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How to Pack and Prepare for International Video Shoots

A veteran producer of video projects on multiple continents offers tips on everything from hard-shelled equipment cases to travel restrictions to international power issues to visas to carnets for videographers who want to book international jobs, make the most of them, and escape the pitfalls that come with being un- or under-prepared.

Traveling domestically or internationally for a video project is a lot of fun, but it can also be nerve-wracking. Not only have you invested thousands of dollars in your gear, but you also most likely have only one chance to pull off the project. Things can go downhill quickly if you’re not prepared, so I’m sharing some tips from my personal experience in traveling to several countries with gear in order to help make your video projects on the road run smoothly.

Packing Like a Pro

We’ve all seen the disgruntled airport employee who likes to body slam our luggage like a pro wrestler. Now multiply that by 20 and imagine the baggage handlers doing that to a piece of gear that wasn’t packed properly. It’s not pretty. Packing right is the first step to smooth shooting while traveling.

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Investing in some hard-shell cases will not only get your gear through airport carousels, but also all of the other transportation methods you may encounter on your trip. (Trust me--New York City cab drivers have nothing on some of the foreign taxis I’ve taken.)

When it comes to travel cases for gear, wheels are your best friends. While wheeled cases may be the more expensive option, you’ll save yourself a lot of sweat and aches when transitioning between airports, hotels, and shoot locations.

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The size and weight of the cases also are important factors. Research your airlines and find out what the specific restrictions are for checking in your items. Not all international airlines allow you to have a 50-pound bag. I recommend you do this when initially budgeting your project in the event that the client can pick up the travel costs.

Now that you’ve purchased your cases, it’s time to start packing your gear. Cameras, small monitors, lights, microphones, media, hard drives, laptops, and other fragile items should go into your carry-on bag. This way, you can keep them close and have access during your flights. Foam customized carry-on cases are ideal because they prevent your gear from shifting during transit. Make sure that the carry-on approved luggage meets the requirements of your airline. The last thing you want to do is have to gate-check your camera in poorly packed luggage.

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Stands, smaller lights, tripods, gaffers tape, and cables can usually survive in your checked baggage, but it’s wise to bubble wrap or pack these items in the middle of your clothes for extra protection. Golf-style cases can be checked and are a good option for holding larger items. In the USA, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) makes approved locks that you can use on your cases. You can even get your cases shrink-wrapped and pre-inspected for customs at some airports for a small fee if you want to prevent scratches and wear and tear.

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