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What’s In My Bag: London Edition

Last week I shared my stash of stuff for travel and coverage in Japan. At the end of the post, I tagged another far flung journalist, the London-based producer, Rich Preston, to give us a glimpse of HIS stash. Rich works with correspondents to cover the UK and further afield as necessary, and he’s on loan to NPR from the BBC, where his background is in news and programs for BBC Radio 4 and the BBC World Service. Here’s what’s in his rucksack:

Rich’s notes:

“If traveling reporters can never be sure what they need, then producers can be even more uncertain. As well as considering the editorial content, we’ve often coordinated logistics for entire groups, are thinking about technical quality, arranging live feeds into shows and – depending on where we’re going – safety, stringers and local contacts. Here’s what I carry in my rucksack.  From top row, left-right:

Headphones.  I use Sennheiser HD-25 headphones.  They’re lightweight, rugged, and give great sound quality.  One ear on, one ear off means I can monitor the quality of the sound I’m recording, whilst also keeping an ear for what’s going on around me.    

Mini jack cable.  A 3.5mm jack plug – 3.5mm jack plug stereo cable means I can take audio from a number of external sources in to my portable recorder.  It can be anything from a speech on the TV, to a video off YouTube, to a phone conversation with an interviewee.

Alcohol gel.  As discussed here, this serves 3 valuable purposes in the field.  Cleaning hands, cleaning electrical connections, and starting fires.*

* This is only sometimes useful in the field.  More likely to be useful in an actual field.

Mini gaffer tape.  Vital for quick fixes, or crucial labels, from ‘DO NOT DELETE’ on your memory card, to ‘Reserved for NPR News’ on the chair at a press conference.

Mic cables. Two. A cable can break relatively easily, and although our recorders have built-in mics if you get really stuck, they’re not perfect.

Case.  This is the bag that most of this stuff fits in to.

Batteries. Three packs of rechargeable. I used to use straight AAs, but was horrified at the number I was throwing away each month and how much this was costing both the budget and the environment. I switched to rechargeables and have never looked back.

Spare memory card.  For the portable recorder.  It gets used a lot more than you might imagine.

USB stick.  Someone always needs to transfer audio somehow.  Again, this gets used more often than you’d think.

Business cards.  Despite being in the age of email/Twitter/Facebook, it’s surprising how often I exchange physical pieces of cards with my details on.

USB cable.  Connects the portable recorder to my laptop for pulling audio.  It’s preferable to yanking out the SD card each time, which can damage the internal connections after a while.

Headphone splitter.  Useful when you and your colleague both want to listen to the same audio.

Headphone jack adaptors.  For adapting my cans (headphones) from 3.5mm plug as used on my phone and laptop to a 6.3mm plug as needed on the recorder.  I carry a couple of spares because they’re easily lost, and people frequently need to borrow one.

Periscope cable.  This is an XLR – 4 pole 3.5mm jack plug cable.  In short, it means I can connect a broadcast quality microphone to my phone.  This is great for filing reports or for using things like Periscope.  It gives a much higher quality than using the phone’s internal mics.

Phone charger cable.  (The blue one).  For giving my Mohpie case and my phone that top-up of juice.

Sharpie.  Never be without a Sharpie.

Stills camera.  The camera on an iPhone is great, but where I really want sharp, quality images, I take this stills camera with me.

Beyer MCE58 Microphone.  This gives a more open sound than the shotgun mic (which I’ll come to in a moment).  It’s also equipped here with a Rycote windshield to cut down the noise of wind buffeting the microphone.  This is also the mic I use for Periscope broadcasts.

Recorder.  Marantz 661.  It may be obvious, but without this we wouldn’t capture all the glorious, rich, audio that makes its way to your ears from across the globe. This can record from a single mic, two mics, in stereo, and from an external source.  It’s an easy to use, rugged bit of kit.

Rain cover.  This keeps the recorder protected when recording in rough weather.  I.e. Scotland.

Shotgun mic.  This is an Audio Technica AT835b.  It’s more directional than the Beyer Dynamic mic I mentioned previously and gives a very high quality sound response.  It’s coupled here with a Rycote windshield.”


NEXT UP. As part of this series, I’m having each participant nominate the next person to share what’s in her or his bag. Rich nominates Gregory Warner, International Correspondent in East Africa.  “A hugely interesting part of the world, and one I’ve never had the pleasure to visit…so I’m curious as to what gets him through his day,” Rich says.