Friday, July 29, 2011

Sanyo CG20 HD Camera at Radio Shack for $86

While poking around at Rat Shack today, I came across this fantastic frugal find. The Shack is clearing out their stock of the Sanyo Xacti CG20 HD video camera, my choice as the best entry level video camera you can buy. It has a ton of manual features, shoots a decent picture (for this price point) and even has a 5x zoom lens (no mic input or headphone jack, however)! Normally they run around $140 online and this price will save you over fifty bucks.
If you are looking for an inexpensive camera that is perfect for web video, you'd better run (don't walk!) to your local Radio Shack to see if they still have any in stock. You can use the Shack's website to check your local store's stock online. I don't know if every store is clearing these out, but you can easily check for stock, then give them a call about the price.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Zoom H1 Belt Pouch for Body Mounting Costs $1

While checking out cheap mini tripods at Dollar Tree yesterday, I cam across a generic cell phone case and wondered how well it would fit my Zoom H1 portable digital audio recorder. It looked like it would be the right size, and the nice belt clip on the back gave me ideas of a nice way to hide the H1 on talent along with an inexpensive lav mic.

Turns out, the case is the perfect size. Not only does the Zoom slide nicely into place, but both the mic input and headphone jacks are exposed for easy access. Even the USB port pokes out from an opening in the bottom of the case, so you could leave the Zoom nestled when downloading files to your computer.

The only thing more I could really ask for is if the velcro flap were longer. It would be great if the flap would completely cover the stereo mics and lock the recorder into place, but it's too short. No problem, I just tuck the flap behind the mics and it's ready to go. If you're worried about the recorder coming out of the case, wrapping a rubber band around the head of the Zoom and case should alleviate your fears.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Cheap Variable ND Filter Test

Today on DSLR Film Noob, Deejay chimes in with a quick test of a variable ND filter made (or rebranded) by Polaroid and sold on Amazon. This gadget attaches directly to your lens threads and let you allow or restrict light into your camera, independent of your aperture. Deejay illustrates the advantages in his most recent video.

I also find it interesting that his opening shot (without the filter) doesn't look all that bad. Shallow depth of field is a nice option, but if you didn't know the effect Deejay was going for, would you have noticed? Or cared? Alfred Hitchcock and Orson Welles would probably prefer the former compared to the latter. It's all about what you want the image to convey.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Weekly Recap Link List 7-25-11

From the files of Facebook and Twitter:

Johnathan Cisneros' PVC camera stabilizer

Knoptop's DIY light stands

TV networks pull back on original web content

Open source collaborative video editor, "Novacut"

100 resources to research your horror film

Who's your general in the war of filmmaking?

iPhone4 PVC stabilizer rig

Why you should get Google+ and unlock its potential for freelance filmmakers

DSLR Film Noob's Zoom H1 shockmount

$10 eBay LCD hood arrives

Husky 30-piece ratcheting screwdriver set for under $5

Advice on launching and independent career (YouTube Marketing)

Cheap counter weight for the 3 legged DSLR rig

DSLR rig movie kit shoulder mount

Making a shooting schedule

Are you writing?

8 filmmaking tips from Guillermo Del Toro and Nicholas Winding

Car mount

3 mini ball heads for $5

DIY green screen on PVC stands

Camera phone dolly rig

Friday, July 22, 2011

Making a Shooting Schedule

Guest post by Chris Henderson.

One of the most frustrating things about being an actor on a disorganized set is sitting around waiting for my scene to start. Now I understand that things go wrong, I understand that the production team can’t plan for everything, and I understand that sometimes things take longer than you originally thought. But it’s incredibly frustrating to sit there watching a hapless crew trying to figure out where they should put lights or seeing the director drawing up a shot list on-site because things weren’t planned very well.

Scheduling issues are difficult to combat, which is why Hollywood movies provide trailers where actors can take a nap or rehearse their lines or meditate (or whatever else they do in there). But your budget won’t allow you to provide trailers for all your performers, so scheduling for you becomes even more important.

