We at BTT go to a fair amount of theme parks. While these are often in the guise of vacations (or holidays), it is rare that we go anywhere without some kind of recording gear.
Over the years we have gone from little to no gear to waaay too much and then paired it down and learned to survive most recording and social media situations with just the right blend of gear and tech. n the end, no amount of gear will make up for lack of planning or initiative to get the shot or interview, but there are certain things we have learned over time and after many emails and messages we thought we would share a few with you to make your next trip easier and more memorable.
To begin with, you have to gauge how much gear you can handle carrying. This is based on a few things that you have to be certain of.
1. How remote is the location
2. How much walking will I have to do with the gear
3. Are lockers available
4. How secure are my accommodations
Let’s look at #1 first (of course). How can a theme park be remote? Well let’s see…
- #1 – Some parks can be surprisingly well out of the way and hard to get to (see many in Asian and other remote areas). Also this is assuming it is a theme park and not some other kind of event or park you want to document. Trust us when we say sometimes it is easier to just bring your simple point and shoot or phone and work some magic in post than it is to carry multiple packs and bags into locations that you are unfamiliar with.
- Now for #2… How much walking will you do is subjective and often hard to pin down if you have never done it. For theme parks it is pretty obvious… A lot! Also it depends on the park. If you are going to a Disneyland or Knott’s Berry Farm type park that is self contained you may be able to sit down and take breaks, taking the pack off of your back and shoulders, etc. Again, keep it simple if you are not accustom to carrying much when walking or are prone to back issues.
- For #3 this is a simple one. After a few trips to Disney World, our team discovered using lockers to hold the gear we did not need at the time and returning to grab what we did when it was required. In addition, the hint was told to us that the locker purchased for the day could be transferred with us to any other park on property. This was a huge saver on our wallets and shoulders.
- Lastly #4… If you have a safe in your accommodations and/or are staying on the park property then leaving gear in your room may be a simple alternative. Pack what you are certain you will need for the days events and leave the rest locked up in your room. If you do not have or do not trust your safe, many hotels have desk safes for holding specific things such as laptops, etc.
Now onto the real question… What do I pack?
Obviously this depends on what the goal is for recording your adventure. A few things we highly recommend though:
- 2 ways to save your pics and video – We download that night after deleting all of the unneeded shots and videos. For a long time we carried a laptop on every trip but thanks to the trusty iPad and a few good apps (see list at the bottom of this article) we can now do it all much lighter, and cheaper. This change does come with some sacrifices but that versus carrying around a Mac-Book. Well you see where I am going with this.
- Back up recording devices – This is usually pretty straight forward. if you have a decent mobile phone than you are more than sorted. On our last Disneyland trip we ended up using our phones for 80% of our site and social media posts. They are just that much easier to work with and so much quicker. Of course they will not replace your DSLR if that is your choice of camera but believe me it is a lot better to whip out the phone for a quick shot and a quick post than to shoot it, move or WIFI the pic over, edit it and then WiFi post it or use your data anyway. Again there are some quality sacrifices made but truthfully, your Instagram account won’t know the difference if you have a decent eye for composition and lighting.
- Cover your ass-et ! – Seriously, now matter what gear you carry make certain you have some sort of crash, gunk and rain protection either on your gear or at the ready. We have seen a few trips spoiled by people caught out in the obligatory Orlando summer downpour and watched their phones and gear gets sloshed. It is NOT worth it.
- Sooo many saves. – Think you have enough SD cards? You don’t, trust me. Please do not think that because you have 1 128 gig SD card that you are sorted. have a few back ups. If that one card fails any hope you have of catching that hysterical shot when the pigeon drops on on your husbands head is gone. Be prepared and have a variety of sizes, they don’t all have to be massive unless you are shooting in RAW formats.
- Something to edit and something to post with. – SO you took your shots and now what? Well as I said we do almost all of our on the fly editing with our iPads. This allows us the ability to edit as we need to as well. If you are lucky enough to have WiFi, you can edit your pics, post them wherever you want and if it is set up send them to a file share and clear off your memory cards for the next day.
Now I will run you through what our usual shooting/posting set up looks like, depending on the events.
