Tips to Clip: August 2017

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Weighty Problem
There are many situations when safety dictates that we apply weight to stabilize a light or microphone stand or other structure. The normal solution is to use one or more sandbags. But they can be difficult to transport, so here are a few tips on how to solve the weighty problem.

If you are caught empty-handed, try putting a chair over the light stand legs. If necessary, an equipment case on the chair seat will add extra weight.

A cool tip sent in by Rob Trube of Grand Rapids, Mich., is to carry the sandbags empty. Then use local sand or other material to fill them on location. Rob has four that travel flat in the bottom of one of his lighting cases at all times.

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I have used gallon-sized water or milk bottles. A piece of "trick line" run through their molded handle and tied to the stand completes the job. Again, transport empty and fill them on site.

Sunny Squint
Avoid talent squinting when shooting in bright sun by having them close their eyes and face the sun directly. Just before you begin to shoot, have them look at the camera and open their eyes.

Speaker Timer
Many visual indicators of time for speakers consist of dome-shaped green, amber and red lights mounted on the lectern. When the speaker's allotted time is nearly up, the yellow light shines, while the red one activates when their time is over. In many cases the signal lights are visible to the audience, which may be distracting for them or embarrassing for the speaker.

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We were able to avoid this potentially uncomfortable situation at a recent industrial conference. As you can see in the accompanying photo, we blocked the audience's view of the lights by creating a small wall of black gaffer's tape around the signal box.

Cleaner Screens
To get a little extra time between cleanings of your monitor and computer screens, George Schroll of Affton, Mo., suggests a used fabric softener sheet. The sheet's antistatic properties will slow the screen's collection of dirt. George warns to use a sheet that has been through the dryer—a new one has too much stuff on it and will smear the screen.

Filler Photos
We frequently are called on to supply low-cost i-mag (image magnification, or large-screen speaker support) for meetings. The common setup is a single video camera run directly into the projector. I have been using a digital still camera as a sort of still store to give us something to put on the screen during the gaps between speakers. I photograph the company or meeting logo, then place the camera in "view" mode and export the image through the camera's video port to a second input on the projector.

My still camera has a battery-saver function that shuts it down after four minutes of inactivity; the operation cannot be defeated even if the unit is running on AC power. To get around this problem, I make sure the logo is the only picture stored in the camera, then periodically press the "next picture" button. Nothing happens, but it fools the camera into not going to sleep.

To smooth out "trucking" shots from almost any kind of vehicle, S. Seitz of St. Louis, Mo., recommends letting up to half the air out of the tires.

Tabletop Reflectors
The frogs used to hold floral arrangements make handy holders for reflector cards and other equipment when shooting small items in tabletop photography, according to David Houlle of Saint Louis, Mo.

What's Your Idea?
There is an old saying: Anyone who is fed from the pot should help keep it full. Over the past 34 years, hundreds of video professionals have given back to the industry by sharing their shooting and production tips through this column. Now it’s your turn. Share your shortcuts and easy ways to do things by sending an e-mail to



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