Match Frame Media Blog

New and completed projects, gear and other stuff I'm interested in. 

Flying with your camera gear

June 5, 2018



How do I get all my gear to the Middle East and back in one piece?!  That was the first thing that crossed my mind in November 2017 when my Saudi corporate project got confirmed. Indeed, how do I fly two full camera kits with audio and lighting to the Kingdom and back? It turned out to be a two-part challenge: one part being customs documentation and the other being airline weight and size restrictions. Although flying everything cargo like the broadcasters probably do would have been nice, it was luxury our little project budget would not allow. 

"May I see your documentation please?"

The solution to the paperwork issue turned out to be one of sheer impressive volume - by the third trip to Saudi Arabia I had a whole folder full of letters, customs declaration lists and insurance documents I could pull out the moment my cases went into the x-ray scanner. Apparently this approach works for remote border posts in Africa as well - pull out a dazzling pile of documentation every time a border guard stops you and you'll be cleared to pass most of the time because the guy simply does not want to go through all the hassles of checking everything! (Or so I've heard...I haven't tested this myself so proceed with caution)

To their credit the customs officials in both Saudi Arabia and Dubai were extremely polite and professional at all times. Actually the only signs of frustration and passenger rudeness I saw during the whole experience was at OR Tambo airport in Johannesburg...it seems we South Africans just enjoy having a good argument over petty issues when there is an opportunity! However arriving with cases full of pro camera gear in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will require some explanation and I started carrying letters from both my South African and Saudi clients explaining the reason for my visit and the nature of the work I would be doing during my stay. It was checked every time I went through King Khalid International Airport. Keep in mind that Saudi officials will insist on letters in Arabic, so make sure you carry those if you're ever headed in that direction.

Once back in South Africa the customs folks will want to know what the origin of all your expensive gear is, so make sure you fill in a detailed list of items with their serial numbers and have it stamped at Customs Declarations before you leave Johannesburg for the Middle East. 

Travel inconspicuously

Midway through the project I stumbled across this article on Newsshooter.com and honestly there is a lot of truth in it. When traveling with pro camera gear through remote airports do so as inconspicuously as possible. Your shiny metal equipment cases and Pelicans might look super cool back home but it is guaranteed to attract the attention of every single customs official, security guard and petty thief at a foreign airport and that is the last thing you want. So stick to luggage that looks "touristy" - be the gray man.

Emirates Business Class allows a very generous baggage allowance of two 32kg pieces as well as two carry-on pieces. This sounds like plenty but if you put together two full camera kits with tripods, audio, on-camera monitors, batteries and chargers you quickly realize that it is barely enough. I ended up cutting my equipment list down to the bare basics and going as far as removing accessory rods and camera plates from my rigs to save space and weight.



Above: the cavernous interior of a North Face Rolling Thunder 36 roller bag swallowed the heavier items like tripods and batteries and made for a great transit bag from the hotel to the filming location every day.
 
Check-in baggage consisted of two Miller Air tripods in their carry bags as well as a Pelican 1500 case with smaller items like my Sony X70, microphones and other odds and ends. My Sony lapel mics and receivers traveled in a smaller Pelican 1120 case. This all went into a giant North Face Rolling Thunder 36 wheeled bag. I'm a huge fan of The North Face. I own one of their mountaineering tents and a Gore-Tex mountain jacket and both are simply awesome pieces of gear that will last years (my tent is 10 years old and still going strong!). This sturdy bag is of the same quality. My reasoning was that even though my gear would be in a bag instead of a hard case the Pelicans and protective bags would protect my gear against rough baggage handlers. I also security wrapped the huge North Face roller bag before every flight and I'm happy to report that I had no damage or lost equipment as a result. The North Face bag looks like something you would use for sporting equipment and doesn't shout "TV media" like a bare Pelican case would. As I worked alone on this project it was also a handy transit bag to move my equipment from the hotel to the filming location every day.

The other piece of good advice I stumbled across was to fly all my mission-critical equipment like my primary camera, audio recorder, on-camera monitor, hard drives and editing laptop as carry-on baggage. For this I chose a LowePro Pro Roller X200 bag.

 

Above: to fit my laptop inside this case I pulled out the supplied padded partitions and made my own from Peli case foam. This actually survived multiple trips to the Middle East and back. My Sony A7SII and lenses have now moved into this case permanently with the original partitions.

Like all LowePro gear (again I'm a fan and I have plenty of LowePro bags and pouches) it is well-designed and functional bag. It also falls within airline size limits for carry-on luggage so the cabin crew will allow you to bring this onboard.



My only gripe with this roller bag is the handle - compared to the solid handles on the North Face roller bags this one is extremely flimsy! Perhaps something to address in future updates, LowePro.

Guard your footage!

It is no use to fly to a foreign location, film stuff and then come back only to lose your precious data somewhere at an airport or at the hotel. Next to your passport and camera gear your SD cards and backup hard drives are the most important items you carry. This project required me to move SD cards between my cameras in one room to my laptop in another room many times a day. Here's a tip: DON'T PUT IT IN YOUR POCKET! Seriously, that is irreplaceble footage stored on a little plastic and metal and you need to take care of it. I carried mine around in a Pelican SD card holder, even when just walking from one room to the next. The card holder also carried a few spare cards and I did actually burn through two SD cards during this project, fortunately without any data loss.

 

Also, backup EVERYTHING! Never assume it will all be there the next day when you switch the camera back on. Backup those cards tonight the moment you get to the hotel, not only after a shower and dinner.

