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Tips to Clip: December 2013

Did I Make That Shot?

You have just completed shooting a 32-page script. As you look over the crumpled pages, a feeling of doubt comes over you. Did you really complete it? You were shooting out of sequence and now you’re not sure that you got everything.

James Potter of Canton, Ga., keeps track by placing a vertical line in the right margin next to the covered dialogue as he finishes each shot. When he completes the project, he should have a line from the top to the bottom of every page. If there are any gaps, he missed a shot.

Travel Tip

To avoid getting lost when traveling in a country whose language you do not speak:

1. Always carry a matchbook or business card from the hotel at which you are staying. You can then show it to a cab driver or police officer to let them know where you want to go.

2. Get a map of the area and mark the location of your hotel and any other important spots you will be visiting. Then have someone write on the edge of the map, in the language of the country, “Please point to where I am on this map.” You don’t want to ask “Where am I?” because you won’t understand the answer in the language you don’t speak. Have them show you instead.

And don’t forget, knowing how to say “thank you” in the language will always make you less of an ugly American.

It Doesn’t Have to Be …

One of the best time- and labor-saving tips I ever received came early in my career. It is simply this: “It doesn’t have to be, it just has to look like it is.”

Once I got that through my head, I no longer found it necessary to clean and light a whole office when I was only shooting a talking head against one wall. It was no longer necessary to hide a cable that was visible in the room but not through the camera. It was no longer necessary to wait until the machine I was photographing was actually working, as long as it looked like it was working.

In other words, if it doesn’t show through the camera, it doesn’t matter, so don’t spend time and energy worrying about it.

Beat the Bright

Sometimes a patch of cement or a stucco wall can be the brightest part of your image. Herman Dorf of Chicago, Ill., says those and other porous surfaces can be darkened by dampening them with a light spray of water. The secret is to create an even coating of water without any of the surfaces looking wet. A hand-pressurized garden sprayer will usually accomplish the task.

I was using Herman’s tip to darken some cement when I accidentally wet an unpainted fence post. It brought out the texture of the wood so well that the director said to spray the rest of the fence. He then began experimenting, wetting almost everything in sight.

Microphone Socks

One of the prime rules when we are on the road is “pack as much as you can into as little space as possible.” Among the first “space-takers” to go were the fancy padded boxes for our hand microphones. Over time, the microphones began looking as though they had been mistaken for bones and munched by a very large dog.

Our solution was to send them back to the factory for resurfacing and then store them in old athletic socks. We still carry them loose in the audio case, but now they are protected from scratches, nicks and large dogs.