A place to put your stuff, so you can get more stuff
A Place to Put Your Stuff, So You Can Get More Stuff
You have to put "it" somewhere, right? All that pricey video gear sitting in its original cardboard box is not doing anyone any good up there on a dusty shelf in the closet. You want to take it with you on your next shoot, so you can put it to use. (Remember this? "I'll use it, honey...I promise!") A bag would be ideal to haul it from here to there and would offer some measure of protection, but how do you know just what to get and how do you find what's out there, anyway?
Think, Think, Think
Carefully consider your needs and desires before you go shopping. What do you want the bag to do? Protect, carry or store the camera or gear? Protection can get heavy and expensive, carry is cheaper, while storing just keeps the dust out and can require the least investment of money of the three choices.
How much weight are you willing to carry all day? A large case may hold everything you require, but it can feel like a ton of bricks after eight or ten hours on your shoulder. Take a Saturday and carry your current bag (if you have one) on your errands. Gets heavy, doesn't it? Now remove a few low-priority items from the bag one at a time until you get a weight you can live with for several hours. Inventory the contents and you'll find the case you need, as opposed to the case you may want, is smaller than you previously thought. Keep this in mind as you seek out the new bag.
What is your price point? Bags can get quite pricey, but if much of your use is light duty, then you might be just as happy with a cheaper case that isn't built like a Sherman tank.
Protect Your Investment
It seems that some people have no trouble dropping more than $1,000 for the newest gee-whiz deluxe HD camera with multi-zoom, only to balk when it comes time to drop a few bucks to protect it in a quality case. A case made for your specific model of camera holds it better, protects it better and will last longer than bargain cases.
Some low-cost cases hold generically-sized cameras, and, while they may hold your camera, they may not provide the best fit available. A too-small case means the camera may rub the sides of the interior, possibly damaging control buttons and the finish, while a slightly too-large case allows the camera to bounce around and invites dust and debris to enter the delicate mechanisms. Look for a case made by your camera's manufacturer or one specifically designed for your camera. If possible, take your camera into the store with you and try it on for size.
Once you find a few that fit, seek out other features that could prove useful: big pockets for batteries; a strong, wide strap to spread the weight and carry it safely; and a secure, lockable zipper for security's sake.
A Place for Other Stuff
Videophiles like to have lots of stuff: cameras, cables, batteries, tapes, manuals, mics and all description of miscellaneous gear jammed here and there. All of this is, of course, necessary for the finest production possible, and you can't possibly leave any of it at home (that's what I tell my wife, anyway).
The cargo bag serves this very purpose. Its intended use is more general than specific: to carry just about everything that's not a camera. It's not designed to carry a camera at all. In fact, the very design of most cargo cases would make them a tough fit for cameras, as they are usually shallower in depth and wouldn't fit most cameras in their main compartment.
Cargo bags can range from small, belt-mounted cases barely larger than a cell phone case to the size of an army duffel bag. Usually, the interior storage area is divided into smaller spaces for the storage of various items to be kept separate from each other. These have all manner of zippers, hook-and-loop closures, snaps and buckles for security. Some bags' walls have a hook-and-loop lining and dividers you can move around the interior to form custom spaces of just the right size and shape for your particular needs. Padded walls are the norm, as manufacturers know these bags may be holding just about anything, and that "anything" may be valuable. As with camera bags, check cargo bags for sturdy construction, quality materials and solid stitching. Buy a cargo bag one size larger than you think you'll need, because we all find a way to fill these things, and you might as well have the room to accommodate any future "must-have" video buys.
A good idea is to purchase two cargo bags: a large one that holds everything that you can keep inside your vehicle or home for longer-term storage and a smaller, more portable case you can keep inside the big case.
Use the small case to stow those things you'll need for just the immediate shoot ahead: an extra tape or two, fresh camera batteries, granola bar, lens tissues, etc. Keep the larger cargo case as a "home base" you can return to for refilling your short-run case from time to time. Keep the small case, well... small. Resist the temptation to make it bigger and bigger, because it may not start digging the strap into your shoulder right away, but the bigger the case, the heavier it is.
Making a Case for Special Cases
Even if a cargo case is big enough to carry just about anything you have, there are cases out there designed to carry and protect exactly one thing (whatever that thing may be). Tripod cases are quite common and come in both hard plastic and padded versions. They resemble golf bag airline cases, but they are usually a little smaller. There are special bags with heat-resistant linings to contain video production lights, stands and electrical cables, designed for maximum protection and ease of carry.
There are cases for microphones, audio cables and other specialized gear. Before you get one of these special cases, be sure you really need it, because you'll be carrying it around everywhere; look into finding a combination case that would serve just as well as several individual ones.
Some think that cases must be nylon or canvas. Many of the more expensive cases are actually high-impact, heavy-duty plastic and can resemble airline luggage. These have a special foam lining that allows a custom-shaped hole to tightly fit your expensive widget. You may purchase replacement foam for a new start when you need it. These very strong cases come in sizes ranging from cell-phone size to over six feet long.
The Case is Solved!
Consider carefully the specific task you want the case to perform and seek out the ideal solution to your needs. With careful shopping, a little forethought and some hands-on testing, you'll find a good balance between price and performance to protect your investment for years to come.
Randy Hansen is a television chief photographer who uses nearly a dozen cases a day in his work.
Side Bar: A Case for the Pros
With gear often priced in the tens of thousands, professional video crews often use bags and cases to protect their investment.
There are cases that wrap around cameras like a cocoon and cases that carry and protect the cameras while transporting in vehicles. There are cases designed especially for directors who carry scripts and storyboards and bags for news crews that transport the equipment they need, like over-the-shoulder bags that carry a spare mic, a couple of tapes and a water bottle. Specialization in bag design keeps many companies in business, supplying the video industry with the bags they need. Entire catalogs are filled with special bags designed for certain makes and models of cameras, audio mixers and, yes, even cargo bags designed to last through years of hard service.
These pros spend a great deal of money on their gear, and they're willing to spend a little more to protect it. After all, by protecting the gear, they're protecting the things that help them make a living.
To download PDF of Manufacturer's list, CLICK HERE.