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Tips to Clip: January 2017

Bright Light

The Problem: You need more light than the beam of the flashlight on your cellphone can provide.

The Tip: Set the phone on a flat surface and place a clear plastic water bottle over the light. You can see from the photo how much the illumination is amplified. A Tipster Tool Tote for this enlightening idea is on its way to Will Soley of San Francisco.

Finding Focus

When using a DSLR camera for video, reaching for the focus or zoom ring can be guesswork because different lenses have different placement. Bill Elliott of Springfield, Mo., stretches a silicone wristband over the controls to aid in identification and give himself a better grip. Lenses can be color coded as well. Another bonus is that his follow focus works well using only friction, eliminating the need for gears on the lenses.

Comfort Space

Next month will mark 35 years of Tips to Clip, so I thought I would revive some evergreen tips from an early column that work just as well today as they did then.

Making non-professional talent feel comfortable in front of a camera was a problem then and remains so today. Usually the first encounter people have with video production is in the worst possible circumstance: an actual taping session.

A video training class is the last thing most of these future stars would want to attend, but everyone loves a party with food and soft drinks.

Periodically, the AV staff of the Arkansas Power and Light Co. hosts a small reception to “introduce a new feature of their studio.” They invite as many of their potential performers as possible.

The secret is that they leave a camera and teleprompter set up in one corner of the studio. Before long, someone is operating the camera while someone else is reading the prompter and playing the star. Soon everyone is getting in on the act, and before you know it, the whole business is no longer an object of fear.

Our contact there says the parties have worked so well and made life so much easier that the staff is helping pay for them out of their own pockets.

Cheap Light

One of the least expensive and most versatile pieces of lighting equipment 35 years ago is still a best buy today. It is a large piece of white poster board used as a reflector. The board works both indoors and out. It can be handheld, mounted on a C-stand, put on an easel or fastened to almost anything.

Outside, the reflected light will soften the harsh shadows created by strong sunlight. If placed near the camera, it will de-emphasize dark eye sockets.

Inside, the reflector can be a fill, bouncing some of the key light. That is especially important when electricity is at a premium and plugging in another powered instrument might blow a fuse.

No matter where it is used, the light is always the same color temperature as the source it is reflecting.

Phone Pickup

During an interview assignment some time ago, the producer decided to have the video subject make a telephone call to one of his clients and asked if both ends of the conversation could be captured. No specialized phone recording equipment was handy, so the problem was solved by thinking “inside the box.” Crew members taped a microphone to the speaker of another phone on the same line, then emptied one of the small equipment cases and placed the second phone inside. The lid was gently closed so as not to cut the wires. The case’s eggcrate foam surrounded the microphone and insulated it from room noise. A lavalier microphone on the interview subject picked up the local end of the conversation.