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Help with Light kit to travel with

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Joe Quirino
Help with Light kit to travel with
on Feb 3, 2008 at 7:56:48 pm

Hello,

I am looking to buy a light kit that is easy to travel with. (airplane) I have an Arri Softbank kit and a couple misc lights but the Arri's are too big and bulky to check in on a plane.

I am looking for a kit that has like four lights, that is pretty light, and very flexible. Does any one have any recommendation. I saw a kit on amvona.com but i do not know anything about that.

My application is nothing more than "typical" promotional videos ie. Interviews, broll etc.

Thanks for all you help in advance



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Dan Brockett
Re: Help with Light kit to travel with
on Feb 4, 2008 at 3:13:11 pm

I too have an Arri Softbank kit. These days, I FedEx it and UPS it more than I fly with it, although you can fly with it. But it is a hassle and you have to pay the overweight charge.

That said, as much as I don't like them, the Lowel kits would be good to consider. Lowels are flimsy and they are junky compared to our Arris but their kits are really small and do have what you need or most of what you need. A lot of people love the Lowel Rifa kits.

Forget Amvona stuff, IMHO, it's junk for amateurs. If you are used to pro gear like Arri, you will even realize that the Lowel stuff is junky but better than Amvona.

Best,

Dan



Providing value added material to all of your favorite DVDs


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Todd at Fantastic Plastic
Re: Help with Light kit to travel with
on Feb 4, 2008 at 3:41:13 pm

You might consider one of the smaller kits from LTM Pepper. They are very well made (usually fresnels but they have other types of instruments as well). I actually like them better than Arri... they are as well or better made and significantly less expensive (most Arris have formed sheet-metal bodies, the Peppers have cast-metal bodies). You can put together your own setup, or they have ready-to-go kits in several sizes with several different instruments.

The thing I'm impressed with about them is that their kits are VERY complete... heads, Matthews stands, barn doors, scrims (singles and doubles in fulls and halves), lamps, power adapters, even leather gloves. Kits have different cases, but the one we have came in a hard-shell rolling-wheel case with a pop-out handle. We've had one of their kits for almost 10 years, and while it is not our primary any more it is still used quite a bit and still going strong.

And I will echo two things that Dan said:

Firstly, Lowel instruments are very flimsy... I'm not sure exactly how they got the "high end" reputation that they have. I've never seen anyone's Lowels that didn't look like they have been run over by a truck and straightened back out again, parts kinda loose and rattly. They also burn VERY hot and aren't heat-shielded very well at all. At least, yes, they pack up small.

And secondly, yes, consider shipping your gear, especially the heavy stuff. We don't travel all that much but when we do we have semi-large shipping cases (usually 5 or 6, depending on what all we are taking, whether it's film or video, etc.), and we just FedEx everything. If we plan our schedules carefully so that it doesn't interfere with shoots at home we can ship 3-day to our location and the gear is waiting for us when we arrive. We just find a FedEx location nearest our shoot location and ship "Hold for Pickup" and it's there waiting for us. It usually costs us about $1800 to ship everything we need cross country and back (that's loads of gear going 3-day air, ground shipping or a lighter shoot would be less). I have never had one piece of gear lost, broken, or delayed that way... and I can not say that about checking gear so that it travels on the same plane with me.


T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com






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Joe Quirino
Re: Help with Light kit to travel with
on Feb 4, 2008 at 4:34:08 pm

Thanks guys that is awesome info... I guess you are right with shipping. Other than the time, what do I have to lose? I agree with both of you on the lowels. I think I would rather buy a contractors light at Home depot rather than a lowel kit. Thanks for the insight. I am going to look into the LTM Pepper lights



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Dan Brockett
Re: Help with Light kit to travel with
on Feb 6, 2008 at 8:54:49 pm

Peppers are a nice way to go. I am not familiar with their kits but as long as they have one with a Chimera or a light and speedring you can put a Chimera on, I would be all over that.

BTW Todd, I am doing a shoot in Philly Friday, I just shipped my lighting kit and a plastic tote with the extras via UPS. It works well and I get to go through the airports with only a backpack with the camera. Suhweet!

Best,

Dan

Providing value added material to all of your favorite DVDs


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Bob Cole
Re: Help with Light kit to travel with
on Feb 6, 2008 at 10:13:35 pm

If shipping ahead of time isn't practical, here are some tested travel tips, for a run-and-gun, interview/B-roll shoot:

1. Call ahead of time and find a local grip who has the lights/stands/tripod etc. that you need.
2. Carry-on your absolute essentials (camera/mic/tape).
3. For local shoots I use Kinos, Moles, & Peppers. But for travel, Lowel's stands fold up nice and small, & the Tota-light in a Chimera works great. (although I've had to add a bracket to the speedring so that the tota-light doesn't slip.)
4. Carry extra bulbs. You'll definitely need them after your cases are thrown around by the baggage "handlers."
5. Pelicans are great, but heavy. I've started using Lightware cases and had good luck so far.
6. Most important of all: Carry your shot tapes back with you; don't let them go through the more powerful x-ray device to which the checked luggage is subjected.

