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Equipment cases -- light vs dark

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Ryan MastEquipment cases -- light vs dark
by on May 24, 2010 at 2:47:08 pm

Why do production companies typically use black cases for gear? I totally get the reason for black gear backstage for theater, but wouldn't white cases reflect more heat and keep gear cooler on exterior shoots than black cases do?

I'm building a flight case to travel with, and I'd prefer to have something bright and colorful -- if someone starts walking away with my case, I want to spot it quickly. Black Pelican cases would seem to be a tasty theft target, too. What do you think?

Meteor Tower Films
We make music videos, design video for live theater, and build interesting contraptions.

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Mark SuszkoRe: Equipment cases -- light vs dark
by on May 24, 2010 at 3:15:20 pm

A black case in the back of a van or wagon with tinted windows becomes invisible to curious potential theieves outside. Your cheapest "cloaking device" is a roll of car carpet to lay over the gear, btw.

Stuff is also black so that it doesn't reflect or distract when on the set somewhere, or when used in a dim setting like a control room.
Most cases I see for cameras are gray or sometimes tan. Black cases are also probably cheaper to make, since the plastic molders can often use recyclable material, and that re-ground, re-melted stuff ends up dark anyhow.

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Mads Nybo JørgensenRe: Equipment cases -- light vs dark
by on May 24, 2010 at 3:22:26 pm

Simple: Black cases normally do not require as much cleaning as a white case.

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Todd TerryRe: Equipment cases -- light vs dark
by on May 24, 2010 at 3:28:46 pm

I've never cleaned a case. Ever. Maybe that's why... haa.

I'd say one of the more practical reasons for the black cases is reflectivity. If you were shooting in a smallish dark environment a white or light-colored case in the vicinity can make a difference. Plus "invisible" black equipment would never be distracting in an actor's eyeline, etc.

I've honestly never really thought about it... it's an interesting question. Sort of, "Why are the cases black? Because they are supposed to be." Kinda, that's just the way they've always been done. You could ask a similar question, "Why is my camera black?" Almost all cameras are, and if you think about it, much like the cases that's the worst possible color for keeping them cool.

For what it's worth, all of our zillions of cases are black, except a few that are silver.


Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.

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Mark SuszkoRe: Equipment cases -- light vs dark
by on May 24, 2010 at 4:47:45 pm

Hey, I can't be the only guy that worked with orange-colored cameras at one time...:-)

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Mike CohenRe: Equipment cases -- light vs dark
by on May 24, 2010 at 4:59:27 pm

We had one of those Hitachi Z1 cameras - bright day glo orange.

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Micah McDowellRe: Equipment cases -- light vs dark
by on May 24, 2010 at 9:45:52 pm

I've got black and a couple gray/silver cases, though it seems that bags are often blue for whatever reason (Porta-Brace, Petrol, etc.).

I know a church that has a pile of ancient JVC studio cameras languishing in a closet... all hideously bright orange. Maybe it seemed like a good idea at the time?

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Bob ColeRe: Equipment cases -- light vs dark
by on May 28, 2010 at 4:55:49 pm

Hi Ryan,

Reminds me of a story many years old now about photographers in NYC. Halliburton (?) cases were popular - these are the silvery aluminum things that looked tremendously high tech and expensive.

Then, photographers noticed that a slight problem for location shooting: the moment they set a case on the sidewalk and turned their back to pull out case #2, case #1 was GONE.

So they all trooped to the local Goodwills, bought nice beat-up but sturdy suitcases, lined them with foam, and put their (replacement) camera gear inside.

Bob C

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