A collection of good products, procedures, and other bits of wisdom I've picked up over the year.
|hardigg cases||roto-molded cases||4 goats||CLICK|
|Proto Bags||keep your bits organized||3 goats||CLICK|
|Luggage Tags||Number them and manifest your gear||3 goats||CLICK|
|Credentials||Don't choke up!!||4 goats||CLICK|
|Phone and Mains adapters||Why can't I plug it in?||4 goats||CLICK|
About the rating system: The system in 0 to 4 goats, with 0 goat being worthless, and 4 goats being essential.
Often times when traveling overseas and the locals don't always have your best interests in mind, it helps to have a little code to discuss money so you don't get ripped off. This is especially an issue when working through a local translator, who might be a cousin/brother/son/etc of the mullah you need to pay because he controls the donkey dung cartel, and your translator assures you that you really need donkey shit. For some time, the American slang "benjamins" has fulfilled this funcion. "Benjamins" refering to the US $100 note, which features Ben Franklin on the face. Given my interest in goats, and that "goat" is easier to say (and more confusing to those outside the secret society of video vagabonds), "goat" has come into some usage in the place of "benjamins."
For example, consider the following conversation:
Ben: "Mullah Mike wants 5 goats for that cart of donkey dung."
Tom: "Mullah Mike has been smoking too much donkey dung. Let's give him 2 goats."
Ben (to translator): "Tell Mullah Mike we'll give him $200 for the stinking pile of crap."
I've seen a lot of cases in my time in television. The basic idea of a case is, of course, to protect your gear. But what do you want to protect it from?
Before going much further, I want to tip my hat to Simon Kalderon of Advanced Packaging. Simon and his team are wizzards at making the right case for your gear. And in working with him (and buying a lot of cases from him for clients), I learned a lot. Did you know that the foam in your cases is just as important, even more important, than the case itself?
I see a lot of guys who ship their gear in "Anvil" style cases. These are reinforced plywood cases, and they are great for road work. Road work, not shipping. If you roll from gig to gig with your own truck (or tractor trailer), and handle your cases by hand, you're working on the road. If you are traveling on multiple continents, shipping by freight-forwarder or checked baggage, these are not the cases for you. Even shipping domestically, these are a poor choice. The thin plywood skin is easily compromised by forklifts, other cases, water, etc. Rack cases of this variety are succeptible to haveing caster knocked off.
A better choice are the plastic cases. There are several types. The "Thermodyne" style is an ecomical choice. The plastic skin resists forklifts and water, and is lighter than wood. Some of these do not seal well, so water can still get in. How much of a problem is this? Well, I once had a shipment that got delayed by a thunderstorm in Texas. And guess where my gear was while the plane was delayed? Sitting on the tarmac, waiting for the plane, getting soaked.
The Hardigg cases came through that high and dry. These really are the Cadillac of cases. And they are not cheap - but neither is our gear! These are very well engineered cases that stand up to just about anything. A case in point. I had an inbound shipment coming back from the airport, and the cargo truck crashed at 65mph on the DC Beltway. All of the gear was ejected from the truck and was literally everywhere on the freeway. The wood cases splintered up and were only held together by the corner braces. The hasps on some of the plastic cases failed and the gear got beat up.
The BVW-75 BetaCam SP machine were in Hardigg cases with custom foam from Advanced Packaging. The cases were a little scraped up, but still very servicable. The decks fired right up and were still in perfect operation.
Pelican cases are also a very popular item, and for good reason. Dust and water stay out, the travel well, and come in a very wide variety of sizes. They are great all-around cases. Just beware of overloading them, make sure things are secure so as to not rattle around and bang against each other, and that you have appropriate foam in them for your application. For example, I have seen some cases that have cut-outs for both camera battteries and a lense. If there is not sufficient and appropriate foam between the two, the two will compress the foam on impact and damage one or the other.
Proto Bags - an enginneers (toolboxe's) best friend. Canvass zippered bags are perfect for organizing tools and connectors. Have one for the screwdrivers, another for the video adapters, etc. Affordable alternatives include bank deposit bags, and Electro-Voice mic bags. Zip-Locs don't work well for most items since they will puncture the bag. The are good for cable ties, shrink wrap, and toilet paper.
Luggage Tags - some people are really paranoid about them. They think that their identity will be stolen off of the info on the tag. A bigger concern is IDing yourself (and your gear) as belonging to a big TV news organization. It can add to the risk when traveling in a hostile location. However, I've never been too concerned about this. I want to be able to quickly ID my gear and make sure it all made it off the plane.
My trick is to use self-laminating tags that are available at Staples or similar. It makes a luggage tag out of your business card, or whatever you stick in it. Before placing the card in the sticky stuff, number the back of it. That way each bag now has not only your card, but a unique number. I then make a manifest for myself with what bags (numbers) have what. This is useful when clearing customs, and when tracking missing gear.
Be wary of wearing credentials around your neck, epecially if you are an engineer or camera person. I've almost snapped my neck while reeling cable many times and my ID tags have snagged in the cable reel. Some other ideas are to put your IDs on a key ring, then carry the ring with a carabiner on your belt loop. Or get one of the arm-band style ID carriers that they baggage handlers wear at the airport.
Also, be wary of where you wear them and when. They make you stand out, and sometimes that's not a good idea. Lanyards also give the bad guy a good rope to choke you with, or hold on to you wile you get your ass whooped. Keep the IDs in your pocket until you need to display them.
PHONE AND MAINS ADAPTERS
Teleadapt.com - is a great source for phone and mains adapters for around the world. Very knowledgable and helpful.
ALWAYS make sure you are on the correct voltage. If in doubt, check it out!! Double and triple check it. If you don't, you'll soon hear the loud crack of your equipment blowing up. When laying out waber stips, ALWYS LABEL THE VOLTAGE. I prefer to label and color code all outlet stips. Non-standard voltage gets red or yellow tape. I'll also tape over the outlets on the non-standard stip - this makes me double check before I plug in, and usually confuses the non-technical crew enough that they come to me before plugging in.