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Tips to Clip: February 2014

32 Years of Tips

“Tips to Clip” is the longest-running column in the industry. For 32 years it has been a reader favorite, offering videographers ideas and inventions to improve their productions. Over the years the philosophy has remained the same: bringing you the knowledge of generous professionals who are willing to share their ideas on doing the job easier, faster and cheaper.

Thank you for your loyalty and the contributions you send in that make this column possible.

X Stand

“X” or “scissor” clamps were originally designed to suspend macramé from ceilings in offices, but with a little imagination, they are serving a number of lighting functions.

By replacing the macramé hook with a light spud, these clamps fasten small instruments to a drop ceiling. I use them frequently when making video of in-house industrial meetings because they eliminate the hazards of stands and wires on the floor.

Clipped on a right-angle bar, they make a mini stand ideal for low mounting or placing an instrument on a table in a crowded office. You may also try wedging one leg of the bar under books or other heavy objects on a shelf behind your interview subject to hold a backlight.

If you have another use, share it by sending me an e-mail at

Right As Rain

“Do you have any tips for making a shot of falling rain?” asks Paul Barrow of Denver, Colo.

Raindrops will usually show up better in the daytime if you position dark objects such as trees or a building in the background.

At night, try backlighting the drops by including streetlights, bright windows, other light sources or your own instruments in protected locations hidden in your shot. The headlights of a car passing through the scene can also help the situation.

Be careful and remember that electricity and water do not play well together.

If you don’t have proper rain jackets to keep your camera and gear dry, improvise by putting them in clear plastic trash bags. I have made several such shots by protecting the gear (and my body) in a van or car, then shooting out through an open door or window.

Stand By to Stand By

During a break in a recent multicamera shoot, the camera operators were sitting around and, as usual, the topic of discussion was the director. I asked what they thought were the traits of the most helpful directors. The most common preference was that the director makes sure the operators know what he or she means by always using the same commands.

Larry Jandro of Scottsdale, Ariz., told me about a recent event where the director would change commands with almost every transition. He would say “Ready one, take one,” then he’d come back with “Go two,” then “Standby three, do it.”

Number two on the list was neglecting to identify the camera before giving a direction. I have seen three cameras begin to move when the director said “Zoom in camera two,” rather than “Camera two, zoom in.”

Everyone agreed that it is important that the director keep his cool when something goes wrong. Yelling at the crew on the intercom just makes matters worse.

CES Gadgets

Although the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is not aimed at professional video people, I asked a number of videographers who were covering the show if they saw anything that might be adapted to serve our needs. The most popular response was about a line of radio controlled four- and six-rotor flying platforms designed by DJI to make aerial video and stills.

I think the neatest is the quadcopter, which DJI sales director Andy Yuan showed me how to fly. The little bird is equipped with a proprietary gimbal that keeps the built-in 14 megapixel camera level no mater how the ship rocks. A Wi-Fi link allows the operator to preview and adjust the camera’s picture with a smartphone. The quadcopter uses GPS to maintain a hover-in-place if you let go of the controls.

The most amazing thing is the price. The package sells for $869. For more info, go to DJI’s web site,