As with everything else in micro-budget filmmaking (and life), it boils down to respect. Because you can’t pay your cast and crew (or can’t pay them very much) monetarily, you pay them in respect and flexibility. The overall shooting schedule is going to have to work around everything else your actors have going on in their personal and professional lives, so putting together a full production schedule is like the final minutes of an intense game of Jenga. And inevitably something is going to go very wrong and the whole thing is going to explode, and you’ll have to piece it back together. There’s really no advice I can give on how to do this, except communicate. Without throwing an irresponsible performer under the bus for cancelling (unless he does it a dozen times, then let everyone know what the problem is), explain to your cast and crew why it’s necessary to shuffle the schedule and let them know how much you respect their schedules and want to make this as accommodating for them as possible.

SIDE NOTE: If you do have a cast or crew member who won’t play along, or cannot make any accommodations in their schedule for your shoot, it’s time to replace them. It’s the worst job in the world, but you were the one who decided to shoot a microbudget project. Everyone, except the replaced person, will respect and appreciate you for doing what had to be done. And if you don’t do it, everyone will become frustrated with your project.

I can’t be of much help with preparing your full shooting schedule, because every cast and project has different needs, but what I can do is give you advice on putting together a daily production schedule (or call sheet). Here are some basics that may seem obvious but are overlooked by many inexperienced independent filmmakers:

Be prepared. The absolute, most important thing is that you are as prepared as you can possibly be before you show up for every day of shooting. Know what you’re trying to accomplish, have your shot list already made up, and as much as possible know your blocking and lighting and camera setups.

Don’t make everyone show up at the same time. Too often novice filmmakers will have a slate of three or four scenes in a day and will have everyone show up at 8:00 a.m. even if they aren’t up until the last scene. Know your schedule and figure out what time each scene will shoot.

Crew call should be earlier than cast call. Don’t make your actors show up and sit there while your crew rigs lights and drags cables, unless there is something for them to do. Only ask the cast to come in early if the director will be available to rehearse with them or they’ll be in makeup.

Schedule time for makeup. On a big-budget set, it’s not uncommon to have actors show up two hours before their shoot time for makeup. Often on micro-budget shoots though, where your makeup is simple (or non-existent) this is way too early. If makeup is minimal, only have your cast show up 30 minutes or so before start time.

Know your people. On a one-day shoot, you’ll just have to guess. But on a multi-day shoot, get to know how everyone in your cast and crew works. Some actors won’t prepare well and need more time on set to memorize lines; some D.P.’s take forever to set up each shot; some makeup people like to chat; and some people nail their job the first time, every time. Know who you’re working with and adjust your daily schedules accordingly.

Over-schedule on the back end. Don’t bring people in before they’re needed, but always schedule them longer than you think they’ll be needed. You don’t want to keep people past their scheduled end time, because they’ll make plans and resent you for it. On the flip side, people love to finish up early. And if things go terribly wrong, at least they’ll still be out at the scheduled time.

Schedule time for meals. Not everyone needs to eat at once, but it’s good if they can. Either way, make sure each member of your cast and crew has a break long enough to eat and recharge at some point during the day.

Communicate! Communication = respect. If possible, have someone on hand (probably you’re A.D.) to let everyone know where you are with the schedule. If things are running behind, call everyone who’s scheduled later to let them know.

Film sets (independent or otherwise) are notorious for being way behind schedule, keeping people hours and hours late, and changing things with little or no notice. It can be really frustrating. On the flip side, if your set is organized, well-scheduled, and runs smoothly, people will love working with you and will want to work with you again and again.

CHRIS HENDERSON is the writer and executive producer for the recently produced web series “The Gap.” He graduated from the University of Utah with a B.A. in Film (focus on Screenwriting), and has worked full-time as an actor/writer/director/producer in the film/theatre/television industry of Salt Lake City for over 10 years.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

$10 eBay LCD Hood Arrives

I've been wanting a camcorder LCD hood for a while now. I hate it when you end up shooting in bright sunlight, only to be annoyed by the glare on your fold-out monitor. I know there are a lot of DIY solutions to this (I've made them out of gaffer's tape before), but I wanted something more durable that would last.

I knew there was an official Canon version for $20 that would fit my HFS100, but that seemed a bit pricey. I found a knock-off on eBay for half that price, and after a lot of procrastinating (I didn't really need one), finally bought it. Coming from China it took a couple of weeks, but I was very glad when it arrived.

