I'm going to be traveling to shoot a corporate event and it's been a long time since I've had to travel by flight with equipment (Pre 9/11). So I'm looking for advice on the best way to travel and what to expect during security etc. It's a large convention so I will be shipping my tripod with our display and other event equipment. Other than that I'm running lean and mean with a Sony HXR-NX3, a set of Sennheiser Lavs, and a couple battery packs and charging unit - all fits into my Kata bag with the exception of the charging unit.
I was planning on carrying on, but I'll also have my MAC Book Pro - So one stowed away up top and the other under the seat.
Any thoughts or advice?
I travel with gear QUITE frequently and while I'm not familiar with the size of your "Kata bag," if it will fit in the overhead bin you should be OK. The trick is getting on the plane early enough that there's still room in the overhead bin and you're not threatened with the dreaded flight attendant saying of "Sir, with no more space in the overhead bins we're going to have to check your bag."
Since I live near a city dominated by Southwest Airlines I always opt for the extra $12.50 for "Early Board," "A Group" boarding. Then it's just a matter of watching out for someone trying to force their bag into the bin on top of your gear, which happens with too much frequency for it not to be a constant concern.
As to the charging unit, you're probably safe to just put that in your checked bag. Even if TSA or a baggage handler opens your bag with your clothes. It's not the sort of thing that should be of interest to them or appear worth even a fraction of what it actually costs.
Your idea of shipping the tripod is a good one. I routinely ship a hard-shell tube containing the tripod, a few light stands & arms and whatever other grip gear will fit. I then use a hard shell anvil case for lights, batteries, audio gear, etc. I use FedEx economy (3 day) whenever possible and practical.
Hope this is of some help.
Depending on the day of the week, you could get hassled over your lithium ion camera batteries. Might want to send those ahead, leave one on the camera, in case they need to see it fired up.
I would take the camera, one battery, charger, mic, cable, one softlight and blank media as carry-on, along with the bare minimum you'd need if for some reason the airline lost everything else. Of course that never happens. I'd rather be short on clothes than gear on a paying job.
Research ahead to see what resources are available at the destination city, in case you will need an emergency rental of a tripod, more batteries, etc.. It may even make sense to fill out paperwork with the rental place in advance, just to get you into their computer and to get your credit checked out first, because some rental places will have stringent requirements for the first time you rent from them. After that, it's relatively casual and easy.
Fedex and Greyhound can be used to send stuff ahead, both ways.
Thank you Nick and Mark,
That's exactly what I was looking for. I wondered about the batteries so your idea of sending one and keeping one is a great idea, as well as researching rental resources ahead of time. I too would rather be short cloths than gear.
I'm flying Delta, I don't know if they have the option to seat early but I'm going to look into that.
Some battery makers offer stickers you can put on the product that say they are cleared for airline travel... but OTOH, TSA officers are in the news all the time as being terribly inconsistent on enforcement from place to place, day to day. A battery with a sticker may or may not be safe, but one without a sticker could be ignored one day and pulled for inspection the next, no particular reason. It could be that adding the stickers to the batteries draws enough added attention that the screeners will get all hinky, because " ...anybody can put a sticker on something that says it's safe - this must be a ploy to lower my guard and smuggle unsafe things past our watchful eye, so, I'm going to arbitrarily deny it, and if you complain, you're never going to make your flight... or any future flights, since I'll put you on a LIST." The magic word appears to be Lithium. Lithium-ion, lithium-air, lithium-butterscotch... they don't discriminate. Low-informstion officers may just key on the word "lithium" and decode it as "contraband", without studying the nuances of their own regs on the matter.
I'd suggest going to the TSA web page and double-checking the latest version of the rules, up to the night before the flight. Even then, you're not always assured the officers will allow what the web site says they allow. They take a lot of individual discretion, it appears. Flying these days has become a miserable process.
Huh? I'm disagreeing with Mark? This is probably only the 2nd time. I have 4 IDX-10Ss Lithium camera batteries each under the limit for air transport (I believe) of 90 watts. In a pocket of my camera bag I also keep the manufacture's instruction sheet which specifically says that the 10Ss battery is "...suitable for transport by air as non-restricted articles under the regulations of..." You get the idea. If questioned about the battery I have this as a document that specifically cites the IATA Dangerous Goods Regulation 126.96.36.199.1 (so there!).
I also only fly with one battery just to be sure that I am complying with the regulations. It hasn't happened recently but I have been in TSA situations where I've had to power up the camera and let them look through the viewfinder to verify that it was in fact a camera and not a disguised bomb. That's why I always have a battery and an XDCam disk loaded and ready to go for that time I stumble into something newsworthy (which hasn't happened yet).
I don't see where we disagree, Nick. But, you may have more faith in the TSA people than I do. The manual for your camera and battery may or may not be considered an "official" document by the screener. Depends on the individual and their knowledge of and interpretation of the rules.
When I read about people getting bumped from a flight for having a drawing of a gun or bullet printed on their t-shirt, or a 2-year-old special needs kid getting his toy soldier taken away by agents because it has as an accessory a 1-inch plastic replica of something vaguely gun-shaped (both things have happened) - well, let's just say I don't feel very confident about the fairness or logic of the process or the rules and their application.
