Friday, April 29, 2011

Zoom H1 Accessories

I've owned the Zoom H1 digital audio recorder for a few months now and I like it quite a bit. Zoom also sells an accessory kit for around $25, but some of the contents could definitely be improved upon. I take a look at some of the options you can buy for very little as well as some I came up with myself. Today's video wraps all these things together in one show and, if anything, should create some thoughts about creating a better recording experience for anyone.

Press play!

Furry Head Windscreens:

Storm Chaser Wind Jacket:

Vivitar mini-tripod / steady grip

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Andrew Sellers' PVC Light Stand

Hiya Scott! I just recently discovered your YouTube channel and I dig your work. The day I first watched your PVC light stand build, I built two of them. I decided to add more legs for stability, like you suggested, but didn't want to wait for a tee clamp and I also wanted not just three but four legs. So I came up with a small modification that changes nothing about how the original pieces are cut or arranged, but instead adds a cross to the top of the first pole and built two new legs in the same manner as the originals. It makes for a really stable structure and weighting super easy. Hope you like it and keep it up with the brilliant tutorials!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Cool Dry Erase Slate Mod for Eraser Storage

This past weekend I ran audio for the short film, Another Day. It was directed by Antonio Lexerot who has previously worked for me as an actor. His audio guy baled and I filled in. It was a fun day and everything went well.

A neat trick I learned involved Antonio's slate. I had previously created a Cheap Slate for him on laminated card stock, which he gaffe taped to a wooden clapper board. On the back was eraser storage, created by utilizing a large part of the blister pack the eraser came in. The plastic was gaffe taped to the back of the slate and the eraser slid in and out when needed. Handy.

This is not only a great idea, but since you are using part of the original packaging, not much is wasted. Nice repurposing! The only thing I would add are some clips on the back to hold the dry erase pens. Place them on both sides of the eraser and you won't affect the thickness of the slate any more than you already have.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Coop Cooper's PVC Stabilizer Rig

Hey Scott. Coop Cooper from here. Thanks for the great DIY info. I wanted to share my version of the PVC rig for you and your readers...

I built my PVC rig a few months ago and have used it quite often since then, modifying it to meet my preferences and needs. I'm glad to see a lot of your readers find accessories (like the hockey puck fast plate) and create handlebars below the rig as I did for a solid shoulder mount.

From the pictures, you'll notice I added an extra 5 inch section to the rear bar. I use this primarily as a shoulder mount, but kept it just short enough so I can use it like a rifle stock if I need a certain angle or different way to hold it for comfort. I also added several ounces of lead shot padded and glued into the rear and bottom tubes of the stock. This gives it a nice counterweight since the design is fairly front-heavy.

I also off-centered the rear handle and shoulder structure, building an extra bracket/platform so my camera could stay centered on the rig without pushing it all the way up to the front bar. I did this because I wanted to be able to see through the viewfinder and since my DSLR camera is a mirrorless Panasonic GH1, I'm easily able to do this when the rig is mounted on my shoulder. This also puts the flip-out, articulating viewfinder more in-line with my eyes under most shooting conditions.

I also have the 3 handlebars (they look ridiculous but are the best I could find at the time) at the bottom which can act like a stand, but they are also very comfortable to use in a shoulder-mount situation. I highly recommend that for anyone who wants to use the rig mounted this way. The last handle sticking out from the top bar was another helpful choice I made considering it adds balance and stability due to the off-centered rear stock when you're holding the rig low and tilting it upwards.

Booming out front from the top bar 4-way coupler is a homemade shockmount. Seated in the shockmount is a Zoom H1 doubling as a boom mic and is mounted on a mic clip stand adapter I got in the H1 Accessory pack. I had to extend the adapter a couple of inches with a PVC coupler so it would fit. If anyone has tried it, you know that using a Zoom field recorder on a camera or rig without a shockmount is a disaster. It picks up every vibration and movement, and I've found this solution – as ugly as it is – eliminates all of that. The cable connecting the Zoom H1 to the camera is a Sescom attenuator cable (with a Y-splitter for headphone monitoring). This audio setup still creates a lot of in-camera hiss on the GH1 so I recommend hitting the record button on the H1 when filming to pick up an extra, cleaner track.

I painted the rig and unfortunately used Gaffer's tape for the rest which didn't turn out well. Since this configuration has a lot of joints, it creaks like a 110 year-old grandma so epoxying it all together is a must and eliminates 90% of the creak. I left the top bar 4-way coupler and the T-joint coupler the camera rests on unglued so I can adjust their swivel position if need be. With the camera it only weighs about 6 or 7 pounds.

