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Tips to Clip: February 2015

Inside the Box

People are always saying we should think “outside the box,” so this column will share some of your unusual solutions to common problems. During one of my Princess Cruise seminars, we had been discussing the many ways to stabilize a camera when you don’t have a tripod.

Later, on shore, I was amused when one of the students, who was using her camera’s self-timer to shoot a selfie, told me she thought outside by thinking inside the box. She had placed her camera inside a phone box and was adjusting the tilt by layering the shoulder strap under the lens.

Protective Penny

The Problem: You have to attach a C-clamp to a pipe or piece of truss but you do not want to damage or scratch the surface.

The Tip: Normal procedure would be to place a short piece of split PVC pipe (see insert) around the pipe to protect it. Shawn Finkelstein was setting lights in San Francisco and ran out of the protective pieces. His answer was to put a penny under the screw. The soft copper “took the hit” without damaging the truss.

Putting It on the Line

Another example of thinking outside the box was sent to us by police training officer Dave Donaldson. He was assigned to shoot a driver safety video, but the parking lot he needed had just been repaved and had not yet been repainted.

Dave got some 3-inch-wide masking tape from the local paint store to create the necessary lines. He says it adhered easily and the tan color looked white in the final program.

Low-Cost Lighting

I frequently hear from videographers who say that they cannot afford expensive lighting accessories. I say it’s not money but imagination that results in good lighting.

A commercial scrim is just a piece of metal window screen in a fancy holder that is put in front of a lighting instrument to reduce its brightness. You can easily cut pieces of screen from the hardware store to fit your lights. Total cost: less than 10 cents.

Commercial lighting flags are devices that are placed between a light source and the subject. They cast a shadow to keep illumination off certain areas of the shot. You can make your own by attaching a piece of cardboard to a wire coat hanger. The hanger is wrapped around a light stand or other support and bent to properly place the shadow. Total cost: free.

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Portable Sound Booth

The Problem: You need to record voiceover narration in the field but your work area has a heavy echo.

The Tip: Craig Richens of Redwood City, Calif., says you can make a portable sound booth from a large foam-lined equipment case. Place the case on a table with the hinge running vertically and put the microphone near the hinge so the talent is speaking into the V of foam. Craig says he was able to get some very acceptable tracks like this. When I was working as a news cameraman and we needed a quiet spot where the talent could read voiceovers, we would just have him or her sit in our car with the windows rolled up.

Carry a Small Stick

A self-stick label or a piece of light-colored tape on the side of your tape measure is handy for writing down notes and measurements during a site survey. Later on you can transfer the measurements, or the entire label, to a notepad.

Space, The Final Frontier

A local video producer had been paying rent for a large studio that he needed only once or twice a month. He finally decided that the benefit wasn’t worth the expense, and he moved into smaller quarters in the same industrial park. To cover himself, he set up an arrangement with the management company to let him know when any of the other 100 units are vacant. When he needs a larger space, he rents one for a day or two. The smooth concrete floor and industrial electrical wiring make them easy to work in, and a bit of seamless background paper hides any objectionable walls.

It is a real win-win situation. The producer gets inexpensive space nearby and the management company gets a little income from vacant property.