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Tips to Clip: March 2014

Upright Stamps

Being a professional videographer is about more than making pictures. It also means running the business office. This tip shared by Charles Prior of Sacramento, Calif., has helped me. Charles uses several rubber stamps in the course of doing paperwork, and occasionally some of his messages are stamped upside down. The solution is simple: a piece of tape with the words “Upside Down” in red ink on the stamp’s wrong side. Now he and I are warned whenever a stamp is misaligned.

Who Was That?

When I’m doing multiple interviews at a convention or trade show, I usually make a shot of the subject’s business card or convention ID badge so I don’t have to search for the information later. I also ask them to say their name and spell it so I can be sure they are properly identified and the narrator knows how the name should be pronounced. This backup identification is helpful when you have a tight turnaround, especially when the paperwork gets separated from the video.

The say-your-name technique has another benefit: it gives you a sample of the subject’s normal speaking voice so you can set audio levels. Most folks speak louder when they say things like “Testing, one, two, three.”

The Key to Chromakey

When you are executing a composite chromakey or greenscreen shot, the most important thing is that the backdrop is evenly lit. That’s an easy task with a waveform monitor or light meter, but those tools are not always available.

Several readers have shared the idea of using the camera’s zebra exposure function. The tip is to stop down the lens, then open it slowly. Any bright or dim areas will create patterns in the zebra. If you have lit correctly, the zebra should appear in the viewfinder fairly evenly across the entire backdrop. A bonus is that you can tell if the lighting is stronger at the top or bottom, which can be difficult with a waveform monitor.

Critical Color Choice

There are many scholarly papers on the influence different colors have on us psychologically, but there may be something more basic to consider when you prepare titles for your video, PowerPoint or web site presentation. A surprising number of people have some form of color blindness. As many as 10 percent of the men in your audience may not be able to distinguish between some of the colors in your presentation, which could mean that they can’t read it at all. According to Aries Arditi, Ph.D., senior fellow in vision science at Lighthouse International, almost 5 percent of men have trouble seeing the color green. One way of combating the problem is to be certain that there is a strong brightness contrast between text and background colors.

If you would like more information, check out Dr. Arditi’s article at

Butterflies Aren’t Free

Here’s a tip I picked up while watching the grips set up large butterflies and reflectors on an outdoor feature film scene. A butterfly is a frame that holds a piece of cloth diffusion. It’s usually hung overhead to soften harsh sunlight, but it can become a dangerous missile when the wind starts blowing. To prevent this, the grips normally tie them down with ropes, called tag lines. In this case, however, there was nothing to which to attach the tag line. One of the grips pulled out some mountain climbing pitons and pounded them into the dirt and cracks in the pavement. He said he had used tent stakes in the past but found the pitons easier to carry and less destructive to the streets.

Copy Caddy

If you have trouble supporting and positioning the copy for voiceover talent, try this tip from David Desmond of Denver, Colo. David suggests using the type of copy holder favored by computer operators. These desktop stands move and tilt to a variety of positions and are portable. They will eliminate paper rattle and some models even come with attached lights to illuminate the copy.