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Think Tank Photo to release Multimedia Wired Up Collection next month  
Monday, June 15, 2009 | by Rob Galbraith
 Starting next month, camera bag maker Think Tank Photo will begin shipping a line of bags aimed at the growing number of editorial photographers whose work includes capturing audio along with still photos, plus photographers of all stripes who are flocking to the new breed of digital SLRs capable of capturing high-quality video.

The line, called the Multimedia Wired Up Collection, is comprised of four belt-mountable pouches and two beltpacks that all share a common design goal: to tame the wires tangling up the stills shooter tasked with gathering sound and moving pictures too.

Multi-talented: Think Tank Photo's Multimedia Wired Up Collection. From left to right: Big Audio, Audio Recorder, Wired Up 10, Wired Up 20, Wireless Mic Kit, Mic Drop In. Click to enlarge (Photo courtesy Think Tank Photo)

Think Tank Photo is trumpeting the fact this is the first line of bags ever produced expressly for the emerging multimedia photographer. More important than that is the fact that the bags really work as described, thanks to a handful of smart design decisions all centred around making location audio recording manageable.

For starters, the six models in the Multimedia Wired Up Collection include strategically-placed exit holes for running audio cables from bag to bag. Plus, each of the four pouches are sized for a specific purpose, such as rapid insertion and removal of a handheld interview mic, and can be attached to either of the two beltpacks. Alternatively, the pouches will also attach to a Think Tank Photo Pro Speed Belt, Steroid Speed Belt or Skin Belt.

The new line is comprised of the following:

Mic Drop In This pouch includes a resizeable round opening at the top, a front stretch pocket, a single exit hole for passing the mic's cable through to a separate audio recorder and a stretchy front pocket. A shotgun or typical interview mic can quickly - and with one hand - be dropped into the top opening with handle pointed skyward, then pulled out again as needed to gather sound. This can be done without fussing to open a zipper or even unbuckle a clasp. To accommodate particularly long mics, the pouch can be lengthened by unzipping an extension area at its base. If you've struggled to rapidly get out or put away a handheld mic, while also juggling a camera, this pouch is for you.

The exit hole on Mic Drop In is marked with a blue tab, and is large enough to allow for an XLR  audio connector to slip through. The exit holes on all other Multimedia Wired Up Collection bags are the same.

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Incoming: Views of the Mic Drop In. Click to enlarge (Photos courtesy Think Tank Photo)

Audio Recorder
Meant for compact field audio recorders, it will hold smaller such devices, ones like the Edirol R-09HR, in a see-through pocket inside the main compartment, or ones that are taller (but still small overall), such as the Zoom H4n, in the main compartment itself.

Audio Recorder includes twin exit holes at the base, and another at the top, for microphone cables, as well as a stretchy front pouch and both a zipper and a quick-release magnetic clasp. When in use, the zipper can be left unzipped and the magnetic clasp closed. Then, to quickly check audio levels on the recorder, it's only necessary to flip open the clasp, widen the opening with your hand and look inside.

All but Mic Drop In have a similar magnetic clasp feature.

Small Sound: Audio Recorder, shown with an Edirol R-09HR inside. Click to enlarge (Photo courtesy Think Tank Photo)

Big Audio Similar to Audio Recorder, only larger, Big Audio can hold a more substantial field audio recorder such as the Marantz PMD660, including in the pouch's see-through pocket inside the main compartment (the newer Marantz PMD661 will fit nicely as well). It has the same three exit holes for microphone cables, plus a stretchy front pocket that's large enough to keep a short shotgun mic secure. It also incorporates an elasticized fabric slot, just below the magnetic clasp, that a slim mic handle can be slid into and held horizontally, giving the option of recording ambient sound while the mic is attached this way.

Big Audio is also roomy enough to hold a Dell Mini 9 netbook, and can serve to store a microphone like the Rode Stereo VideoMic when not in use, even with its dead cat-style windscreen in place.

Wireless Mic Kit This pouch is designed to hold up to four wireless units; typically, that would mean two transmitter/receiver pairs, or one pair plus a compact audio recorder. It includes a small cable management pouch suitable for storing lavalier mics and other easy-to-lose accessories, plus an internal removable divider. Rounding out its set of features are three exit holes for mic cables and a stretchy front pouch.

On the front of Wireless Mic Kit is a loop suitable for suspending a handheld mic.

