That DAM Travel Gear for Photo & Video

Travelling MacBookPro Kit

Howdy Y’all, Dartanyon again responding to an important gear question we get asked all the time. We spend a great deal of time out on location, and as Chase’s last series of blog posts clearly shows that it’s not all hotel rooms and poolside locations. Sometimes we’re at 12,000 feet above sea level snowshoeing to location, and carrying “extra” stuff is not practical. Over the last 4 years I have refined my traveling gear considerably, and it is not very often that I find myself wishing I had something I didn’t bring, or carrying stuff I didn’t use [or have a very good reason for carrying]. I’m going to take you through my traveling kit of DAM (Digital Asset Management) goodies and explain why I do certain things, but as I have said before this is MY way and certainly not the only or best way.

COMPUTER_ I bring a 17″ Mac Book Pro to almost all location shoots, it’s sole purpose is digital asset management, it doesn’t get used by a producer or intern back at the studio, it just sits and patiently waits to be needed in the gear closet. It’s loaded up with…… all the software I could need [discussed more in detail here]. It’s rocking the 7200RPM hard drive [not the biggest capacity drive available from Apple, but the fastest], maxed out with RAM, and as close to as a Mac Pro as you can get at a 1/10th the weight.

STORAGE_ A careful consideration must always be made to ensure that you will have enough storage space for a given job. With experience I can make a pretty good guess on a given shoot, with a given number of days and shots, just how many Gigabytes we’ll fill up. So I make my calculations, and then automatically add 50%, because you just never know for sure. I take two identical hard drives, let’s say 2 500GB bus powered drives. Then I also take a drive to back up the work each night back at the hotel. The “basecamp” drive as it’s called, is a G-Safe it’s a hardware RAID 1 drive enclosure that makes simultaneous copies to 2 different drives. We take special care to keep each drive unit from the basecamp drive in different hotel rooms each day, and during the night the primary and secondary location drives are kept in different rooms too.

CARD READERS_ I make sure I have at least 3 card readers with me. It always seems like if something is going to break it’s going to be the $30 bit or bobble. We’ve gone through the full myriad of card readers and my current favorite is the SanDisk Multi reader. For what ever reason, however unscientific it is, I feel like it’s a faster reader than the FW800 version.

TRAVEL DRIVE_ The essentials for a worst case scenario. Read all about it here.

PERIPHERALS_ The standard fare. We will occasionally bring a monitor with us, for our basecamp setup, either the 27″ LED, or maybe a 30″ Cinema. Mouse; Apple Magic mouse [it lives with the computer] . We bring a wired keyboard with us [instead of the smaller wireless], since with the 10 key you have a few more options on what keys to click for rating images. Cables, lots. A couple of each, even if you don’t need them, it goes back to the idea of the cheap things being the ones that break. [FW800-FW800, USB-Mini, FW800-400, eSATA]. We also always have an external battery pack with us, a HyperMac 222.

PACKAGE IT ALL UP_ If you have been following us for a while you’ve certainly seen the Laptop Case Vid, if not go watch and come back, I’ll wait … It’s a Pelican 1490, all carved up so that it fits everything we need in the smallest [well protected] space that we can. Everything goes in here with the exception of the basecamp drive, my travel drive, and an assortment of cables, which simply don’t fit, and stay at our basecamp anyway.

Further questions about workflow? Make sure to check out our now-infamous workflow video on how we move data through this–or a similar–set of gear.

Hope this is helpful. Let me know what your travel kit looks like in the comments, I’d love to know what y’all are carrying with you.

96 Responses to That DAM Travel Gear for Photo & Video

  1. Scott Nickell April 19, 2011 at 10:18 am #

    Thanks Dartanyon ,

    Always find your iputs helpful!

  2. manoj bharti April 19, 2011 at 10:19 am #

    you are doing grat work for devleoping photography worldwide,,,,,,!keep your work more open for everyone…….!

  3. J Rainey April 19, 2011 at 10:52 am #

    I absolutely love the amount of information in these posts! Thanks for the link to the card reader, and weird that the USB version feels faster? I’ve been hunting for a FW800 reader but might go with the USB version..or wait for a Thunderbolt version ;)

    • Dartanyon April 19, 2011 at 11:02 am #

      @J Indeed, thunderbolt version would be awesome.

  4. Shane O' Sullivan April 19, 2011 at 10:52 am #

    Just noticed on the CJ complete workflow video you use 2X 256mb flash storage drives with a Mac Pro. Can not find these anywhere, could you post something about this set up, especially the “daisy chain” set up?

