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The "joys" of business travel?

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Nick GriffinThe "joys" of business travel?
by on Jan 10, 2010 at 4:28:41 pm

I'm in the process of planning a shoot which will require multiple flights and I'm wondering just how much of a nightmare it's going to be. One of the very few times I shipped a camera it arrived so badly dropped that the deck mechanism was destroyed, so I always take the camera as one of my two carry-ons.

The question is: is that even do-able in the current climate? It's a full size rig that, while technically might fit the carry-on size requirement as the camera by itself, certainly doesn't when it's in its Portabrace case. In the past airlines have been very accommodating when they're told it's a TV camera. But has this changed after restrictions imposed in the wake of the "underwear bomber?" (Or, as the New York Post referred to the incident "Great Balls of Fire.")

If they're no serious about a single carry-on does this mean I have to either leave the laptop home or risk having it stolen from checked baggage?

Anybody flown with a camera since 12/25? Any experiences / advice to share?

(I'm cross-posting this on the Cinematography site just to get additional input.)

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Jeff BonanoRe: The "joys" of business travel?
by on Jan 10, 2010 at 4:39:43 pm

All I know is that I bought my brother an electric toothbrush for X-mas, and he only had carry on luggage. They stopped him and gave him hell because they saw a "device". It was just a stinking electric toothbrush and since he just got it it wasn't charged. What sucked was that they insist he turn it on to prove that it was a toothbrush. When they found that it didn't work, they detained him until he could charge it and prove that it worked.

I couldn't understand why, but then I heard about the underwear bomber and it made perfect sense. TSA has been freaking out lately with a lot of stuff so I wouldn't be surprised if they at least make you turn on your equipment to prove it's really a camera.

Jeff Bonano

"I want to have a cool quote at the bottom of my signature, just like everyone else on the cow forum!" -Jeff Bonano

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Tim WilsonRe: The "joys" of business travel?
by on Jan 10, 2010 at 5:15:29 pm

Time to start changing your mind about what "carry on" means.

I've been traveling like crazy on family business in the past few months - going back well before Hot Pants - and on more than two-thirds of our recent flights, we wound up carrying NOTHING on. Not our choice. There's now somebody standing at the end of the jetway, right before you get on the plane, tagging your bag and taking it straight to the cargo hold.

My previously fine rollaboard has been tagged and grabbed nearly every time. My wife's much smaller bag has been getting hit more and more - and seriously, more than two-thirds of the time.

The good news is that this is a fantastic way to work around checked luggage. You roll your heavy-ass, almost compliant bag down the ramp. Instead of wrestling it into ever-smaller overhead bins, you hand it to a kind professional who walks it down the stairs, and places it in the hold themselves.

No kidding. People are a lot more careful with your bag when you look them in the eye, say their name, and thank them. "Rebecca or Raoul or Rahim or Roger, thanks for taking this. I really appreciate it." They beam. "Take care! Have a great trip!" Dude, it's awesome. Milk of human kindness. You can watch your luggage carried down the stairs like there was an actual baby tucked in it.

Then on the other end, your bag is hand-carried back to the jetway! It never gets flung around to ride on a ramp. It basically gets put right in your hand. This is awesome.

Variations: in one airport, they actually put the cart RIGHT THERE, sheltered so that the opening is just inside the gate. YOU are the one who places your bag lovingly on the cart. In another airport just yesterday, they hand carried our luggage all the way into the terminal, and carefully placed it in a row, leaning against the seats just inside the door. They even extended the handles!!! By the time I walked off the plane, it was literally ready to roll - I didn't even break step. (Honest, I did it just to see if I actually COULD do it without breaking step.)

I never intended to find out that our laptops travel just fine in these circumstances. But they do. Perfectly. I now LOOK for the chance to hand off my bag, rather than carry it myself...

...but I keep control of it. **I** am the one who makes sure that my bag makes every connection, because I still roll it everywhere myself. I just never lift it, and never let it out of my sight until it goes into the cargo hold by hand, not by conveyor belt.