The hood is made of faux leather that wraps around your LCD and velcros against itself to stay in place. That's pretty much it. It shades your monitor so you can see better, though at certain times of day, you'll still have problems. I like the fact that the control joystick and FUNC button lie outside the hood, making camera control unobstructed. I also like that the hood folds flat for easy storage in my camera bag. If I have a complaint, it's that the velcroed back doesn't lie flat against the LCD, creating an unsightly lump. This could be resolved by removing the hard insert from the inside of the flap (requiring some slicing), but it's something I can live with.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

DSLR Film Noob's Zoom H1 Shockmount

If you don't follow Deejay over DSLR Flim Noob, you really should. Even if you aren't a DSLR shooter (like me), there is still a wealth of knowledge to be had from his blog and YouTube channel. He has even started manufacturing gear with his 3D printer and I was lucky enough to get a beta version of his first product, a svelte shockmount for the Zoom H1 and Tascam DR-05 digital audio recorders.

The unit is made of sturdy plastic and has a hot/cold shoe mount as well as a 1/4" 20 thread running through the bottom of said mount. In the accompanying pictures, I've got my Zoom H1 in two configurations where this mount comes in very handy. The first is on top of the Vivatar mini-tripod/hand grip, which is a great way to gather ambient stereo sound while cutting down on operator noise. The second is inside the Mini Stabilizer Rig, which gives a much better way to add sound to smaller cameras that don't give you a microphone input. Again, operator noise is greatly reduced by the shockmount.

This is a great idea and one that no one else has available (that I know of). More good news is that Deejay is selling them for only $10 (+$2 shipping) over at his Noob Store. If this is something you could use, be sure to snap one up as quickly as possible. If you don't, he'll run out of stock and you'll have to wait for another batch to be created.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Knoptop's DIY Light Stands

Knoptop returns this week with a Quick FX we all can learn something from. While I use my PVC light stands for all kinds of things, Dave gives us a slightly different take on some specialized stands that have some very good, specific uses. I like the fact that these stands have no feet to trip over and how version one can collapse for transportation. I also like how you can squeeze these against the wall or in a corner. I can do that with my stands as well (just remove two feet), but Dave's solution is faster and more compact. As long as you have a roof to press up against, that is.

I also think these would be great for a home studio setup. I can see myself leaving these in place, while my PVC stands remain in a bag ready to go on location. Everything has a purpose and I love the stuff that is multi-purpose.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Weekly Recap Link List 7-18-11

From the files of Facebook and Twitter:

Mike Fugal's portable sound booth:

Using improv techniques to improve your photography and filmmaking skills

Introducing the Zoom H2n audio recorder

Make your own gun sound fx

Timelapse test

Exploring the Twilight Zone #27

Scott's Super Screenplay Seminar!

DIY Wii Mario Wheel iPhone / Owle stabilizer

Fair use school: response to YouTube's copyright school video

Emilio Jose Espinosa's PVC iPhone stabilizer rig

Wayne Clark's PVC stabilizer rig

Review: Atlas Camera Support

Janice Koch Glesser's mini stabilizer rig

How the Polish brothers are raking it in with a steath, no-budget movie

Inexpensive light kit for $65

Friday, July 15, 2011

Review: Atlas Camera Support

I must be doing something right. I'm starting to get review requests and the first official one on the YouTube channel is for the Atlas Camera Support, Light Weight version. The Atlas consists of tiny harness with a fiberglass rod that extends over your head. Bending the rod forward allows you attach your camera (or in my case, my camera inside the PVC stabilizer), which essentially becomes weightless.

Press play to discover my findings.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Wayne Clark's PVC Stabilizer Rig

A couple of months ago I purchased a Norbert Filmmaker Kit for around $500, which is basically the same thing you made from PVC. I have several small and medium size cameras that we use, so we tried building one of your units. I have to say, yours is much better.

We have built three so far, and along the way made several modifications for improvement. Just wanted to pass these along to you. I have included a few pics to explain better.

First was to change the mount system. I used a PVC electrical junction box for the base. You can use a 2 inch 1/4-20 thumb screw which fits perfect for mounting the camera. I used the bolt to keep the thumb screw inside the box, with a dab of GOOP to keep the bolt locked in place. I also had an extra 1/4 20 adapter "screw" with a male and female threads on the ends. I used this as a mounting means for a tripod or monopod.

