New Tips E-Mail Address
Digital Video’s publisher has changed the e-mail address for submitting your tips. It is now DVTips@nbmedia.com. I really appreciate all the ideas you send in and apologize for any confusion this may cause.
Surviving Session Shakes
Image reinforcement involves providing a large video image that helps the audience see the speaker. I recently performed that duty at a large corporate event in San Francisco. Part of my assignment was to share tips on making the job easier with several newer camera operators. I think you may also find the tips useful.
The first step is to set up a platform so that the lens is level with the speaker and above audience members’ heads. It is best to use two platforms: one for the camera and another for the operator. A 1 inch gap (1) between the two will keep operator movement from shaking the camera. Be sure any cloth skirt is not stretched so that that it can transfer vibration from one platform to the other.
White tape around the platform (2) will keep people from bumping into it in the dark. The tape will also help you avoid stepping off the edge.
The tripod should be set with two legs near the rear edge of the front platform. I prefer to extend the front leg (3) slightly more than the rear, which leans the tripod slightly and moves the camera closer to my operating position on the rear platform. Be careful not to go too far or the tripod will be unstable. The camera is leveled using the tripod’s ball adjustment.
Balancing the camera is most important to maintaining a shake-free image. Trying to hold a shot with a front- or back-heavy camera is very tiring. To make balancing easier, I sometimes run the cables up and through the camera handle (4) so their weight drops near the center of the tripod head. (In this case, a very heavy viewfinder and triax connector necessitated a far-forward positioning of the camera.)
You will get less “fatigue shake” in a long session if you sit in a tall chair and rest your elbows on its arms. Avoid a “death grip” and control the camera with your fingertips.
Taping an intercom belt pack to a tripod leg or wearing it on your belt can be another source of shake when you hit the push-to-talk button. Try hanging it loosely from a piece of cord looped around the tripod head.
Since the adhesive on blue masking tape will not gum up the surface of most objects to which it is attached, Kevin Yares of Arkansas uses it to keep extension cords down. Audio cables are kept organized by a single layer wrapped around the coils.
When using multiple XLR cables, Kevin places a single wrap around the connectors as an extra measure to hold them in place. Even the AD and script supervisor use small pieces to hold the lower edge of notes down on windy locations. The tape pulls up without damaging set notes.
Greasy Does It
Powered screwdrivers and drywall screws can combine to make a lot of jobs around the set easier. A carpenter friend of mine says that the screws will go in with less effort if you lubricate them before use.
If you’re using only a few screws, run them into a candle or a bar of soap. If you have a lot of work to do, try running them into a new toilet bowl wax ring, which is available at most hardware or plumbing supply stores.
A documentary I was working on included shots of undercover law enforcement personnel whose identities we had to hide. Masking their faces in postproduction was not an option because the commander would not allow us to leave the location with identifiable images.
I tried all the usual methods—very wide shots, close-ups of almost every body part but the face, silhouettes, back shots and the like—but the producer wanted more and suggested defocusing. We were outdoors and the necessary high f-stop gave too much depth of field for that to work. My answer was to slightly rotate the lens macro lever, throwing the focus off just enough to disguise the officers.
This tip can help you keep track of small parts when disassembling an unfamiliar piece of equipment. Ron Gallagher of Glen Ellen, Calif., uses a plastic egg carton. He says the carton’s light color makes parts easy to see, and the 12 compartments let him store the parts left to right in the order they came apart.
It’s also helpful to take cell phone photos as you proceed so you can find your way back.