I freaking HATE flying. No fear, just loathing. But this is rapidly becoming my favorite part.

PS. Your mileage will absolutely vary, and goodness knows that I've gotten pulled aside for one thing or another many, many times....but I've never been pulled aside for anything electronic, and only asked to turn on a laptop once. (Although I still have my computer asleep, not turned all the way off - when I go through security - never hurts.)

Even the 7 trips I've made in recent weeks (don't ask), it has been more or less business as usual -- and that includes a flight this week through National, right in the heart of Washington DC. There's plenty of stuff to hate about air travel, but this is the least of the things that will annoy you.

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grinner hesterRe: The "joys" of business travel?
by on Jan 10, 2010 at 7:30:32 pm

I carry mine on 100 percent of the time. Period.
I learned the hard way not to bring my anvil case as it won't fit ont he puddle jumpers and checking it att he gate is worse. I watched em overhand it into the hull.
Now, I just carry it in a carry on duffle bag. I bring no lights and don't even bring my sticks. If I can't fit it in my pockets, I don't need it. I have dimmable LEDs, wireless lavs, extra tape and plenty of betteries. Less is more when travelling. I check nothing.
not even a change of clothes... I mean, the camera in the duffle bag needs padding, anyway ;)

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Todd TerryRe: The "joys" of business travel?
by on Jan 10, 2010 at 9:07:01 pm

After trying it a few ways, we almost always do it this way...

I carry on my small case full of prime lenses. They stay with me at all times, as they are my babies (and because they are worth more than all other gear combined)... they never leave my sight.

EVERYthing else is shipped... usually via FedEx. A little pricey, yes... but sooo worth it in terms of hassle-freeness and confidence in arrival. We have several large pelican cases dedicated to all the gear, usually five to seven cases depending on what all we are taking, shoot format, etc. (actually some of the longer-shaped stuff doesn't go in pelicans, but in golf bag shipping caes... tripods, jibs, stands, etc.). We ship them via FedEx marked "Hold at FedEx for pickup," indicating the FedEx location closest to our destination airport or hotel or shoot location... whatever works best. We zip by, pick it up, and it's always there waiting for us. There are always stories people have where things didn't go well... but we have never once had a piece of gear delayed, lost, or damaged. I can't say the same about checked baggage.


Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.

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Nick GriffinRe: The "joys" of business travel?
by on Jan 10, 2010 at 9:36:00 pm

The camera that got dropped so hard it broke the deck was in the huge coffin-sized shipping case that it came with from Sony. So since then I've ALWAYS hand carried. But, for what I do, traveling without sticks and lights is simply not an option. That and I don't mind checking a bag with clothes.

T2 -
I almost always FedEx lights, stands, tripod & grip equipment ahead. The problem becomes multiple location shoots where we've had to check stuff with the airlines in order to keep up with a multi-city schedule. Last year was the worst one yet going from home to Chicago, Chicago to Oakland, Oakland to Seattle, Seattle to LA for five shoot days in a row. (Lesson learned: don't let the client set the schedule.)

I'm also under some pricing pressure these days where I've been getting grief about several hundred dollars of FedEx, even when it's 3 day Economy. On this next gig I'm doing stills as well so there's that camera, still tripod, strobe heads and powerpacks in addition.

And just for everyone's FYI, my insurance carrier wrote our policy to include gear "in transit" so we're covered and don't have to pay FedEx's far more expensive insurance fees.

Oh, well. Thanks to all of your for your comments. Still interested in anything else anyone has to contribute.

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Tim KolbRe: The "joys" of business travel?
by on Jan 10, 2010 at 10:03:18 pm

The last multi-city shooting trip (3 flights, San Diego>Nashville>Home) ended up running about 1100.00 in checked bag fees for our clothes bags (2) and a golf club hardcase (tripod, light stands, etc), and a beefy pelican with de-lamped lights, mics, baby legs...

We each had carry (not roller) laptop bags and we each had a small Kata bag (191 I believe) with the camcorder and small gear, harddrives, etc. (an even fits in the overhead on a puddle of the prime benefits of that small camera).

