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Tips to Clip: August 2016

Safe from Glare

Many industrial venues require that everyone wear safety glasses, but the normal curved eye protection is a source of all sorts of reflections and glare. Daniel Larson of De Pere, Wis., earns a Tipster Tool Tote for bringing along several pairs of flat-surfaced safety glasses for the talent to wear whenever he is working in a plant or construction site. It is a very simple idea, but it works.

Sky Clip

If clients and other “civilians” will be wandering around your shooting venue, it is usually a good idea to keep as much wiring as possible off the floor. Joe Babbitt of Salt Lake City gets a Tipster Tool Tote for sharing his quick and easy way to fly cables from a T-bar type ceiling using binder clips. The clips, available in office supply stores, will hold two or three cables out of harm’s way.

A Not Too Bright Idea

Here are two ways to handle that “too bright” table lamp in the scene you are trying to photograph. Dimmers such as those normally used with wall switches to control room lights can be adapted to our use. I have several mounted in portable junction boxes. Be careful in your selection of parts if you decide to make one of these. Some dimmers create a great deal of electrical noise and can cause problems with your sound recording. It is probably a good idea to use plastic junction boxes to lessen the possibility that someone might get a shock.

You will find that the color temperature of the lamp will change toward the red end of the spectrum if you dim the lamp too far.

I also carry several 15-watt screw-in lightbulbs. Sometimes a 15 watter will provide just enough illumination to light up the lampshade and give the appearance that the lamp is “on” without affecting either my lighting or the color temperature.

Colorful Corrections

Have you ever looked at a copy of a script left at your desk and wondered if it is the latest version? Using both of these tips will help you make sure. I have worked with many scripts that ignore the easiest way to solve the problem. Simply include the date, time and version number in the header information at the top of each page. You can also keep things straight by printing the various drafts on different colored paper. This way, everyone can easily tell if they have the latest version.

Low-Budget Lighting

Students in my lighting classes frequently say they can’t do proper lighting because they don’t have the budget for all the fancy gadgets. I remind them that it’s not money but imagination that results in good lighting.

A commercial scrim (used to dim a light) is just a piece of metal window screen in a fancy holder. You can easily cut pieces of screen from the local hardware store to fit your lighting instruments at a cost of just pennies.

Commercial flags are devices that are placed between a light source and the subject to cast controlling shadows. That is, they keep illumination off areas where the light is not wanted. A gobo is another name for the same type of device, though a gobo is placed between a light source and the camera to keep flare out of the lens.

You can make a flag or gobo by attaching a wire coat hanger to a piece of cardboard. If you want to be fancy, paint the whole thing flat black. The wire can then be attached to a light stand using clothespins or c-clamps. Total cost, zero.

More Cheap Lighting

Once you understand the rules of lighting, you can execute them with whatever materials you have at hand. Here is another example of zero cost lighting. I was doing an interview at a trade show in a large exhibit hall. I opted to go with available light because the producer and I were working alone, we were on a very rushed schedule (is there any other kind?), we were carrying minimal equipment and I did not want the activity behind the subject to go dark. However, the only light available came from overhead and created some bad shadows.

To solve the problem, I had the subject sit at a table directly under one of the ceiling lights. The hanging light provided some separating backlight, and the white tabletop, which I kept out of the frame, acted as a reflector. We were able to make some very nice pictures.