It ain't pretty but I've used it to film a lot of live music acts and one gubernatorial campaign video (here's the link... The handheld shots are mine on the rig and the camera used was a hefty Canon XH-A1).

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Pump Up the Volume on your Passive XLR Box

Today, the DSLR Film Noob delves deeper into a little gizmo he discovered awhile back, the Fiio E5 headphone amp. This amp can also be used as a preamp for something like a passive mixer / XLR adapter. These include models made by Sign Video, Studio1 Productions and Beachtek. Adding this amp is a great way to boost the signal from under-powered mics without relying on the cheap electronics usually found in your camera.

Deejay shows us the difference this amp makes and proves his point well. My only concern with using this in the field is battery life. The Fiio is rechargeable, but I'm not sure how long that charge lasts. To avoid disaster, I'd recommend getting two of these. One can be charging while the other is in use, so you can swap them when the need arises.

I own the Sign Video XLR-PRO and it has lasted through two different cameras. It's an excellent add-on that gives you access to a whole world of great-sounding gear. One thing I really like about this old-school model is the two inputs for unbalanced mics with 1/8" connectors. Modern models only give you one, but that second input is very handy if you want to mic two separate people and only have access to cheaper microphones.

A disadvantage of this model is that the knobs and switches will poke you in the hand if you are "strap-holding" the camera. This can become painful after awhile. Newer models have moved the switches and knobs, but you can still effectively (and painlessly) use the old version if you place it in a rig for hand-shooting instead of your hand. I do.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Using Ankle Weights as Sandbags

To put it simply, sandbags are a great way to keep your light stands from falling over. Typically a canvas bag filled with sand (I know, weird!), they also have a handle attached to make lugging them around easier. You can also use them to keep your PVC dolly track from rolling around or as a low-angle place to put your camera. You can get them for about $6 on eBay, as long as you are willing to buy four at a time. Finding the weight to put in them (sand, rice, beans) is your responsibility.

There are some DIY plans out there, but they all require sewing skills and none of them seemed to best the eBay $6 version. I liked the version on DIY Photography which look great and have a more vertical shape (and great color), but you still have to sew them. That one is also filled with bird shot (small steel pellets used in shotgun ammo) which adds even more cost. There is also a very cheap duct tape and plastic bag version, but I was looking for something a little more polished.

After poking around in some online forums, I came across a post about ankle/wrist weights. The poster commented that he used these exercise tools that he picked up in thrift stores. I liked that idea, especially since they came with their own weight and I would not have to add cost or time by buying rice or finding sand. It looked like the perfect solution if I could find them at a price better than $6.

And I did. Wal-mart carries a pair of Gold's Gym branded 10lb. ankle weights for $9. You get two weights whose shape will conform to whatever you place them on. They have 5 segments filled with sealed sand packets you can remove to lighten the load. The included velcro straps make it easy to place around non-flat surfaces without falling off. They are black in color, which means they will disappear when placed on any set (which may be a disadvantage when you go to pack them up later). Some day-glow tape would make them stand out more if that's what you're going for.

I tested them out on a PVC light stand and am very pleased. I first dropped them on the flat base and the weight kept it still. Next, I added the third leg and wrapped the weight around it with the velcro straps. This configuration worked even better and gave a lot more stability to the post, allowing it to do much more (like safely holding a round paper lantern). I think these Wal-mart weights are a success!

I like repurposing things even better than the DIY route. It usually takes no effort, the item comes from a factory so it looks great, and if you don't like whatever it is you're trying to get it to do, you can still use it for the original intent. In fact, when these weights are not performing on set, I can still wrap them around my ankles and go running. I like that.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Zachary Olson's Stabilizer / Dolly / Shoulder Rig

Thank you for posting your DIY and cheap filmmaking technique videos, they have been very helpful to me. I saw your stabilizer rig and decided to make my own with a few modifications.

I used an eye bolt on my mounting T so that I would not need to have a screwdriver to mount my camera. I added handles on my rig and found some tricycle grips for $3.99 to cover them. Initially I had glued these in and later regretted it when I wanted to make a table top conversion. However, I found that I was able to take a hair dryer and heat up the joint and after applying some tension with a pair of channel locks I was able to get them out and salvage the handles.

Now that they are removable I am able to insert my table dolly wheels. I made these using roller blade wheels from Goodwill, some hardware, and some scrap PVC. I used a BBQ (do at your own risk) and heated up the PVC until it was pliable and used two 2X4s to flatten one end. Then I drilled a hole through the flat end for the axle of the wheels.

