Filming in Thailand
Recently I decided to take a trip to Thailand and Shanghai. Most of it was for scouting locations and also to build some footage for my reel. I knew I wanted to have high quality footage and wanted to be able to shoot in 4k as well as stills. Lastly I knew there would be times that I wouldn’t have access to power so having batteries and different power options would be very important. In this post I’ll be talking about what I brought, why I brought it, as well as what I didn’t bring. lastly Ill be talking about my challenges when filming in these locations.
Before I jump right into all the details there’s something I wanted to address straight away. Due to the fact i would be traveling to some remote locations batteries and power options were of paramount importance to me.
About batteries and power.
There are new laws concerning what kinds of batteries and how many you can bring along on a trip. From my travels it seems that packing ANY lithium or rechargeable batteries in a checked bag is prohibited, so be sure you can bring it on a carry on. Additionally batteries need to have their power rating and capacity clearly printed on the labels. Another good idea is to place some pieces of electrical tape over the contacts to protect it from accidental short circuits.
Last thing to know- There are limits to what power rating you can bring on a plane. From what I’ve seen all batteries need to be under 100 Watt hours. Depending on the airline you may or may not have limits on how many you can travel with. I had several batteries with me and have them listed lower in the post. I was able to travel successfully without any issues.
For more information heres a link to the Faa website concerning Lithium batteries
Heres a link to Eastern China Airlines concerning batteries
I currently can not find an updated page with battery information from Thailand’s Nok airlines, however most of the requirements were the same.
What I brought with me.
Items shown (with links to amazon where applicable) are:
- MeFOTO Backpacker Travel Tripod Kit (Blue)
- Samsungs 2.5-Inch Solid State Drive, 480GB
- Atomos Ninja Assassin 4K HDMI Monitor/Recorder
- D-TAP Male to Male
- Atomos Coiled Micro HDMI to Full HDMI Cable
- Atomos Spare D-Tap Dummy Battery
- Watson Duo LCD Charger
- Watson NP-F770 Lithium-Ion Battery Pack
- Joby GorillaPod
- Sony Alpha a7S Mirrorless Digital Camera
- Sony NP-FW50 Lithium-Ion 1020mAh Rechargeable Battery
- Elvid Heavy Duty Camera Shoe Mount
- Wooden Camera D-Tap to Sony A7s Connector
- Lanparte VBP-01 V-Mount Battery Pinch
- usb battery bank (couldnt find exact link)
- Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM Lens
- Transcend 64GB SDXC Class 10 UHS-1
- 15mm Rail Rod Support System Baseplate Mount
- Grounded Universal Plug Adapter for Europe
- small flathead screwdriver
- Switronix XP-L90S 90wh with 4 LED Power Gauge
- Rokinon Cine DS 50 mm T1.5 AS IF UMC Full Frame
(canon EF mount)
- Fotodiox Lens Adapter, Canon EOS EF to Sony E-Mount Camera
- Camalapse 4
- RetiCAM® Smartphone Tripod Mount
- Lonely Planet Thailand (Travel Guide)
- 3 ziplock waterproof bag for iPhone (couldn’t find exact link)
I ended up using every single piece of equipment regularly through the trip and it was a great balanced kit.
I also packed all of it in a great photo backpack made by amazon of all places.
Having used a few different camera bags I was pleasantly surprised at the size quality and price of this backpack. It handled extremely well and quality was on par with other photography backpacks Ive used for a fraction of the price. The last piece I brought with me was a waterproof marine bag. I ended up filming in a few caves with water up to my neck with my sony and the assassin rig so having a waterproof bag was essential to getting some shots in the jungle.
I had replaced the hot she mount with an Elvid heavy duty hot shoe mount and the quality was night and day difference. If you are using the assassin with an a7s or other camera or just looking for a great heavy duty mount- this has bene a solid performer for me.
When I was planning my trip I realized I was going to need a tripod. Ive got a couple great manfrotto tripods and some fluid video heads, a monopod, but nothing lightweight and small for traveling.
The Mefoto travel tripod turned out to be totally great. It was very light- comes in a variety of colors ( I opted for the blue since they didn’t have red ) and it came in a great travel case.
What I wanted to bring
I had really wanted to bring some more lenses with my to get some different shots but the reality was it was very possible my gear could have broke or been stolen etc so I decided on what i absolutely needed. I wanted some wide shots and some really clear shots at 50mm.
Customs duties and laws.
