I want to be an Inspector Gadget filmmaker – pimp out my trip around the world (clothing, technology etc)
October 13, 2010 10:01 AM   Subscribe

This is a big question. I'm doing a project, traveling around the world (map) for up to 12 months. 4 days in each city, then moving on. While traveling (bus/train) I'll be editing footage from the previous location, then uploading it to the website. I want to make sure I'm going with the best/easiest equipment to travel with, from shoes and shirts to cameras and computers (and everything else!). What should I bring with me?!

We'll be going through some dodgy areas, so we don't want to stand out too much, if possible, but...

Body: Anyone know of durable, lightweight, quick-drying, easy to wash clothing? Lightweight but sturdy shoes? Need pockets. Lightweight waterproof jacket.

Cameras: Editing movies in FCP takes ages. Might be a silly question, but are there cameras that record straight to Apple Intermediate Codec or Apple ProRes? Or a format that FCP handles easily? My Mac ain't the best... Oh, and it needs to record to 1280 x 720 resolution. I've got the Canon t2i, which does both photo and video to my needs, but am happy to get a camera that solely does video, if necessary. Size is an issue.

Computers: Within reason (say, absolute limit of $5,000), what (Mac) computer would you get if you were me? I'll be carrying it around the world, editing footage to make movies. We want the encoding/rendering process to be as quick as possible. As there are three of us, we could get two average computers, if that'll speed up the process more than getting one good one. Thoughts?

Hard drives: The tricky bit. We're going to be filling them with video as we go, and when full, making one copy of each, and then sending one to the UK, and the other to the USA (to be safe and not lose any footage). So, they need to be able to store, say, 500GB (or thereabouts), but be small enough to carry several around on our backs. Oh, and durable. Very durable (advice on least-bulky-but-still-safe packing instructions would be helpful).

Bags: I've heard of vacuum sealing for clothes, which should bring the size down, and otherwise we're just bringing easy-do-break tech stuff. 50 Liters is probably enough to fit everything, but stuff inside needs to be kept safe. Also, would like to be able to run with them (i.e., carried on the back). Recommendations?

Camera Cases: We're going with digital SLRs, and perhaps one larger video camera. We need them to be protected. Pelican cases?

Any other advice? – If you've gone on a travel trip where you've needed computers and cameras, do share how you did it!
posted by omnigut to Travel & Transportation (11 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I've traveled up to 14 months (usually moving every 3 days or so) with a laptop and cameras. The first thing that hit me when I read you post was that you intend to use your computer while in-transit. I don't see this as physically possible in Ethiopia, India or Mongolia for many reasons. Not only will you be sticking out as a target for thieves but the roads in a lot of those places are too bumpy, and the buses and trains too compact to really work. Don't discount the amount of dust and dirt pouring in the windows either. You don't want Ethiopian dust getting into every crevice of your $5,000 computer.

If you're going to carry your expensive equipment in a day bag (and you'll want to for security on buses when you big bag is tied to the roof) get a backpack. I always go with a messenger-type bag because I like to have it in front of me but ultimately end up buying a backpack on the road because electronics weigh a lot and a messenger bag will hurt your back.

Don't buy 100% synthetic clothes. They're tempting, don't wrinkle and fold small but they also don't breathe and will leave you with a heat rash in hot or humid climates.
posted by Bunglegirl at 10:18 AM on October 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks Bunglegirl,
Yeah, we'll have to keep the computers shut in the tricky places. This is one reason why we'll have to rely on several external hard drives - if we can't use the computers for a week, or two, we'll have to keep a massive amount of data with us before we can make edits.

Anyone have any dust-proof ideas?
posted by omnigut at 11:05 AM on October 13, 2010

This guy was the cameraman on a 'round the world with no luggage' trip/publicity stunt - the rest of the site has a lot of clothing tips, skewed heavily in favour of the sponsor (ScotteVest, who admittedly seem to be good at making lightweight clothing with lots of pockets).
posted by a little headband I put around my throat at 11:55 AM on October 13, 2010

You might get some inspiration from Rolf Potts, who is traveling around the world with no baggage.
posted by leigh1 at 12:39 PM on October 13, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks Leigh1 and little headband for the link to that guy. Does anyone have experience with the ScotteVest, or Eagle Creek?
posted by omnigut at 12:52 PM on October 13, 2010

Google the term "RTW packing list" and dig through different people's opinions. Potts, who was linked to, is engaging in a sponsored stunt but he is the real deal - you might want to find his book "vagabonding" which does get into gear a little bit.

I finished a one year backpacking trip almost exactly a year ago and

[2 minute interlude while I sigh]

here are my condensed thoughts.

Computer: as cheap and as small as is feasible. One or two levels in performance below what you'd like. You'll have plenty of time for the compy to take another hour doing the rendering or whatever and your back will thank me for the weight savings and cheaper price if it (heaven forbid) gets stolen. I managed to do photoshop just fine on my underpowered 1024x600 netbook.

Backpack: 50 is the max I'd recommend. I did my trip with a 35 liter pack and a ~8 liter messenger bag that held my SLR, tiny laptop, phone, and valuables.

Protection: hell and no on the pelicans due to the weight. Pelicans are for people with a production crew. Get a small padded backpack that will hold your electronics. It will be on you all the times which accounts for half the protection you need (not being tossed about by luggage handlers) and provides security by being on your person at all times. The vast majority of thieves are opportunists, not brazen knife wielding crazies. I had not nothing stolen while traveling.

