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Tips to Clip: December 2014

Sharp Tape Idea

The Problem: You are under the stage and have just finished running one of many identical BNC cables. You want to identify it, but the white tape is nowhere near.

The Solution: Of course you were prepared for just such emergencies with a couple of feet of whiteboard tape wrapped around your Sharpie.

Sizzling Soda

Food stylists have many secrets for making things we eat show up better on video. Jayne Jones of Chicago writes that she can make a bottle of soda foam on command by dropping in a few grains of salt. She says to test in advance to determine the exact amount needed. The trick can also be used to make ginger ale look like champagne. If you have a food styling trick, send it to so we can share it with your fellow professionals.

We Can Learn from That

I received a letter from a longtime reader who just shot a project for “one of the most penny-wise and pound-foolish producers I have ever worked for,” he says. “At each stage of the project, he proved that the old adage is really a truism.”

Perhaps sharing this article with an inexperienced producer will help the rest of us avoid a similar fate.

The project was a two-day, four-camera, live IMAG-type shoot of a multi-event sports happening.

To start off, the producer rented only the equipment and accessories he knew he would need. No backups. No extras. The cameras were to be powered by batteries despite the fact that AC power was readily available at each position. And because “the batteries are rated at four hours and the show would only be three,” only one battery was provided per camera; he did not rent AC supplies. That was proven a bad idea when one of the cameras that had been using its zoom motor a lot ran out of battery 10 minutes before the show ended.

To save on their hourly rate, the crew was told to leave the cameras in place after the first day’s performance. That night the grounds crew’s water truck soaked two of the cameras and the three rows of seats behind them.

The long cable runs were made using several pieces of less expensive antenna cable, with their screw-on “F” connectors modified to BNC with slip-on adapters. “The cable is less expensive and the adapters are cheaper and easier to use than the screw-on type.” Not only did the wrong type of cable result in degraded pictures, but one of the adapters came loose enough during the second day’s show to lose the camera’s image entirely.

The producer did not order platforms, which meant the cameras were on the ground. Even with their tripods at maximum height, their shots were frequently blocked by people watching from the sidelines.

A Robot Must Do No Harm

I recently shot a robocam job where the producer supplied a surveillance-type remote-controlled three-camera system. That was fine for preset still shots of the audience question mics and seated panel members, but the pan, tilt and zoom speeds were all controlled by a single knob. With the pan speed set fast enough to follow a rapidly pacing speaker in real time, smooth tilts and zooms were almost impossible. A production-type robocam controller would have separate speed controls for each axis.

Erasing Intermittents

One of the hardest equipment problems to cure is an “intermittent,” which, like a toothache, disappears as soon as you take it to be fixed. If the equipment has plug-in-type removable circuit boards, this emergency first aid tip might help.

Over time, most contacts (except gold) will develop an oxide coating, which can act as insulation and affect the flow of electricity. Fortunately, that coating can be removed easily by burnishing the contacts with a pencil eraser.

This tip works almost anywhere low-voltage electricity is being used, including your production flashlight. You will often get a brighter light and longer battery life if you erase the oxide from the battery and flashlight contacts.

Be sure to clean the oxide off the eraser after every few strokes.

Wind Noise

Next time you are attempting to record ambient sound in a windy location, try laying the microphone on the ground. You will still get the ambiance, but with much less wind noise.

Also remember that omnidirectional microphones normally have fewer sound ports for the breeze to whistle through and so are usually less sensitive to wind noise than directional types.