Sachtler’s 1002 System tripod Most, if not all, professional photographers and videographers have a list of essential gear they gather before going out on a domestic or international shoot. In preparation they have selected equipment that is dependable, compact, lightweight and able to withstand abuse. Most also try to choose gear that is reasonably priced, but anything that offers other than a high level of professional performance is not an option for them.
Professional-grade equipment has to be durable enough for travel, says Mathieu Mazza, founder of NewsGroup Communications of Silver Spring, Md. Mazza shoots domestically but has travelled extensively on jobs outside the United States to have developed enough strategies to minimize disruptions.
Among the strategies Mazza uses is a set of insurance gear. If all the needed equipment is in checked luggage, and the luggage does not arrive at its destination, the photographer is “stuck,” Mazza said. He avoids this predicament by taking enough equipment in his carry-on luggage to do his job in a pinch. In addition to a camera, the essentials include batteries, a power supply, a microphone and cable.
Vinton Vision’s blue5 tripod What happens if the local soundman hired for the job fails to show? Apparently this has happened a number of times; nonetheless, Mazza is prepared. “I can go straight into the camera with the microphone and not worry about it,” he said.
Nevertheless Mazza suggests hiring someone local, because they “know the lay of the land.” Local hires “know the location, and if you have any equipment issues they usually know how to resolve them.”
OConnor’s 60L tripod One fundamental piece of equipment is the tripod. Mazza uses the Sachtler Ace because it meets his requirements of being lightweight and durable. The Sachtler 1002 System Ace M GS is a two-stage, 75-millimeter aluminum tripod that holds up to 8.8 pounds. It features a groundlevel spreader. Without its 1.1-pound bag, it weighs 10.1 pounds, 30 percent less than others in its class.
Another potential option is the Vinton Vision blue5 panand- tilt head and tripod system. It continues in the Vinton Vision series tradition but with a higher carrying capacity of 12.1–26.5 pounds at a 100-millimeter center of gravity.
Hollywood General Machining’s Losmandy Porta-Jib The OConnor 60L carbonfiber tripod is designed for larger video and film cameras. It is lightweight and easy to set up. It weighs 9 pounds and, with its double extension configuration, can carry up to 209 pounds at a maximum height of 60.1 inches. The tripod folds down to 29.9 inches.
For commercial work or simply for a more polished look, photographers add a jib to their ensemble. The Losmandy Porta-Jib made by Hollywood General Machining comes recommended by photographers because it is stable and kickback-free. It extends to 6 feet but can be compressed for storage at half that length.
Sennheiser’s MKH 416 Microphone For sound recording Mazza favors the wireless Sennheiser Evolution series and the MKH 416 microphone. The MKH 416 is a well-regarded, pressure-compact gradient microphone with a short interference tube that is immune to humidity because of its RF condenser design. It features high directivity, low self-noise, high consonant articulation and feedback rejection. It handles complex exterior filming and reporting conditions.
LTM’s Pepper 420W For lighting, Mazza carries the venerable LTM Pepper 420 watt runs on voltages of 12, 24, 30 and 120. A stay-cool, thermally insulated knob controls the worm gear and moves the lamp forwards or backwards into the spot of flood position. Cooling vents keep the unit operating at optimal temperatures and prolong lamp life. The Pyrex glass lens produces a soft, diffused light with hard shadows.
LEDs are becoming more popular; Litepanels is offering the Luma on-camera, daylight portable. It gives shooters a soft but high-illumination fill light in a 50-degree spread. It provides visually accurate color temperatures, flicker-free output at any frame rate or shutter angle and no color shift when dimming. When used outdoors, the Luma produces sufficient fill light to erase deep shadows while allowing the ambient outdoor light to supply modeling to faces. When shooting indoors in a tungsten environment, the Luma is powerful enough to use a
Litepanels’ Luma color temperature orange gel while still filling in shadows. A dimming knob allows the photographer to dial in the right amount of light to reach the shadows while maintaining ambient light for the shot. It weighs less than a pound and can be powered by six internal AA batteries, DC from the camera or an AC power supply.
Litepanels 1x1 Bi-Color is the first professional light with both 3,200 degrees Kelvin and 5,600 degrees Kelvin LEDs in a single housing. With a color control and a dimmer, the Bi-Color has nearly unlimited settings. Options run from cool-white daylight to soft tungsten. This means there is less need to change lighting systems.
Porta-Brace’s Director’s Case Along with lights, videographers list grip equipment such as clamps and a scrim with silks and reflectors among the gear needed. Filters and a matte box are also taken along.
To protect his gear while travelling to faraway locations, Mazza uses Porta- Brace bags and cases to transport his equipment. “Whatever you pack, make sure it’s nice and tight and can take a jolt,” he said. To make his point, Mazza said when he was on a shoot at Dulles Airport in Chantilly, Va., he was taken to the main luggage sorting area. The floor was littered with toothbrushes and broken items that had fallen out of luggage that didn’t pass the test. “What we call the conveyor, they call the luggage thrower,” Mazza recalls, “It’s what they do.”
Another tip is to avoid taking new equipment cases to developing countries. “When you travel with shiny new cases, they draw more attention on many levels,” Mazza says “and not just for potential theft.” Customs officials seem to want to take closer look inside newer cases for possible contraband and that slows things down. However, Mazza draws the line at dragging new cases behind his car just to scuff them up before departure. Buying quality cases and keeping them a long time is a better option.
Petrol’s PC 104 Deca Rolling U-bag With its headquarters and factory located in Vermont, Porta-Brace offers both hard and soft cases, including its most recent Director’s Case edition, which has an upgraded look featuring deerskin suede accents, antiqued hardware and contrasting black cordura. The various models of these wheeled cases are designed for heavy loads of studio, audio, video and film equipment. They have wheels with long axles for proper tracking and a comfortable Vermont hard maple handle mounted on telescoping beams that retract into the case to facilitate shipping. The provided divider kit allows customized storage compartments. Moveable LED interior lights help with low-light production conditions.
Petrol’s PC 104 Deca Rolling U-bag is semi-hard and carries over the shoulder or rolls on hide-away wheels. A wide opening allows packing a camera without removing the viewfinder or microphone. It features an internal LED lighting system and molded padding. A proprietary pattern of ridges and raised dots on the surface of the padding grips the camera. There are two accessory pockets and a U-grip ergonomic interlock handle.
For the photographer who has the essential equipment in hand but also needs to broadcast sound and video from virtually anyplace in the world, Inmarsat offers its Broadcast Global Area Network (BGAN) service. The foundation of Inmarsat’s service is an array of 10 geostationary satellites. To use those satellites, videographers carry a terminal that needs line of sight to the satellite to auto-negotiate.
Inmarsat’s Broadcast Global Area Network (BGAN) Downlink speeds of high-end BGAN terminals are up to 492 kbps and upload speeds are the same. Inmarsat offers a smaller but capable terminal and a high data-rate streaming service with an added ISP capability, which allows a separate voice link to a live video stream for multitasking in the field.
“We’ve become integral to the broadcast community,” said Mike Seery, Inmarsat’s head of media sector development. “As a result of the capabilities of our network, they can fit a BGAN terminal, a laptop and a camera, all in one bag,” he said.
In addition to broadcasting breaking news and events, the Inmarsat system is designed for military, law enforcement and government surveillance. The BGAN system is not for use at the North or South Poles due to satellite locations.
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