Oh, yea. And that's the other thing. When you pay your $85 and sign up from the "TSA Pre" program you whoosh past the regular lines, don't have to take off your shoes or belt or even jacket, are treated VERY politely, go through a simple magnetometer (rather than the more invasive scanning device) and are through screening in about 1/10th of the time, probably even less.
But as Mark indicates, you can always never tell what the TSA will do at any time, in any given situation and God help all of us who travel a lot if there's ever another attack on US soil. (Possibly the worst possible thing to be writing about on September 10th.)
We've had one incident where our equipment was flown somewhere else, and didn't make it to our shoot city in time. Then we had another incident where our equipment - all of it - totally disappeared. Both were Delta.
Since then, if time permits, we've begun shipping our gear ahead, sans camera and enough audio equipment to get the job done of course..
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[Steve Brame] "We've had one incident where our equipment was flown somewhere else, and didn't make it to our shoot city in time... Delta."
A couple of years prior to 9-11-01 I had a very similar experience with Delta. My client and we were flying to Portugal via Madrid and because of their x-Ray of a case containing tungsten lights and their coiled cables, the case was diverted to Germany for closer inspection. The shoot was delayed a day but we got the case back from the airline and were able to complete the gig.
That was also another case of needing the battery because the guards in Madrid's airport forced me to power up the camera. It's not possible to argue with someone who doesn't speak English, I don't speak Spanish AND he's holding a machine gun.
Both Mark and Nick are correct.
However, do not set aside profiling. Depending on what close you turn up in and the shade of your sun-glasses, you will be stopped. Sometimes it works to dress for the occasion and look prepared with all documentation easily at hand, including confirmation from client/location for the shoot :-)
All the Best
@madsvid, London, UK
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Thanks everyone for all your feedback!! I fly out in 15 day so I will let you know how it goes. Sounds like the best thing for me to do is prepare for the worst and hope for the best! Given the inconsistency TSA and many other factors - show up early and say my prayers :)
Finally back from my trip and I thought I would take the time to tell you how my experience at the airport went. For my flight out everything went great. I shipped my tripod, extra battery, extra memory card and mics to the hotel. Going through TSA was just like it has been since 9/11. I had 2 bags, my camera bag, which contained my camera, battery, memory card manuals, and my backpack, which basically had my laptop, headphones and schedule etc. I asked the TSA officer if I should take my camera out of the bag just like my laptop - he said "no, it looks professional so you should be good"....whatever that means? Everything scanned no problem and I was through security and on my flight in no time.
For the trip back I wasn't able to ship my mics or the extra battery so I was forced to put those in my camera bag as well. For my tripod I had asked the taxi drive to swing by the UPS store and he decided to just take me to the airport while telling me over and over there was a UPS in the airport - which there was not. So, when I checked my luggage I asked to have my tripod check or if I could possible carry it on - I was told to just try and carry it on and they would ask me to check it if they has concerns. I was a bit concerned going through TSA knowing I had 2 mics and 2 batteries that probably looked suspicious. Sweating like I was a drug mule or something I went through security just like before. I was gathering my shoes and belt when the alarm went off and the line came to an abrupt stop. A TSA agent came walking over to me, I'm sure the look on my face was priceless. She holds up a bottle of water and asks if I would like to leave the line and drink it. Don't think so, and so I went on my marry way and waited for my flight......4 gates and 3 hours later I was in line to board. When it came my turn I asked to check my tripod and was handed a pink slip to fill out - At this point I was ready to cut my losses and hope that the tripod made it through. I gave it to the baggage guy at the door and found my seat. When I arrived and departed the airplane my tripod was sitting right outside the door like it had been waiting there the whole time.
Over all I was very pleased by everything. Oh, I was flying Delta in case you were wondering.
Thanks again everyone for all your feedback. That was the first of many flights and I already feel like a veteran :)
[Jon Harrison] "he decided to just take me to the airport while telling me over and over there was a UPS in the airport - which there was not."
In my experience cab drivers often lie when it benefits them. Probably not all, but many. This guy obviously decided that waiting for you outside a UPS store was not as profitable for him, even with the "meter running," as using the same amount of time to find another fare.
My wife and I once had a cab drop us at a museum in Europe on a Monday. The cab driver had lied when we asked at the start to make sure that it would be open. It wasn't and he was long gone before we knew it.
You can often have the business center in major hotels send things for you, BUT they typically charge a premium well above what the UPS or FedEx cost is. So for your next trip go online beforehand and look-up where the UPS or FedEx stores are relative to where you are staying.
Far more often I establish with the place I'm going to shoot that I can send them my big stuff via FedEx. Then, at the same time I'm shipping, I also create pre-paid return airbills and ask the office or factory where I'm shooting where and when they usually have FedEx pick-up. I've yet to have anyone turn me down, although a few times I've had to call in the pick-up myself because they don't have a regular pick-up.
Glad it all worked out for you, though!