Packing for an out of town trip to shoot video. Help?

Ben with homemade fluorescent lighting fixture. 
Yes, bungies and tape. 

I've been working on a video project for a technology company. We just found out that we have the opportunity to interview one of the biggest users of the technology company's new, flagship product. But the opportunity is a small window of time and the location of the interviewee is Chicago and not Austin. We're booked to head out early on Thursday. We hit the ground and go straight to the venue in which we'll be conducting the interview. Then we set up, light and get to work. We'll have two hours with the customer company's representative and then we wrap up. We may have the opportunity to also do some b-roll...

So here's what I'm looking for from the readers of the VSL blog today: Advice on packing for a one man video crew. 

My reactive brain tells me to fit everything into two pieces of luggage. One would be my carry on camera bag with the cameras, lenses, microphones and iPad. The second would be my hulking Pelican case (checked, of course!) filled with three portable light stands, a downsized tripod with a small fluid head, four battery powered LED panels and my trusty Fiilex P360 LED light. Oh yeah, also a change of clothes and a toothbrush...maybe some floss.

I'd love to carry more but it's just me getting through the airport and into a taxi and back to the airport and all that. Adding a stand bag would give me more space in the Pelican case but it adds another carry-able component to lose, carry and drag around. 

Here's the problem: One guy. The need for good interview lighting. The need for high portability and speedy transitions (almost sounds like a triathlon..). The need to get all the gear on an off planes (one big and one commuter...). And the need to arrive with all the components intact. If you've had experience doing this (or not) chime in and let me know how you'd handle it. 


Humzai said...

Only thing I can recommend is pack bag within a bag for the carry on. Have a smaller bag that has the essentials in it to remove if needed.

You can also just use packing cubes so that when your overstuffed bag won't fit you tell the air steward that I got this, it'll become smaller. Then you turn your giant bag into a bunch of small ones.

How long is your stay? Sounds like a layover. Any chance you can grab coffee with some readers?

Why not hire a local assistant or geek so that you don't have so much to do on what sounds like an important interview.

I also think you might able to get some readers to help for free. Hint hint.

John M Flores said...

Whatever you pack, just make sure that you can still get the job done if your check-in luggage doesn't arrive. So two cameras, mics, LED, reflector, tripod, and maybe a SuperClamp to secure the LED to a chair or table. Also, identify a camera shop in the city you're going to, just in case, and add enough time to the schedule to put together a plan B.

That's what I'd do at least. Good luck!

Kirk Tuck said...

Good advice from John and Humzai. Sadly there's no way to carry on the tripod which is my biggest concern...

I'd love to take an assist but this came up really quickly and we (client and I) go from the airport to the client's location, shoot and then return. Assist not as necessary as the tripod and light. No time scheduled for luggage mishaps or assists. Yikes.

Humzai said...

It sounds like what you really need is to buy a compact tripod that you can travel with.

I recently bought a 3lt brian. http://www.3leggedthing.com/tripods/travel-tripods.html?cat=125

It's quite compact and you should be able to carry it on.

You really need a backup plan. What area of the city will you be in?

rick-pick said...

Flying from London to rural France to film a peace festival last summer we (two of us) carried on our cameras - GH2 and GH3 - and a small flight case with extra lenses and audio equipment. Tripods (photographic Manfrotto and Slik with fluid heads) fit into the bottom of one bag of checked luggage along with our clothes and other stuff. Worked great and such fun to be able to do it so simply.


Kirk Tuck said...

Humzai, I sent you an e-mail. Thank you!

Rick-Pick, That's about the way I'm planning. Love the Panasonics and being able to take two along in carry-on is......soothing.

Will see if I can stash a second, smaller tripod in my client's luggage.

Re Welch said...

I'd suggest shipping some of the gear 2-day or overnight via a major carrier (UPS, FedEx) and charge the cost to the client. The essentials would be hand-carried on the plane. Another way to go is to arrange with a Chicago supplier to rent & have delivered some of the gear directly to where you'll be working.

typingtalker said...

FedEx the third box of equipment? Ship it two days early for pickup at the FedEx office or for delivery to your hotel.

Dave said...

Re Welch kind of beat me to it. Hire an assistant in Chicago to rent and set up stuff for the shoot so you're just handling the shooting when you get there. An assistant would do you good even if you decide to schlep all the stuff yourself.

Kepano said...

+1 on hiring a local assistant if you can. Unless the client you mentioned wouldn't mind giving you a hand. I was fortunate to have one of my client's staff helping on a recent trip to shoot interviews on Kauai.

What/how to pack, is an obsession of mine, as I travel a lot for my work.

Obviously, any item you cannot be without is carried on with you. That includes redundancy of key items (body, mic, lens, battery, cards, etc.)

