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What would and wouldn’t you take on an overseas shoot?

Ryan Ivy

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Friends of wisdom’s past, I once again humbly come before you to inquire what you have learned along your journeys on what gear to bring for traveling overseas for documentary/interview shoot. It might end up being 3 of us or just me as a one man crew in the Middle East and a few parts in Europe. What do you wish you would’ve brought and totally left at home when you embarked on your destination shoot? 


What really made or broke your documentary/interviews stand out?

Are there a preference for lights for travel, 4ft or 2ft Nanlites, litepanels, etc? What other lighting, camera, and audio accoutrements were worthwhile while overseas?

What are some great second hand tripods that can hold about 15-22 lbs of gear and won’t ruin your spirit every step of the way of your trip? Or is this even possible?

Any other tips you would recommend? Many thanks in advance to anyone willing to weigh in on this!



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A clamp, monopod, shotgun mic, good audio recorder, plenty of storage with a way to back it up, a portable power supply (solar panel, rechargeable UPS, something like that). Don't bother with lights, just get a fold-up reflector. Sunscreen, good sunglasses, a camera bag or two with good weather shielding available. Have a good local interpreter available. Pack what just you can carry, so if you need to, you can.

Phil Forrest

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I spent January/February shooting a narrative series over in the Middle East, so I can offer a few tidbits (documentary is probably a bit different, and I assume you're bringing your own camera kit, rather than relying on local rentals - but nonetheless, most of these points will probably hold...)

WHERE in the middle east you shoot will make a big difference. Richer countries like the Emirates with have photo/video stores that you can source some gear from if needed. But on the whole (and especially in the more remote or poorer middle eastern countries) don't expect to be able to source niche parts or equipment without shipping them over from Europe. 

Redundancy for cables and battery chargers would be a big thing for me (two dual-battery chargers over a single quad-battery charger for example, and duplicates for ALL of your cables). All the necessary tools/allen keys you need - and NEVER forget to pack them in your check-in luggage (lest they get confiscated from carry-on).

Lighting is tricky, because it's impossible to carry grip gear that's as strong as you'd like it to be (the baggage cost is just too high), so make those decisions based around how much you expect to do outdoors vs. indoors, and bring kit that you feel you're going to be able to setup securely enough with the grip gear you can travel with.

I actually think something like a 3-head Dedolight kit, with one or two compact stands and a couple of cardelini clamps (to rig the lights when the stands won't suffice) can be a great way to go - you'll just want to factor in some kind of diffusion or bounce material, to soften your key light - lighting umbrellas are the easiest option there.

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