I get asked how I get to travel as much as I do and still maintain a practice. I’ll be honest, I’m very fortunate to have the client pool I do but much of that pool was specifically searched out in an effort to remain on the road. I also found out quite early while traveling with clients that unless I coordinated smarter and made plans in advance, my bills might not get paid.
Over the years I’ve taken meetings in hotel lobbies, airport lounges, janitor closets and on trains. With the right gear and a go-getter attitude, you don’t have to stop working to vacation. While I’ve worked in hotel rooms more than anything, sometimes that’s just not possible due to terrible wifi or a loud couple next door, sometimes your checkout time will conflict with a meeting you scheduled months ago and can’t move. In those moments, you need really good gear and an even better attitude.
Here’s some of the best tips I use to keep my VRI uninterrupted and looking as professional as if it were in my own home studio.
First, use good gear.
Good gear doesn’t need to be expensive. Some of the best lighting I’ve ever had was made out of FedEx boxes, Christmas lights, tin foil and duct tape. For the best lighting backups in hotel rooms I bring along a couple pieces of tissue paper that fold down flat and can be taped over static lighting built into the room. However, when I’m not willing to chance it I use a $5 ring light from a site like Wish.
The gear that I use all centers around the type of gig I’m doing but check out the breakdown below.
Tripod: ATUMTEK 51″ Selfie Stick Tripod
While arguably my best and most expensive tool I carry with me everywhere is the MacBook Pro, I often don’t want to use it for VRI and will dial in from my phone. Zoom can be tricky depending on the wifi and I find that I get clearer video feeds on my iPhone without having to do any extra set up. This thing is awesome for taking videos of translation work as the iPhone has a much better camera and it folds down to fit in the laptop sleeve of my backpack right next to the Mac. It also has a bluetooth shutter button I can hold with me to reduce trips behind the lens when I’m on a roll or need to cut footage of larger sections for editing.
I never go anywhere without it.
Ringlight: 4″ dimmable laptop mountable ringlight
These are so simple and very easy to use. There’s plenty of different models. I like the ones that just rest on top but if you prefer a clip-on you’ll thank yourself if you ever take a meeting on the train. Contrary to popular belief, you do not need to shell out for an expensive ring light. I hardly use one anymore to be honest. My trick is maximizing the brightness on my laptop with an all wide screen and tiling zoom in the center like so.
I only use AirPods, and usually have 3-4 pairs with me at any time to keep them constantly charging in rotation without issue. I recommend finding your fit whether AirPods or another type of wireless headphones that are reliable. The most important thing you can look for is if they are noise cancelling and have voice or VOX focus to reduce/eliminate any background noise should your environment suddenly get loud.
There are a million options but Ankers have always been the best for me. Some people prefer to keep one small enough to just charge their phone in a pinch. I prefer to use one that will save me and my MacBook if the power goes out and I’m out of juice. This model will keep me going no matter what happens. It’s rare that you need one but if you’re flying economy these are fantastic to have as regional flights usually don’t have charging ports in the back and doing admin work can drain your battery fast.
You can use any type of pop up you like but find one that will hook to basically anything. The Chomanky will sit on top of my Atumtek tripod if I’m using my MacBook. Most often, I’ll want to use the tripod and iPhone when using my backdrop, which is why I bring other mounting options on the road.
Duct Tape & Painters tape
You wouldn’t believe how much Duct Tape and painters tape I go through on the road. When I can’t mount my backdrop to anything, I use the duct tape and sometimes make a wall shelf VRI station by layering duct tape onto the furniture. Neither will leave a film or destroy the furnishings if not abused and can be great for altering the lighting in hotel rooms anywhere. I never leave home without a roll of each.