So I have just got back to the UK after 5weeks travelling Asia with the Food Network. I was the Sound Recordist and supplied the audio gear so hope to share some tips/ideas for anyone looking to travel abroad with their gear.
1. Flying - Check as little as possible into the hold. To be fair to the multiple airlines involved in this trip nothing got lost or damaged but why risk losing a bit of kit you deemed necessary for the shoot!
2. Luggage - Use good cases, as above nothing got damaged; credit to Pelican cases, yes they're expensive but there is a reason why everybody uses them and it’s a small price to pay for protecting the real expensive stuff.
3. Boom Poles – The camera tripod case used was a hard/peli style case so I checked the pole inside to save the aggro I envisaged in trying to get what is essentially a weapon on the plane. Yes it would’ve been a nightmare if it got lost but Asia is full of bamboo so a quick fix could’ve been made ;-) In all seriousness I did have the contact details of local sales and hire companies just in case. I considered a smaller travel pole but I regularly needed the length of a larger boom pole when shooting outdoors.
4. Batteries – Most airline regulations state lithium ion batteries should be taken onto the plane in hand luggage. These were the only things in my kit that attracted any attention at the numerous custom checkpoints we passed. Were always fine but always inspected. Consider rechargeable AA’s or purchase disposables abroad – unless you’re travelling somewhere particularly rural batteries are available everywhere and are no more expensive than at home. I took enough to get me through at least a week and this alone, added considerable weight to the case.
5. Hand-Luggage - I carried the recorder and wireless gear in the audio bag and used a small hand-luggage sized peli for mics, windshield and basic cable (camera umbilical and an XLR, enough to work with if the main case went AWOL) - We used multiple airlines; BA, Japan Airlines, China Airlines etc. as well as Ferry Transfers and this set-up was never a problem.
6. Paperwork – You may need a Carnet to import your gear into another country and avoid any customs charges. This should obviously be dealt with by the production company before hand. DO NOT mess this up it WILL be checked at every port. Not much of the actual gear was inspected but the paperwork will be.
7. Time – Expect getting through customs to take longer than usual. We had 12-large cases and a folder full of paperwork. Some officials were more conscientious than others.
8. Weather – This was my first time in Asia, it’s hot and it’s humid. Sensitive electronics don’t like humidity! We had some small issues with camera lenses and a camera body behaving erratically now and again and the screen on my Sound Devices recorder started to fail and is subsequently in for service. DO take back-up equipment and have the details of local hire facilities on hand. Hotels provide shower-caps daily – these make great waterproofing devices when caught in a rain shower.
9. Kit Repair/Maintenance – With such a long shoot it is inevitable something will break and there’s only so much gear you can realistically carry so I packed a soldering iron and basic tools in case of failed cable. Sure enough by Day 2 I was repairing a video cable that got pulled from the camera unexpectedly. Later in the shoot a Lav mic needed re-terminating after the talent sat on the connector!
10. Power – Don’t forget your travel adapters if you want to be able to charge batteries at the end of the day! Some places use different power sockets from building to building never-mind country to country!
Happy Travelling :-)