Flying with video equipment is, in many respects, a terrible idea. The excitement of filming abroad is always tempered by the frustration of dragging your stuff to baggage handling, paying the excess weight fees, carting it about – and then doing the whole thing again when it’s time to fly back. In essence, taking your kit abroad is a tremendous logistical nuisance. As head of a video company, I can confirm this from painful experience.

So why do I take it with me every time – and why should you?

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The local flavor? 

When filming abroad there are arguments in favour of sourcing equipment locally on arrival instead of taking it with you. When you hire your gear from a local supplier, you don’t have to worry about it being lost in transit, stolen from your room, or eaten by wildlife (these things don’t actually tend to happen, but long, lonely nights in hotels tend to give you an overactive imagination). You also don’t need to think about bureaucratic concerns such as organizing your luggage allowance, packaging your equipment, the ATA carnet, and the myriad other fiddly irritations of international travel with large, cumbersome kit.

That said, it’s worth thinking through the full implications of renting equipment abroad. You ever tried typing on a laptop that isn’t yours? It’s a nightmare: you’re slower, more prone to inaccuracies, and shaking off the initial feeling of discomfort takes longer than is convenient. Using other people’s equipment is the same – only more complicated. You have to deal with different settings, different interfaces, and different capabilities. There’s also the question of reliability. How do you know that your supplier is trustworthy? In more far-flung locations, they won’t have hundreds of Google reviews for you to rely on. If you’re conducting this part of the process yourself, you’ll need to do research and – if possible – solicit recommendations from peers and connections in the area, or past customers.

Come fly with me…

Travelling with video equipment may be an almighty pain, but over a decade (and counting) in this profession, I’ve always found it much easier to bring it with me.

So why’s it worth the hassle? Simply put, production teams care about what they do. Every camera can be personalised to the operator’s preferred settings; the range of lights available determines the director’s visual pallet; if you’re after a certain sound quality, you require a certain audio setup. It’s much easier to get what you need if you bring what you need. Time spend sourcing and configuring equipment is time that could be spent agonizing over creative choices or, you know, actually shooting.

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When you have your own gear on location, you inevitably feel more at home when filming abroad. At the very least, bringing the camera kit will ensure that you have everything you need for the basic elements of filming. Grips, lights, and other things can be sourced with little difficulty, but without an appropriate camera, you’ll find it hard to satisfy your clients and bring your idea to life. If at all possible, take it into cabin baggage: it’s fragile, expensive equipment, and putting in the hold could end in loss or damage.

Throughout history, directors and producers have weathered logistical difficulty to avoid creative compromise. For Fitzcarraldo, a movie about dragging a ship over a mountain, Werner Herzog and his crew literally dragged a ship over a mountain. For Jurassic Park, Steven Spielberg found and killed a precious, endangered Triceratops. What’s a couple of awkward flights?

Jamie Field is Head of Production at TopLine Comms, and he loves shooting videos and dinosaurs alike. Download his guide to commissioning a corporate video – or get in touch to discuss your brief. 

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