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Tips to Clip: June 2016

Green Arrow

No, this is not about a comic book hero with a bow who catches criminals. Instead, it’s a really great improvement on a tip we published some time ago.

The Problem: We all are asked to record presentations where the speaker is using PowerPoint-type slides, and the presenter often wants to use a laser pointer. That is fine if you are covering the projection screen with a camera, but if you are getting a direct feed from the computer, the pointer doesn’t show up. And that can be very confusing to the viewer, who doesn’t know which item on the slide the speaker is referring to.

The Tip: We originally suggested that the presenter use the computer cursor instead of the laser to show what he or she is talking about. The “pointer” would then be visible on both the screen and the recording. Dr. Richard Wilton of Johns Hopkins University went us one better when he used a bright green cursor arrow. It turns out that there are a number of super cursors in various colors, and even some that blink, available as freeware online. To find one you like, just search for “large green cursor.”

Sky Hooks

One of the really neat things I took away from the NAB Show came from members of IATSE Local 720 in Las Vegas. In several cases they needed to run cables over doors. Instead of the usual massive tape job or building a set of “goal posts,” they simply suspended the cables from a number of magnetic hooks that they attached to the door’s metal frame. The same idea would probably work to support a lightweight cable from the metal dividers of a suspended ceiling. The hooks, available in most office supply stores, will now be regular residents of my goodie bag.

Virtual Viewfinder

Virtual and augmented reality headsets are among the latest items from the computer world to cross over to the video market. The visor projects an image that appears to float in front of the viewer, somewhat like a heads-up display in a jet airplane. I noticed several vendors using them as auxiliary viewfinders at this year’s NAB Show in Las Vegas.

Sam Milligan of Chicago uses them to see what is happening when he creates a jib-like effect by mounting his GoPro on the end of a microphone fishpole. He can safely walk and operate other equipment because he can see his surroundings in the projected image.

Steadicam operator Sally Murphy uses them to see the output of her rig. Her assistant is also fitted with a pair, which eliminates the need for him to carry a standard monitor.

I also saw a sound technician who works a lot of documentary-type jobs wearing a VR setup that lets him see where the frame line is so he can keep his boom microphone out of the shot.

I gave all three of those folks Tipster Tool Totes for sharing their ideas.

Label It or Lose It

Another of those old sayings I like is, He who labels most loses least. It refers to the practice of slapping your name on anything that’s not nailed down. Small items such as adapters and connectors seem to be the most eager to vanish, so I use self-sticking postal return address labels on most of the bigger ones. The labels are usually protected by a piece of clear tape. Items that are too small for the labels I mark with a paint pen, which seems to work better and last longer on smooth surfaces than a Sharpie.

I use a white paint pen on most of our “wall wart” power supplies. Not only do I write my name on them, I also identify which piece of equipment they belong to, since they all look pretty much alike.

Cables are marked with either a postal or typed label, which is then covered with a piece of clear shrink tubing. The label also includes the cable length. Some companies identify the cable lengths by coding them with different colors of tape or paint near the end. That’s fine as long as you know the code.

Of course, all XLR markings and cable ties go on the male end to keep them away from the microphone and out of the picture.

If you have any other tips about keeping your equipment from following someone else home, please let me know so I can share them here.

Fourth Fireworks

If you will be shooting fireworks this Fourth of July, remember that even though they are in a dark sky, fireworks are a light source. If you expose for the sky, the fireworks will be overexposed and come out looking white. To capture their brilliant colors, go to manual iris and stop down a bit.

If it is legal to use them in your area, put aside some sparklers, smoke pots and other small fireworks for use as special effects on video projects later in the year.

Filler Photos

We frequently supply single-camera large-screen support for meetings. I have been using my digital still camera as a sort of still store to give myself something to put on the screen during the gaps between speakers. I photograph the company or meeting logo, then place the camera in “view” mode and export the image through its video port to the switcher or a second input on the projector.

My camera has a battery-saver function that shuts it down after five minutes of inaction; the feature cannot be defeated even if the unit is operating on the AC power supply. To get around this problem, I make sure the logo is the only picture stored in the camera, then periodically press the “next picture” button. Nothing happens, but it fools the camera into not going to sleep.