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Tips to Clip: April 2015

Tips Archive

You can check out previous “Tips to Clip” columns online by going to

Cable Care

Those mic cables coming out of many camera-mounted shotguns—like the one in the picture, from Ken DeWoody of San Diego, Calif.—are small and a bit fragile. Bending them at the base tends to cause breaks in the wires, so Ken uses a spring from a ballpoint pen to protect the cable from too much stress. Simply wind it onto the wire and then twist the end of the spring onto the housing of the cable ends so it stays put. As you can see, he wound springs onto both ends of his mic, protecting it for years of run-and-gun abuse. Ken’s idea also works well with the thin cables on wireless transmitters and receivers.

NAB Show Help Needed

Every year I put together a column featuring unusual and especially handy gadgets I find at the NAB Show. The show is so big this year that I am asking for your help. I am not looking for major breakthroughs or high-end products, but if you see an unusual gadget that you think would help make your life easier, please text me at (408) 828-3555. Just give me the gadget’s name, booth number and a brief description. I will do the rest.

Meeting Coverage

One of the most common assignments video professionals receive is providing support for corporate meetings, which involve a speaker and possibly a panel of experts. I worked such an assignment recently and ran into several common problems, so I thought I would share the tips that the crew developed to solve them.

The two-day meeting involved multiple panel discussions with audience-fed question sessions. The producer had decided to forego hiring an audio operator, which meant that all the panel and audience question mics were open all the time, adding an overabundance of room tone and noise to the recording. To make matters worse, the table microphone stands were missing their rubber isolation feet, making their parabolic-shaped bases excellent pickups for all the contact noise coming through the table.

We normally would minimize the contact problem by placing computer mouse pads or a piece of foam rubber under the mic stands, but neither was available. The final semi-solution was to put pieces cut from corrugated cardboard boxes under each stand.

To facilitate smoother moves of our single camera, we asked the moderators to introduce and question the panel in the order they were seated, but many times that was wishful thinking and they bounced all over the place.

I was able to keep track of who was who on the constantly changing panels when I turned a 3×5 index card into a makeshift seating chart and taped it to the back of my camera. That allowed me to begin a move to the next speaker as soon as the moderator or audience questioner mentioned a name.

One final tip. We were in a large room and the client wanted to rope off some seats to keep the audience together. But, you guessed it, we had no rope. Several ideas were presented (cables, gaff tape and whiteboard tape) but the winner was a roll of adding machine paper. The 2-inch-wide white paper was not as messy as tape, easier to see than a rope, looked as if we had used cloth ribbon, and was easy to remove in case of emergency.

Picture Perfect

Last week I needed to disassemble and repair a particularly complicated gadget. Wanting some reference on how it was supposed to go back together, I mounted my phone above the workbench and made a video of the process.

As I worked, I described each step into the microphone. As it turned out, making the recording imprinted the layout of the device in my mind so well that I didn’t need the video to put it back together. But it was nice to know it was there.