Happy travels.

Bob C

MacPro 2 x 3GHz dualcore; 10 GB 667MHz
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Todd at Fantastic Plastic
Re: Help with Light kit to travel with
on Feb 6, 2008 at 10:34:45 pm

[Dan Brockett] "...doing a shoot in Philly Friday, I just shipped my lighting kit and a plastic tote..."

Works well, doesn't it Dan? After we started shipping a few years ago I will never again lug gear through an airport unless we abolutely have to.

If you find yourself doing a lot of this you can come up with a system/routine that works well for you. Our shipping cases are sort of like Anvil cases, but not quite as heavy. To make things even easier we put recessed mounts in the bottom of the big ones for three-inch rubber casters. When we pick up the cases at FedEx, the first thing we do is crack 'em open, remove the wheels stored inside, and attach them. Bingo... rolling cases, and stack the smaller ones on top (I am too lazy to lift anything I don't have to).


T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com






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Eric Temple
Re: Help with Light kit to travel with
on Feb 7, 2008 at 2:22:49 am

My traveling kit is pretty flexible... 2 Lowel Rifa lights (1 Rifa 66 and 1 Rifa 55), 2 100 watt LTM Pepper fresnels, 1 200 watt LTM Pepper fresnel, and one Lowel Omni light. I also carry a Flexfill silk reflector and a few dimmers and clamps. It is good for just about any kind of interview or small b-roll situation. I carry everything in a Kata Palms 3 case. All the stands are small Lowel units. I'm very happy with it.



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Bob Cole
Re: Help with Light kit to travel with
on Feb 7, 2008 at 2:39:51 am

[Eric Temple] "carry everything in a Kata Palms 3 case."

Eric, that sounds like a good kit. The Kata's a pretty big case. If you travel by air with it, do you get socked with an oversize charge? I've found that the airlines tend to be very picky about weight and not very picky about size limits, for checked luggage.

Bob C

MacPro 2 x 3GHz dualcore; 10 GB 667MHz
Kona LHe
Sony HDV Z1
Sony HDV M25U
HD-Connect MI
Betacam UVW1800
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Eric Temple
Re: Help with Light kit to travel with
on Feb 7, 2008 at 12:33:53 pm

Unfortunately, this is about 61 lbs. If I drop one pepper, one rifa and 2 stands, it comes in at 49lbs. I'm afraid that paying for extra baggage and weight is just the new cost of doing business... especially with United now charging extra for anything more than one checked bag.



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Bob Cole
Re: Help with Light kit to travel with
on Feb 7, 2008 at 3:20:48 pm

Hey Eric, I agree about just sucking up and paying the extras. Anyway, the picture I saw of your case showed wheels. So you're getting a dolly for free. That would be another checked piece of luggage otherwise, which would cost more on United. (I take it that you don't get socked with the >62" combined dimension charge when you use the Kata Palms 3 case -- just the overweight.)

I wonder whether very heavy luggage is actually less abused, just because the handlers can't possibly throw it that far.

The abuse that checked luggage takes is absolutely breathtaking, but it isn't that hard to fathom. I'm talking strictly second-hand here, but I have heard that baggage loading is a very low-wage job, with considerable accident risks. If you get the feeling that somebody is taking out their anger on your luggage, you may be right. Maybe we should all put bumper stickers on our luggage: "More pay for baggage handlers." Sort of like the demonstrators in the 60's who screamed "More pay for cops."

Bob C

MacPro 2 x 3GHz dualcore; 10 GB 667MHz
Kona LHe
Sony HDV Z1
Sony HDV M25U
HD-Connect MI
Betacam UVW1800
DVCPro AJ-D650


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Eric Temple
Re: Help with Light kit to travel with
on Feb 7, 2008 at 3:26:20 pm

I actually leave the wheels on all the time. I've never had them damaged in over 3 years of heavy travel. So far, no one has ever dinged me for an oversize bag... only weight. (Plus a replacement trolly (wheels) is pretty inexpensive.

I was in Salt Lake checking in for a flight to DC the other day and watched the TSA guys flinging all the bags several feet to the belt. We complained about it and stood there and watched them put our bags on the conveyer more carefully. After it's out of sight... it takes a hell of a lot of abuse.



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Eric Temple
Re: Help with Light kit to travel with
on Feb 7, 2008 at 12:34:04 pm

Unfortunately, this is about 61 lbs. If I drop one pepper, one rifa and 2 stands, it comes in at 49lbs. I'm afraid that paying for extra baggage and weight is just the new cost of doing business... especially with United now charging extra for anything more than one checked bag.