Synthetics: going to disagree with bunglegirl a bit - half my gear was synthetics and half my trip was in SE Asia, India, and Turkey during near peak heat season. The stuff is indestructible and IMO does actually breathe well. ExOfficio and Patagonia are great. Expensive but well made and indestructible like I said. At least get a pair of ExOfficio boxers. Most days I wore synthetic boxers and synthetic pants/shorts with a cotton shirt.
posted by MillMan at 1:29 PM on October 13, 2010

We've just finished shooting a travel show in India, we were transferring our footage from Sony HD discs to these Lacie Drives. They are extremely lightweight and small as well as 500gb, best of all they use firewire 800 and are perfect to use with MacBook pro and FCP. (It comes with a firewire 800 to 400 cable also). They're roughly the size of a DVCam tape so you could easily carry a bunch of these in a backpack. We then sent the drives back for editing in Europe just with some bubble wrap, because they are light they are extremely robust.

My only advice for editing on the road is to go for the 15" screen. Just big enough to edit comfortably with but not as bulky as the 17" which I imagine wouldn't be too fun to travel with. If you have two people editing then two computers would definitely save time, but if it's just one person you can still edit while importing clips from a card or disc on FCP so wouldn't be much point. With the drives it makes it quite easy to share the footage between two computers also.

As a crew of four, we've struggled with carrying all our equipment, my recommendation is to always go for soft cases when you can. Pelicans are great, but not much fun to carry around if you don't have the manpower like millman says. There are great protective and lightweight bags for all sorts of equipment out there....lowepro, kata. Also if you need a lightweight robust tripod for a DSLR or slightly bigger this is my favourite tripod ever, wish it could take a big camera. I hate carrying a 15kg tripod in 45 degree heat.
posted by DOUBLE A SIDE at 2:33 PM on October 13, 2010

What about cloud data storage? Dropbox allows you to upload 100GB at a time - a friend could download the data and clear the box regularly. There may be services that allow you to store more data, but I don't know of them.

I wouldn't recommend replacing harddrives with cloud storage, but it might work well as a backup.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 3:55 PM on October 13, 2010

Sounds like an awesome trip, I'm envious! Just wanted to mention something you might or might not have thought about -

Battery: Ingesting HD, editing ProRes and rendering H.264 footage eats CPU and battery like crazy. Plus you are powering external drives, and camera during ingestion. My experience (17" MBP, Canon HD cam) is somewhere between 30 and 75 minutes before juice is out. Might be enough for your plans, maybe you are shooting small segments, but if you need 5-8 hours of HD editing on the road... you'll be needing batteries, lots of them, and a charging station.

Disks: I'm using Western Digital MyPassport 1TB drives, they are about the size of an iPhone, weight is 200 grams. Lacie has some rugged disks, haven't used them. Whatever hardware, as much as possible I duplicate everything (avoid theft/tech fail/human error). This also takes time and needs to be calculated into any plans (double ingestion/transfer times).

Laptop: I would DEF get an internal SSD drive on the MBP and if possible use that for scratch and project if you are editing during transport, so you won't need to balance and power an external drives. Use those for archival and do the grunt ingest/render/backup stuff at night when you're sleeping somewhere with power.

Oh, and can I come with you please?
posted by gmm at 12:31 AM on October 14, 2010

Response by poster: Okay, first - I've been planning this trip for about 5 months already. Very close to getting the sponsorship I need, and hugely excited. So, thank you all for helping me out. Here's the plan:

Bag – 35-50 liters each should be fine, depending on storage and batteries. ~ £100

Computer – Macbook Pro, 13" (better battery than bigger versions, still has usb 2.0 and firewire), upgraded to 8GB SDRAM, 500GB Serial ATA drive (I hear that solid state drives actually decrease battery life), no applecare protection (I'll get travel insurance to include the computer). – £1,439

Final Cut Pro 6. It's the version I currently use. I'd upgrade to FCP7, but I hear it's buggy, and doesn't speed up encoding times, which is my main concern. However, FCP7 does offer a ProRes version – "efficient proxy version for use on netbook computers". I assume learning this proxy method would speed things up a lot?

Spare battery. £48.

Portable energy source - solar panels (like this)? Wind turbine (joke)? Battery pack (I assume that's too heavy)? This? £140.

10 x Western digital 1TB drives, with cases. ~ £860.

Tripod. Thanks, Double A Side, for your suggestion, but I think we'll get a cheap and very foldable one. ~ £50

Clothing. Scottevest stuff. ~ £200.

Camera. Vixia HF series, with SD card wallet, plus three 32 GB flash cards. ~ £1,300

Audio. Zoom H2. 8 GB memory card. £150.

Dropbox, 100GB/month, ten months, £140.

Total, ~ £4,500

• Standard State Drive – durable against knocks, but lower battery life?
• FCP 7 VS FCP 6 – Would this proxy ProRes thingy save much time? If so, how much?
• Camera. Vixia HF records in 1080p, AVCHD. Is 1080 too much (I'm uploading to Vimeo)? Is AVCHD a good format to edit on a mac? (This question might reveal my newbieness)
• Suggestions for ideal amount of storage for camcorder/computer/hard drives, taking weight and risk of breakage into account. Details: Traveling rough, sleeping rough, worried about theft and breakage. Plan on taking massive amounts of footage, putting our favorite clips online while on the go, and sending the rest back (two copies of each, one to UK, one to USA). If we have a hard drive stolen that's too large, we risk losing lots of the trip. However, if the hard drives are too small, we will have to carry a lot of them. Should we carry lots of small ones and send them home, or buy bigger ones and keep buying them on the road... I think you understand.
• Insurance. Best on the road insurance?
posted by omnigut at 3:22 AM on October 14, 2010

Response by poster: add three extra camera batteries, £140. Wide angle lens, £140.
posted by omnigut at 8:15 AM on October 14, 2010

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