Cinematography Mailing List - CML

Baggage & Camera Kit


I know we have had a lot written about film going through the airport system but there have been some recent changes (in the LA area) that affect how things are carried on board an airplane.

When I fly a major airline I always pack the most critical job related equipment with me. I ask, what do I absolutely need to do the job I'm traveling to? Number one is usually my meter case which contains a selection of hand tools for emergency situations.

Only once did I have my meters refused because of the tool kit inside (on a puddle jumper in Australia), but now LAX will no longer allow tools on planes.

There also has been a severe clamping down on the 2 bag limit carryon.
Moreover, today I found they had recently installed a precisely cut door to pass carry on luggage through when putting it on the X-ray belt.

All these changes mean modifying the way things get distributed. One must be comfortable that gear is not going to be stolen, let alone be sent to the wrong hemisphere.

So what goes on the plane in the overhead? OK, there's the importance of the the gear for the job, then I guess there is the value of all the ancillary toys (most of which take batteries and I seem to own more and more of) and then there's always a couple of items that just make sitting for hours in a dry tin can more tolerable. It feels like the old "ten pounds of feathers in a five pound bag" routine!


I'm sorry, but I think I just need to vent out some frustrations. But I would like to know what other folks are bringing on board when they don't actually have to bring the camera kit with them.


I take...
meters (4)
still gear (nikon and 2 lenses)
leatherman (stuck against bottom of still camera so to x ray it looks like camera)
swatch books
Misc. junk box (laser pointer, directors finder)

Books and manuals I usually just throw in my briefcase. Ive been able to the above in a medium Pelican. Its a tight squeeze. If I need something bigger than a leatherman toolwise, I tell the Gaffer or Key to bring it.
Does anyone use the newer Pelican case, the one that rolls?
I look forward to seeing you cats at Showbiz expo,

Kurt Rauf/DP

>I always take the letherman off, and throw it in my shoulder bag.

Hi guys,

I have to confess I would never do this. I guess this is because Heathrow and Gatwick are probably among the highest security airports in the world.

Also given that it's impossible here to enter the city of London in a a camera car with blacked out windows without a search. I guess people of my generation (I was born in 1970) just take the security as normal and that anything in our hand baggage that could be considered as dangerous will just be a pain in the neck for both ourselves and the security personel.

>As for Pelican Cases, and other soft sided bags. A camera tech, warned me to be >really careful, as the case could take a bad hit, and not noticeably deform.

When I travel I take the camera body (SRII without eye piece or mag) and the 11-110 Zeiss zoom in a pelican 1500 box (the only pelican I have).

This travels on the aeroplane with me. Next time I travel I will take a little battery with me. The reason for this is that when I went to the States the security people in Chicago asked me all sorts of questions about the camera and asked me to "flash" it as if it were a mobile telephone. I was unable to do so due to the lack of power. I took all the caps off and showed them how it worked and they were kinda happy. This always goes hand baggage. I also carry the stock as hand baggage. I usually ask the cameraman to carry my laptop on.

As far as hold baggage goes. The empty camera box gets filled with all sorts of stuff T-bar in a special plastic box, spare mag, batteries, underpants, teddy bear all the important stuff really. ALLWAYS take my Bolex regardless of how tight the excess is. Everything else just travels as is. As far as security goes I put a piece of camera tape over the lid of each box and then put a cross across the tape and spilling a little onto the box. This is almost impossible to tamper with. Also VITALLY important are labels... with at least the following information.

Name of production ...
Name of production company ...
Telephone number of London production office
Out of hours number for the production office (anyone !!!)
Instructions to call the above numbers should this box be delayed for any reason.
USELESS IF DELAYED in big letters.

The only reason I do this is because it should help if for any reason the gear should end up in the wrong place at the wrong time. In some ways it is looking for special treatment for your equipment. I kind of hope that it is taken by airport staff that way without appearing too arragant. What you have to keep in your mind is that these people also handle other goods that make our kit look extreamly unimportant. By labeling the boxes properly with instructions as to what to do in the event of a delay if nothing else covers you bottom with the production if anything goes wrong.
British Airways will not call the number on the box in the event of your gear not making the plane (hideous experience has shown me this) But my impression is that most other airlines will help you out.

Justin Pentecost

At OpTex, when we sent equipment overseas we put on security tags to all the cases. These are a little like cable ties but have a numbered tag attached.
You _can't_ remove them without destroying them. We also give the crew a handful for trans-shipment.

OK, much of the time, the equipment goes freight in any case, so that security is just that little bit tighter. However, it's important to understand that the word FRAGILE on the side of a case, actually means, PLEASE DROP THIS CASE FROM A MINIMUM HEIGHT OF 20 FEET (3M).

Having said that, we've experience very little shipping damage, perhaps 2 or 3 incidents in the last 4 years.

Now, like most UK companies, we spend a fortune of flight cases. This are big, aluminium cases fitted with hard foam. They are very expensive, but they do protect the equipment. The worst damage we've experienced was when a case was destroyed in a controlled explosion' when it was left unattended at Heathrow Airport.

