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How to Think Small and Travel Light: The Streaming Video Carry-On

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What are your favorite small things? Many of you will think of your cellphone first. Some may think about your wedding band. Maybe you’re thinking of that pocket multi-tool that you carry on your belt. You know the one. It has three different blades, a can opener, a toothpick, four different screwdriver bits, and a miniature butane torch.

Some small items are more useful than others. Some—smartphones, for instance—stand out for their utility; on the other hand, a wedding band stands out because it represents something much greater than its face value. Unlike wedding bands, smartphones have gotten progressively smaller over the decades. What once required huge, permanently installed receivers and mountains of cable now fits into our palms and operates wirelessly. The same can be said of cameras, which are even integrated into our phones. As cameras have shrunk from goliath to Google Glass, the supporting equipment has followed suit.

The small cameras of today afford producers incredible freedom to obtain even the most difficult shots. Aerial and aquatic drones can take inexpensive action cameras to heights and depths previously reserved for expensive helicopter shots or daredevil camera operators. Not only have the cameras gotten smaller, they’ve gotten better. Not very long ago, the size of a camera generally indicated what quality could be achieved with it. The smallest cameras were relegated to family vacation video. Medium-sized cameras were for budget filmmakers and small-town TV stations. The biggest units were for “serious” work: commercials and blockbuster Hollywood productions. Today, with hair-thin sensors being stuffed into the tiniest bodies, it’s easy to get pro-quality imagery from gear that can literally fit in your pocket.

In order to embrace this tidal wave of compact professional devices, we decided to push the limits of micro gear and see what kind of production we could pull off. But there is more than just gear performance at stake. Our goal: to execute a live-streamed, multi-camera shoot in a remote location with just a carry-on sized bag full of video equipment.

Criteria

We started off contemplating whether or not we could reasonably replicate a streaming studio in our pockets, but found that too limiting for professional production. Setting a goal of fitting everything into the airline-recognized carry-on bag gave us a reasonable but still ambitious target. Although there was recent chatter about reducing the allowable carry-on bag size, current standards call for 9"x14"x22" bags. To meet our goal, we had to find the smallest gear in each category. We also had to determine what was a must-have for this type of shoot. Here’s what we came up with.

1. Cameras. While DSLRs will often do the job, when size is an issue, smaller action cameras such as GoPro Heroes and Blackmagic’s Micro Cinema Studio camera have the added advantage of more broadcast sensibilities.

2. Monitor. While most cameras have built-in LCD displays, having a quality confidence monitor is priceless insurance.

3. Support. Tripods, sliders, and tiny mounts abound in today’s market, affording more interesting and quality shots.

4. Light. Whether shooting a talking head or a presentation, a fill light does wonders for any image.

5. Audio. A shotgun, boom, XLR cables, and mixer aren’t necessary for every shoot, but you need more than the on-camera microphone to get quality sound.

6. Streaming appliance. We want the world to experience our event live, and we need to do it without rack-mounted gear.

The Gear

First and foremost, we must have at least one camera for our shoot. We are taking the Blackmagic Micro Studio Camera 4K. Not only is it one of the newest cameras in this space, but it sets itself apart by offering remote PTZ control, SDI and HDMI ports, and (as the name implies) up to 4K resolution imaging. As tiny as these cameras are (3.25"x2.74"x2.57"), we easily fit two into our bag along with wide and tele lenses for different angles.

Since the Blackmagic camera doesn’t have internal recording, we are including a pair of Blackmagic Video Assists. These all-in-one monitors and recorders receive either HDMI or SDI from any source. Power for the monitors comes from two Canon LP-E6 batteries, and we can rely on its 1080p touchscreen for critical focus and color checking.

Blackmagic Micro Studio Camera 4K and Blackmagic Video Assist monitor and recorder

Since the Blackmagic Micro Studio Camera 4K doesn’t offer internal recording, we augment it with the Blackmagic Video Assist monitor and recorder. 

For support, we have a static camera mounted to a compact tripod such as the Manfrotto BeFree, which collapses down to 15.7" tall. Adding interest to our second angle is achieved with a compact autoslider such as the SliderPlus from Turkish manufacturer Edelkrone. This slider can be programmed to “bounce” back and forth smoothly, giving you an unmanned, preprogrammed dynamic choice to cut to during your shoot.

Manfrotto BeFree compact tripod

The Manfrotto BeFree compact tripod collapses down to 15.7" tall.

Now that we have our cameras, monitors, recorders, and support taken care of, let’s look into improving our subject with some lighting. We’re relying on a single on-camera 312 LED panel from Genaray. The specs on this unit claim to provide us with 1400 lux at 3 feet. Having this on our stationary camera gives us adequate fill lighting for the shots from both cameras.

Genaray 312 LED panel light

The Genaray 312 LED panel light throws 1400 lux at 3 feet, more than enough to give adequate fill lighting for multiple camera angles.

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