, your laptop battery will die. Are you starting to see the vicious cycle here?
Don’t forget that you will also need a memory card reader. You’ll also want the cables to connect your card reader and hard drive as well. Bring an extra cable or two. They can get damaged or just stop working. If you are dumping footage straight to your laptop, you’ll certainly want to remember your laptop charger.
Light kits are actually a hot topic among travelers. Some swear by packing them, and some tell you to rent on location instead. I fall in the middle category. If you are going somewhere that you can easily rent a light kit, it’s usually the better option. If you are traveling to remote areas without plumbing, you may have a hard time finding a rental house.
I found the easiest thing to take are cheap video lights. If they get damaged in transport, it’s not a big deal. You can grab a cheap $30 video light and get by. It’s also a good idea to pack a flashlight or headlamp. A headlamp will help you search for gear in dark locations — and (if you are in a pinch) you can use that as a video light. Combine a cheap $30 light, a flashlight, and a cell phone, and you have the cheapest three point lighting system. Hey… if it works, it works.
Don’t forget that lights need batteries. VICIOUS CYCLE!
Any videographer should know how important it is to have stable footage. Having stable footage while traveling becomes a real challenge. You’re most likely trying to pack as lightly as possible. You don’t want to carry around too much gear if you are hiking up mountains. Heck, I don’t even like trying to get all my gear to my car in the driveway. Compact is key.
The type of shoot you’re on will determine what you need to bring. I am a big fan of monopods for travelers. They are so much easier to work with than just about anything else. If you are going to need a slider, then a monopod won’t cut it. I frequently use the travel size Kessler Stealth slider when I am abroad. It’s small enough to fit in my check bag, and I can carry it around pretty easily on location. If you are using a slider, you will also need to grab a travel tripod. Be sure that it can support the weight of the camera, lens, and slider. (Author’s Note: I am not sponsored by Kessler. I just give them my money.)
A Glidecam is another option to stabilize your footage. Glidecams come apart fairly easily and are easy to pack. The difficult part is knowing how many counter weights you need to pack for you camera. You’ll really start to question yourself for carrying actual weights around in your bag. MoVI and Ronin are other choices as well, but I find that they don’t travel very well. They’re fantastic tools, but not the best for long distance.
When I say cleaning kit, I don’t mean just for your camera. Yes, you will need microfiber wipes, sensor wipes, cleaning solution, a brush, and a dust blower. Go ahead a grab a nifty little cleaning kit like this one from Giottos.
On top of camera cleaning kit, don’t forget a first aid kit too. Don’t go for the cheap kind with bandages that slide right off. Invest in a decent quality kit, one that has alcohol wipes. You’ll never know when you’ll get a cut or roll an ankle. True story: I once partially dislocated my kneecap when traveling for a shoot. I got checked out and then hobbled my way to a drug store to buy pain pills and a knee brace. I spent the next day hopping around while shooting. Now my first aid kit always includes aspirin and a compression wrap.
While on the topic of cleaning, don’t forget to pack toilet paper if you are going to a very remote location. You can even use it in the airport instead of relying on the so called paper that their bathrooms offer. In very remote locations, you’ll also want bug spray and sunscreen.
Finding the right bags and cases for traveling is going to be a trial and error process. It’s different for every person. The one thing I can certainly say is this: rolling bags are great for checked items and to get things to a hotel room. Other than that, they will be a curse. A rolling bag should never be your primary bag. Find yourself a quality backpack that you can wear all day long.
Another thing to consider is your location. If you will be in a big city, thieves are on the lookout for camera bags and gear. Sometimes it’s best to use an inconspicuous hiking backpack. One that can still store the gear you need. You don’t always have to have a lens placed safely in a foam cube. You can wrap it in a t-shirt and be just fine.
Messenger bags are great for when you don’t have to carry much gear at once. That’s why they are so popular amongst photographers who only need a camera, lens, and maybe a tripod. But if you are hiking long distances, do yourself a favor and properly balance your weight with a backpack. That audio equipment, laptop, and all the extra gear will take its toll on your body as you get tired.
Bonus: Waterproof Jacket
A rain jacket is always handy. Obviously it’s great for rain, but you can also use it to cover up your gear. If the sun is beating down on you and you can’t see your monitor or screen, you can use a rain jacket to make a monitor hood. When packing for travel, always think of multiple uses for everything you have. Then you will save yourself the trouble of packing too much.
Got any other must-have video gear in your travel kit? Share your knowledge in the comments below!