Cinematography Mailing List - CML

To Check or Carry Video Cam On A Plane


I'm flying to Maine for a shoot and pondering whether I should hand carry or check my XDCam Video Camera. I shudder to think of what the baggage monkeys might do to the camera, but I'm also concerned at what X-Rays will do to the chips in the camera. Just had a replacement for a dead pixel.

Any thoughts?


Bobby Stone

I have been doing a lot of flying with my HDX900 doing corporate work. I hand carry the body inside of a airline pilots bag, which is specked for overhead bins...check out :

Stealth Next Gen Pilots Bag #103NG

The lens, eyepiece and mike come off and go into a small Pelican, which then can hang safely from a large hook. Another soft bag from Storm Cases exactly holds the body, well cushioned. I lined that with lead foil from cut up FilmShield bags. The soft case snugly fits inside the 103. It has steel sides and plenty of pockets and can hold my 15" power book. Coming up to security it looks like most pilots gear, so I have been actually smiled at. Once on the gangway, I collapse the handle, and carry the bag with one hand while the other hand has the lens case. If need be the small Pelican can fit under the seat, but I can usually find a place in the overheads. No body knows what's inside, it fits in all bins, and I can break it out and start shooting. Sachtler tripod and Dedos etc. end up as luggage.

Hardest part is the IDX charger, its heavy!

Howard Wexler

A quick (hopefully) recount of an experience I had a year or two before 9/11. I flew from LA to Tucson on Southwest and hand-carried a fully assembled D600 as I had always done onto the plane. Onboard I laid it on its side in the overhead compartment with a blanket and my jacket under it. I flew in and worked for 2-3 days and then went back to the Tucson airport. When I got to the gate and started to board with the camera I was stopped by an attendant who saw the camera and decided it was too big and didn't qualify as carry-on. I explained that there was no way it could travel back to LA as anything else since I didn't bring a hard case and besides I was allowed to bring it on the outbound trip and that implied consent that it could travel on the return in the same fashion. There was no convincing this guy. I was turned back to the waiting area and had to strip the lens, battery and viewfinder from the camera and put them in my and my travelling companion's other carry-on bags. Like that the camera was small enough to pass the attendant's standard and I was allowed to get on-board where I partially reassembled the camera and put it in the overhead compartment.

The upshot of the story is if I hadn't been able to come up with an alternative arrangement right then and there I would have missed my plane and then had to have figured out some method of getting myself and the camera back to LA. Most probably just waiting for another flight, and another attendant, would have been all it would have taken. I don't travel with gear now without considering what happened in this instance. It's like anything else in our sometimes "one shot" business - always try to have a back-up plan.

Good luck,
Randy Miller, DP in LA


I have been travelling quite a bit of late with a Digibetacam. Any case that is checked will very likely get opened, and I think x-rayed too. We have a sheaf of the papers the homeland security leave in your bags to prove it. It is bad enough to see the monitor case fall off the conveyor belt while you are sitting on the plane; imagine seeing the camera treated that way, AFTER someone who doesn't know or care how the camera goes back in the case has taken it out?

I have been carrying on the camera in the Porta-brace carryon case. The security folks always want a look at the camera, but it never leaves your sight, and that raises your chances of keeping the camera happy and functional. The digibeta cam has been on six planes in three weeks and we go again next week. So far, so good.


Christopher Seivard
Thanks for asking

I used to carry my Vericam on the plane, but it's officially over size for a carry on. You are therefore putting yourself at the mercy of any ill tempered gate agent that wants to be a jerk. I never had anyone tell me I couldn't carry it on, but I had a couple make remarks about too big or too many.

Now I check it as luggage, in the Teledyne (?sp?) case, with the lens and the viewfinder off, and everything wrapped in bubble wrap. So far, no problems.

Marty Mullin
Los Angeles
818 712-0272
305 606-1262

I have been checking everything lately, as there never seems to be enough room in the carry-on bins. I use a lot of extra foam and bubblewrap, making sure there is no "slop". I keep the smaller parts in zippered pouches, leaving very few loose items.

