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Tips to Clip: September 2014

Panorama Problem

With today’s computer editing software, it is easy to stitch a series of still photographs into a beautifully merged panorama. The hard part can come when you’re looking at a huge number of almost identical images from several attempts. Where does one panorama end and the next series begin? Mick Weall, head photographer on the Star Princess, showed me a really simple solution. Before the first exposure of each series, he makes a picture of his hand with a finger pointing to the right. After the last panorama image he again shoots his hand, this time with the fingers pointing to the left. As you can see in the screen shot, the problem is solved.

Editorial Help

While we are on the subject of putting your hand in front of the camera, I have found it very helpful when shooting a head shot type interview if I wave my hand in front of the lens any time we stop the roll or start a “do over.” Because the image doesn’t change very much, the signal helps the editor spot the change and avoid what might be embarrassing to both of us later on.

One Circuit or Two?

Most homes and offices aren’t wired for the kind of power our lighting instruments require. Many times several outlets in adjacent rooms are connected to the same circuit breaker. That leaves us wondering whether plugging another powerful light into a second AC outlet in the same room will overload the circuit breaker. You can find out without causing a blackout by using this tip from Brandy Jacobs of Duvall, Wash. Plug in the second instrument, then turn it on and off quickly. If the two outlets are on the same circuit and there is a chance of overload, the first instrument will usually dim slightly when the second is turned on.

Just to be on the safe side, I carry an inexpensive two-part electrician’s circuit tracer in my lighting kit. A small transmitter plugs into the first outlet and a tone sounds if the receiver is placed near any other outlet on the same circuit.

Who’s Who?

A common problem with shooting panel discussions is remembering the names of the participants, particularly if there are multiple panels each day. Instead of using names, one director I work with assigns letters to the speakers, from left to right. The director’s call might be, “Camera one, close up on C,” or “Camera two, two-shot on A and B.” He doesn’t assign numbers to the panelists because they might be confused with camera numbers or terms like “two-shot.”

When I am doing a shoot and the director doesn’t have a system, I use a 3×5 card to make a seating chart that I tape near my viewfinder.

Closing the Barn Door

“I had a several pieces of video equipment stolen from my baggage during a recent flight,” writes Lee Potter of Dallas. “Can you give me some advice for my next trip?”

Sorry about your loss, Dan. It is impossible to theft-proof anything, but we can make it more difficult for the bad guys to get our gear.

Using the theory that thieves can’t steal what they don’t know about, avoid shipping your stuff in a case that has the manufacturer’s name on the outside. That just says “steal me.” Try hiding your custom case in a large old suitcase of the type you might find at a thrift shop or garage sale.

Place foam rubber between the inner and outer container to minimize rattling and provide a little more protection from rough handling.

An old diaper bag makes a less tempting carry-on than a professional camera case. (Who wants to steal poopy diapers?)

When one of my friends has to ship equipment as freight, his cover up container is a cardboard box that has “Fish Eggs” stenciled on the outside.

Avoid putting business names on shipping labels or baggage tags. Lee Potter is much less tempting than Potter Video Company.

Check with your airline, but in most cases their excess baggage insurance specifically excludes video or electronic equipment, so buying insurance just flags your luggage as containing valuables.

A Sticky Situation

Wig tape is a very thin, double-sided adhesive tape normally used by makeup artists for—you guessed it—keeping wigs on people’s heads, but it is also handy for videographers. Mike Saxton of Lutz, Fla., uses it to secure small lavalier mics in actors’ clothing. He says the tape also keeps clothing layers from rubbing against each other and making airborne noise that could be picked up by the mic.

I’ve also found that a piece of wig tape will keep an actor’s wayward necktie centered and looking neat.

Halloween Goodies

Halloween is coming around again, which is a great time to pick up seasonal goodies that can be squirreled away for future video projects. Costumes, makeup, special effects such as spider web material, and glow-in-the-dark paint will all be available in stores this month and next. For extra savings, buy them during the after-Halloween sales.