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Old March 2nd, 2007, 10:15 AM   #1
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transporting lighting equipment by plane on a solo assignment

I've got several assignments coming up that require me to head to various parts of the country and get interviews on video. I'm going to be doing this solo, and I'm curious about how others deal with transporting minimal lighting equipment by plane. One videographer I spoke with recently told me that he always ships his equipment ahead of the gig and has it picked up from the subject's location after the shoot for shipping back. I'm taking my camera as carry-on (they'll have to prise that out of my cold dead hands...), but I'm concerned about checking in lighting equipment for the hold. Also, foldable backdrops are a concern - I can easily see them getting damaged in transit.
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Old March 2nd, 2007, 11:55 AM   #2
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This is challenging, especially since the airlines have reduced the baggage weight limit to 50 Lbs. per piece.

Build a suitcase kit - this would have to be out of small, light stuff, typically Lowel. Weigh it, stay very aware of the weight of 25' ac extensions, etc., design it down. If you can dedicate one suitcase to lighting, this is not too hard. Some airlines are $25 extra for 51-75 Lbs, which may be worth it. (some are a lot more, so find out!)

Ship it.

Rent it locally. Usually something like an Arri fresnel or Arrilite kit.

I started off with a suitcase kit built around 2 mole open face and one Lowel Rifa 55. I was able to get all this, light stands, some grip accessories and a tripod in a suitcase for 73 Lbs. I included the fabric tripod case and a couple tote/duffel bags, as the suitcase wasn't real convenient to work out of. I never had any damage issues.

More recently I've added more Lowel - a second Rifa 55, and a couple of Pro fixtures, and dropped the moles. Really small and light, if you baby this stuff it will last a long time. I've not tried the new packup, but I want to get under 50 Lbs., and I think I will.
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Old March 2nd, 2007, 12:53 PM   #3
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I recommend using a Tenba Attache case http://www.tenba.com/products/2000_07.asp as they are very lightweight, and are ATA rated (unlike pelican) which means approved by airlines. They use honeycomb plastic sheets for impact absorption. I've shipped lenses, studio viewfinders, mattebox, filters, and lights everywhere on the planet in these. I first tried pelicans cause I liked being waterproof, but gear got too banged up.
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Old March 3rd, 2007, 09:53 AM   #4
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Greg,

I've flown a softbox kit along with my tripod (inside it's padded bag) and some skinny accessories in one of these:

http://www.shopatron.com/product/pro...57.10010.0.0.0

One advantage is that the airlines are very familiar with these cases. A disadvantage is they are big so some airports have a separate, hard-to-find baggage chute where they send the oversized pieces like this.

I transported the tungsten bulbs separately (in my carry-on!)

Having done this many times, renting locally is definitely preferred. And shipping via UPS is also preferred to flying it. I find it a royal pain to fly with gear! But many others do it regularly with no problem.

As for collapsible backdrops, I've shipped large ones via UPS in flattened boxes. For smaller 5x7s, I have a 2'x3' padded canvas portofolio I put them in that has survived several flights (checked) with no damage.
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Old March 3rd, 2007, 01:24 PM   #5
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Ben, Geof and Seth; thanks very much for your comments. I'll start to contruct a mobile lighting kit based on your suggestions.
Greg
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Old March 4th, 2007, 12:18 PM   #6
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I have been travelling a bit and the old Arri Kit case seems to hold up well and I've not had problems with the globes breaking inside the fixture. But that's a heavy beast. Though we took the doors out and it was 50lbs. Kinos are nice because they are lightweight, but they are bulky. You may do better with Rifas, or Totas and speedrings for Chimeras/Photoflex softboxes. Add a couple of Inkies and maybe 1 650W.

Tenba and Lightware make great cases. I've been shooting for a production comany that has everything in Tenba Air cases- Arri S 16mm cam, sound, misc. lighting. The Arri kit in it's big sliver case. That seems to work well. Cams are carried on. You may want to find room for a folding handtruck so you can drag all that stuff around. Pelican cases are also great. Packing things tightly and a little bit of Duvetyne can cushion things. Put "Heavy" stickers on the heavy ones, the crews are likely to appreciate that.

You may also want to try and find an assistant in each city you are travelling to. Mandy dot com, Craigslist, Shooting people. Adds to the budget, but having an extra pair of hands and a local, who knows the area can be helpful, esp if you need B-Roll, good eats, etc.

Strip down the kit to the barest of bare. Shipping ahead is nice, if you can do it. Let your hotel/host know its coming. Look into renting locally.

A large Tuffpak case can hold your tripod and maybe a couple light stands. Put a little bit of padding/cloth in there so things don't get too scuffed up. Again tight packing prevents breakage. Watch the T handles, have a couple extra in casse they break and the means to extract them.

