Over the last few years, we have found ourselves shooting more and more overseas or interstate. Filming on the road can be difficult and expensive so it’s worth considering a few clever tips to avoid the few pitfalls.
Number one, you need to be selective with what gear you take. Too much and you end up with an excess baggage bill, too little and you won’t have what you need to get the best shot. Decide exactly how you intend to shoot so you can pack only what is required. It’s a good idea to have a test shoot in the studio before you leave with the just the gear you intend to take. This is also an opportunity to have a “practice pack” to make sure there is an even weight distribution of gear throughout the crew.
Travelling to multiple countries complicates it further as every airline has different baggage restrictions. Qantas allows 23kg unless you’re gold or silver frequent flyer member, in which case you are afforded 42kg. For documentary, run and gun TV, we take an Arri Amira as the main camera with Cannon 17 to 120 zoom lens. Our preferred B cam is the Black Magic Mini Ursa Pro which is smaller and lighter but a great compliment to the Amira. To give us that extra bit of flexibility, we also take a Black Magic Pocket on a Ronin gimbal, which is lightweight and no bigger than a DSLR. On this most recent trip to Iceland, we also brought a DJI Mavic drone, which is small and lightweight and provided incredible aerial imagery.
We never put cameras in cargo because we are not willing to risk the potential damage to expensive equipment or baggage going missing in transit, leaving us with nothing to shoot on when we arrive. That means taking all the cameras as carry-on luggage in solid, well-packed backpacks. The Amira weighs 12 Kg and after lugging it through Heathrow and waiting over an hour in customs, you’ll be thankful for padded shoulder straps.
Batteries are not permitted in cargo, so that means all V-locks must also be packed as hand luggage however there is a limit of two per person. In Iceland, batteries constantly failed because of the freezing conditions so we brought hand-warmers to make sure our limited supply of power never ran out. We only took a skeleton crew of four so at check in, we sometimes needed to redistribute equipment between our gear and clothing cases to make sure no one exceeds the weight allowance. This can be time-consuming so it is worth allowing plenty of time at the airport before departure. We are often stopped at security because of the unusual contents of our hand luggage, which can also cause lengthy delays.
If you get it right, shooting on the road can be an exciting and rewarding experience but it is definitely more challenging than shooting at home. Be efficient, versatile and resourceful. Take the right crew, the right gear and above all be prepared for anything. It doesn’t matter how well you plan it, something will always go wrong, but that’s all part of the fun.