I also did not glue the back end together, but used bolts with wing-nuts to hold it together. This makes it easy for transport. I also used "GOOP" instead of PVC cement for the final assembly. This gives you more time to align the pieces together.

For the top and back handles I used foam pipe insulation which is cheap but gives you a better grip. The insulation MUST be covered with Hockey tape. Without it, the insulation will squeak and make lots of noise. I also used 3M spray glue to keep the insulation in place so as not to move. By the way, hockey tape can be found on eBay really cheap. A big roll for around $4.00 which includes shipping.

I also used hot shoe adapters to make an additional accessories mount for additional lights and such. If you round off the corners on the bottom, they will plug right into the top of the 1/2 hole of the coupler. Use epoxy to lock them in.

In addition, I put a couple of "eye" bolts on the corners, to allow the use of a strap, so that if you carry the unit for a while, its nice to let it hang from around your neck for a while. I also used one of these for a job on a helicopter last weekend. The strap assured me that my camera would not fly out the open door.

Each unit is a different size to accommodate different cameras. The largest is a Panasonic HVX200, which I used for the helicopter job.

I also came up with another way to make the rubber bands to stay on the shockmount better. I use black hair bands with last longer and are stronger. After cutting the groves for the bands, drill a small hold and the base of the grove. The band will now lock into place in the hole and not come out.

Wanted to say thanks for your idea, its saved me a BUNCH of money and its so adaptable.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Scott's Super Screenplay Seminar!

No, I'm not plugging anything. I was recently asked to teach a short class on introductory screenwriting and this is the Powerpoint presentation that I used. I've included it here for the students of the class (who have homework) as well as anyone else who might be interested.

The class only runs for two nights (one week apart) and I freely admit this is barely enough time to learn to spell screenplay, let alone how to write one. I was just hoping to shove people in the right direction. If they really wanted to learn something, this should be a good jumping-off point. Things seemed to go well enough. We'll see how many people return with pages next week.

If you are having trouble reading some of the screenplay excerpts, click on the 'expand to full screen' icon in the lower right corner of the player. That should take care of the problem.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Mike Fugal's Portable Sound Booth

Hey Scott,

I've attached some pics of my portable voice booth. I've successfully used it to do auditions on the road instead of building hotel pillow forts like I used to. I've also made some finished recordings with it, though I use my home booth when I'm not on the road. I must always stipulate that the portable booth is not a solution for cheap "soundproofing" but is good to deaden the room noise caused by your own voice and provide some acoustic treatment. Now, if someone is using it to record an instrument, it might not work as well. But I found it great for VO since I can just put my script on my iPhone, set it in the booth and stick my head in there. Some people have scoffed at this since it doesn't look like a "real" VO booth but the way I see it, does my whole body need to be included if all I'm recording is my voice?

Here is the link for the acoustic foam I use. I found this to be the least expensive that was actually meant to be used as acoustic treatment. After some research, it seems that 2" pyramid foam is a good middle ground for many voices. It ends up being about $1.50 per square foot.

I got the 14” cube from It’s called a whitmor cube and they were only carrying it in the online store when I bought mine. Mine were two cubes for $20 or so. I made one for myself and one for one of my VO teachers. When it comes to acoustics, I would be careful when trying other types of cubes depending on what they are made of but who knows? Maybe you’ll find something even better.

I wouldn’t mind you sharing this on your blog, just so it’s clear that It’s not my invention and any credit should really go to Harlan Hogan, a voice over artist on whose site I originally saw the idea. He makes a pro version but freely gave the instructions for the type that I use on his site as well. Last time I looked, he was only selling the pro version which is a bit different than this. But the whitmor cube style isn’t all that difficult or expensive to construct yourself. Cube, Velcro, Foam, add your recording hardware and you’re done!

