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Little Things You Should Know

We love video. It’s the now media and so much has improved during the past few years that we almost take video for granted on social media. Almost. At 12 Birds, we don’t take anything for Granted. Take for instance shooting video projects internationally.

We love to travel. But, it can be a pain, especially when you are travelling to a foreign land to capture video. We know, because we have traveled. We’ve captured video assets in Mexico, Brazil, Spain and China, and we’ve learned a lot about the “little things” involved in travelling internationally with equipment and a production crew.

Whether you are hiring a video crew to shoot internationally, or you are going out on your own there are a few little things you should know that will help everything go much smoother out on the road.

Budgeting

When it comes to budgeting for an international project, the first thing to consider is the paperwork. In addition to all the regular little stuff—passport, tickets, cash, vaccinations, etc.—you will need to know if any special permits are required and you may need to budget for a local liaison to help you navigate once you are in-country. As always, everything takes time and money to process so plan your budget accordingly and then add 10 percent to be safe.

When we went to Brazil shooting for a Lockheed Martin project, it took more than 45 days just to get our work visas approved. That sent ripples through both our budget and schedule!

Packing

Your equipment is your lifeline to the project. Pack well, and be prepared for A: a rough trip and bumpy rides, and B: going through customs. Know your equipment and know how to pack and unpack it fast. Research the best methods of getting your equipment to the job. Freight is an option, but always, carry some of the basics with you i.e. backup systems.

Importantly, don’t put all your eggs in one basket because there’s always the chance the carrier will lose the basket. It happened to us when we were on our way to Washington DC for an important shoot. The airlines lost one of our trunks that contained our main camera and tripod. Luckily, we had packed an extra camera in our carry-on baggage. We ended up shooting the interview with the backup camera and a cardboard box for a tripod. Not exactly the impression we wanted to make in the Nation’s Capital, but we got the job done and now our carry-on baggage has a full set of backup equipment whenever we fly.

Backups for Your Backups

The days of film and tape recording our pretty much done, and everything we shoot today is with chip-based cameras. As we all know chip media is way more vulnerable that tape media and files have been known to corrupt for no apparent reason. That’s why we bring a laptop and at least three hard drives on all international jobs. When copying our chip media we always use a transfer software that performs a checksum data verification. Our current favorites are ChronoSync (Mac only) and Red Giant’s Offload (PC/Mac). After each video session, we copy the chip media to all three hard drives and make sure everything gets copied over. This way we have backup for our backup and we make sure when travelling home to have at least one full set of the back up on a hard drive and in our carry-on baggage.

On our trip to Brazil, we returned state-side to find that two of our backup hard drives had been damaged. This could have been devastating because the project we captured was one of a kind (Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion) and could not be recaptured (we were shooting a model test of an customized Oil Rig in a rented facility containing the 2nd largest wave tank in the world). That third hard drive saved our bacon, and that’s why we always carry at least three backup components.

International Standards

You’ve got to have a phone with you at all times so make sure your phone has a SIM card that allows you to make calls internationally. Also, be prepared for different types of voltage systems so you can recharge all components of your equipment. Check out the country’s wireless channels for wireless mics, etc., and make sure you are in compliance. Again, pre-production research is essential.

Documentation

Will you need a visa to conduct business? Maybe. You might also have to register your equipment. Before you leave, create a master list of all your equipment and devices. Keep the master list with you, and have a backup safe at home. One of the methods we use is to use our company’s equipment insurance list as a starting point. It already has all the serial and model numbers etc. so we just copy and paste into a spreadsheet and have it all ready for customs, and they will ask for a detailed list of your equipment.

Emergency List

You must always, always, plan for emergencies. Whether it’s a lost passport, lost luggage, or you just get lost naturally, be prepared with backup. It’s a good idea to have a list of emergency contacts with you whenever you travel and make sure you’re not the only one who knows about it or where it is (just sayin’).

Looking for a Crew for International Shooting?

If you have a video project that requires international travel, we’d love to help. We are professionals, and we have extensive experience in international video communications. Give us a ping, and we can make it happen.

Do you have any questions or tips on International travel and/or capturing video assets in a strange and foreign land? Let us know about it in the comments below.

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