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Old February 26th, 2011, 07:21 PM   #1
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How to deal with equipment theft?

Hi everyone,

Just a concern that I'm wondering how you all deal with. I'm sure we all own/rent a bunch of equipment for weddings that we can't keep an eye on the entire time, even with two videographers, as we are filming.

That leaves our expensive gear suspectible to theft and damage. For example, a stationary camera left on a tripod in the back might be stolen while the two videographers are running around filming. A dolly slider might be left somewhere when we are not using it, making it easy to steal. A steadicam setup not being used has the same issue. If you own lots of mini audio recorders such as the Zoom H4n or Tascams and place them in various places to capture stationary audio sources such as a band playing or the podium area where speakers are going to be...those might be easily stolen too.

How do you deal with theft? (and potential equipment damage). Obviously insurance can help cover this, but insurance doesn't cover instances when important recorded footage or audio is stolen/damaged. You just lost what you were paid to shoot/record, and there's no repeating a wedding.
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Old February 26th, 2011, 08:04 PM   #2
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Re: How to deal with equipment theft?

First and foremost, you hit the nail right on the all of your gear. This won't replace any stolen footage but it will keep you in business. For the ceremony, we use two shooters and four cameras, so right off the bat, I know two of the cameras are safe. The other two cameras are usually in a location that I can keep my eyes on throughout the ceremony. I just keep good situational awareness...easier said than done, but I do it nonetheless. At the reception, we keep our unused gear (steadicam, slider, etc.) by the DJ. I don't actually expect him/her to keep an eye on our gear but someone would have to be pretty brazen to walk over to that area who doesn't look like the videographer and try to steal equipment right next to the DJ table. We also have long cable locks that get threaded through all of our case handles therefore locking all of the cases together making it next to impossible to steal (we also keep the cases closed and locked when not in use). For any equipment not being used but left out, we go back to situational awareness and keep one eye glued on the events and the other eye on our gear. Again, not easy to do, but we manage. I guess my point is, we don't leave gear that we're not using just laying around and if we have to, I turn on my spidey senses and really keep an eye on things. If you're really paranoid about it, and to a degree you should be, you could always hire an assistant to watch and monitor your stuff.
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Old February 26th, 2011, 08:16 PM   #3
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Re: How to deal with equipment theft?

Hi Zhong

I find that at reception centres the staff are usually great ..I left a transmitter outside where the ceremony was and they dutifully picked it up and kept it safe for me.

Directly after the ceremony, the photog usually will do the family group photos and that gives me a chance to pack up the gear I'm not using and either lock it in the car or take it into the reception venue (like Michael I put my stuff close to the DJ!!)

Make sure that your insurance covers theft from a vehicle and also theft from the venue.

I guess if you are really concerned you could take the SDHC cards (or tape) out of the camera and put it somewhere safe if you are leaving your gear un-attended???

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Old February 26th, 2011, 09:31 PM   #4
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Re: How to deal with equipment theft?

One small thing I did was when I ordered my Pelican case. I ordered it in screaming yellow to stick out like a sore thumb. You can be nonchalant walking out with a black or light gray case. But it takes serious gonads to grab a screaming yellow one and act like it belongs to you. Besides I felt it that ever did happen, the bright color might be something to catch someone's eye, leading to identifying who walked off with it.
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Old February 26th, 2011, 09:42 PM   #5
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Re: How to deal with equipment theft?

Whenever and wherever possible, I lock the equipment via cable and combination padlock to something. This is especially true for camera bags and projectors. The most vulnerable time is either the beginning or end of an event when all your equipment is in a pile, or when nobody seems to be around.
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Old February 28th, 2011, 05:16 PM   #6
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Re: How to deal with equipment theft?

Insurance is definitely a good idea, but I would start with not getting your gear stolen in the first place. Here are some tactics we employ ...

First and foremost each and every case has a TSA lock on it, and we keep the cases locked any time we aren't getting something out of them. It takes discipline. It can be tempting to grab something out and leave the case unlocked while you grab a shot. Don't do it. Lock the case up every time. I usually spin the top or bottom number dial only a few digits to make it easier for me to get back in the case without having to see the numbers.

Second, purchase a simple cable lock and run the cable through all of your cases and lock them together, and if you can manage it, to something solid. Oftentimes you won't have a anything to lock your cases up to, but if you have a few Pelican cases and some tripod bags and an oversized golf bag case like we do, and you have them all locked together .... well, no one is going to be dragging all of that anywhere.

It's also a good idea to lock up all of your gear near someone like the DJ. Now, I wouldn't go trusting the DJ to watch your equipment. He's already trying to set up and do his job, etc. And for that matter, I've heard a story of a DJ who stole a Zoom from a videographer. But by having your gear LOCKED UP close to him it's going to be even more of a turnoff for anyone to mess with it.

I've second shot with a number of my colleagues and I've always been amazed at how many of them leave all of their gear totally out of sight .. even in other rooms or out in hallways. To me, that's just asking for someone to walk off with your stuff.

The last thing you can do that will really seal the deal is pay a high school kid minimum wage to camp out with your gear all day. It's a pretty cheap way to ensure your gear doesn't go anywhere. We are just now looking into implementing this in the coming year.

My thought is that I can always replace my gear (insurance or not), but losing gear on a wedding day could be a critical situation. So my recommendation .. don't let it happen in the first place. Take the proper steps.
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Old February 28th, 2011, 05:39 PM   #7
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Re: How to deal with equipment theft?

Great suggestions everyone. Thanks!
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Old March 1st, 2011, 04:08 PM   #8
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Re: How to deal with equipment theft?

It will be nice to have some kind of alarm...which reacts on any movement.

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Old March 1st, 2011, 09:23 PM   #9
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Re: How to deal with equipment theft?

I echo Travis' suggestion of running a locked cable through your cases. We use aircraft cable with a combination lock. With the amount of gear attached it makes it almost impossible to drag away.

For extra safety, our most valuable gear (cameras, lenses, memory cards) is tracked with hidden GPS tracking modules. The service is only $15 a month, but totally worth it. We also use it when we're on destination weddings to confirm our gear is on the right plane! With the device you can also have it trigger a text message whenever it moves.

Last year we worked with a photographer who had his gear stolen from the back of his vehicle. He didn't have business insurance and his personal insurance wouldn't cover it!I definitely recommend insuring your gear!
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Old March 2nd, 2011, 06:56 AM   #10
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Re: How to deal with equipment theft?

The reality of equipment theft almost became real for us. Last Sunday we did a 6 hour wedding, before heading home we locked all our gears at the back trunk and decided to pick some things up in the Mall. We were lucky to come out at the right time to see this guy trying to open our car, he sped off before we could reach him. He was alone so I thought he was really after the gear and not the car. The question was, did he see us put the gear at the trunk before we headed to the mall. He could have carted away the gear, the tapes, the cards and the memories of the wedding we just shot

So my to do list:

1. An alarm system.
2. Secure the tapes and CF cards if we really have to do a side trip.
3. Be aware of the area if you are loading or unloading gear.

My 2 cents
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