No problems so far, with one exception: a Fujinon 4.5 (in its own Pelican case) that did not make the connecting flight... We were a two camera shoot with one lens for almost a whole day.

What can you do? I have been trying to ship the gear when it can be done, especially if there is a connecting flight!

Ted Conniff
HD/SD Broadcast Engineer
Minneapolis, MN

>>I never had anyone tell me I couldn't carry it on,

I have never flown without having the cam in my hands. I carry it on bare and ask for a hand check so it does not go thru the machine and get tumbled. Have a batt in case they want to see a picture. I have done this with many Beta-sp cams, and HD cams thru the years. Once the cam is onboard, I wrap with blanket and put a pillow or jacket under the lens area to support it in the overhead.

Steve Panariello
Director of Photography / Producer
Key West, Florida

For 3 years, from 2000 thru 2003, I travelled extensively throughout The States and abroad and I ALWAYS carried the camera with me. It was full size (D-35 mated to a BVV-5) and I rarely had problems. Of course I had medallion status with Delta which I travelled on frequently. To assure that you find overhead space speak with the person at the gate and explain politely that you need to board early so as to find room on the plane. They have even let me store it in the first class closet on a few occasions when the plane was full.

Also I never had negative effects on the CCD's from x-rays. I have had security hand check film though.

Hope that helps

Richard Samuels DP
Managing Partner
Greendoor Productions, LLC

>>Can airport X-rays damage camera CCD chips or other electronics?

I don't think so. The big issue is cosmic rays whacking holes in the CCD's. Fast-moving errant hydrogen nuclei, same as will fog fast film after a while. Nothing much you can do to prevent it besides travel by boat/train instead, which would reduce but not eliminate the hazard. There are past pages in CML on this.

Tim Sassoon
SFD vfx & creative post
Santa Monica, CA

I would hand carry at all costs, perhaps get a small camera case just for the body if the complete package is too big. I have a small pelican case that is airline legal size, the 1510. Fits my HVX200, firestore/acessories, haven't had any problems. I have also travelled w/ my Aaton package, slightly taller case, and had relatively no issues on the overhead compartment. On a few occasions I've had to reassure the attendants that it fits, don't worry, etc What you have to worry about sometimes is the impatient passengers, especially getting off the plane-I just had a blowout like that after landing.

The biggest problem I have is fitting in these 757's ( I'm 6'2" -the layout varies from airline to airline, but it's pretty much a can of sardines, lol) Airbus and bigger jets are much less of a problem.

I recently flew w/Varicam package on cases, too big to carry on, except monitors- there were no issues(good padded case)-but I prefer to carry delicate items onboard whenever possible.

I've posted before that a rental house I know had a BL4s shipped, anvil/flight case, and the mirror/shutter was shattered/destroyed...

John Babl
In Brazil

I've traveled a great deal with various kits and have always hand carried the camera. Portabrace do a small bag that is only just too big to officially fit and I have only had problems with this once. I take everything out of the bag except the actual camcorder and ask security to either hand check it or collect it out of the x ray machine so that it does not go down the rollers. I normally ask someone in production to carry a couple of batteries and stock just in case the other bags don't make it! Good luck!

Alex Metcalfe

Dave writes :

>>'More germane these days would be cabin restrictions regarding travel bags. Try to hand carry the >>camera if you can.'

I don't know if anyone mentioned this before but try to strip the camera down as much as possible. Take off any mic, camera strap and viewfinder. It makes the camera look much smaller.

Max Seligman
Audio Op
Dublin, Ireland

According to the TSA site, they X-ray all checked luggage. Not to mention you need to keep checked baggage unlocked and you don't want it to disappear en route.

I would hand carry the camera, and if you have concerns about the X-ray, request that they hand inspect it. Otherwise, I think it should be okay.

Boyd McCollum
Kapakai Films

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