    • Dartanyon April 19, 2011 at 11:05 am #

      @Shane Those drives that I think you are referring to are G-Tech 256GB SSDs, [It should be said that they are NOT cheap]. The “daisy chain” just means that it’s all on the same port, so FW800 out of the MacBookPro, to the primary drive, and then out of the primary to the secondary. That way everything is on the FW bus, and we don’t have one drive on the slower USB Bus.

  5. Nater April 19, 2011 at 11:46 am #

    Thank’s Dartanyon for the workflow notes! Lookin’ good!

    All the Best,

  6. Todd April 19, 2011 at 1:07 pm #

    Really appreciate all the info you always share with us.

    Does the 17″ MacBook Pro fit in the 1490?

    Since your laptop location case has evolved over the years (the photo above looks very different from the original configuration), maybe it’s time to make an updated laptop case video? Would really like to see the above configuration in more detail.

    If you guys are too busy to do one, next time you do a shoot here in Maui drop me a line – I’ll shoot it for you. :-)

    • Dartanyon April 19, 2011 at 3:34 pm #

      Yes it fits. Not inside the given dimensions of the “laptop tray” so you have to be willing to take a knife to that, but it fits after that.

  7. Nonsence April 19, 2011 at 1:21 pm #

    Well I only have 13,3 HP 4310S with built in card reader and WD 320GB externam hard drive, so there´s not much to carry;) and I don´t really need more to my Nikon D60 and two lenses;)

  8. Dave April 19, 2011 at 2:24 pm #

    DAM good post. I see you bring an external battery. How long does that typically last? Taking a notebook out in the field is always a pain for me because the batteries can never keep up.

    • Dartanyon April 19, 2011 at 3:40 pm #

      That 220w battery will keep the MacBookPro cranking files for about 7 hours.

  9. Keri April 19, 2011 at 2:56 pm #

    Cheers Dartanyon, fantastic post, i too wondered about the daisy chain, glad that’s explained now :-)

  10. Darryl April 19, 2011 at 4:11 pm #


    Great job making a complex description seem simple. Have you tried converting your MBP to run off an internal SSD instead of (or in addition to) the stock 7200PRM drive? Thoughts?

    • Dartanyon April 20, 2011 at 10:06 am #

      If I had a spare one around I’d do it without hesitation.

  11. Paul G April 19, 2011 at 5:07 pm #

    It’s GREAT to read what the ‘other guys’ do in the whole production! You have a great team everything seems to ‘click’ perfectly. Great stuff on what you pack and how you pack it but I was wondering how you get ALL this stuff to the location…meaning what can you share with the logistics– through the airport and security and any tips/tricks you have for airport travel with camera equipment?


    • Dartanyon April 20, 2011 at 10:07 am #

      @Paul we’ll work up about a post. It deserves it’s own because it sure is a production.

  12. Chris April 19, 2011 at 7:55 pm #

    Great info but I think you mean famous and not infamous.

  13. Gerhard April 19, 2011 at 8:48 pm #

    Great work, thanks for sharing.

    One question. When working in hotter climates do You leave the laptop in the case and how does this configuration cope with over heating?

    • Dartanyon April 20, 2011 at 10:10 am #

      @ Gerhard, Great question. It does stay in the case, but if it’s working hard, I’ll usually lift the computer out a bit, and put it diagonally across the edges of the case, allowing a little room to breathe underneath.

  14. Stephan April 20, 2011 at 1:31 am #

    Hey Dartanyon, thx for the great post ! Helps me a lot building our “OnTheRoad”-DAM… Can’t wait to setup the DaisyChain.
    cheers stephan

  15. Todd April 20, 2011 at 1:49 am #

    Dartanyon, thanks for a great post. I followed the “more details” link regarding the software you load on the MacBook Pro…and under “other goodies,” “Aperture presets” are listed. Dumb question here (but not as dumb as not asking)….are those super secret, self-created, proprietary presets you use…or some that the average joe could get a hold of? I have fun creating my own….just curious about the ones you and the gang use.

    • Dartanyon April 20, 2011 at 10:13 am #

      @Todd, Not a dumb question at all. The Aperture presets that we use relate to either a certain look that we now we are looking to achieve, that we can get close to in Aperture, or Metadata. In respect to the look, take the Seattle 100 for example, all of those photos were going to be high contrast black and white, so we had an import preset that did that. It was no where near a final treatment, but helps to visualize where it might end up, at the time of capture.