Renting (non-key) gear with an assistant at each site can sometimes be the easiest route.

Director, Consultant
Kolb Productions,

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Steve KownackiRe: The "joys" of business travel?
by on Jan 10, 2010 at 10:32:45 pm

The ability to turn on the camera is a must to show them a picture, they may even want you to record something and play it back so have a tape ready. You mentioned money's tight on the shipping budget, what about a local guy with some of the bulky items like stix and a light or 2?


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Mike CohenRe: The "joys" of business travel?
by on Jan 10, 2010 at 10:54:02 pm

Most of our shoots involve a tripod case checked and carry-on with HDV camera, some tapes and DV clamshell deck. No problems with this system aside from airlines taking every opportunity to lose the tripod case. Taking an earlier outgoing flight is usually sufficient to avoid completely lost luggage, but not always.

A few times a year we travel with lights, multiple cameras/tripods and other bags of gear. We pay extra for excess baggage on all but Southwest airlines.

As for camera and laptop on the same flight, I would leave the laptop at home unless you absolutely need it. If you are shooting stills, sounds like you absolutely need it.

Just carry the minimum amount of carry-on baggage. Presumably you could still carry the camera and laptop on (stick the lens in a small padded duffel under your seat, the camera up in the overhead) even if you have to check your bag.


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Mike CohenRe: The "joys" of business travel?
by on Jan 10, 2010 at 10:56:34 pm

According to TSA, it is business as usual

but I suppose each airport will have its own interpretation of "normal."

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Chris BlairRe: The "joys" of business travel?
by on Jan 11, 2010 at 12:29:17 am

I've traveled several times recently and carried on a full-size Panasonic camera body with the lens & viewfinder taken off. I put the camera body and lens in a medium size backpack with padding that stays with me, the viewfinder is with some other gear in a hard plastic pelican case that's checked.

On some of the puddle jumpers they've tried to check it at the gate, but I just tell them it's a broadcast camera and I need to keep it with me. A couple gate agents and stewardesses on these smaller planes have gotten a little curt with me, but once they see it fits under the seat in front of me, they're fine with it.

I've also put the strap that comes with the camera on just the body and carried it on that way, with the lens in a smaller bag that easily fits under the seat. problems.

Chris Blair
Magnetic Image, Inc.
Evansville, IN

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John BaumchenRe: The "joys" of business travel?
by on Jan 11, 2010 at 3:04:17 pm

We always ship the gear out a week in advance via FedEx. What a joy it is not to have to handle and look after multiple cases of gear at the airport.

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Tim WilsonRe: The "joys" of business travel?
by on Jan 11, 2010 at 3:22:43 pm

[John Baumchen] "We always ship the gear out a week in advance via FedEx...."

I forgot to mention this. Shipping in advance is great. We've also used priority mail for extra clothes, books, or other doo-dads to make the airplane stuff easier to deal with.

Everything has always come through fine.

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Steve KownackiBilling for transit time
by on Jan 11, 2010 at 3:26:48 pm

There's many threads in this forum on billing, rates and all the "unbillables" we deal with, this current thread has me asking: If you ship out your gear ahead of time, are you billing for the time to pack it up? I do. And what about the fact that you can't shoot anything else in the meantime, are your jobs profitable enough to permit this? Is the fact that you own the gear (no salt spreading intended ) are you being nice and just "throwing it in" for your convenience?

I've changed my billing habits from $1200/day for X, and separated the amount of the rentals and associated crew. This is much easier to budget on a spreadsheet when assembling custom packages. And you can add in those extra days for rentals when in transit.

PS- I'm a user of $80 rolling, hard plastic golf club cases. Line it with foam and you can put stix, 2 stands, 2 small lamps and other junk in there for easy transport - keep it to 80 pounds though or the airline will rape you.


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Tim KolbRe: Billing for transit time
by on Jan 11, 2010 at 8:34:18 pm

[Steve Kownacki] "PS- I'm a user of $80 rolling, hard plastic golf club cases. Line it with foam and you can put stix, 2 stands, 2 small lamps and other junk in there for easy transport - keep it to 80 pounds though or the airline will rape you"

Agreed...those hardside golf club cases are great.

