When you work in the video world, you’re only as good as the gear you bring to the project. Protecting your production assets is imperative – you take out insurance, you clean the internal mechanisms, you shine and dust the outer shell – as you’re acutely aware of how improper maintenance can significantly decrease the shelf life of the equipment you’ve worked so hard to invest in. So, why wouldn’t you transport your gear with the same white glove treatment with which you maintain it?
The realities of transporting your gear are simple, sprinkled with several old adages: you get what you pay for; if it takes more than one bag you’re bringing too much stuff; why buy a Ferrari when a Ford will suffice. Truth is, with innovative advancements in camcorder cases and equipment bags, you really do only need one bag. Proverbs are proverbs for a reason – they typically speak beyond the ages and apply to nearly every situation.
As you shop around for the optimal protection, there are several variables you need to weigh before you hand over that single bag of money for your streamlined shuttle suitable to shuffle your stuff. Whether you’re a gumshoe documentary producer, a mid-level digital marketer, or seasoned shooter, knowing what gear is best for your beat is key to making a sound investment.
Back(pack) To Basics
There are several things you need to address before you even click on a link when shopping for your camcorder case. First, what do you intend to carry in your case? Will you be bringing a camera with several lenses? Do you need a place to store media: tapes, cards, discs? If you’re planning to edit on location, is there a laptop pocket and a place to store any cables or hard drives?
Since camcorders tend to come in just about every shape and size – from a GoPro HERO3 that can fit in your back pocket, to a Panasonic AG-AC7 camcorder which definitely will not fit in your back pocket – camera cases and bags are also developed to cater to camera-folk of all skill sets.
Additionally, ask yourself how often you will be transporting your gear under grueling conditions. Do your projects require you to tuck your bag under the stands at the local high school football field on a Friday night, exposed to the weather? Or will you be shoving it in and out of the overhead bins of overcrowded jetliners? Having a good understanding of the types of stresses your cases will endure is pivotal in protecting your prized possessions.
Finding the Right Fit
Think of your new camcorder case as the missing piece to your production success. Without proper protection, you could potentially wind up on the sidelines with a cracked camera, damaged data, or worse, having to tell your client or customer that you can’t deliver. That means the work is sent elsewhere, and you’re left with a bruised ego and battered business reputation.
Don’t be “that” guy. Do your research and find a bag or case that’s going to safeguard your belongings around like the royal goodies that they are. From beginner to expert, there are a few things you should always look for when shopping for a new camcorder case or bag:
• Structural Stability: If your bag is made of mesh or fabric, ensure the stitching is strong and the materials are covered by some sort of manufacturer’s warranty. Tenba makes a bag for the road warrior shooter called the Roadie II. The materials are top shelf, have been produced with water-repelling nylon, and feature the YKK zippers, which have a military-finish quality. If it’s good enough for our men and women in uniform, it’s good enough for your wedding videography business … then again, depending on the bride …
• Instant Access: For videographers who play in the run-n-gun world, you don’t have time to fool around with pockets, zippers, buttons and triple-locking closures. Shooters want to be able to reach in, grab their gear, and go. The ProRoller X series of bags from Lowepro is the aforementioned Ferrari of camera bags. Not only does it include a secondary pack for your gear, it may prop up with its own foot so you’re not constantly bending over and searching for the right pocket.
• Customizable Configurations: Just as no two camera operators are the same, neither is the way they like to carry their gear. One shooter may like to have a camera tucked under some extra padding, while another may prefer to stack the blank media towards the top of the case for instant swapping while shooting. Most camera bags come with interchangeable Velcro or plastic dividers, but Tamrac has its setup down to a science. Tamrac’s Expedition lineup features six different size bags for your camera needs. The foam-padded dividers allow shooters to carry multiple lens and media options, while the Windowpane-Mesh pockets allow visible access to manuals, tablets, and other production necessities while on the go.
• Flexible Fit: One of the most undervalued commodities in traveling with your equipment is comfort. When you’ve got a big, bulky ENG camcorder, your options are pretty limited, Portabrace has mastered the high-level broadcast camcorder case market, but for anyone who’s slung a Sony or Panasonic camcorder over their shoulder, there’s little you can do to carry those behemoths comfortably.
Whatever your camera case needs, do your best to take the bag for a test ride. ThinkTank Photo features lots of great options that can either ride piggyback, or roll sidecar-style thanks to the included wheels. The company’s StreetWalker lineup fits all of the aforementioned suggestions, while also including an integrated, contoured harness that fits comfortably on shooters of varying sizes.
Nearly every manufacturer will stand by their products, for better or worse. As a consumer of camcorder cases, consider this investment like you would any relationship. You invest time, resources, and money – sometimes lots of it – to find the bag that fits your needs. Sometimes, the bag you started out loving turns out to be a nagging pest that brings physical and mental anguish. Don’t be afraid to walk away from your relationship with your case.
Ensure that whatever camera bag or case you decide to invest in comes with some form of warranty or trial period. The last thing you want to do is to buy a bag that sits on your office floor collecting dust and drums up bad feelings about an investment gone sour. If things don’t work out, return it. If the bag doesn’t live up to your standards or needs, even after the warranty period, express your concerns to the manufacturer.
Believe it or not, customer service isn’t dead. Companies want to see their products on the sidelines of NFL stadiums, tucked under bleachers in small towns and in community theaters from coast to coast. Don’t be afraid to send it back if you don’t like it. That said, be sure you tell all your friends about the relationship you’ve enjoyed with your gear and support tools. Because, after all, money spent on one bag that works out, is stronger than two bags that are hidden from the truth. Or something like that! Click here to download the full bags and cases buyer’s guide.
Dave Sniadak is an award-winning video producer that leads the creative division of a major market based marketing agency. He also is a team videographer for the Minnesota Vikings.