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What's in your bag, Tim Nelson?

For this installment of “What’s in your bag?,” Tim Nelson of Minnesota Public Radio shares a glimpse inside his incredibly large and extensive kit. While it is certainly more in-depth than most, this kit allows Tim to be ready for most any situation the news can throw at him. You’ll be hard-pressed to walk away without a couple of ideas for your own rig. 

(Tim Nelson/MPR)


Early in my career, there was a lot of emphasis on mic work and gathering sound. As time has gone on there have been two key developments.

First, the proliferation of all kinds of devices has put sound in lots of weird places (coming out of televisions and laptops, automixers, streaming boxes, phones, you name it) and I have had to come up with ways to connect to literally anything I find carrying an audio signal.

Second is speed. It simply isn’t practical anymore to just record audio and then FTP it back to the studio after the fact (let alone drive it in the car).

I have responded in two ways:

  • I can stream just about anything, either directly onto the web (via Facebook Live or Mixlr) or into our own control center (via IPDTL or Report-It). That lets web editors listen in and either write to or update our site in real time. It also allows radio editors to chop up newscast actualities while an event is in progress.
  • I record interviews, voicers and wraps directly onto a smartphone in the field and FTP them directly into our content management system for immediate processing by the desk.

I have massive, massive amounts of equipment. Most of it is jammed into a Pelican 1510 rolling case, because the Portabrace bag I used to carry was starting to damage my shoulder.

Here’s what I carry with me everywhere:

Headphones

  • Jabra Evolve 40 MS Mono Wired phone headset with storage bag (I use this to record and listen to audio on my phone hands-free)
  • Sony MDR-7506 Dynamic Stereo Headphones with storage bag
  • Telex RTS CES-2 Complete Earset Kit (IFB earpiece, an in-ear monitor that fits under winter hats, summer hats, hard hats and other situations where over-the-ear headphones aren’t practical)

Mics

  • Audio Technica AT897 shotgun mic with wind foam (I store this in a 1.5-inch PVC pipe)
  • Electrovoice RE50B with wind foam
  • Shure Beta 87A condenser mic with wind foam
  • Audio Technica AT8010 condenser mic with wind foam
  • ElectroVoice CO90 condenser lav mic
  • Rycote pistol grip shotgun mic holder

(Ed. note: that’s a ton of mics! Check out our post on microphones for help making your own choices.)

Recording

  • Sound Devices 702 recorder in Portabrace case with shoulder strap
  • Sound Devices charger
  • Sound Devices XL-B3 spare battery
  • Sony PCM-M10 mini recorder

Power

  • Anker A1263 10000mAh lithium-ion external battery (for anything USB-powered)
  • Duracell Quantum 4 AA batteries
  • Amazon 9-watt plug-in power adapter
  • 1-foot USB-to-USB micro charging cables

Audio interfaces and problem-solvers

  • Radial Engineering PRO-MS2 Balanced mic splitter (splits a mic signal three ways)
  • Focusrite Scarlett Solo USB audio interface
  • Rolls Matchbox DB25 direct box (for interfacing with someone else’s gear)
  • Shure Model A15LA line input adapter (attenuates a line-level signal to mic-level)
  • Switchcraft shield lifter (helpful for avoiding ground hum when connecting to someone else’s gear)

Cards and USB

  • Extra CF cards (2G, 4G, 8G)
  • Extra SD cards (16G)
  • Extra MicroSD cards (32G)
  • SanDisk SDDR-92 CF card reader
  • IOGEAR GFR204SD SD and MicroSD card reader
  • 1-foot USB Type A to USB Type B cables
  • 6-inch mini USB male to micro USB male connectors
  • Inland micro USB to USB Type A receptacle

Custom mic stand

I made this custom mic holder for pressers (press conferences). I spend a great deal of time around TV cameras, so I carry this set up to both accommodate them (it keeps me out of their shot) and hem in uses that aren’t compatible with good sound. It will hold a dozen mics if you include wireless mics clamped to the posts to accommodate the TV crews. I intentionally made it too small to put iPhones on it — to thwart RF interference and so that speakers can’t put papers on it or pound on it and wreck my sound.

  • American Photographic Instrument Co. BS-1 light stand
  • Custom six-unit mic holder

Tim Nelson made this custom mic stand to solve common audio problems that happen in press conferences. (Tim Nelson/MPR)

Cables

  • 3-foot XLR-to-XLR cable for hand-held mic interviews
  • 10-foot XLR-to-XLR cable
  • 25-foot XLR-to-XLR cable
  • 3-foot stereo mini-to-mini cable
  • 3-foot-1/4-inch mono to RCA cable
  • 1/4-inch mono to RCA adapter
  • 3-foot-1/4-inch to stereo mini adapter
  • Screw-on 1/4-inch headphone adapters (Ed. note: 1/4-inch headphone adapters are like gold. It’s very smart to carry a few of different types!)
  • Push-on 1/4-inch headphone adapters
  • KV Connection 3.5-millimeter TRRS male to 3-pin XLR female mic plug phone adapter (to connect a mic to a phone)
  • Movo TCB2 XLR female microphone to TRRS male phone adapter (this one includes a headphone adapter)

Miscellaneous

  • Rowi mic clamp with 5/8-inch thread adapter (to clamp a mic on just about anything)
  • Manfrotto MTPIXI camera tripod with 5/8-inch thread adapter
  • Nite-Ize 1-inch S-Biner
  • 60 yard roll of 1-inch gaffer tape
  • On Stage CM01 Video Camera/Digital Recorder Adapter (to attach camera to stand)
  • Lenovo T460s laptop with charger
  • Canon G-16 camera with 2 spare batteries
  • Snap-On AAA LED flashlight
  • Netgear AirCard 791L WiFi hotspot

In the trunk of my car, I also have a Manfrotto video tripod, a mic boom pole, a 100-foot mic cable, and a 50-foot power cord. I also have an entire video kit with a broadcast-quality HD video camera with batteries and charger, Sennheiser wireless mic kit, 25-foot mic cable, Sony MDRZX110 headphones and a Shure SM-58 mic.

Tim installed a laptop tray and 400W power inverter to reliably report and file from his car. (Tim Nelson/MPR)

I also have a RockNRoller MultiCart in my back seat with a bungee cord to strap everything down for hauling. To make working in the car easier, I have a RAM Mounts Tough Tray universal laptop holder bolted to the front passenger seat and a 400W inverter wired directly to my car battery so I can run my laptop or any other device without the engine running.


What’s in your bag? is a regular series about the tools used by people in public media. We all use the basics (like a mic and headphones), but the way we personalize our kits is where things get interesting — and where we can learn from each other.

Whose bag should we open next? Let us know at trainingteam@npr.org or on Twitter!