Scott says: this is a great idea and even if it isn't original, it's a good one to revisit. Notice that the Target link reveals a single cube that sells for a mere $8, so you don't need to buy two. You can also save some money on the foam by trying the 1" squares (12 for $11) instead of the 2" version (12 for $18). To find about more about Mike and his work check out Fugal Productions, as well as the Shadowfoils website, a product I will be reviewing in the near future.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Weekly Recap Link List 7-11-11

From the files of Facebook and Twitter:

A limp and an eye patch (character development)

Bottle rocket POV video

DIY adjustable ladder type dolly - new mods

DIY Wii wheel iPhone video Owle stabilizer

Using dropbox to manage projects with big files

The tsunami of crap

James DeRuvo's mini camera stabilizer

Kermit the Frog's guide to knowing nothing

Electronic viewfinder for compact digital cameras

Adapter is a free everything-to-everything transcoding app for Mac and Windows

Stabilization of video cameras

The $190 iPhone SLR mount. Wait, what?

Eight hours on a DIY film set in 221 seconds

A video lit with the PVC light stands

Lighting basic series I: where to put your key light

Cheapest entry level DSLRs for video

Hanging sound blankets on the PVC light stands

Friday, July 8, 2011

Hanging Sound Blankets on the PVC Light Stand

One thing I love about all this DIY stuff is how it seems to reinvent itself, often with no effort on my part. While pondering solutions for echoing "live" rooms (ones with lots of sound reflection), I thought of a way to use existing pieces in the PVC light stand kit to hang a sound blanket. Most people use moving blankets to absorb wayward sound waves, but I didn't have any, so I used the thickest blankets I could find.

This setup involved a maxing out of the light stand's stability. After adding three 2' lengths for a total height of 6', I added the third stabilizer leg (mentioned in the original video) as well as a third foot. At the top of the stand I added a 3/4" t-joint and plugged a 2' length into each end. This provides a perfect hanger for the blankets, which usually span 4' in width. Finally, I added a 10lb. leg weight to each stand, to keep it from tipping over.

Now comes the hard part. Where to hang these blankets in a boomy room can be a real challenge. The general consensus is that you get as much absorption (the blankets) or diffusion (a stack of crates) in the way of the incoming dialogue, typically behind the camera. Experimentation should give some usable results. I'm just glad I now have a practical way to hang blankets, which was always a question mark.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

James DeRuvo's Mini Camera Stabilizer

I was thrilled when I saw your video and you gave me a shout out as inspiration for the mini stabilizer design using a Wii Steering Wheel. Great find, no? I was also glad that you simplified the design to make it sturdier and more practical. My first try at the MiniStab, I did a lot of cutting - with the goal of placing the camera in between the handles with the screw at the bottom. That meant I had to remove the top cross plate and that just made it too flimsy.

Moving the hole to the back cross bar with a frugal ball mount was genius! It does the job and it keeps the MiniStab stable.

I went a bit further by placing some Styrofoam inside where the WiiMote goes for more support, and then using hockey tape to add "gripability." Yes, I know I used a lot. But I also noticed with continued use, the stab's pieces began to work lose at the tiny screws. So using the hockey tape gives it further support and will keep them from working loose. It also does double duty by keeping the Styrofoam in and giving the whole rig additional support.

And as a bonus, not only does it work as a great pocket camera stabilizer, but with a smartphone adapter like the Hot Shoe Holder,you can use your iPhone to record video, and also to play games (my son uses it for a flight sim on the iPhone).

I wouldn't use it on my Canon 7D without worrying - I have your excellent Frugal Stabilizer for that. But for pocket video cameras, it's a excellent addition to the quiver.

Scott says: I've also used this contraption to play games on my cell phone, a Palm Pre Plus. In the near future I'll post some pictures that shows how I modified the cell phone mount (mentioned in the episode) to work better than its original form. Speaking of the iPhone, check out the following video from Facebook group member Paul Bitmatta. It's another take on getting your iPhone inside the Wii wheel.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Weekly Recap Link List 7-4-11

From the files of Facebook and Twitter:

Script Cops Episode 3: Writer on the Run

A full length series I worked on: The Gap

Digital SLR belt clip for audio recorders

Setting camera focus on yourself

Inspiration: "Fringe" props

How to build a Hackintosh with the latest Intel Sandy bridge processors

7 last minute checks before you roll camera

Sony HX9 point and shoot camera

The Modern Moviemaking Movement (FREE e-book)

Hitler finds out about Final Cut Pro X

Jeffrey Collins' PVC stabilizer rig

Harbor Freight emergency tools

Light duty ratchet clips

Dollar Tree dry erase boards

iPhone 4 Wii wheel stabilizer


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