Billy's Cruise Ship Periscoping Gear | CruiseHabit

Billy's Cruise Ship Periscoping Gear

The beauty of Periscope and other types of social media is that anyone with a smartphone or tablet can get involved.  Want to share your day?  You're just clicks away.  Because I do this every week, sometimes with somewhat challenging conditions, I've built up a collection of gear to make it a better experience for everyone, which has lead to many questions about what microphone I'm using, how I'm supporting the camera, etc.  Check out my collection below, where I explain why I use what I use.  I've included links to the exact pieces of gear on Amazon so you can up your Periscope game and share your adventures!  

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The Phone

My primary phone is a Samsung Galaxy S8+.  It has optical image stabilization (OIS) which is handy when walking around and scoping, and it's water proof - which is really nice when working around salt water, and really any time you're in South Florida where it can go from sunny to downpour in a matter of moments.  The good news is you can really use any vaguely-modern phone for Periscoping, but a newer iPhone, a Galaxy S8/S8+, or a Pixel/Pixel 2 are really your best bets.

The Microphone

Every single scope I do someone asks me what microphone I'm using.  It makes sense, the port/beach is a windy place, and while smartphones have multiple mics to combat this, they have their limit.  The mic itself is a RØDE VideoMic Me.  It's directional (meaning it pics up far more sound from the front than the sides and back), and comes with a furry wind screen, making it look like I carry around a dead hamster.  The wind screen can be taken off, as you wouldn't generally need it indoors, but it doesn't hurt anything, so I leave it on.  This mic offers fantastic audio quality, allows in just enough sound from the back (so we can hear ships horns gently blowing in the background), blocks all the wind noise you can throw at it, and is very compact.

rode videomic me setup

The RØDE VideoMic Me is made to plug in and hold on to your smartphone for portable use, which is great.  I find myself frequently using it for long periods of time, and mounting my phone to a tripod or other holder, so I needed a simple way to adapt it to a hand mic of sorts.  For this, I just needed an extension cable, but you must make sure it's the right type with a 4 conductor 1/8" connector on each side, often labeled something like a '4 Conductor TRRS Extension'.  Once plugged in I just hold the base of the mic and have a bit more freedom, but when walking around, the cable takes up very little room in my bag - it's a nicer solution than carrying multiple mics and such.

extension cable

The Tripod, Mount, etc

Often when Periscoping, you're walking around, or only on for a few minutes.  It used to be, however, that when out at the port and seven ships were sailing out, with a few minutes between each vessel, my shoulders felt like I'd just hung a dozen ceiling fans.  I knew I needed something to hold my setup for longer scopes.  I already had a few tripods, and started using a lighter, more portable tripod for these days.  There are a ton of tripods out there, but they can get pricey, but I found that the Manfrotto Compact Action Tripod was the best combination of portability and quality for the price.  

A tripod alone isn't enough, you have to have the right rig to hold your phone to the tripod.  There are many options here, but I went with an unconventional approach which, like the single mic with extension cable, allowed me some flexibility in my setup.  First, to hold my phone, I use the RetiCAM Smartphone Mount XL.  This is not the cheapest option, and probably not the one you need, but it is supremely sturdy and I've used some large phones which need a larger mount (a Nexus 6P in my case), so if you're using a lighter, less hefty device, you may have some cheaper options - but for me, this was the most stable and easy to use choice  Trust me, I tried many of them.

The RetiCAM Smartphone Mount XL has a standard (1/4-20) threading, so whatever tripod you use should come with a 'shoe' that connects to this.  That in mind, I don't actually connect the RetiCAM  directly to my tripod.  Instead, I connect it to a Monoprice Flexible Tripod.  This is a small portable tripod that can be used tabletop, or, the legs can be wrapped around a fence post, railing, chair, etc so that I can set up anywhere without holding my phone.  Much of the time, I simply wrap the Monoprice Flexible Tripod around my Manfrotto Compact Action Tripod and use the whole setup this way.

As mentioned, this setup works well for a larger, heavier phone.  If you have something lighter and are looking to save a few bucks, you could try the GripTight GorillaPod Stand.  It isn't quite as heavy-duty, and the phone holder itself isn't something I was comfortable using with a giant heavy phone in a windy environment near rocks and water, but I think it's quite suitable for tabletop use.

Miscellany 

If you've watched me or anyone else on Periscope, you know it can drain your battery pretty quickly.  Broadcasting on Periscope drains your battery even more quickly.  Your phones processor, radio, camera, and screen are all working overtime.  For short broadcasts, this is no big deal, but I like to make sure I'm covered all the time, especially when on vacation and away from outlets.  I've got several options, but for Periscoping I usually use one of my larger Anker portable battery chargers.  You may want to consider a smaller battery to keep your pocket instead, as the larger one is great, but I wouldn't want it on my person, I just tether it (in it's included case) to my tripod.  This is what goes in my pocket when walking about.  Many companies make these batteries.  I prefer Anker as their quality is much higher than some of the others, and they stand by their products.

I also keep a backup phone.  There are a few reasons for this, and most people won't find it useful, but I will say that my backup is an older phone, a 2nd generation Moto X.  The reason?  Well, I already had one, but also, it's water resistant and doesn't take up much room in my bag.  I generally like having a backup phone when going on trips too, in the even something happens to my primary device.

Oddly, I recently started carrying a studio pop screen.  These are usually placed in front of a microphone, but that's not what I use it for.  In the extreme Florida heat, I found the sun beating down on my phone for long periods of time was just too much, so I actually use this clamp on pop screen as a shade to block the sun without catching too much wind.  You probably won't need this, but now you know what that weird circular thing is in all of my pics.

Toting It All Around

Bags are, I think, a remarkably personal preference.  The style, the function, and what you need it for all weigh on this.  For me, I'm a huge fan of Timbuk2 bags.  I have their luggage, laptop bags, accessories, etc.  

I use a Timbuk2 Classic Messenger bag (XS) as my day bag when out in port, and this is also what I use to carry around and store my Periscope gear.  It's waterproof, has multiple compartments, is comfortable, and available in many different styles.  If you ever see a guy holding a phone, wearing this bag, come say hi.

What's in your bag?

Let us know what you carry around on vacation, and how you carry it.  Who knows, maybe one of your suggestions will lead me to update this article for new and improved Periscoping gear!