Beyond that, you absolutely want to have some form of camera support in your carry-on in case the checked luggage doesn't make it. Lashed to my bag is a Benro A1690T Travel Angel tripod. It has an okay ball head (not fluid), which is fine for static interview shots and serves as my B camera sticks (CU shot of interviewee). If the good tripod doesn't make it, this tripod becomes A camera sticks. Hard to describe, but the way it folds makes it very compact (under 16 inches closed) without sacrificing much stability (within its class).

I was worried about the spiked feet, but I've checked this tripod on a number of trips without any problems. What usually slows down the X-Ray machine are all the batteries and cables jammed in my bag...

I also have a larger Joby Gorilla Pod in my bag. Can be set on a table or chair or wrapped on a door for an extra camera angle or light.

My carry-on kit also includes a Shure VP83F - think of this as a slightly larger Rode VideoMic Pro with built in recorder. My VideoMic Pro is now the backup to the Shure. I carry a pair of Rode Lavs and Sennheiser G3 wireless sets, though if only one person is being interviewed, I would leave one of the wireless kits at home. I bring an XLR cable and required MiCon adapters as backup. Tascam DR-100 for audio if I'm using my GH2s, as there's no audio monitoring, and I NEED audio monitoring. If I'm shooting with a proper camcorder with proper XLRs, I have less stuff to worry about...

If interviewing in a location where you cannot control the sound, a stick dynamic mic is a solid backup. I just did a series of interviews at a conference, and my Rode Reporter saved the day. Probably not the image you want for a corporate, but good to have as a fall-back.

I have a 312 LED and a Switronix LED Bolt in my carryon as well.

That all seems like a lot, but the cameras are so small (compared to my Nikon D3s and attendant lenses), that there's a lot of room in my bag.

My checked luggage will include my larger tripods and stands. Depending on the job, I can get away with the Manfrotto Nano stands or the 1050 BAC which I like because they stack. I also just added Matthews Road Rags and Mini Grip kits to my setup. Don't know how I lived without them before!

The 900LED panels will fit in a carryon sized roller if you take off the yoke (don't lose the little bits!). You can also get V-Lock to Sony NP adapters for the 900LED, which is great because those same batteries are used on the 312LED and the Bolt. 900LEDs on battery power is a great combination.

You could double up the 900LEDs through the 24x36 RoadRags silk. Then, use the smaller lights for hair and fill.

Tenba Roadie series of tripod/stand case - I have the 36" and wish I got the longer one. But, it's been a great way to pack and haul long items.

I don't use my Pelicans much as checked luggage any more. Too heavy. Though, I've used Pelicans to FedEx gear all over the place and on air cargo. Speaking of, air cargo may be worth looking into. If the client pays, this might be a good option. You can lock up your gear and not worry as much about luggage handlers.

May be too late to buy any new gear before your gig, but hope these ideas help.

Two more things come to mind. 1) Gaff tape, but you probably already know that. 2) You can buy a cheap/disposable tripod at just about any big box store (maybe large drug stores and Radio Shack) if your sticks don't make it. Works in a pinch.

Jerry said...

I second the idea of shipping as much as you can ahead of the job. If I need more than my carry-ons for anything, I ship it Fedex Ground ahead to my hotel. I trust Fedex much more than the airline baggage handlers. Also, it's cheaper than most carry-on charges, and you can insure it. My girlfriend takes so much with her on a vacation, I always ship her clothes to her destination. I ship large boxes (guitars) for my business, so it's easy for me.

Kirk Tuck said...

A few thoughts. I'm heading out at 6 am Thurs. morning. I'll be using most of my gear for a museum shoot the two days before. Probably won't get home from that job until 7 or 8pm on Weds. evening. There is no hotel. We go straight from the airport to the client HQ. We won't ship to the client's client because, well, it's the client's client and they are doing my client a favor by doing a testimonial on camera segment for my client's website. We can't over reach. It would be lovely to take a leisurely flight a day or two before, get settled into a luxurious hotel suite and spend a day unpacking my shipment from FedEx and repacking it to be picked up by the car service. And then too have the luxury of coming back to the hotel to re-pack, re-ship and rest before the next flight. It really would.

I have John's contact info and his gracious offer to help out in an emergency. (Thanks John.)

I am taking everyone's advice and packing a secondary tripod in the carry one. All the cameras travel with me. The small GH3's make that practical.

If we can swing it we'll be taking the late flight out of O'Hare back to Austin the same day.

My Friday shoot is B-roll for the Thurs. client. They'll understand if I miss the flight. But then again, my final project deadline won't change so their understanding is of limited value.

I wish we lived back in the 1940's and had the time to take a train. That would be fun. And think of the writing I could get done...