The nice thing about video, is that you can just put it on the x-ray conveyor and not worry about the camera, or tapes. You can always get there early and have them hand check your gear.
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Old March 4th, 2007, 08:04 PM   #7
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I'm on a road trip right now

Hi Greg:

Funny you should mention this, I am on a road trip to Dallas as I type this. I have been doing this for years although I usually travel with another producer so I get a little help, but it's the same essential goal you have.

Here are a few tips/pointers...

My kit for interviews consists of three cases:

1. A Contico yellow, tall plastic toolbox I bought from Home Depot years ago. It's pretty large, has a handle on the removable lid, two locking hasps and is about 24" tall by about 20" long x about 14" wide. It was cheap, I have shipped it about 150 times with no cracks or breaks.

Inside I have a Lowel V-Light with a speedring, an Arri 150 fresnel, an Arri 300 fresnel. I wrap each light in an old bathroom towel and carefully pack. Those are at the base of the box so it is a lot of padding with all of them wedged in there. On the side I squeeze in a 36" white and gold Flexfill, some gels, four medium grip clips, 6 C-47s, 2 25' XLRs, a Tram TR-50B, a Sennnheiser ME-64, a pair of Sony MDR-7506 headphones, spare bulbs for all three lights, a small toolkit, a 60" x 15' piece of black Duvetine, some Cinefoil, a half roll of gaffer, a couple of 1x3 way AC plugs and I have a bunch of small little twist ties, scrims for the 150, a scissor clamp, etc.
Total weight 44lbs

2. I have a 48" Tuffpak. Inside goes a small Chimera with a 40 degree egg crate, two Manfrotto 9' Arri kit light stands, a Lowel flimsy but small light stand, a microphone stand with a mic clip and a Bogen MdVe tripod with a 503 head. I dont ship my $3,000.00 Sachtler tripod, too risky. I also cram in a 40" grip arm with a grip head. At the top, on top of all this mess I put in two 25' 1x3 blue Arri stingers (those ones that come in the Softbank kits) and a 1x6 AC plug strip.
Total weight 46lbs

3. I have been bringing either an HVX-200, power supply, 6 P2 cards and few pocket drives or on this trip I brought an XL-H1 and a boatload of tape. When I shoot green screen, I always use the HVX, but for this trip on the set of a TV show, shooting hours and hours of tape a day on set as well as long interviews mean HDV (cough, cough!) is more practical than P2. All of this goes into a CineBags backpack along with all of the proper little adapters, toys and accesories that I can cram into the backpack. I also lug my PB G4 15"

All of this is transported around on a Rock and Roller R2 Micro, the best $99.00 you will ever invest for shooting with traveling, I could not live without the Rock and Roller Micro. It carries up to 350lbs yet can fold up for overhead carry on. Since I need to also bring a suitcase, if I were traveling alone, I would have to pay for the extra bag but since I usually travel with another producer, we work out the third bag between us.

The secret is to go small and light whenever possible. I like the Rifas for this because they are smaller, lighter and quicker than what I use but since I own about 30 lights, I figured it would be better to use what I own rather than go and buy Rifas. The Rifas are expensive though, especially their egg crates. Unfortunately when I shoot green screen, we also have to lug the Chroma Flex system, it's screen even folded up is about the size of a Hula Hoop so in a shipping box, it's a pain in the rear but it's do-able.

Best of luck,

Dan
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Old March 6th, 2007, 01:35 AM   #8
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I wouldn't send anything through baggage that isn't on some level disposable. My 525/503 tripod and head is the absolute limit that I'll trust with those gorillas.

I personally like to keep it cheap and light (pun intended) when air travel is involved. I still have the berkey colortran 650s that were in my first light kit. They're small and compact with high output. Fresnels are hard to travel with because of the size to output ratio. China balls are huge when travelling, they can be broken down and easily fit into a reflector bag, sans bulbs of course. Dimmers are also nice because of the flexibility they offer. You can light a talking head with a 650, a reflector, and a china ball. That's about 7 lbs of gear. A 2 on the other hand, what was the weight limit again?
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Old March 6th, 2007, 09:09 AM   #9
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Greg:

We use Lowell Light kits. Our standard is a kit with 2 1000 w tota lights, 2 650 w omni lights, 4 stands, 2 umbrellas, 2 gel frames. We add 2 Chimeras with speed rings, 4 cheapy in-line dimmer cords, several ceiling clips, various plug adapters, spare bulbs, and a lot of gels. This all fits into the Lowell case, which has two wheels built into one end, just like a suitcase, and is within weight limits. We've used these for 25 years (literally...we still use the very first Lowell kit we bought 25 years ago) and never had a case damaged or a fixture damaged or a bulb filament broken. We frequently travel with them all over the US and internationally.