It seems we are divided into two camps. There are those who, at any cost, do not wish to reveal they are carrying film gear, and there are those who insist on letting everyone know that they are. In the UK at least, I suspect that the latter comes from the historical


The British Broadcasting Corporation was, in the past, treated somewhat like Royalty, or at the very least had Presidential status. Customs officers would give you a polite bow as you presented your credentials and would even insist on carrying the cases for you. That was in olden times!

In the democratic USA, things, it seems are somewhat different. Little has changed in New York it seems, apart from the fact that the muggers now say 'pardon me!' before ripping off your gear.

Brian (It now seems compulsory to add a middle-name comment) Rose

When in town, I carry my meters in a pelican case - helps to keep them from getting squashed in the truck....However, when I travel, I use one of those still photographers bags - holds my meters, still cameras, magazines (the kind you read) and anything else I feel I couldn't do without if everything else were to get lost. The soft (yet padded) bag helps to fit into all the different shaped overheads - works well as a pillow too for those long van rides to and from location.

I ALWAYS put the dates, flight numbers and destinations of all flights on a tag on each checked bag...even the connecting flight numbers. I have had cases come through with the scanner tags ripped off...I have to believe that someone read my camera-tape tags and sent them through.

That's probably not what actually happened, but it couldn't hurt.

Regarding hardcase/softer cases...While I concur that it makes sense to use cases that will show abuse, I also know that big heavy cases get worse handling than smaller lighter cases...and the extra mass is not always beneficial. When we shipped our IMAX package, rigging gear, and misc. production equipt. to China, we also brought a IIC with a couple of mags ...wrapped in bits of foam and stuffed in a lightweight fiber case. It survived not only the airlines but all the trucking and boating that we did...and it was so light that no one ever dropped it on the ground...unlike the IMAX body shipping case that was beat half to death by the journeys. A slightly more resiliant case will transmit less shock to the delicate toys inside it than a totally rigid anvil long as it doesn't get TOO deformed. It's all a game of odds case will help you if they are determined to run over it with a big enough airport vehicle.

BTW, I carried my leatherman through Heathrow 4 times with no hassle....but they insisted on X-raying my Polaroid film.
Oh, well


On my last trip to Chicago I packed my 2C, lenses, motors etc in one of the new Pelican cases with the wheels. Packed my fluid head and dutch head in a smaller pelican, although still large, and my sticks, standard and baby and high hat in one of those hard cases designed to carry golf clubs. Thankfully everything arrived safe and sound. I had Kodak ship to the film to the client's office and got around the problem of X-rayed stock by processing and transfering locally.

I did notice the large Pelican case had a few dings in it after this one trip, but the camera arrived safe and sound...I did paddlock the case and the case weighed in at over 70 lbs so that hopefully flinging it with any abandon was stopped.

All my best

Chet Simmons

I worked with a still photographer years ago when I was starting out who traveled worldwide on a regular basis. He packed all his gear in lightweight FiberBuilt cases, and packed several of them very heavy.

I asked him how long he had been flying with these new cases. I was shocked to find out that these cases were not new, they were 3 years old! He said that he had seen how his equipment had been treated when he packed it in Anvil cases and switched to these. He had seen these Anvil cases thrown like an olympic sport by baggage handlers.

These fiberbuilt cases looked a couple weeks old, at most. He said that when handlers pick up such flimsey cases they actually treat them with kid gloves for fear that they will break the handles off of them.

Go figure.

Cliff Hancuff

The D.P. on our IMAX shoot was Burleigh Wartes, my mentor. As anyone who remembers him will attest, his strongest phobia in equipment packing was "metal-to-metal contact...his strongest mania was for light equipment and light cases. He was constantly drilling holes in lights and changing them from three conductor to two conductor cable to save weight...and as someone who carried them for miles, I can attest to the difference. We had ancient fiber expando cases and hinged cases full of lighting and camera equipment . I have been shipping my CECO lock-off head (suitable for any format :-)) in a fiber case that was ancient when I bought it much used when Francis Thompson Inc. closed their big office. The case was old in 1984 when it held two 30v. block batts. It still hasn't been punched through.

Those lightweight fiber cases do look a bit cheap and tawdry...but mine have survived more plane flights than I can count. Occasionally I have to rivet on a new latch, but I have been pretty lucky with only one or two penetrations.

Mark Weingartner
Have cases, will travel...where do you want to go today?

I suspect my Pelican cases kinda say to the handlers in the airports...Bonk me, throw me, abuse me. Perhaps I could switch to ice-chests and put Organ Donor stickers on the outside. Or just paint the Pelican cases with spray- paint so they look junky. I noticed B&H had some nylon covers for Halburton cases so they'd be stealthier. I just like the Pelican cases as I've seen my gear sitting on a baggage cart in the rain, along with other less fortunate luggage.

Chet Simmons

I have been travelling lighter and lighter, due to the fact that more and more manuals and assorted other paperwork is available in digital form. I know that right now we have the 435 manual and Quick Guides for the 435, 535B and SR 3 available in Adobe Acrobat form, as well as some Technical Notes (check out our website), and that Aaton has some of their manuals also in Acrobat form. If you take a Laptop anyway, this does not add ANY
weight, and you can leave those manuals at home.

Marc Shipman-Mueller, Technical Representative
Arriflex Corporation; 1646 N. Oakley Ave, Suite #2, Chicago,


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