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Joe Quirino
Re: Help with Light kit to travel with
on Feb 7, 2008 at 4:27:53 am

Thank you guys for all your help! The thing that sucks about these shoots is that they are two camera. I shoot with 2 spx-800 p2 cameras, so my camera and one battery is just at 50lbs. So I think I will fly down with both cameras, and two tripods. I like the idea of Fed-ex my stuff down but I do not want to be without my light kit for 3 days, so I will buy a "travel" light kit.

When you guys fed-ex equipment, do you put it in a cardboard box or do you send it in the silver case or kata case alone?

My normal shoots were all outdoors, (which I took for granted) so all would bring is couple of reflectors and I was good to go.

In your opinion would you buy something "to get the job done" like a lowel kit or chimera kit or do you think I should invest in another Arri Softbank kit, to travel with?

Thanks
Joe



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Dan Brockett
Re: Help with Light kit to travel with
on Feb 14, 2008 at 8:02:22 pm

When I FedEx, depending on the job and what I am lighting, I take part of my Arri kit, wrap each light in a towel and put all of them along with gels, reflectors, stingers, headphones, etc. in a Contico Yellow Plastic tool box. I then put TSA locks on either side of the lid, just so it doesn't come off. The TSA locks are a joke but you can at least tell if someone got into the case, they have an indicator.

I then take tripod, light stands, grip arm and head, Chimera and speed ring and put them into a golf club case with casters on the end of it.

Unfortunately my new golf case came back from my Philly shoot last week via UPS and one of the skateboard wheels on the golf club case was broken off. Fortunately the gear inside of it was all okay but now I have to buy another case, bummer.

The bottom line is, whether you fly with it or ship it, it's going to get tossed, crushed and abused and possibly lost. UPS lost my Arri kit on January 4 of this year, it took them a month to find it and get it back to me. That's the reason I don't fly with my Sachtler, I only fly with my cheap Bogen. If they lose it or screw it up, I am only out $500.00 instead of $3,000.00.

The best idea is to have a travel gear package and a normal local package. I still like Todd's idea of a Pepper pack for travel, I haven't used them for a while but Peppers are nice, little and light and have a nice light quality to them. Another good idea would be some lower priced lights like CoolLights tungstens/CDMs. The idea is to obtain a kit that is good enough to do the work but not so expensive that if it's lost or damaged it kills you financially.

I have flown with my Arri kit and when I landed, they had tossed it so hard that the lock and hasp were bent beyond recognition, I had to use bolt cutters to get it open. The reason I will only ship the gear now via FedEx/UPS is at least they will pay for it f they lose or damage it. If you fly and your gear becomes lost or damaged, you are S.O.L. so why would anyone fly with gear unless they have to? (and I have had to many times but will now tell those clients to give me their FedEx or UPS number and will only ship gear unless they client agrees to replaceing any gear lost or damaged by the airlines).

Best,

Dan

Providing value added material to all of your favorite DVDs


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Bob Cole
Agree mostly
on Feb 15, 2008 at 2:25:48 am

[Dan Brockett] "The reason I will only ship the gear now via FedEx/UPS is at least they will pay for it f they lose or damage it. If you fly and your gear becomes lost or damaged, you are S.O.L. so why would anyone fly with gear unless they have to?"

True -- airlines sometimes make you sign a waiver, if they sniff photographic equipment. But I haven't had nearly the bad experiences that others have, using either very hard cases (Anvil, Pelican) or very soft (Lightware). Bubble-wrap works well for wrapping stuff. Totally agree about having two types of kit: expendable for air travel, A-List when it's under your control. I know, I've been lucky, and my number is definitely UP.

Best of all: don't take most of your stuff -- hire local. Find a good RELIABLE local company/grip to supply some labor and most equipment, avoid most of these troubles -- and be greener. It can take a long time to find them, but it's great to travel and meet terrific people who really know the local scene. There are so many talented and delightful people all around the country.

Bob C

MacPro 2 x 3GHz dualcore; 10 GB 667MHz
Kona LHe
Sony HDV Z1
Sony HDV M25U
HD-Connect MI
Betacam UVW1800
DVCPro AJ-D650


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Mike Cohen
Re: Agree mostly
on Mar 22, 2008 at 12:26:13 am

regarding lights - we have Omni lights - they take a beating, and we use them until they completely fall apart, then replace them.
I am now pricing out either a Pepper or Arri kit - the problem is airline travel, as others have described. Renting a good kit in most cities is around $100 a day, so if you have time to pickup and drop off, or can get the rental house to drop off and pickup at your hotel, that is a good idea.
Most shoots we travel with a golf case with wheels for the tripod, one light and stand and wires, and a shoulder camera case taken on the plane. For larger shoots with 2 people we often have $300+ in excess baggage fees each way.
For a cart i like the rock n roller carts. you generally have to replace some of the flimsy nuts and screws with more travel worthy ones, and carry some extras and a pair of vice grips, but these carts are great.


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