Getting your gear bag through TSA

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Embarking on a recording trip soon and would love to hear everyone’s success stories of how to get through the TSA security screenings efficiently and securely. I’m not packing too much, just a recorder and a 191 in a blimp, plus all cables and some accessories. And…Share!

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Although, I don’t know all the rules of what you can bring and can not bring (I only have a few items) I can share some stuff that I have found to work to make it fast and efficient for you and the TSA.

If you are traveling with gear make sure you always show up earlier then you probably need to be.

If your audio equitpment can fit in your personal suitcase – make sure to put it near the top before going through security. If they need to open your bag, most people of the TSA will throw things to the side to try to find what ever they are looking for (which is audio equipment). This will save you time when you have to re-pack your stuff in a suitcase. Adding on to Shaun’s answer, most of the time now I will just put my audio equipment in it’s own bin and that seemed to reduce the amount of questions I’ve gotten. I would strongly recommend having headphones ready incase you do need to demo your stuff. I took my boom pole through security a couple times and each time I needed to demonstrate how it worked and how it connected to the recorder and the microphone.

Also never wrap your cables around things and never have different cables in multiple layers of your suitcase.

General Quick Travel Tips:

If there are multiple lines for tickets and/or security –  always go for the one furthest to the left. Most people are right handed so naturally they will go into the middle or right lines.

Use your smart phone if you have one for your tickets

Hope this answer helped with the efficient part of your question!

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Bring it as carry-on, if for no other reason than you’ll be able to keep an eye on it (especially a mic as expensive as the 191). When traveling with a small kit. I treat my gear like the “large electrical devices.” Recorder comes out and goes in a bin, as does the mic. If the mic is in a windscreen, I open up the cap. There’s always one security person who seems to have a question about mics in Rycotes. So it’s easier if it’s already open they can quickly be shown. If I’m traveling with a larger kit (but can still manage the recorder and mics as carry-on), I’ll only pull out the recorder, and try to tell someone that everything else are microphones.

It can be a bit of overkill, but have a pair of headphones and some audio sitting on the recorder. It’s only happened once, but I have been asked to demonstrate that it actually is an audio device. Having a file on there I could play made that much easier.

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Also very important to take all batteries as carry on… true for recorder, camera etc… Made the mistake once when leaving Osaka, and got paged to go & repack my checked baggage without the batteries for my SD744 in it… There is an international restriction on the max size of battery too – this doesn’t effect most recorders but applies to some drone batteries. I’ll check max size & update this

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With a rig that small, I wouldn’t worry much about it. I’ve never been stopped for a single mic and recorder. They only freak out when you have tons of gear. For short personal trips, I typically throw my 702, blimp, L-series batts, and a mic in my carry on with no trouble. I probably fly this way 5 – 6 times a year and haven’t been stopped in years.

When traveling with more gear, most all of my stuff goes in checked baggage, including batteries (especially because a lot of mine are bigger than the restrictions allow for carry on).

Just flew into Seoul last night with 5 Pelican cases, all checked. Everything was on a pre-approved Carnet, so there was no problem. Have 40 AA NiMH, 16 9V Lithium, and 6 NP1 Lithium, plus all of my production gear in extremely well packed, padded Pelican cases. No problems like this.

Whenever I carry on larger amounts of gear, I deal with more issues than it’s worth, IMO. I stopped carrying on when some of my gear tested positive for explosive residue (which, in this industry, is probably common…). 1.5 hours of searching my gear and person later, and I narrowly caught my flight… If I’m not bringing a lot of gear, I usually take mics and other delicate small things in my carry on, but everything else gets checked in a pelican case with multiple TSA locks on it. Never had my checked gear searched (with the exception of Customs, which has always been easy because of the pre-approved carnet…

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I remember it says in the Sound Effects Bible that the Zoom H4 looks like a stun-gun.

 

I’ve never had any problems. I’ve just been asked if my case contains electronics, said yes and that’s been that.

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I had to unpack my stuff many times but usually I had more problem with the toothpaste or liquids.

However, if you travel with recording gear, be prepared to need some extra time. Usually they want you to unpack the stuff. Harddrive recordes will be treated like computers and because it’s a harddrive inside, sometimes they make a bomb-test with a little paper or whatever, they rub on the recorder. Also a Sounddevices recorders is a full-metal thing, so the x-ray cannot see what’s behind it. So you need to unpack it.

Batteries:

As Tim already said, batteries could make the most problems. Check your batteries before you go to the airport, if they are allowed. Lot’s of batteries are no more allowed on aircrafts because of the risk of fire. Newer battery packs are probably allowed, but for example my old SWIT Packs aren’t anymore, so they flow with me illegal two or tree times. But they can take them away and then you can look how you get new batteries, depending on the country you are! Good luck.

Microphones

If you carrie them in a windshield, be prepared to take them out. They usually want to x-ray them separate. I hate it, if they want to put their dirty fingers on it, so I ask them if I can do it or what excatly the need to know. I never really had problems with microphones. Suspecious was a piece of a little microphone stand. They thought it could be a silencer for a gun, so they made some tests with it. I asked them, how I should shoot someone with just a silencer? hahahah, …but they don’t found it funny…. anyway, but I got it back.

How to deal with security

Be polite, be friendly, explain the things / components if they ask, what they are for. If they realize, you are familiar with your stuff, they loose their interest and you can pass. One really imporant thing: absolutely try to avoid getting picked out from the mass and get extra checked. You don’t have time for that, you have to watch your stuff which is spread now over several plastic-things at the security: your phone, your wallet, your ticket, your jacket, your recorder, microhones, passport… everything! I hate it, but never lost something! So, always doublecheck your pockets if everything is out and keep finger crossed.

If you fly the first time, behave like you carry your gear with you since ages. Most of the security agents has seen audio gear before, but some not, for example the lady in moscow. I have a little understanding for security checks but I don’t understand if you have to made another check just when change an aircraft and only move inside the securty-area. However, she saw the stuff and had no idea what it was so she want’s me to explain. Unfortunattely, she did not understand one word in another language than russian – and because not everybody speaks russian, I packed the things together and could went away.

So, be prepared, always be polite and calculate an extra 10 minutes at security for audio stuff.

Best

Guido

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