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Hey all,

I'm flying somewhere soon and I'm bringing my equipment along to record some wonderful opportunities.

I have a 722 and a Neumann 191 and I really don't want to check my babies if I don't have to. That's a lot of money to be "misplaced" in the baggage loading, etc. It's also my first time flying with my mic and recorder.

Do any of you have experiences of what I should not do or any tips for getting through security quickly and safely?

Maybe I am freaking out too much and maybe it will be a breeze but I want to carry them on the flight with me and I don't know if any equipment they might whip out to check them with or use on them will wreck anything or the hard drive, mic, etc.

Thanks in advance!

  • Ryan
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8 Answers

My two rubles:

  • No boom poles in carry-ons, period. Won't fly, literally.Remember, they're not BOOM poles, they're, uh, "mic arms."
  • Be ready and willing to power up anything in your bag. I guarantee they don't see many Sound Devices units, especially the 7xx's. I personally would recommend having one audio clip on the unit so they can hear it if requested (therefore, pack some earbuds if you've checked your good cans).
  • Be pleasant and patient at all times!
  • It might be faster to take it out of whatever carrier or bag you have and check said bag. Inspecting mine in its Portabrace case would be kind of a pain, so I'd try to save them - and my - time and reduce their guesswork.
  • Can't imagine a mic would raise many questions, but again, some TSA staff want to see stuff actually working, especially since mics really can't be opened to see what's inside...maybe also pack a 6-12" XLR cable?
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Thanks for being so fast, NJ. I didn't think about turning it on and showing them - good point, I'll bring my baby 2 foot monster cable. I really don't want to check it because I've had bad experiences with bad banging and smashing of stuff inside my suitcases. I can easily take it out... Know of any magnetic equipment they might use on it? I think one of my relative's Visa cards got ruined and de-magnetized from something a while back. –  Utopia Jul 27 '10 at 5:15
    
I travel a lot for work and have never had a magnetic anything get messed up. But stuff does happen. I don't know of anything that'd worry me; solid state devices are pretty tough and more mag-resistant than HD's. If you have physically sensitive media, you can always request a hand check, as if you had sensitive film, if you want to be careful. Final note: if you travel with gear in your carry-ons, get to security EARLY. Sucks to wait, but sucks more to miss your plane. Nothing will make TSA delay or slow down more than you looking like you're in a hurry. –  NoiseJockey Jul 27 '10 at 14:28
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Did this not too long ago, decided to carry on all of my gear rather than check it. Turned out to be a bit of a hassle at TSA and missed my flight. Not cool.

But, that being said, I would do it again rather than risk losing it all in checked baggage. Another alternative is to send it ahead of you via UPS or FedEX, or any other method that is trackable. Will save you headaches at the airport.

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Ah I get it. Then you just pick it up at the Fed EX location or would you send it straight to the hotel? I guess Fed EX insurance would be a good idea. –  Utopia Jul 27 '10 at 5:50
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Send it straight to wherever you're going, signature required. Insurance is mandatory! –  Jay Jennings Jul 27 '10 at 6:17
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I've flown a number of times with my gear as carry on. When ever going through security I made sure to pull both the recorder and the microphone out and put them in a bin to go through separately. They usually inspect the microphone (MKH 418) separately and almost always swab it to test for explosives, so you might not want to take gear through if you've done any gun sessions. Only one time did the TSA guy question my recorder (Then a Tascam HD-P2) and made me take it out of the Porta-Brace (Huge pain) But this has never taken me longer than 5 extra minutes, usually no additional time. Surprisingly, they never question the Rycote with the pistol grip.

Give yourself some extra time, be patient and pleasant and you shouldn't have a problem. Granted this was all for domestic travel, no experience with international. Good luck!

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Ah okay. I heard a horror story of a music producer traveling with a U47 and the security guard took it out and looked at it and said "Hey, this is one of them older microphone toys, right?" and swung it around a bit. Little did he know it was a 6,000 tube microphone he had in his hand... What do they swab the mic with? –  Utopia Jul 27 '10 at 16:36
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It's called an ETD (Electronic Trace Detection) test that tests for explosive. Here's a link I found that explains a bit about it. tsa.gov/approach/tech/etd.shtm –  GaryMegregian Jul 27 '10 at 17:13
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I just took my recorder and mic through as carryon. They treated the recorder like a laptop (take it out, put it in a bin by itself), and they didn't even question the mic. You never know.. it really depends on the people and airport, but you're not taking anything illegal on. Good luck!

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Thanks VC. I appreciate it! –  Utopia Jul 27 '10 at 22:14
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Like everyone else said, NEVER check ANYTHING on a flight that you would like to keep. Every time you check a bag, assume that you will never see it again (or at least in the same shape).

I've carried mics/recorders on planes. Seems the smaller airports gave me more of a hassle than the larger ones. LAX/Burbank have let me go through without even flinching, sometimes a mic will looks strange on the xray, so they'll want a closer look, sometimes not. This small "airport" in Durango CO (so small, I'd almost call it an air strip!), they had to take every piece of equipment out, question me about it, and swab it down. Allow yourself time for this.

As @birdhousesound suggested, FedEx is a great way to go. You can insure your shipment and don't have to deal with the hassle of carrying it around with you and don't have to worry about somehow losing something or getting ripped off.

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Good policy to go by! I'm going out of Burbank. –  Utopia Jul 27 '10 at 22:15
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I fly A LOT for projects and this is what I've learned from it all:

Carry on everything you possibly can. I actually leave my 442, 744t, wireless units, and shotgun mic (sans Rycote blimp) right in my Petrol bag and use that as one of my carry on items. I don't pack it in a case or anything. It's all right out there in the open for TSA to check, go through, and inspect. I have yet to have them ask me to power it on but I always have it available to power up if they do ask. It is a good idea to have a couple audio files loaded on just in case.

I bring with my Pelican 1650 case and put my miscellaneous items in it (blimp, short boom pole, sox, underwear, batteries, etc. I try to keep the weight under 50 pounds, which is tough because the case itself weighs 35 pounds empty. Anything else heavy like batteries, lead weights, etc I put in a carry on. Until they get fussy about carry on weight I suck it up and shoulder the extra pounds. Plus, I'm a cheap skate and I don't want to pay over-weight bag fees.

My second carry on is either a small bag for clothes or my laptop/additional audio gear bag. It all depends on how long I'm staying, what gear is needed for the shoot, if I'm footing the bill for all the travel, etc.

I basically figure that I want to keep with me at all times the essential, and expensive, pieces of gear that I'll need for a shoot. If the airline loses your bags it's easier to replace a boom pole than a mixer or recorder. Heck, worse case scenario you can always go to Home Depot and do the painters pole option until your Loon Audio or VDB pole shows up (broken in half and/or a million pieces.) I obviously have a lot of faith in our airline industry. :) Hey, they "lost" a bass guitar of mine for 2 weeks and it traveled more than I did for that gig!

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I read a really awesome recommendation a while ago from (?someone?) for keeping your checked baggage safe and looked after:

1) Buy a cheap start pistol.

2) pack it with your valuable equipment.

3) Declare your fire-arm. It will be personally escorted by TSA to and from the plane.

Never tried it myself.

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