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Traveling with camera gear


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#1 skot_blank

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Posted 22 November 2005 - 10:43 AM

I will need to fly to a show I will be working on in Jan. and was wondering what the procedure was like at the airport for traveling with 8 flight cases of camera gear. I know I check it but what if any limits would I have? Can I lock the cases? I think I have seen flight cases zip tied shut on the latches. I know I need to make sure they are tagged well in case something gets missed placed. Any help for a smooth trip with the cases would be appreciated.
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#2 Mitch Gross

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Posted 22 November 2005 - 12:28 PM

My first suggestion would be to have FedEx, DHL or a similar carrier transport the gear for you. They offer SuperSaver rates that take a few days but are much cheaper than other methods and they'll pick up and drop off for you. You can zip-tie or even padlock them with a shipper.

If you take them on an airline be ready for a long trip. Get to the airport very early. Different airlines have different baggage limits, so you should check with yours. A common limit is 50ibs per bag. After that you pay a penalty of $25 per bag up to maybe 70ibs, then another $25 up to 100ibs, after which they will not accept the case at all. Often only three bags are allowed, with additional bags charged $50 each. And they may limit you to a maximum number of bags. And don't think that they'll have any qualms about sticking your precious equipment cases on another flight if you have too many or are running late. And how are you carrying all those cases? Some airlines consider a handtruck as another bag unto itself. If you travel with a group of people you can distribute your cases as luggage for everyone to avoid excess baggage fees, but remember that people have their own crap to bring so you'll need a number of people.

The TSA will inspect your cases, so do NOT zip-tie them shut. I always ask to be present whenever my cases are inspected and this is usually not a problem, but again be prepared to wait. And sometimes there is an additional inspection that you won't know about--at least you won't know until you pick up your case to discover a TSA sticker on the outside with an inspection notice inside and all your gear in a jumble in the case.

I have travelled this way in the past and survived, but I highly reccomend using a shipper instead. Often it can be cheaper and it is considerably easier to deal with. The arguement of some is that you might need the gear quickly and don't want to wait for a shipper, but honestly with the odds of lost luggage I think you are far better off getting next day delivery.
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#3 Patrick Neary

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Posted 22 November 2005 - 01:38 PM

also realize that there is ZERO security for your expensive gear travelling through airports. If some baggage handler doesn't lift a few items from your inventory, it's very easy for your cases to disappear entirely from baggage return. On one trip to Phoenix for a corporate shoot I found a porter had made it to my gear before I did and was carting it out of the airport.
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#4 skot_blank

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Posted 22 November 2005 - 02:03 PM

WOW..really? Did you chase him down?

I will be traveling with four people in total so I would guess we could spread the cases out over the group. This does not solve the issue of handlers taking items out of cases or the potential of someone walking away with a case at baggage claim.

When do you let the people know you want to be around for the inspection? What type of process is that? We do have a direct flight which I though would help a little bit. Maybe I should look into the shipping option just to have a choice for the production. Thanks for all your comments.
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#5 Andy Sparaco SOC

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Posted 22 November 2005 - 02:11 PM

Mitch paints a very accurate picture.

I use:
1)FedEX-The best
2)DHL-Pretty good-Kodak uses them for film shipments
3)UPS- The worst -Stuff you can afford yto loose

USPO fogetaboutit!

I always put a copy of the airbill inside the case and then a copy on the outside of the case

Then I put the case in a brown cardboard box and seal it with tamper/Fragile lables and then affix the shipping label

Also hide business cards behind the foam inserts.

I always "carry on" the camera body and lenses.

I sometimes ship personal effects to the location via UPS Ground

I only put into Airline baggage things that are awkward and hard to run with always in a cardboard box with no handles.

A brown cardboard box can be the best protection for your gear.

Usually ship to the location before I depart so I know it's already there before I leave. This can be a hotel, studio or production company- best target location is the Ad Agency or corporate office your are going to, they usually have "formal" receiving procedures.

When I have time I take digital pictures of the gear in cases and the ready to ship box. If something is lost or missing ths name of ythe game is to have all of your info aready organized and duplicated so you can affix the responsibility.

I once had a camera lost by UPS. The Local "Air Service Office" kept passing the buck until I had the off -duty cop hired for the production walk in and "arrest" a counter person for grand theft. Handcuffs and a little theater never hurts. The camera turned up soon after that.

Edited by asparaco, 22 November 2005 - 02:13 PM.

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#6 Alessandro Machi

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Posted 22 November 2005 - 03:27 PM

I once (pre-911) tried to buy a ticket for my camera and tripod so I could place them in the seat next to me. The travel agent even called the airline to verify this could be done.

I prerehearsed what I was going to do a few days before my flight by actually going to the airport ticket counter and explaining what I was going to do.

When the actual day came, they decided to check the regulation book and it turns out my second ticket did not entitle me to anymore walk on luggage because there was no one there to "walk it on" besides myself.

I ended up driving all night to my location and got there with an hour to spare.
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#7 skot_blank

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Posted 22 November 2005 - 03:45 PM

OK, just keeping the options open. How did you ?carry on? the body and lenses? In the flight cases? Also will shipping be really expensive because of insurance? The insurance will have to cover the value of the contents???
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#8 Andy Sparaco SOC

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Posted 22 November 2005 - 04:53 PM

OK, just keeping the options open. How did you ?carry on? the body and lenses? In the flight cases? Also will shipping be really expensive because of insurance? The insurance will have to cover the value of the contents???



