Typically, expensive gear comes with protective sleeves or plastic covers out of the box and more protective (and more expensive) options are available, sometimes from third parties. For a lot of larger audio/video equipment, cases are purchased separately. There are various reasons why; some projects require water tight cases while others need to be certain dimensions for airline carry-on. Regardless of the reason, buying a case is an important and expensive part of acquiring gear.
I purchased a Porta-Brace water-tight case to store my camera, follow focus, and some other things since they are the most expensive pieces of equipment I own. The case has removable squares that allow you to make the foam custom to your equipment. The squares aren’t perfect but they work.
My lighting kit and tripod came with their own cases but both the lights and the tripod are somewhat robust pieces of gear compared to cameras and lenses, so these cases didn’t need to be anything special. My camera support equipment however did not come with a case and needed one. I didn’t want to spend a ton of money on another case. Some of these pieces are somewhat small and oddly shaped so using another case with cube-based foam would require a lot of space; a large expensive case. Some of the camera support pieces are very robust such as the rod-links and cheese-plate but others are not, such as the lens-gears. None of the camera support equipment is electronic however so water and moisture are not as big an issue. I decided to make a custom case myself.
I acquired a large old projector case from the IT department at work. It was headed for the trash so I felt extremely lucky when I rescued this gem. I actually snagged it a couple months before making this case. Never had a use for it until now. It was a perfect for this project, HUGE and even made of genuine leather. It also had lots of additional compartments and slots for other production necessities. I keep small gels, scripts, tools, and all kinds of things in this bag now.
To make the main foam insert to protect my gear I managed to get some thick foam, about 5 inches. Its density is little hard but foam is foam so it was great. I laid out all the pieces I wanted to fit in the case which was actually a little tricky but I managed to get them to all fit with enough padding around them to ensure they’re secure.
I had to organize the objects using illustrator so I could best fit all the equipment in one case. This required some intricate layering of gear and ended up taking me a few hours but the planning paid off. If I would have winged it and cut into the foam without drawing it out, I wouldn’t have been able to fit all the pieces in or have them as secure.
To make the slots I cut a hole through the foam then took the cutout piece, sliced off the end and placed it back inside to make the bottom padding. I choose the thickness of the slice based on how large the piece was and how deep it needed to sit in the case. The lid of the projector case was already padded for a projector so top foam wasn’t necessary but if it was, you could just take a thin foam sheet, cut it to the case size and glue it to the inside lid.
Here is a graphic I made of how I cut the foam.
The pattern I drew in the example above would be useful for storing… a doll’s shoe? No, a die-cast oven mit! Collectors edition.
Watch the video to see the finished version and how everything fits.
Note: I was in a bit of a hurry doing this (upcoming shoot) and spend most of my time planning it so there are some rough cuts and edges on some of the foam but the protective attributes of the case where clearly not compromised by this.