Theme Park Trips:
Pack up whatever is needed, usually, one normal DSLR type camera, one GoPro and one iPhone. Usually that is it, unless we have specific shots in mind. I tend to have 2 full batteries for the normal camera, 2-3 for the GoPro (they are very small and lose a charge quick if used) and one Battery Pac/backup for the iPhone since that gets used for navigation, texting, reservations and photos/video). Throughout the day, we are shooting a phone pic or video, with a quick edit (adding watermarks and any cleanup with apps (see list below), then of course posting it with either data or preferably WiFi to the various sites and social media as needed. Detailed pics and video are still handled with either the standard camera or GoPro if needed.
Once we are done, it is back to the hotel for deleting, editing and posting via WiFi in the same manner (all be it with more attention to detail and post creating).
This one is a bit more unique as it depends on the location and the crew we have or need. We split this one up into two categories, Interviews and Coverage.
Interviews: For Professional and celebrity interviews admittingly we go with an additional media company (Nitro Media) as the level of camera needed to get that “pro” look is a bit out of our price range generally. During the interviews however, we do tend to shoot DSLR pics and occasional phone pics for quick “guess who we are talking to” captions.
Coverage – This one is quite interesting actually. Depending on the location, we have gone full minimal with just one simple DSLR and a phone for pics and videos but we have also gone with steady cams, gimbles and GoPros. Again this depends on the subject you are shooting. If we are at a convention and far way from the accommodation then a full pack with multiple batteries and chargers is required. be prepared for a sore back and feet when you are done. Was it worth it? Yes! Will you do it again tomorrow? Yes… And the next day and the next till it is over. Fun!
In the end you will have to gauge what you need to carry by what your requirements are and in most cases the better safe than sorry is a good model to follow but don’t let it overpower your common sense when it comes to how much your pack, shoulders and overhead bin on the flight can handle.
If you are curious what we use for general gear see the list below:
The actual camera does not matter to be honest and is subjective. Almost any camera can give you a decent pic if you work with it enough. We tend to use a basic DSLR, a point and shoot, a GoPro and an iPhone 6 camera (not including for pro interviews of course).
Storage and Editing:
Though most tablet will work, we tend use our iPads for both temporary image and video storage and for editing of both. For editing images we use Adobe Lightroom and Laminar Pro. For GoPro images or video the GoPro app works well enough but we also tend to incorporate an app called LensCorrect to remove the fish-eye effect when needed.
For storage we tend to back it all up to our iPads and upload it to an FTP set up we have built for our website on a separate location. If you are able to do this (if you host a website you probably are) we highly recommend it. This means you don’t need to save every pic on your device or cards and wait to back it up till you get home. If you are not sure if you can or how to do it, ask your support desk or internet/website provider or just look up ftp on their help list.
Tripods and more:
With tripods it depends on where you are really. We have a basic full height tripod that we rarely use in theme parks because many of the do not allow them in anymore.
We do use a small steady-cam/3-axis gimble which gets some weird looks but does the job well enough and is one hand operated. We have had many questions but have never been told we couldn’t use it walking around. For the GoPro our go to holder is either your standard grip handle or a scuba attachment that lets you basically hold the camera in your teeth like a snorkel. This little device is pretty cheap and gives you the best possible POV shots you can imagine.
Please, DO NOT USE Selfie Sticks, not only are they exceptionally annoying and dangerous, they are also not allowed in most theme parks now.
Carrying It All:
We alternate which bags we use to store stuff and to hold a bit of water and snacks as you will find time disappears and you never got to eat during all of the excitement. This varies depending on the venue and time needed to carry it all. Use your best judgment here and protect your gear but remember that you do not need “top of the line” bags to carry simple gear.
Well that is pretty much it. It may seem like a lot, but honestly it is rare that we carry all of this at the same time. Try to remember that while expensive gear (and lots of it) can be fun to own, it is NOT as much fun to carry. Choose wisely before you head out. Will you REALLY need or us that??
Choose your locations and subjects carefully and don’t stress if you “should have had that one piece of gear”, just adapt and make the shots work with what you have. Otherwise… Back to the room to grab that tripod and hope neither the pigeon nor your husband moves before you get back.