Another reason I really like shooting with small DSLR like cameras (or mirrorless in this case) is that it doesn’t look like I’m filming in a high quality. Many countries have laws against filming, or require permits for recording. Using a ‘photo camera” body lends people to believe you re just taking some small photos to share with family.
As mentioned before certain airlines have restrictions on what batteries and what you can bring on planes. When traveling with East China airlines or Nok air in Thailand I had several people confirm that i did not have any batteries in my checked luggage.
Another tip is to bring all you more important gear with you as a carry on in the plane. It’s very common in other countries in southeast Asia to have thefts occur or have someone pilfer from your luggage. Each airport had advised all passengers to not keep any valuables in your checked luggage at all.
One thing I noticed in every other airport outside the US was luggage wrapping services. For a few dollars they would take your entire checked luggage and wrap it in several layers of cling wrap plastic. The thinking being (and confirmed by locals i chatted with) if your luggage is too much of a hassle to dig through, they would rather go after unprotected luggage. The point was moot for me as I carried everything with my in my backpack via carryon.
I had a challenges while filming this time around. My first was my pace of travel. I didn’t have a lot of time to really explore everything all my destinations had to offer. In the time I was overseas I was on a very fast pace only staying in each area 2 days at a time. While I saw quite a lot in a short period, It dint give me the time to count locations and then come back to concentrate on filming.
Filming with the tripod.
Another challenge I had was the travel tripod. Don’t get me wrong it was an excellent tripod that I would recommend to anyone who’s looking to travel with one, however having to assemble and disassemble it took about a minute each time and had I had the time to really film with it- It would have worked a bit better. I found that most of the time I didn’t set up the tripod because it would have taken too much time- and then reviewing my footage and kicking myself because it came out a big shakey from not using the tripod in the first place.
When traveling in areas like Khoa Sok or the Phuket area, the atmosphere is very thick. Due to the heat and humidity, it was hard at times to get good clear landscape shots because of how thick and foggy this made the atmosphere. I had hoped that perhaps in the early morning or early evening this would change and clear a bit but the temperature did not fluctuate that much and there was a constant haze in the air.
Language was another challenge. While MANY signs had english in Thailand, (and even surprisingly in Shanghai) language was a pretty large barrier to some things. In cities like Bangkok or even down in Phuket people knew some english, outside of those areas, it became hard to communicate. Having google translate worked just barely some of the time (apparently it has a very tough time with Thai-) and having a phrasebook proved to be crucial. In Phuket it was easy enough to get around with Taxi’s and tricked out tuk tuk drivers every 100 ft offering rides and in Bangkok any hotel or business would call a hotel easy enough.
Incidentally it was much easier in Bangkok to get an Uber! I was able to get from downtown Bangkok to the Chatachuk weekend market without being able to communicate with my driver at all. They knew where to pick us up where to drop us off and it ended up being half the price of the taxis in the area- Which was already inexpensive.
Getting around was very easy in Thailand due to amazing cell service everywhere. I was able to get a prepaid sim card with unlimited data text and calls for $10 and within 5 minutes of stopping in the airport i already had service faster than back home. Edit
This was a stark difference than in Shanghai where Google is blocked. Which means no google translate, no maps, and generally made things just a little trickier. Having a phrasebook here was very beneficial, as well as Apple maps providing excellent location based services.
- When in Thailand – Stay away from the tuk tuk drivers. They typically charge double for a much less comfortable ride and might take you a longer route.
- When in a cab- always make sure its a metered cab- its required and some drivers will tell you its broken or try to give you a special price- they are actually ripping you off
- Have a phrasebook. Learn simple phrases. Everyone appreciates communicating in their native language and it makes you look like you know what you are doing.
- Get any travel vaccines/medications. I was in the Khoa Sok jungles for 2 days which is a malaria zone. Before my trip i made sure to stop by a public health office (don’t have insurance) and got my vaccinations up to date. Some countries require proof of vaccinations before entering and you should receive and international vaccine paperwork from your health provider
- Keep a xerox copy of your passport with you in your baggage.
- When exchanging currency- only do a bare minimum at the airport. They usually have terrible rates and at least in Bangkok- there were banks everywhere that gave you much better rates without a transaction fee.
- Know simple customs. When eating in Thailand there are certain things that people may find offensive or rude in How you eat. What may seem like something fairly benign may accidentally insult your host or make you look rude. In thailand most food is eaten with only a fork and spoon. Chopsticks are typically used only for chinese type noodle dishes ( from my travels and studies). Thai people do not like confrontation at all, and are typically very shy in social settings.
I’ll be posting some videos of my travels soon, but in the meantime if you have any questions I’d be happy to answer them.