All of the Arri SR's were designed to go under an airline seat. I have a couple of Travelpro "roller bags" which fit in the overhead which can hold a 435 body, same for lenses. Most PortaBrace Camera Cases for video cameras are carry on legal.

Insurance is the "cost of doin biness", it's affordable but usually no dam good. Doesn't help much when you have a job to shoot with no gear. Also when you file a loss claim and have your cheeks spread as they investigate every parking ticket you've had looking for a "criminal pattern". You can wait months for a "settlement" which means a negotiation which means you are gonna take less then Full value It's no fun to replace lost gear as some of it is not replaceable.

Most of the delivery and baggage handlers know what film and video travel cases look like since most are former film students! Cases in brown boxes are anonymous.

The best solution is to rent locally or have the producer deal with it . When in doubt ---delagate!

Edited by asparaco, 22 November 2005 - 05:05 PM.

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#9 skot_blank

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Posted 22 November 2005 - 05:10 PM

""I only put into Airline baggage things that are awkward and hard to run with always in a cardboard box with no handles.

A brown cardboard box can be the best protection for your gear.""



Also, is it cool to totally seal the cases in cardboard boxes? Will the people have to tear it all open to inspect the contents?

It makes total sense to me not to have a flight case come down the baggage claim with a label which reads ?ARRI 435 BODY?. So if I get to the point that I am going to fly with the gear the brown box may be the way to go if I can make it work. Thinking about it more taking the body as a ?carry on? also sound like an great idea if I can figure out a way to safely transport in onto the plane and thru security.
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#10 Andy Sparaco SOC

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Posted 22 November 2005 - 05:22 PM

""I only put into Airline baggage things that are awkward and hard to run with always in a cardboard box with no handles.

A brown cardboard box can be the best protection for your gear.""
Also, is it cool to totally seal the cases in cardboard boxes? Will the people have to tear it all open to inspect the contents?


It makes total sense to me not to have a flight case come down the baggage claim with a label which reads ?ARRI 435 BODY?. So if I get to the point that I am going to fly with the gear the brown box may be the way to go if I can make it work. Thinking about it more taking the body as a ?carry on? also sound like an great idea if I can figure out a way to safely transport in onto the plane and thru security.


Most often they are Xraying everything- and don't bother Tripods and batteries are good things to put into the aircarft hold.

The TSA is skitish about battery packs they think they look like claymore mines-(as described to me by an inspector!) If they open the box then open the case so what they seal it up again


As Mitch suggested get there well in advance of your departure. Ask for a "hand inspection" politely for your carry on.

You may also find they may ship your gear out on an earlier or latter flight if the carrier has a lot of flights. THis happen to me a lot when I'm carrying all my own gear. Seems to be a stategy during busy times

You might carry one battery as the may ask you to see the camera operate.

Edited by asparaco, 22 November 2005 - 05:42 PM.

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#11 Mitch Gross

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Posted 23 November 2005 - 12:07 AM

OK, just keeping the options open. How did you ?carry on? the body and lenses? In the flight cases? Also will shipping be really expensive because of insurance? The insurance will have to cover the value of the contents???



The production hiring you should have insurance that has Equipment Rental coverage and specifically lists you as a Loss Payee for the gear. You're a fool to leave the house without a Certificate of Insurance from them in hand. Provide the insurance company with a complete itemized list of everything you bring, including the cases themselves, and include serial numbers for anything that has them, down to the smallest screw. My insurance list runs something like seven pages long.

I did a feature in Denver a few years ago and we shipped my Jib Arm back & forth. The case did not survive the return trip and a few clamps and bolts spilled out. FedEx sent an inspector the next day who took photos and I already had an invoice quote in hand for the replacement parts from the manufacturer, including the case which was by far the most expensive item. I had a check in just over a week, which all in all seemed extremely fair to me, and we never had to involve the insurance company.
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#12 Daniel Stigler

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Posted 04 December 2005 - 10:35 PM

Be shure to get in touch with the airline early and don't leave that to the production company alone. Most airlines hate to see metal flightcases, so the mentioned cardboard boxes are a good idea. Bring some Gaffertape in your handluggage, just in case you have to open a box for inspection, so you can reseal it properly. I always take the lenses with me. Find out if the lenscases can be stored under your seat or, if there's no other way, on your lap.
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#13 Stephen Williams

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Posted 05 December 2005 - 03:21 AM

OK, just keeping the options open. How did you ?carry on? the body and lenses? In the flight cases? Also will shipping be really expensive because of insurance? The insurance will have to cover the value of the contents???



Hi,

Camera body on its own!
Lenses split between crew members pockets!

Stephen
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#14 Mitch Gross

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Posted 06 December 2005 - 02:03 PM

Hi,

Camera body on its own!
Lenses split between crew members pockets!

Stephen



I'd like to see someone stick an Ang. 17-102 in his pocket! "Is that a zoom lens or are you just glad to see me?" I think any security guard would think you're smuggling in a cannon, or at least a club to beat people with.
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