Best Video Job
The best job in our industry has to be working on a cruise ship video crew. I recently had the opportunity to spend several days with camera operator Edwin and his tech, Nestor. The two of them work on Princess Cruises' Island Princess. They travel the world making port videos, preparing a highlight DVD about each cruise and producing an informative daily interview program about the ship's activities with cruise director Callie Smit for the onboard TV station.
As I was watching them set up for an interview, Callie asked me to step in front of the camera and talk about the "old days," when The Love Boat was on the air and I lectured for Princess Cruises, helping passengers make better vacation photos. Later, I grabbed the insert screen shot off the TV in my cabin.
Rubber bands can help smooth the camera's panning motion. The movement will start and end smoother if you use the rubber band to pull the pan handle.
Another secret to a smoother pan, according to Stephen Press of Dallas, has to do with levers. The pan handle sticking out at the back of the tripod head is a long lever. If you pan with it, your hand has to travel a long distance to make the camera move a short way, which is good for moving quickly but increases the chance of camera wobble. If instead you put your hands on the tripod head and push it around with your thumbs—a shorter lever—you get a much smoother pan.
Conditioning the Air
"I am scheduled to record an interview in a location with a loud air conditioner. Do you have any suggestions about how I can I improve the audio?" asks Jeff King of Brooklyn, NY.
My first suggestion would be to change the location or turn off the air conditioner. Since those don't appear to be options here, perhaps the best solution would be to turn the air to "on" (not automatic). That way the AC's noise will be constant throughout the interview and won't distract viewers by cycling on and off.
There are at least three ways to minimize its sound. The first is to close-mic the talent so his or her voice will overpower the air conditioner.
Second, place "sound blankets" or moving pads over the vents. Be careful not to fully block the air flow, which could make the unit overheat and potentially cause a fire.
If you have time to experiment, try an out-of-phase microphone. Place a second mic far enough from the talent that it picks up the air conditioner but not the voice. Feed that mic through a phase reverser and record it on a separate track. Adding the second mic to the mix in post will often cancel some of the unwanted noise.
Of course, if you have the time, combine all three.
Used or Ready?
Here is a flurry of tips that help Robert Bryant of Blacksburg, Va., know if his equipment is ready for use.
1. Rubber bands around charged batteries make it quick and easy to tell the charged from the depleted, even in the dark. Simply remove the rubber band when you install the battery.
2. Every battery is labeled (A, B, C, D, etc.), so if I have a problem with a battery, I can make a note of it and sort it out later. This method will keep bad units from getting back in the rotation. Same thing goes for data cards (CF, SD, MicroSD, etc.).
3. I keep all my data cards in a small waterproof case in my pocket or belt pouch. If the card is face-up in the holder, it's available for use. If it's face-down, there's data on it that I need to offload and preserve at the next opportunity. Of course, in the meantime, I flip the record inhibit on the used cards to protect their content.
What's Your Idea?
There is an old saying: "Anyone who is fed from the pot should help keep it full." Over the past 34 years, hundreds of video professionals have given back to the industry by sharing their shooting and production tips through this column. Now it's your turn. Share your shortcuts and easy ways to do things by sending an e-mail to DVTips@nbmedia.com.