9 Tips for Traveling With Your Film Gear

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Photo Source: Photo by Chris Murray on Unsplash

Advice for filmmakers from our partner Kitsplit, the camera gear rental community.

Whether you’re traveling in the US or internationally, flying with all those cameras, lenses, tripods, g&e, and audio is always a pain. After prepping for countless travel shoots everywhere from Antarctica to Oman, I’ve learned (sometimes the hard way) a few important things to keep in mind.

The obvious solution is to rent at your location, which Kitsplit can help with! But since we know KitSplit isn’t everywhere yet and that’s not always possible, here are a few tips to make the experience seamless so you can focus on the excitement of exploring a new place.

Know your battery restrictions.
It’s best to check with your specific airline, but most lithium-ion batteries (such as Anton Bauer Dionics) need to be carried on. They also need to be protected from heat-generation since that can be considered a fire hazard. The easiest solution to this is to pack each one in a zip-lock bag inside your carry on. Dry alkaline batteries, such as AAA, AA, and 9V can be packed in your checked luggage.

Read up on carnet laws.
A carnet (not to be confused with the Spanish word for meat) is essentially a passport for your gear and certain countries require them to clear customs. To apply for one, you’ll need to put together a list of basic information such as name, value, serial number, and country of origin for each piece of gear. Note that once you have your carnet, you cannot add anything to it so make sure your gear list is finalized. More detailed information about carnets can be found here.

Get international power adapters.
If you’re traveling outside of North America, you’ll need to find out the electrical outlet plug type of the country you’re going to and get plenty of adapters. If the voltage there is not 120 like in the US, you may also need a transformer or converter. Certain lights are dual voltage, so check this when you’re going through your gear. See this list for plug type and voltage by country.

Pack extras of everything.
This may seem obvious, but you should have back-ups of everything. This includes cables, mics, lights, and even your camera if you’re traveling abroad. You can never guarantee that your gear won’t be damaged in transit, and you should always be prepared for something to malfunction on set. Don’t get stuck wasting precious time at a rental house in another country (if you’re lucky enough to find one in the first place).

Bring a dolly and source track at your location.
Do some research and see if your location has a hardware store like Home Depot nearby. If so, bring a dolly with you and buy PVC pipe to use as track when you get there. You can even call ahead to place the order. This will save you the hassle of checking your track at the airport and still allow you to get the shots you need.

Get creative with lighting.
China balls (aka the white round paper lanterns you may have had in your room as a teenager) are your friend, as are Litepanel Astras and any small LED lights that can be clamped places or thrown on a c-stand, such as Litepanel Micros and Sola ENGs. LiteRibbons are also great for sticking just about anywhere, such as in a car. If you must bring HMI’s, pack the bulbs separately in bubble wrap.

Carry on the essentials.
It’s always a good idea to carry on the bare minimum you need to start shooting in case your checked bags don’t arrive when you do. Your camera, a lens or two, batteries, media, a small monitor and an audio kit should all fit neatly in your carry on. Worst-case-scenario, you can at least grab a few shots while you wait for your bags.

Choose the right bags.
Invest in a good roller bag for your carry on, such as this one from Manfrotto, which even comes with a rain cover. For your checked bags, you can’t go wrong with Pelican cases outfitted with the proper foam. TrekPak has a large variety of foam case inserts for Pelican, Storm, SKB, Nanuk, and HPRC cases. You should also pick up a bunch of lens wraps, as these are good for small monitors, viewfinders, and anything that needs some extra padding. Distribute the weight accordingly when packing so you’re not slammed with overweight baggage fees at the airport.

Test it. Then test it again.
Double-check every piece of gear before you leave, because the thing you forget to test will always be the thing that doesn’t work when you get there. This means turning on every light, checking focus on all lenses, recording test footage, etc. If possible, it’s good to have another crew member look things over and make sure you didn’t forget anything.

Traveling for your shoot will be a breeze with the proper planning and preparation!

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The views expressed in this article are solely that of the individual(s) providing them,
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.