Tipster Tool Tote
For years I have carried my essential tools in a pocket tote—now that tote is available to you as a token of appreciation for your tips. When you send a tip to share with your fellow professionals, we will send you a tote. (You will have to provide your own tools.) My tote contains a dual-end Sharpie (fine and normal points), ballpoint pen, highlighter, small flashlight and dual-bladed (standard slot and Phillips) screwdriver. There is also room for several 3x5 cards for taking notes and a few business cards.
Jot down your favorite shortcut and e-mail it to DVTips@nbmedia.com.
If you are a professional in the video business, you will eventually have to rely on an airline to get you and your gear from one place to another. Here are a few tips I have found that make the trip a little less expensive and a whole lot less stressful.
When I travel, I still follow a practice started when I was shooting for CBS News. Hand-carry the camera, a battery, recording media (tape or memory card) and a microphone. That way, if the checked equipment is misdirected to the moon, you can still make pictures.
Most airlines allow us to carry two items onto the plane and, if it will fit in the overhead bin or under the seat, our camera bag can be one of them. TSA policy says the camera must be taken out of any carrier at the checkpoint and X-rayed by itself. If you followed tip number one, you should also have a battery to make it work if asked.
There is a lot of debate as to whether putting your company name on the outside of a case makes it easier to track or easier for thieves to know there is something inside worth stealing. My baggage tags show only my name and cell phone number. I would never transport my gear in a case that said Sony, Panasonic or any other well known manufacturer on the outside. TSA-approved locks (ones the TSA can open for inspection) may help keep your stuff from going missing.
Baggage tags can get lost, so put a large "this bag belongs to" note inside each case on top of the equipment with your name, cell phone and destination address. (Listing your office address could result in the bag going to your home rather than where you need it.)
Travel Budget Trimming
In this tough economy, we have become a profit center and the airlines will charge extra fees for anything they can. If possible, combine extra pieces before you depart to avoid being hit with a separate baggage fee for every excess piece. Just be careful of more fees for exceeding the single-item weight limit.
Many carriers charge an additional fee for transporting long tripod and light stand cases because they classify them as "oversized baggage." I pack my long stuff in a hard-sided golf club case because many of those same airlines don't consider golf cases to be oversized. The golf case itself is generally less expensive to buy than a traditional round case, doesn't roll off a baggage cart as easily and has wheels that make it easier to move.
Some airlines may have a lower "professional photographer" or "media" rate for excess baggage, but you will only get it if you know to ask. You may have to show a business card or other proof that you are a pro.
Something else they don't usually tell you is that most of the baggage insurance sold at the ticket counter has specific exemptions for electronic equipment, making it essentially useless for video gear.
If you're traveling with a lot of stuff, the various fees can make it cheaper to ship the cases as cargo on the same flight or via an outside next-day delivery company such as FedEx or UPS.
Before your next trip, compare the costs and services, then do what's best for you.
You are at risk every time you transport equipment in your car, SUV or van. Many insurance companies will not cover a theft if the gear can be seen from outside the vehicle. A black bed sheet or large piece of duvetyn can be your best insurance policy. Placed over the gear, it can make the vehicle look empty—thieves can't steal what they can't see. My black cloth is also frequently useful after we arrive at the venue and begin shooting.