What's in a Bag

Choosing the Right Protection for Your Equipment

Bags and cases aren't always a top priority for videographers. Camcorders, mics, tripods and lights often take precedence over storage containers. But, if you care about preserving your equipment, you should take note.

With more than three dozen manufacturers, today's videographers have hundreds of options — from water-resistant shoulder bags and multi-purpose backpacks to hard aluminum cases and compact tool pouches. As you review this buyer's guide, you'll see a wide variety of models, features and prices. To find the bags or cases that will accommodate your specific video equipment, consider exactly what you need to carry, the environment in which you plan to shoot, whether aesthetics matter as much as practicality and how much you're willing to spend.

Just the Camera

If you're headed on a two-week European vacation or a three-day wilderness shoot, you may prefer to leave the lighting kits and rolling cases at home. In such situations, you'll want something simple and lightweight — perhaps a carrier that houses little more than your camcorder and a few accessories.

Ideally, you'll want a container that properly fits your equipment, minimizing unnecessary bumps and scratches.
Oftentimes, camera manufacturers offer bags specifically designed for particular models. To protect, for instance, a Canon Mini DV camcorder such as a ZR90, you might find that the Canon SC-2000 ($60), a nylon camcorder case with three additional pockets, would best suit your circumstances.

If you're looking for special features such as weatherproof material or customizable parts, it's advisable to look beyond the major camera companies. A host of well-respected bag manufacturers, from Tamrac to Porta-Brace, not only design carriers that fit specific DV models but also offer amenities that suit numerous shooting styles and locations.

For on-the-go shoots, Kata offers the S-308 ($35), an adjustable sling case carrier that can accommodate a camera as well as a few valuables, connect to additional cases for greater space and provide both easy access and better weight distribution. If you're concerned about the weather, Lowepro offers the Compact AW DV ($190), a shoulder bag that includes a waterproof exterior and detachable side pockets.

Room for Extras

For more complicated shooting requirements, you might need additional space for items such as cables, tapes, batteries and tripods. If so, there are numerous options, including customizable backpacks, large multi-compartment duffel bags and rolling designer cases. It all depends on how much room you need and how you plan to transport your equipment.

Both Lowepro and Kata offer multi-functional backpacks with ergonomic harness systems, tripod mounts and customizable features. Maury Cohen, a Lowepro product specialist, claims that most of its durable bags can fit any videographer's shooting conditions but recommends the Super Trekker AW II ($390), which features a patented weather-proof cover, various accessory pouches and outer attachment loops. Though not a backpack, the CB-01 ($190), the latest production bag from CineBags, also offers security and convenience with its water-resistant nylon exterior and five detachable inner pouches.

Although many soft cases have reinforced walls and hidden torsion bars to stabilize fragile video equipment, you might desire the added fortification that hard cases can provide. The stylish, weatherproof Amabilia Legend 4919T ($416) aluminum alloy case contains modular interior dividers, built-in wheels and a telescoping handle. Zero Halliburton, which typically caters to still photographers, offers the Zeroller-107 ($300), an aluminum rolling case that resists fire, dust and moisture and allows videographers to reconfigure the interior foam padding to their liking.

On the Side

Cameras are not the only equipment in need of protection. You can increase the longevity of your tripods, lighting kits, audio mixers and monitors with the specifically designed soft bags and semi-hard cases that Kata, Petrol, PortaBrace, Tamrac and Tenba offer. You can also secure a variety of equipment, from lenses to light-stands, with Pelican's assortment of airtight, crushproof cases, including the new 0370 cube case ($260).

For storing a lighting kit, you might want to consider a manufacturer that specializes in lighting equipment. Photoflex offers videographers many choices, including the Transpac Multi Kit Case ($199), which provides enough space for three lighting kits and a tripod, secures equipment with double-stitched seams, and offers easy access via oversized zippers and adjustable divider systems.

If you're curious about smaller items like tool pouches or script bags, you might want to consider those offered by both major manufacturers and relatively new companies like CineBags. SetWear, a California-based manufacturer, addresses the entire spectrum of video production. To keep important tools and valuables within arm's reach, Billy Davila, a SetWear representative, recommends the rolling gear bag ($80), the SW-05-523, which provides a lightweight Nylon exterior, convenient Neoprene wheels, a padded interior, tiered pockets and enough space for everything from electric tools and blank tapes to make-up accessories and lunch.

All Wrapped Up

The bottom line is that every videographer should care as much about selecting the right equipment case as they do about choosing the right camcorder. Although videographers often overlook accessories like bags and cases at the time of purchase, smart users will eventually invest in a reliable container.

Although it's tempting to save money, cost shouldn't be the deciding factor in your purchase. If you're an amateur shooter who wants to protect a small DV camera from daily wear-and-tear, then a more inexpensive pouch may be just fine. But, if you're a professional videographer who needs to guard a high-end camcorder and its accompanying accessories, you should focus on features like reinforced walls, element-resistant exteriors and reconfigurable interiors. You should also consider the longevity of your purchase. While some manufacturers offer competitive prices, they often only guarantee their products for one to five years. So, choosing a more expensive unit from companies that provide lifetime warranties, such as Zero Halliburton and Lowepro, might be less stressful on the wallet in the long run.

Laura Martone is a screenwriter, producer and co-founder of the LA Indie Film Group.

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