Open or Close
Last week I was working on a multicamera shoot when, just as the show was about to start, the engineer lost control of the camera irises. A quick check of the usual suspects, including the position of the auto/manual switch, did not cure the problem, so the EIC (engineer in charge) decided to have the operators adjust their irises manually. The fact that most of the cameramen had never had to perform that function during a live shoot resulted in their turning the f-stop ring in the wrong direction. They were put on the right track by a tip from long ago. Think of the ring as the lid of a jar. Turn it to the left to open and right to close.
When adhesive tape is left on a cable too long, the adhesive can leave a sticky residue behind. Bill Seabrook of WETA-TV in Washington, D.C., writes that the residue (or "tape gunk," as it is commonly known) can be easily removed with another piece of tape. Take a fresh piece and use the sticky side to pick up the old adhesive. This will almost always leave a clean surface on your cable—assuming that the old adhesive has not completely hardened from age.
Balancing a heavy camera on a light tripod can sometimes be a difficult task that requires an imaginative solution. When heavy studio controls and a viewfinder made her camera back-heavy beyond the tripod's ability to compensate, Cristina Lange attached the belt pouch holding her water bottle to the lens cradle (note: not to the lens itself). Adding and removing water as necessary brought the rig back to within the tripod's adjustment range.
We are now well into the sunny summer season, which means we need to consider methods to soften the harsh shadows on faces caused by the sun during outdoor interviews. Big-budget shoots produce beautiful images with lights balanced for 5,200°K and overhead silks. Those of us with more modest means can get acceptable results using silver cloth automobile window shades as reflectors. Bob Glen of Dallas writes that the large mobile home type, the big ones with a flexible hoop around the outside, works best. They fold into a small circle for storage.
Trips to Skip
Every location lighting kit should include at least one 5- or 6-foot length of rubber-backed carpet runner to cover exposed cables when they cross sidewalks, doors or other high-traffic areas. One lawsuit by someone who has tripped over a cable can mean financial disaster.
Getting standalone answers from interview subjects has aggravated more than one producer over the years. I've watched as producers try to explain to an on-camera subject that his answer must contain the question because the question itself will be cut out of the final production. Here's a tip for getting the idea across quickly without putting words in a speaker's mouth. Say to the subject, "If I were to ask you, 'What's your favorite kind of ice cream?' you should answer, 'My favorite ice cream is chocolate,' not just 'Chocolate.'"