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Tips to Clip: September 2013

Power Play

One of my favorite things about writing this column is the opportunity it gives me to pass on the tips others have shared with me. This note from Norm Ross of Salt Lake City is exactly what I am talking about. Norm writes, “I’ve followed the Tips page for years. I just wanted to say July’s Surviving Session Shakes tip was an excellent one.

“There’s only one thing I might add. After working with the new power-sensitive cameras and the sometimes troublesome electrical circuits of many large meeting rooms, I’ve learned to carry a compact surge protector strip in my ditty bag. It’s much less expensive than camera repair.”

Norm continues, “Your blue masking tape tip was great. For years I’ve been trying to show newbies how to coil mic cables so they just ‘throw out’ without getting snagged up and re-coiling the cables ‘one loop in, one loop out,’ a trick I learned from an ancient mariner. In the future, the blue tape will be in the audio bag.”

Thanks Norm.

If you want to review the July Tips column, go here.

Screening Wind

Paul Cristi of Las Vegas writes, “I was shooting an outdoor interview and despite the lavalier microphone’s windscreen, it sounded like a hurricane in the earphones. Can you help?”

The first tip is the simplest: simply turn the talent so his back is to the wind.

On occasion I have blocked the wind by placing a large object such as our production van or a large reflector just outside the frame line on the upwind side. The idea is to think out of the box and use anything handy.

If that doesn’t work, and if your subject is wearing a necktie, try putting the mic under a “bubble” in the tie. The secret here is to lift the tie and not bury the mic, which would muffle the sound.

To hide the lav and provide some wind protection, I will sometimes use the “sticky mic” technique shown in the photo. I wrap a narrow piece of tape around the microphone body and then reverse it so it is sticky-side out. Note that the tape extends slightly above the edge of the capsule to provide some wind blocking for the sound ports.

The package is then sandwiched between two layers of clothing, with the sound port just barely exposed. Because the mic is stuck to the cloth on both sides and moves with it, there is usually no clothing rustle.

Sunny Side Up

Drew Marks of Kansas City also has an outside problem. He asks, “Can you help me fight the difference between my subject and a very bright background in outdoor interviews?”

Having your subject face away from the sun will put his face in the shade and reduce hard shadows. Additionally, this approach ensures you will be shooting against the shady side of background objects. Remember that most plants absorb light like sponges, so shooting against bushes, trees or any kind of greenery will usually help balance your exposure. You can also reduce the white sky effect by cutting glare (and thus brightness) with a properly used polarizing filter.

A soft reflector will bring up your subject’s face.


THE PROBLEM: We needed to get audio and video cables under a slightly raised stage without crawling under it. Going around was not an option.

THE TIP: Some time ago I cooked up the gadget shown in the picture. The ingredients are a slingshot, a cheap casting reel loaded with heavyweight line and a rubber practice bob. I just shoot the bob under the stage, attach the cable to the line and pull it back.

I’ve been able to use this device to string cables in many other situations. Perhaps the most innovative use was when I shot a line from a window in one building to another, saving us several hours of work.