Safely shooting video in foreign countries

Traveling outside the United States is a life experience that I would recommend to everyone. Whether you travel to Europe, Australia, Africa, India, Asia, South America, or anyplace else you can think of, seeing the world with your own eyes will expand your worldview and give you new perspective that will reshape how you view your own country and culture, and just might spark in you a love for people and places that you might otherwise have never known. As a videographer, traveling abroad also presents an exciting opportunity to capture your experience on camera. The sights and sounds of the world are compelling content that you will no doubt want to capture. If you feel the call to become a video globe-trekker, there are a few things you would do well to keep in mind before you pack your camera bag. Let me offer you some insights from my own experience as a video-minded world traveler.

Any kind of international travel necessitates packing light. Carrying and managing gear as you travel by plane, train, taxi or tuk-tuk absolutely requires that you bring no more than the bare essentials. For me, this includes a camera, extra batteries, battery charger, wireless microphone (with spare batteries), and a small tripod or monopod. It’s best if all of these items fit into a single manageable backpack that you can throw over your shoulder and carry hands-free. Convenient carrying of your equipment kit on your body is particularly wise when visiting busy cities and remote areas alike. It is unwise to leave equipment out when it can be easily lost. In many countries, carrying expensive video gear can make you a target for theft. Be aware of your production equipment and your surroundings, and keep your things on your person as much as you can. Packing your gear into a single small bag is also handy for navigating security checkpoints quickly at airports. Never check valuable or fragile equipment. Always carry it on with you to prevent damage or theft.

Be aware of your production equipment and your surroundings, and keep your things on your person as much as you can

Make an informed decision about batteries; both for your camera and your microphone, so that you don’t find yourself out of juice right as you find the perfect shot, or part way into a long day away from an electrical outlet. In many parts of the world, you may have very limited access to power and you may go many hours without being able to recharge. In other places, even in distant countries like China, you might have access to a Walmart where you can purchase anything you might need. Remember also that you will need power converters and/or adapters to allow your American appliances to plug into international electrical outlets.

Be aware that you may also need to adjust your shooting practices and expectations according to your shooting environment. Some cultures are very open to the presence and use of cameras and technology, but others may have a different perspective. You do not want to have your equipment damaged or confiscated by the authorities. Each culture is unique and requires that you read the situation to know if it is appropriate to video record people, and even certain places, without permission. Do your best to err on being respectful and gracious. You may find, however, that you can gain permission to record things that might be off limits to the masses if you take time to build a genuine rapport with an influential local.

Don’t hesitate to shoot video as you travel internationally. The shots you record will help you recall the incredible experiences that you have so you can remember your exploits and share your adventures with your friends and family after you return home. Do, however, exercise wisdom and good judgment as you pack, travel and produce in distant places.

Matthew York
Matthew York
Matt York is Videomaker's Publisher/Editor.

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