Mark
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Old March 6th, 2007, 12:21 PM   #10
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Mark H, Charles, Dan and Mark S - thanks very much for your views and advice, it's been really helpful.

I can tell you another problem that's been surfacing recently with on-assignment lighting, and that's getting an electrical source within, for example, someone's house or apartment. I'm always concerned (and sometimes, so are the interviewees) that my lights are going to trip their electric system. Short of renting a generator (completely impractical in many locations), I'm not sure there's a simple answer.
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Old March 6th, 2007, 01:40 PM   #11
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If you're shooting interviews, you shouldn't need a whole lot of power - you're not lighting a whole lot of space. For the past 3 months, I've been doing exactly this - one-man-band travel to shoot interviews, flying 5 days a week. That's a LOT of flights, and so far my system has worked just fine. BUT, it all depends on the camera.

For this project, we're using DVX's. Small and light. I have a carry-on case that fits that camera, a lowel Tota, and a Dedo DLH4. Also in it are all the camera acc's, lav's, shotgun, 25' tri-tap extension cord and 2 small 600W dimmers.

In a stand bag, I have 2 small Lowel crap stands and 1 arri kit stand, a Lowel Rifa-66 (lamp removed). I also travel with a Vinten Vision 3/Miller solo in a separate padded soft bag. The other guys use Bogen 501's in their stand bags. So far (knock on wood) all my checked stuff has been fine. The tripod has been totally fine, though I do put one of those lens-wraps around the head in addition to the padding in the bag. White Gaff tape with "PLEASE DO NOT THROW - FRAGILE" stuck EVERYWHERE helps a lot.

As for the power situation, I try and make my total power needs less than 15A. That's about 1800 watts, and I use all tungsten so there's no huge inrush on startup. I almost never use the Tota at full power, and i have it lamped down to 300 watts and also use it on a dimmer to fill the background. The Rifa is the key, usually with an eggcrate, and the Dedo is the backlight. Between the three, it's a total of 1200 watts, no problem for any household circuit. And I plug all 3 into my 3-tap extension cord, and then use a bathroom outlet if I can - usually nothing else is on that circuit, and it's meant to power a 1500-1800 watt hair dryer, vacuum, etc.

4 teams out with the same gear and same assignments most weeks, all air travel, and so far so good!
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Old March 6th, 2007, 04:09 PM   #12
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Greg:

There is a simple answer...extension cords.

Most residences have 15 amp circuits (1500 watts). Most commercial buildings have 20 amp circuits. Building codes usually require that at each room have at least two different circuits, although those circuits are probably also shared in other rooms as well. You do have to spend some time to see which circuits feed which rooms, and to also see what other devices are being powered by those circuits.

The Lowell kit I described before would take at most 3 15 amp circuits. You could put 500 or 750 watt bulbs in the tota lights and reduce the amperage.

For interviews, you don't want to blast the subject with a lot of light anyway. It will make then look flat and harsh.

Mark
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Old March 7th, 2007, 02:10 AM   #13
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Yeah, usually, you can find a 20 amp GFCI outlet in the kitchen, or the bathroom of most houses It should be on it's own circuit, so you can plug in up to a 2K. Check out the breaker box, or find out where it is, just in case.

By spreading around the different lights to different outlets, I don't have to fret too much about popping circuits.

Jaron, what are you shooting that you're travelling so much?
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Old March 7th, 2007, 11:58 AM   #14
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Unfortunately, a lot of older homes don't have GFCI's or 15-20 amp circuits. So far, I've only run into a couple of locations that DO have these luxuries. So we've been sticking to 10 amp kits (with 3-2 ground lifts, no less) to be sure.

Mark - new series on MTV called "Scarred." How are things???
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Old March 7th, 2007, 12:36 PM   #15
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Two Samsonite "Silhouette" hard cases and a Portercase work well.

The Portercase is a foam lined carry on. It doubles as a portable cart. It's the coolest thing! http://www.portercase.com/

Camera and audio go in the Portercase along with a Litepanel mini and get carried on for overhead storage - always staying with me. If my checked luggage doesn't show up, I can still do the shoot.

Lights, stands, tripod, cables etc get divided into the two Samsonite cases to equal weight below 50lbs to get checked. All light fixtures are wrapped in bubble wrap - still globed.

Backpack holds laptop and headphones.

Set-up looks inconspicuous unlike pelican cases that scream "I'm carrying expensive gear, rob me."

You can also wheel the whole thing around with one hand and still have a bottle of water in the other.

Here's a picture after hitting 17 cities in 30 days! You can see the set-up in the last picture. http://homepage.mac.com/guyc/PhotoAlbum22.html
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