I made data backups from my SD cards to 1TB LaCie Rugged drives at every opportunity I had. The LaCie drives are almost bulletproof and traveled in the LowePro roller bag along with my laptop and Sony A7SII. The peace of mind this provides is great - one less thing to worry about during a hectic, time-critical project. Maybe I'm just getting old and cranky but nothing annoys me as much as seeing sloppy data management habits among video people. Making proper backups after a shoot or project is simply not a priority to any of the younger generation of videographers I've dealt with recently.

That concludes my travel writeup. Now get off my lawn!

 

"But did you at least ride a camel?"

May 1, 2018



I have a friend who works in the film industry. I’ve always envied him because he is an incredibly talented cameraman who has worked on several high-end television and movie productions. I once asked him about the glamorous entertainment industry he worked in; about all the expensive toys and the famous people that surrounded him on a daily basis. He then knocked my feet out from under me when he paused briefly and remarked with a tired expression on his face: “You know the bigger the pro...


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SAAB Gripen cockpit video

January 25, 2018


It's GoPro jet time! (Well actually it seems to be a Garmin action cam, which also explains how they got the G-force info, but who cares right?)

Had your breakfast yet? Because there are some serious G-forces at work here. Check out this video from Saab's YouTube channel.
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"Alive" - amazing Canadian wilderness time lapse

January 25, 2018


I simply had to post this story from www.diyphotography.net.

German filmmaker Florian Nick spent six weeks in Canada filming this epic time lapse. It took nine months to edit. Why? Because it is actually composed of 54 000 INDIVIDUAL still images! Interestingly he used a Sony A7SII and Rokinon optics, similar to the kit I just purchased for this year's 4K projects.

Remarkable work. Read the full story here

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Welcome to 2018

January 25, 2018
Every year I start off the first blog post of the year with "We're back! It's 20 whatever". I can't do that again...tedious repetition and all that. But it is 2018 and we're back! 

(Dammit..!)

This year marks a rather dramatic change in direction for Match Frame Media. You'd have to be blind not to recognize that a lot of our projects to date have centered around a certain institution of higher education. We (again we - I'm no longer in this alone) have been collaborating with a number of very ...

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2017. The record year.

November 18, 2017


2017 was a record year for Match Frame Media. Again it feels weird to even write that when I look at the broken state of the world around me. But I am truly grateful to be blessed. After seven years my business continues to grow, both in terms of quality and quantity. During September alone we produced 37 individual videos…I still have no idea how that happened or how we even managed that! But we did.

Note that I say “we”. Because I didn’t do this alone. This business is not just ab...


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Varizoom Camera Rod System

November 14, 2017


I'm slowly turning into a VariZoom fanboy...

If you've been following my blog (and who doesn't!) you'll recall I Frankenstein'ed together a camera rod system myself a few months ago to use with my VariZoom shoulder rig. It worked well but it weighed a ton and I realized that I needed something more compact and also something that I didn't have to remove from the shoulder rig first to use on a tripod or slider. I have a very nice Genustech follow focus unit that fits my new set of Rokinon lense...

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Turning "Meh" into "My Goodness!" with Magic Bullet Looks

November 4, 2017


I first worked with Red Giant's Magic Bullet Looks a few years ago. It was the demo version and I loved what it did to spice up some rather mediocre 1080i camcorder video. But I pretty much just dumped presets over my footage without really knowing what I was doing. Fast forward to the present where I now have a better understanding of what goes on in Media Composer's waveform and vector scopes and grading as a whole, and the Magic Bullet Looks suite takes on a whole new meaning.



If you're se...

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And this is why you should be shooting 4K now

November 4, 2017


4K, or UHD is all the rage right now. So what is all the fuss about? Well, the resolution of UHD images is absolutely gorgeous! If you need convincing just walk into any electronics store and take a good look at the 4K ready monitors and the demo material Sony, Panasonic and many others are peddling now.

But other than beautifully crisp images there's a very good reason to start upgrading at least one or two of your HD cameras to UHD soon. Most of us edit 1080p HD projects and output that as w...

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It has arrived...

October 8, 2017


After weeks of waiting for stock to arrive, then waiting for it to ship, then waiting for the courier company to get their s*** together and deliver my box, then filing a complaint against said company to get their s*** together so they can deliver my box...my box arrived.

Some of the most iconic images in cinema have been filmed with Steadicam rigs. From hard-hitting action sequences to beautiful floating shots through elegant movie sets, cinematographers have "flown" large cameras on Steadic...

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We used a boom mic. In a news studio

October 8, 2017


One of the highlights from Insane September was to film an interview with eNuus journalist and NWU Alumni Award recipient Daniëlla van Heerden. 

We really enjoyed meeting Daniëlla and she was kind enough to arrange her interview to be filmed in the same eNuus studio where she reads the Afrikaans news every night. Daniëlla is a master of her craft and a super nice person on top of that, and it was a real privilege to have filmed her. 

Ferdi and I are probably also the only crew to have ever u...
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New on the Optentia channel: We-DELIVER mini-series

October 8, 2017


There's been plenty of new things happening at Optentia Research Focus Area recently. New on their YouTube channel is a three part mini-series for the NWU's We-DELIVER project. This series took us all the way from Vanderbijlpark to Mahikeng and the Lokaleng Community on its outskirts to film footage. 

This was my first shoot with a new shoulder rig and a new set of Rokinon cinema lenses and I'm really thrilled with quality of the footage we shot. Part of the fun of this job is seeing new place...
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