Unwired: Wireless Mic Kit. Click to enlarge (Photo courtesy Think Tank Photo)

Wired Up 10 and Wired Up 20 The two beltpacks differ only in height, and sport the same everything-but-the-kitchen-sink range of audio equipment features, including:
  • A zipper/clasp front pouch large enough for a Marantz PMD660 recorder. It includes an internal see-through pocket and two exit holes for microphone cables (which pass through to the main compartment)

  • Three exit holes for microphone cables in the main compartment (for a total of five)

  • Two stretchy side pouches capable of holding shorter shotgun or interview mics

  • A clever Headphone Hook accessory that keeps headphones on the hook until they're needed

  • A removable, rearrangeable padded insert in the main compartment, one that allows cables to snake around the perimeter and not get snarled up with the gear

  • A removable cable management pouch (similar to the one supplied with Wireless Mic Kit)

  • Loops for holding microphones or extra cable

  • Multi-purpose straps on the bottom of the pack for attaching a collapsed, compact boom pole or similar
     
  • Gear rails for the four pouches in the Multimedia Wired Up Collection plus all other Think Tank Photo modular accessories

  • A removable harness system that includes a mic mount at about shoulder level
Both beltpacks will hold a camera with short lens attached, a flash and other photo accessories in the main compartment. Of the two, Wired Up 20 is tall enough to fit a Canon or Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8-size lens with hood reversed (standing up, and not attached to a camera).

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Packed: Views of the Wired Up 10 and 20 beltpacks. Click to enlarge (Photos courtesy Think Tank Photo)

Headphone Hook will also be available separately, bundled with an adaptor that allows it to attach and slide along a Pro Speed Belt, Steroid Speed Belt or Skin Belt.

Slip and Slide: Headphone Hook, shown attached to the belt adaptor that will come with it when it's purchased as a separate accessory. Click to enlarge (Photo courtesy Think Tank Photo)

Example configurations, no beltpack

This section demonstrates some of the ways the Multimedia Wired Up Collection pouches can be used separate from a Wired Up beltpack, with an emphasis on the line's main differentiating feature: management of the unavoidable mess of cables that goes along with the recording of sound in the field. The first configuration is perhaps the most useful of all, at least for those trying to do separately-recorded audio with a minimum of equipment while also shooting handheld digital SLR video.

This describes us, and after two weeks of test driving five of the six new bags, the combo of Audio Recorder and Mic Drop In, set up the same as shown in the two photos below (but with a Zoom H4n recorder at the centre of it all), is by far the sweetest of Think Tank's new line. They're just right for how we want to work and become more practiced at double system audio capture.

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Best Friends: Audio Recorder and Mic Drop In attached to Pro Speed Belt. Click to enlarge (Photos courtesy Think Tank Photo)

Other possible configurations include:

The Interview: Wireless Mic Kit attached to Pro Speed Belt. Click to enlarge (Photo courtesy Think Tank Photo)
Streeter: Mic Drop In and Headphone Hook attached to Pro Speed Belt. Note that Headphone Hook will include an adaptor (not shown) that allows it to both attach and slide along the belt. Click to enlarge (Photo courtesy Think Tank Photo)
One for All: Wireless Mic Kit, Audio Recorder and Mic Drop In attached to Pro Speed Belt. Click to enlarge (Photo courtesy Think Tank Photo)
Big Sound: Big Audio and Mic Drop In attached to Pro Speed Belt. Click to enlarge (Photo courtesy Think Tank Photo)

Think Tank Photo is targeting July 13, 2009 as the first day of sale of the Multimedia Wired Up Collection in the U.S. Countries in Asia can expect shipping to commence on August 15, 2009. Europe is to follow on September 1, 2009. Between now and then, the company plans to publish one or more papers for digital SLR photographers describing the basics of audio and video capture.

Manufacturer's suggested retail prices for the U.S. are as follows:
  • Wired Up 10: US$139.99
  • Wired Up 20: US$169
  • Mic Drop In: US$39.95
  • Audio Recorder: US$39.95
  • Big Audio: US$49.95
  • Wireless Mic Kit: US$49.95
  • Headphone Hook w/belt adaptor: price has not been set
To be notified when the Multimedia Wired Up Collection is available, submit your email address. On the same Think Tank Photo page is a snappy video introducing the new line and featuring photographer Deanne Fitzmaurice. The company is also asking for feedback about this new line. Suggestions as to how the Multimedia Wired Up Collection can be expanded, as well as how the current models could be improved for the still/audio/video combo shooter, are welcome, says Think Tank Photo President Doug Murdoch.

The Multimedia Wired Up Collection was first unveiled earlier this month at the National Press Photographers Association Convergence '09 conference. In keeping with the Las Vegas location for the event, Think Tank Photo enlisted the help of showgirls to showcase their new products.

Hatitude: Think Tank Photo President Doug Murdoch, right, enlists the help of showgirls to introduce the company's new Multimedia Wired Up Collection in Las Vegas earlier this month (Photo by Deanne Fitzmaurice)

Think Tank Photo will be exhibiting the Multimedia Wired Up Collection next at PMA Australia from June 26-28, 2009 in Sydney.
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