  16. joop April 20, 2011 at 4:16 am #

    Lots of great info, just wanted to say thanks :)

  17. Faz April 20, 2011 at 4:26 am #

    Hey Dartanyon, thanks for the low down on how you guys work. Is there a chance you could do a behind the scenes of how you pull the Chase Live vids together? It was really cool in seeing glimpses of the setup you guys used when Chase had the chat with Mike Horn.

    Thanks again.

  18. fas April 20, 2011 at 6:44 am #

    That is a very expensive set of goodies but worth it for the work you do.

  19. John Erdovegi April 20, 2011 at 9:57 am #

    What Pelican case is shown in the picture with a laptop? You say you take a 17″ with you and later mention the “Pelican 1490″. On B and H website, that link says the 1490 model “Fits Laptop with a Screen up to 15″ . I’m asking since I have a large Toshiba QOsmio 18″ Full HD screen laptop.

    • Dartanyon April 20, 2011 at 10:17 am #

      @John that is a Pelican 1490CC1, it’s the 1490 that comes with the laptop tray. Which would usually have a big storage space to it’s left. We’ve hacked that divider down to make room for the 17″. Doing this allows it to fit but now you’ll have to build something else to keep the computer from flopping around in there. We just created some new corner pieces from foam that keeps it snug.

  20. mike April 20, 2011 at 10:36 am #

    Has your computer ever died on the field if so was there a back.up if not what was your process to handle that. Same question for a card that has failed before an import can be done (that has happened t me not sure what do)

  21. DanielKPhoto April 20, 2011 at 12:05 pm #

    Thanks a lot for sharing Dartanyon!

  22. Ben April 20, 2011 at 2:13 pm #

    Great post Dartanyon, and super conversations guys. So much information. I’m a huge fan of the blog, can’t get enough. Keep up the good work!

  23. R Twomey April 21, 2011 at 2:36 am #

    Great post, Dartanyon, you need to do more quest blogs.

  24. Raman Singh April 21, 2011 at 4:09 am #

    Dartanyon great post thank for all the info. i have a quick question if you dont mind answering; when on location and you download all photos and videos to Aperture how do you get them onto your machines back in seattle?… is it just simply copy them onto your ginormous server, and work locally or is it more complexed, we’ve just invested in our first MBP but im have trouble thinking if easiest and quickest way.

    (hopefully some of the above makes sense)

  25. Weston Neuschafer April 21, 2011 at 12:53 pm #

    Thank you for the post. It’s great to get advice as I have been recently been traveling more often. Keep up the awesome work. : )

  26. HENRY April 21, 2011 at 3:10 pm #

    Are you using a glossy (17″) MBP rather than a matte?
    I’ve been debating for a month which MBP to get to replace my older one. Was decided on the 17″ (matte) but couldn’t stand the small text (pro apps ‘ menu fonts CANNOT be changed- FCP, Logic, etc). Now I have to go to the 15″ which has lower dpi…but only on the glossy screen, as the 15″ matte’s dpi is as high as on a 17″. I cannot stand glossy screens. Please convince me, my older PowerBook is falling apart.

  27. kevinxiaoer April 21, 2011 at 6:55 pm #

    I cannot stand glossy screens

  28. Henry Yong April 22, 2011 at 9:15 pm #

    Question for Dartanyon, do you use file (or volume) encryption for external hard disks?


  29. Jeff Kapas November 22, 2011 at 6:59 am #

    I was watching a TECH video of Complete Workflow for Photo and Video and wanted to see if you can provide a step by step tutorial of how everything is hooked up and set up it looks like you had the Card Reader connected to the external drives before you had them going into the computer. When you import the photos from the card thru the card reader is it copying them directly onto the external drives or onto the laptop? I am trying to set up something similar to your setup but using a single external drive for now until i get the money for a second drive. Do you guys ever do photo shoots here in Atlanta, Georgia?

  30. Jeff Kapas September 12, 2012 at 8:15 am #

    can you make a video of your laptop set up since it does look a little bit different from the original video.
    or post more detailed photos showing how it was modified to fit a 17″ Mac book Pro.


  31. Keith Dvorak January 21, 2013 at 12:38 pm #

    seriously awesome post (as usual)! very grateful!

    speaking of DAM, do you use any software to manage the images beyond aperture and FCP or do those meet your needs?

  32. Dale January 21, 2013 at 1:17 pm #

    Hey Dartanyon, thanks again for your recap of the portable gear.

    Have you guys written anything about the setups back in the studio? Crunching huge files through FCP/Aperture/LR4 is a slow process, and I’m interested (as are a lot of folks) as to how the studio optimizes the workstations.

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