The best way to secure video production equipment is to never let it out of your hands. Unfortunately, that is not always possible. In most instances, you will need to put down your gear and step away. It may just be for a moment, but even that is long enough to lose everything. But all’s not lost just yet. There are several considerations and tips that will make sure to provide your equipment with the best security possible.
For security, there is nothing better than a hard shell case with at least two hasps. Your standard backpack or cloth case is too easy to overwhelm. Even if the zips are locked together, most zippers can be punctured with nothing but a pen. Once the pen pops the bag open it can be closed without a single sign of entry. Fabric bags can also be cut open with a single slash. Hard shell cases do not have these vulnerabilities.
A single cut is much harder to make, and it does not give a thief full access to the bag. The padlocks installed cannot be bypassed easily (unless the locks are inherently flawed). There are exceptions to this rule, with products like Pacsafe, which have wire mesh to defend against slash attacks and anti-puncture zippers. Having a hard case will, however, offer you the option to lock the bag with larger, more substantial, padlocks.
It is very important that your bag has decent locks on it. This prevents people from simply opening the bag and taking what is inside. Forcing someone to confront high-security locks also works to deter a thievery attempt. The most important thing you want in a lock is protection against bypasses and violent entry. In terms of the type of lock you need, it is sure to be a padlock (a lock that can be removed from the bag once unlocked). Make sure that it uses ball bearings to lock the shackle in place to protect against shimming attacks.
To identify if your padlock uses ball bearings, take a look at the shack when it is unlocked. If the cut on the metal looks like a rounded out crescent shape, then it is almost certainly using ball bearings. You will also want the lock to stand up to cutting and prying, so the larger the better. Be aware that hardened steel can be a bit of a misnomer, as it may only refer to a coating of hardened steel and not to the general composition. Any metal that uses a Boron Polymer is the safest bet. If you can get a padlock with a shroud, that will add to the metal content around the shackle and increase the strength of the device.
Having the lock picked open should not be a big concern because criminals rarely pick locks. But you should not have something like a Master Lock, or TSA lock, that is universally known to be easy to open with surreptitious entry. Invest in a more expensive padlock. The price of the padlock should cost about 10% of the price of what it is securing, and a padlock under $100 is more for show than it is for actual security. For the best insight consult a locksmith and get the most bang for your buck.
In extreme cases of very high risk, or if you are just very concerned with protecting your gear, you can invest in an alarm for your bag. These alarms provide a variety of protections. Everything from your basic peace of mind to putting your complex paranoia to rest. For starters, you can get a ‘tilt/motion alarm’ for your bag. These mechanisms can be armed remotely, much like a car alarm, and will make quite the commotion if your bag is moved or lifted up or down.
It is important that your tilt sensor alarm is extremely loud, that way it will draw the greatest amount of attention possible. This is especially useful if you can place them on the lid of your case, so you will be alerted if the case is opened. Motion alarms can also be used on individual items, but you will want to choose an alarm product that can be removed, or that is small enough so it does not impede your ability to use the piece of equipment. Often motion sensor alarms for bikes can be repurposed for tripods, stands, tracking equipment and any other thin post shaped devices.
For added protection, there are proximity alarms with Bluetooth enabled notifications. These products work off of a proximity based Bluetooth signal, which alerts you once the bag is out of the signal range. Sending a message to your phone when someone takes off with your bag, and also if you leave your bag. For the stuff you really don’t want to loose, there is GPS tracking alarms and locators. If you cannot live without it, make sure you can always get it back. For most of these products GPS tracking is a separate monthly fee, after the initial purchase of the most expensive alarm. Consider your needs, and whether or not this investment makes sense for you.
One of the best practices to secure video production equipment is to keep all of the items in as few cases as possible. The more bags you have to keep track of, the less secure they are. This is not to say that you cannot take all of your gear, but you should pack it in as few cases as possible. This can, of course, be made easier if you only take what you are going to use out on the field. It is good to always be prepared, but the more you bring, the greater your exposure.
The worst part about taking too many cases is that you cannot watch them all. Also, the theft of one can distract you so that another thief can take the rest. Besides all of that, the less you are carrying, the less frequently you are going to want to put some of it down. The more often you place the cases down, the greater the risk of theft.
Discretion and Concealment
You cannot steal what you cannot find, and no one can try to steal what they don’t know exists. Flashing around your equipment will get you noticed. This can be great if you are looking for a conversation starter, but it is horrible for your security. The more people know what you have and where you have it, the more at risk the items are of being stolen. Of course, there will always be instances where you cannot hide the existence of your equipment. Field shoots and large crews will show many people exactly what you are carrying.
When you cannot conceal that you have expensive equipment, you may be able to still conceal it while you are not using it. Ask for storage rooms or lockers that may not be in use. Be aware that isolating your gear from where others are storing their equipment means you have different risks. The key to having secure video production equipment is to discreetly place your items in the concealed location and keep the people who know the location to a minimum. If your equipment does go missing, you will have a smaller pool of people to investigate.
Finding the best case, lock, and alarm will give you some peace of mind, but your real protection comes from your attitude towards security. Contrary to popular belief, you do not need to be paranoid to be aware of the threat of theft in your effort to secure video production equipment. You can be conscientious, taking steps to consolidate your equipment, and discreetly concealing your equipment. Invest your money in security product that work, and invest your time into considering how to get the best security out of each unique shoot.
Ralph Goodman is a professional writer and the resident expert on locks and security over at the Lock Blog. The Lock Blog is a great resource to learn about keys, locks and safety. They offer tips, advice and how-to’s for consumers, locksmiths, and security professionals.