Lately I’ve had to travel for work and most of the time when I do, I am bringing at least one of my cameras either for a shoot or just for personal use. For any of you that travel regularly with gear, you know how much of a hassle it can be – especially at the airport. And the more gear you have, the harder it is as you wind up needing to lug around multiple bags and cases, open them up for security, cram them into your overhead compartment (or check them and hope that your gear comes out in one piece), and deal with all the extra baggage your whole trip. What I’ve found though, is that I often take way more gear than I actually need. In most cases I can actually get away with taking a very small kit when I travel that covers me for most shooting situations when on the road.
Below is a list of the items in my bare-bones travel kit for shooting 4K video on the road.
I typically like to use a camera bag that is relatively small. With a big camera bag it can be tempting to take unnecessary gear just to have it with you, and a smaller bag forces you to really choose what you’re bringing and boil it down to the bare necessities. Not to mention a smaller bag will make your life a lot easier when lugging it around the airport or to any remote shoots. Here’s one of the bags I like to use:
My go-to camera for 4K shoots will be the Lumix GH4 (don’t have mine yet, but for now I’m using my GH3). The key with this kit is to keep everything small, and the GH4 is an amazing camera not only in terms of image quality, but also size. I would highly recommend that if you travel a lot for work you choose a camera like the GH4, Blackmagic Pocket Camera, Sony A7S, or similar so that you can stay light on your feet.
Although I primarily shoot on prime lenses day to day, when travelling I usually commit to shooting on a zoom lens to keep things simple. If I need a larger camera or prime lenses on set for an out of town shoot, I can always rent them, but if I’m shooting a smaller commercial, corporate spot, or something else that doesn’t require more gear, I always opt to go with a zoom lens. I also like having a zoom lens for random run and gun shots, where you might want to whip out your camera in the back of a cab and get some driving shots, or out of the plane window, etc. Yes, primes are ideal, but a nice zoom like the Lumix 12 – 35 will look excellent and allow you to get shots that you might not otherwise be able to when shooting on the road.
You never know when you’re going to need a second angle, a backup camera, some b-roll, or speciality shots, so a GoPro in your kit is a must.
I typically record audio with a boom (as opposed to lavs) when I’m working alone, so I always like to keep my Rode NTG 2 in my kit. In the future I would actually prefer to get a smaller shotgun mic to help keep the kit size down even more, but even a longer mic like the NTG2 can be tucked away in the case pretty easily.
I always like to bring my Zoom H6 to set no matter what I’m shooting, but it’s especially great when travelling since it is such a versatile tool. You never know when you might need an extra mic, or a redundancy recording of your on board audio, so even if you primarily like to record audio straight to camera, I would recommend bringing a Zoom (or other external recorder) to make sure you’re covered in any situation.
Variable ND Filter
When it comes to ND filters, I don’t make a habit of shooting with Variable ND’s for regular shoots, but I do make an exception for my travel kit. A single filter is small, easy to work with, and keeps you moving quickly on set as you won’t need to change filters all the time. Most variable ND filters will give you a bit of a color cast (for example you might get a slight green tint on your image), but it may not be noticeable at all, and if it is you can easily remove it in post with some basic color correction.
I try to shoot with mainly available light when I’m travelling, since it can become too cumbersome to bring along lights – and when lights are needed I would typically prefer to rent them if possible. That said, it is always important to have at least one light with you at all times, because you never know when you’re going to need an eye light, edge light, some fill, or any other type of basic lighting on set. I always bring along with me a basic LED light such as the one below. It’s important that your LED light either has an orange gel, or can switch between daylight and tungsten color temperature, so you are able to use it in any situation.
A small monopod with a nice fluid head will cover you for most shooting situations, which is why I highly recommend bringing one with you on any out of town shoot. A monopod will never give you the stability of a tripod, but it can be pretty close and when shooting out of town you need to make some adjustments to your kit unless you want to lug around a lot of gear by yourself. Many camera cases/bags also have a monopod holder on the side which makes it really easy to get around with.
The only other things I’ll bring with me are the usual necessities – at least two batteries, a charger, cables, adapters, SD cards, lens cleaner, etc. One accessory that I don’t often bring when travelling is a monitor (although I try to shoot with one as much as possible), because it just takes up too much space and I can still get great results without using one – especially with a camera that has a decent LCD/EVF built in. If you’re shooting on a camera like the Blackmagic Pocket Camera that has a poor LCD screen, you might want to consider bringing a very small monitor or loupe to help get you through your shoot.
The key takeaway from this should be to keep your kit small and shoot with only the necessities. Yes, it would be ideal to have a full lighting kit, rig, follow focus, monitoring, etc. with you at all times, but that simply isn’t practical. If you need those things on a shoot out of town, consider renting them or hiring someone local that can come out with gear, otherwise you will have to deal with the headaches of lugging around a lot of gear, most of which you might not even need. I’ve had many shoots where I’ve brought a full lighting kit and only used a single 250w light for the whole day, so if you don’t need the extra gear don’t bring it. Working with smaller gear also poses a nice creative challenge when shooting as it creates certain limitations that help guide your creative decision making and allow for a more focused shoot.
For those of you looking to take the next step, be sure to check out my Guide For Capturing Cinematic Images With Your DSLR by clicking here.