35 Years of Tips
This month marks the beginning of my 35th year writing the “Tips to Clip” column, and I would like to thank the hundreds of professionals who have contributed ideas.
It all started at the 1980 ITVA (International Television Association) convention. Some of the seminars being presented bore no relation to the work done by most of the membership. In one, a TV network audio supervisor complained about having to cover the Academy Awards “with a sound crew of only 30.” Most of us worked alone or with a very small crew and would have been happy to have an audience of 30.
When I pointed that out to the board of directors, they assigned me to put together a more relevant session for the next convention. I gathered practical tips, tricks and easy ways to get the job done from anyone who would share.
At the 1981 get-together, the Mixed Bag of Tricks seminars drew standing-room-only audiences—one of which included Joy McGrath, editor of Audio Visual Directions magazine. She asked if I could write up some of the tricks for her publication, and we were off and running.
Over the years, this column has appeared in several different magazines, but its philosophy remains the same: bringing you the knowledge of generous professionals who are willing to share their ideas about doing the job easier, faster and cheaper.
Thanks to your loyalty, “Tips” is the longest continuously published column in the industry.
Where’d the Wire Go?
During the taping of a recent stage show, we needed to hold and hide the wire of an ear set-type microphone (a tiny mic that usually hooks over the ear and sits against the talent’s cheek). The sound technician had run out of the surgical tape he normally uses, so he raided the first aid kit for adhesive bandages. He says they work even better than the regular tape. When the non-sticky pad portion is placed over the cable, it keeps the wire in place but allows it to slide, so it doesn’t bind when the talent turns his head.
When you don’t want the wire to slide, just cut out the pad and you’ll get two pieces of tape that, unlike gaffer’s tape, is designed to be used on human skin. When stage makeup was applied over the tape, it became almost invisible.
Most of us spend a lot of time at airports, traveling to assignments. You can cut down the time you waste waiting for a cab at your destination if you try this tip from Herman Desmond of New York City. Go to the departure drop-off area. The cabs there will have just dropped their passengers. The drivers hate waiting in the arrival queue just as much as you do and will be happy to pick up a new fare without the hassle. Be aware that some airports don’t allow cabs to pick up in the departure area—but if they do, it’s a wonderful thing.
Power cords get separated from their equipment just when you need them the most. That is one of the basic applications of Murphy’s law. Keep your production safe by using this tip from Will Soley of San Francisco. Attach a small stick-on wire holder to the piece of gear as shown in the photo. The cable is held in place with a standard cable tie. Both pieces are available in most hardware stores. As a side benefit, the cable tie will prevent accidental unplugging during a production. Also, because the cable cannot flex at the connector, it is much less likely to break or fray.
When I am shooting a trade show or convention general session with multiple cameras, the client will frequently call for a “handheld” camera working the floor between the audience and the stage. Most of them don’t really want the camera on someone’s shoulder; they want the variety of placement and shots that handheld would provide. This is where a wheeled spreader dolly comes in handy. Putting the tripod on wheels for at least part of the show will give the desired flexibility without the shaky pictures (and operator fatigue) of handheld.
Make your life easier by avoiding dollies with open wheels. Mine has guards that push cables out of the way. (Hitting a cable while making a fast position change can topple the top-heavy tripod.) The free-spinning wheels can be locked for airable tracking shots on most floors.