I also made the leg in the back removable so I could mount different accessories to it including a shoulder mount, steadicam weight (still need to build), and a wheel for the table dolly. The shoulder mount was intentionality made not square so that it was shaped to fit my shoulder.

Total for rig+shoulder mount = $ 20.80
(not including tripod or monitor)

Total for Dolly wheel inserts = $10.15
(the roller blades were $6.99 at Goodwill)

Thanks again!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Recorder Ruckus: Tascam DR-05 vs. Zoom H1

Today on DSLR Film Noob we get a great comparison of two competing budget digital audio recorders, the Tascam DR-05 and the Zoom H1. The price point for both is $99 and Deejay gives us a great rundown of the pros and cons of both models. A recorder is an indispensable tool and this is a great comparison of the two most affordable models that are made for production use (not adapted like a voice recorder).

I own the Zoom H1 and have been very happy with it. I use it for all of my VO work and the quality is surprisingly good, even with a cheap microphone. I do concur, however, that the build quality is lacking. I would not want to drop or step on one of these. The Tascam looks better in almost every department except size and weight, which could be important to if you're going to make your talent wear one. I also like Deejay's point about the shape of the microphone area. I can see how a dead cat windscreen would fit much better on the H1 than one would on the DR-05.

Wherever you decide to spend your $99, I don't think you can go wrong. These both look like great options and though I can't vouch for the Tascam model, I would have no problem gambling on the purchase. Thanks Deejay!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Vince Ruffalo's Dry Erase Clapper Slate

We took your idea for a low cost clapper board and made our own. It cost us a mere $6.60 and virtually no time to assemble. Attached is a pdf of how we modified your board, for people to download or make comments on and a picture of the finished product.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Rubber Lens Hood Arrives

A few weeks back I blogged about a Quick FX episode from Knoptop that featured a very large, yet inexpensive, rubber lens hood. I was so impressed by the potential of this hood, that I went ahead and bought one for myself. What I really liked was that, with a cheap step-up ring, the hood would not only fit my stock Canon HFS100 lens, but also my wide angle Raynox 6600. Now I have one very affordable hood that suits all my needs.

The above photo shows the three lens hoods I've been using. The first is a plastic "flower petal" hood that fits my stock 58mm thread, the rubber hood is in the middle (flanked by the step-up ring) and the Canon XH-A1 hood that fits on the Raynox. The petal hood was a cheap buy on ebay and works fine, but the coverage from the sun (as you can guess) is limited. The XH-A1 hood (which I picked up at a photography store for $17) works well and looks good, but only fits on a 72mm diameter lens and only works with it's screw mount. I always had to wrap the Raynox with a thin piece of gaffer's tape and even this wouldn't guarantee the hood would stay on. If I bumped something, chances were good the hood would go askew or fall off.

The rubber hood / step-up ring (58mm to 72mm) combo is a great solution. Now I have one hood for all seasons that is compact (it collapses) and useful. It fits nicely into my camera bag along with the ring, ready for action. Not bad for $5.30. Anyone want to buy the Canon XH-A1 hood?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Ryan Wickham's PVC Stabilizer Rig

I built the PVC Rig according to your video, then I covered it in electrical tape, vs. gaffer tape, which I didn't have at the time. For the microphone mount I screwed a 3/8ths screw facing up (but I didn't attach a bolt I held in place with more electrical tape) then I simply screwed on my microphone, and there we go, my custom pvc rig.

Bluetooth Wireless Mic Setup - The Sequel

A very sick Deejay returns in DSLR Film Noob to complete his tests with the bluetooth transmitter/receiver combo and give us some very worthwhile results. In the last episode(s), he learned that the cheap set didn't play well together, but if paired with a slightly more expensive cousin, they both perform great. Go figure. If you have wireless audio needs, this may fit the bill (though I worry about the rechargeable battery life) and save you some cash.

I also want to give Deejay some "feel better" karma. Get well soon!

Friday, April 1, 2011

C Clamp Mount for $10

If you've ever needed to mount a camera (or anything that uses a 1/4" thread) on a cylinder, then this is the gizmo for you. Partly inspired by the Manfrotto Super Clamp and partly by the C-clamp you used in wood shop, this will hold firm to whatever you screw it onto. What I really like about this build is that the the DJ lighting clamp has a hole in just the right spot to mount other things (like a ball head) to. No drilling, no cutting and the matte paint finish won't mar whatever it's attached to. It's simple, easy and effective. My favorite kind of project.


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