For many winter sports broadcasters, the season is right around the corner. As for the summer sports gang, the season may soon be coming to an end. The best time to take a state of the union with your gear is always at the end of your season and once again at the start. The importance of keeping your equipment in good shape is obviously a no-brainer, especially if the equipment is your own and doesn’t belong to the team.
Much like our tabletop setups, spotting boards, and scorebooks we like to use, the rhythm we get into when it comes to our equipment varies from each and every sportscaster. Over the years, I’ve come across several great ideas and have been influenced by many others to keep my equipment in tip-top shape. Here are my 10 tips to keeping your gear in good health.
1) Get a Good Case
It might be common sense but find something that works for you and is able to carry ALL of your gear. Some people like to carry their equipment on their shoulder while others prefer wheels, some like a hard case while others feel a soft fits their needs. Whatever the choice for you, make sure you have something that can carry all of your equipment in one place. Nothing is worse than having your crucial elements strung out over several different backpacks and bags only to find out when you arrive at the press-box that you left one at home. For me, I found this inexpensive wheeled tool case at my local Walmart. I lined it with some foam and it fits everything I need including two headsets, mixing board, compression channel strip, two headphone amplifiers, power strip, XLR cables, handheld mic, extension cord, and two soft cases I keep inside with every cable I could ever need. Whatever way YOU go, find something that works for your lifestyle and keep all your gear together!
2) Pack the Bus Smartly
If you’re someone who travels on the team bus, never take for granted where you store your equipment during the haul. Be sure to get there early and stash your gear in a place that you know will be safe. As a hockey broadcaster, I like to keep my case in the same area as the players’ bags. For the most part, the bags are soft and won’t put too much stress or weight on top of my gear. I learned this lesson the hard way after an incident where I stored my equipment in the back near the skate sharpener, glove warmer, and heavy-duty air movers. Thankfully it was a short trip and nothing aside from my old case getting was damaged, but it’s an event I’ll avoid for the rest of my career.
3) Bring Your Equipment Inside
Once you get to the hotel, don’t leave your gear outside, even if it is stored safely under the bus or in a trailer. Hot temps can create humidity in the air and do damage to your sensitive electronics while freezing cold temperatures can weaken plastics and make them brittle. Bring your gear with you into the hotel or store it at the rink/field if you can. Anywhere that the equipment can be kept at relatively normal temperatures will help prolong even the most durable of items.
4) Don’t Stress… The Cords
When you break out your gear or when you’re setting everything away after a call, keep an eye on your cords. Don’t allow XLRs to be folded into sharp curves or power cords to be wrapped so tight that the stress does harm at the joints. I’ve been guilty of it before, being in such a rush to catch the bus before the team leaves without me that I slam everything back in the case so quickly that cords get crushed, tensed, and maybe even cut. Need a quick, inexpensive solution? Hair ties. I use these things all the time, so much so that my girlfriend was a little taken aback when she found one in the kitchen that wasn’t hers. All of my phone cords, RCA cords, and anything of that nature gets wrapped in a hair tie. It keeps the cord compact and allows it to be in a semi-natural state so I don’t have to worry about and tension on near the plugs. For larger cords like XLRs, I use a Velcro cord wrap which serves the same purpose.
5) Keep It Clean!
Cord management is just as important during your call as it during transportation. Pick up a few cord weights and use them to run wires in an organized and stress-free manner. It’ll only help you keep things easier to pack-up, no more untangling a rats nest, and prolong the life of your cables. Also, keep an eye out for chair and table legs that might catch some wires and cause you all sorts of headaches.
6) Accidents Happen, Be Prepared
Keep a mini-tool kit or swiss army knife as part of your regularly packed equipment. You never know when you might need to do some repairs to your gear after a long trip to a road destination. Space in your case is always limited so keep that in mind, but you should always be ready in case of an accident or breakage.
7) Keep The Manuals
Keep your manuals! If that means hanging onto the paper booklets in a manilla folder in your garage or saving the .pdfs from the internet into a folder on your computer, do it! If something happens and you’re able to fix it quickly while on location, you’ll want to know how to properly repair it when you get home. Another tidbit, read the manuals! Do you know what polar pattern is on the microphone you’re using as a crowd mic? Is it the best one to suit your needs and how you set it up? That info is always in the manual.
8) Keep The Bags/Cases
A lot of times equipment comes with its own case or bag. For instance, my Behringer handheld mic that I use for on-camera stand-up work came with a hard case with styrofoam lining. I also have a pair of Shure wireless mics that came in a faux-leather pouch not dissimilar to a bank bag. Keep them! Use them! It might seem cumbersome to pack mics in their individual hard cases and then place them in a larger rolling cart or case, but the added security is certainly better than having a cage break off or the XLR pins bent.
9) Find Dependable Brick and Mortar Stores
Finding a dependable brick and mortar store is crucial to keeping your gear running on all cylinders. Sure we have Amazon Prime these days and can get anything in just about 24-28 hours, but sometimes we need things faster. Sometimes we want to test something out before purchasing. Sometimes we need to get repairs done and can’t do it ourselves. That’s where a local brick and mortar audio/visual store will be your best friend. Anything from a local music shop for microphone related items like XLR cables, 1/4″ cables, and adapters can save you in a pinch. Of course, don’t be a stranger at your local hardware store or hobby shop, either. Often times it’s at one of these places where you can find specific screws, washers, and tools you might need to make a repair or replacement.
10) Haste Makes Waste
It’s an old phrase, but it still holds true today. If you rush and throw things haphazardly into an unsuitable container and wrap-up cords and power supplies too tightly in your hurried pace, you’re only shortening the life span of your gear. It’s rarely the big items that suffer casualties, mixers and rack equipment are pretty durable, but headsets, microphones, and cords are all easily compromised if you simply don’t take your time. Find a system that works for you, perfect it, and soon it’ll be second nature and you’ll never feel hurried or rushed again.