Keep in mind as we're having this discussion...I'm not sure all the carry-on hassle is TSA-borne. I think since the checked luggage fees kicked in, some travelers are almost unbelievably inconsiderate as to what they carry on. I've seen one person fill a whole overhead segment by themselves. (I at least check my clothes even though I know they'll get delayed at least 30% of the time...)

I think the airlines are getting sick of having to pull of the luggage of the last 10 people to board because these business travelers have a compartment swallowing roller bag and a horseblanket coat taking up the typical overhead space that should serve 3 people.

Half of all these problems could be solved if anyone would stop and think of someone beside themselves when they travel.

Director, Consultant
Kolb Productions,

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Mike CohenRe: Billing for transit time
by on Jan 11, 2010 at 9:49:39 pm

we too use those rolling golf cases.

They are however not intended to hold 80 pounds of golf clubs, so check the rivets and hinges after every trip. Also, the light stands become a projectile and can poke holes in the top of the case - a piece of plywood cut to fit will extend the life of the case.

Be sure to check your luggage tags as in this case, ALL bags look alike. Nothing worse than getting to a location to find you actually have golf clubs.

That being said, 9 out of 10 times, the rental car bus driver, hotel clerk, taxi driver and fellow passengers will ask you where you are golfing, or if you had a good game. Best thing to do, to avoid getting hammered with questions about how to set the clock on a VCR and how to download YouTube videos is to lie and say "great game." In fact, research the local courses.

Finally, when you hand off your heavy gear or carry-ons to the TSA folks, be sure to thank them for doing a great job. They seem to appreciate being acknowledged. When my bag gets hand searched, after the usual questions like "are you gonna take my picture?" or "that's one heck of a camera, do you work for ESPN?" (being from central CT, there is actually a good chance of working for ESPN) - I say "keep up the good work" in a very sincere way.

Because seriously, when it comes to security, I say better be safe than sorry. I'm just surprised velcro shoes have not made a comeback.


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Matt TownleyRe: The "joys" of business travel?
by on Jan 14, 2010 at 11:50:12 pm

Nick - I know this is a slightly old topic, but just saw this article on lifehacker and it made me think of this thread.

Not sure how much it would help for the dropping concern, but maybe for the getting lost part.....Anywho, I liked the clever thinking.

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Bob ColePack a gun
by on Jan 15, 2010 at 12:00:14 am

Really. If you include so much as a starter pistol in your checked bags, you MUST declare it. The TSA then monitors that luggage very carefully.

Or so I hear. Check out

But here's the problem with this great idea. Now that this "secret" is out, every photographer on earth will pack a starter pistol. Then, everybody with any jewelry will follow suit. THEN, TSA will say, "We can't afford to pay special attention to all these starter pistols."

And then, you'll have to buy a real pistol.

Then, an Uzi....

But Nick, it oughta work for a little while. Me, I'm off to WalMart.

re: carry-on. Carry on camera/batteries/tape, always, whatever it takes. I know that Southwest used to have a special policy for "video journalists." Early boarding, don't worry about the big camera case. Don't know if that still obtains; I never tried it, although it was on their website.

re: just-in-case. You can line up a grip who could, in a pinch, find enough equipment to see you through, just about anywhere in the U.S.A.

re: FedEx. Not expensive, if you can ship far enough ahead to use their economy categories. The last time I did this it was $250 for three very heavy cases one way Baltimore-Orlando (when I needed three-day) and $110 back, for the same cases (five-day, I believe).

Reason I did it: at last the odds caught up to me last year, and Southwest lost my luggage until I was on the way BACK from the shoot.

Best strategy if you must check luggage: travel a day ahead of the shoot, and never travel on the last couple flights of the day. If your luggage gets held up, and comes in on a later flight, that isn't such a tragedy, unless there's no later flight.

Good luck, Nick.

Bob C

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