Monday, December 29, 2014

Q&A: How Do I Find Locations?


Frugal Fail: Prop Rifle Recoil Simulator
PluralEyes 3.5
Zoom H1 Handy Recorder
Tablet Tripod Mount on eBay
Battle of the Worlds (1961)

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

$4 Zoom H1 Shockmount Arrives!

I had a question a few weeks back about finding an inexpensive Zoom H1 Handy Recorder shockmount. I've always referred people to DSLR Film Noob's version, be he has been sold out for awhile, which sent me poking around eBay. I found one for $4, ordered it, and it arrived just in time for Christmas!

This shockmount isn't made for the H1, but it appears to be large enough (according to the specs) to hold it and give access to the record button. Before I could pull it out of the packaging, I noticed the fine print located at the bottom of the card. True to form, it provided for some very humorous reading. It states:

Capacitor microphone, recording the microphone, studios, computer K song first professional microphone shockproof clip. We always do the most professional computer peripheral microphone K song accessories. For your singing more add presence.

Sounds good! Watch for a video review coming soon.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Q&A: Why a Lav and not a Boom Mic?


Open Broadcaster Software (OBS)
CamStudio: Free Screen Recorder Software
Radio Shack Clip-On Mic
Zoom H1 Handy Recorder
40 minutes of VHS Glitching (dropout)

Saturday, December 20, 2014

CamStudio: Free Screen Recorder Software

Awhile ago when I wanted to do some instructional videos about Sony Vegas Pro, I went looking for a program that would allow me to record everything happening on my computer screen. Back then there was the very expensive Camtasia and the free CamStudio. Guess which one I picked?

The nicest thing about CamStudio is that it's free and fairly functional. I does let you record the screen (with periodic glitches) and gives you an .AVI file that will drop into any editing program provide you use the default codec. It does what supposed to do and I have used it for videos featuring Vegas Pro, as well as for shots of b-roll web surfing to help illustrate points in my video (like items on eBay).

CamStudio has its own website, but can also be found on Sourceforge, where you can all versions of the program and a support forum to help with questions.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Archive Problem & Frugal NAS

Last week I posted a video about archiving footage to dual layer Blu-rays discs. I thought it was a good idea, but afterward received a flurry of comments over on YouTube about how it might not be the best idea due to the delicate nature of optical media in general. I also received some great feedback via email, including a link to Will Fastie's excellent blog post, "The Archive Problem".

In Will's email he brought up the point that despite the fact that there doesn't seem to be any obvious choice since all electronic media has a definite expiration date, it's good to promote this discussion. If we create any amount of video work and want to keep it, we need to store it somehow. Since there is no one best storage solution, the "answer" seems to be to spread your files over several media forms and store them in different places. When the expiration date of these forms approaches, you must then re-copy them to new media forms. What a pain!

The following is some new information (to me, anyway) that has been brought to my attention since my Blu-ray video. While offering a decent amount of storage to the average user (50GB), the discs are fragile and can lose data in 1-5 years depending on the quality of the disc. I really have no idea how long they will last. For me, they also took an hour to burn. If you have a lot of video to back up (and I do), this process can take too long and tie up computing cycles better used elsewhere. The discs are cheap, but may not be worth the time or peace of mind I lose creating them.

Memory cards, flash drives, and Solid State Drives (SSDs) appear to have the longest life, but cost the most. Cards and flash drives have a built in charge that could last up to ten years if you write to them once and store them away. SSDs are purported to last longer. Right now, a 256GB flash drive costs $70 and an SSD drive of the same size costs about $100. If you need massive amounts of backup space, this is cost prohibitive, especially if you are on a budget.

That returns us to our old friend/enemy, the hard drive. These can you get large amounts of storage space for very little money. A 1TB bare or USB drive will only cost you $60 and that price will keep dropping. Hard drives will fail, however, and it's never a question of if but when. If you use them for archiving, you can't just leave them in a drawer as they must be spun every so often (at least monthly) to maintain data heath.

The best hard drive solution seems to be the NAS or Network Attached Storage. Essentially a little RAID 1 array, these boxes are a mini computer that holds two or more drives that create redundant backup. If you have NAS for 2TB, you have two 2TB drives in the case. If one fails, you replace it and the other rebuilds the archive. Very neat. These are not very expensive and the only real drawback is that both drives are right next to each other. In case of a fire or theft, you're screwed.

I really like the NAS idea. It plugs into your network and your can archive wirelessly and get an instant backup on the second drive. Still, you have to drop at least $300 to get up and running, though getting up and running is stupid easy.

There is a way to craft a "Frugal NAS", which I'd like to discuss. In my little apartment we have a 32" widescreen TV plugged into a cheap desktop computer. We watch all our digital content (Netflix, YouTube, DVDs, Pandora) through this setup, which never gets powered down--just like a server.

As a result, I can do what the NAS box does, since I already have a way to attach hard drives. I can hook up two external USB drives, using one as the archive drive and the other as the archive backup. This allows me to copy files to the archive (wirelessly if I wish) and have an automated backup to the second drive using a free program like Karen's Replicator. If one drive fails, I replace it and KR will restore the data from the good drive.

I really like this idea and feel that it is the most affordable and secure solution. My only question now is when I fill these up do I store them and create a new archive or buy even larger drives and add onto them? And do I want to separate the drives across the network to avoid the fire/theft issue?

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Archive Your Video on Blu-Ray Discs

Over the last few years since I've been posting videos, I've accumulated quite a bit of video. In the past, when I would fill up my computer's hard drive, I would offload to an external drive. Now I have several hard drives and live in fear of the day when one or more of them will fail, taking my videos with it. I needed a safer, more permanent solution to archive my stuff.

What I settled on is nothing new, but in the wake of advancing technology has become more affordable to the filmmaker strapped by a dearth of funds. I'm referring to writable dual layer Blu-ray discs, that allow for 50GB worth of data storage per disc. They are easily stored, hold a decent amount of footage, and aren't as susceptible to data loss like a hard drive is.

The best news may be the price. I picked up a simple, no-frills burner on eBay for $60. It's a drawer-loading laptop drive inside a USB enclosure. You simply plug it in, your OS finds the driver and your ready to burn. The free sofware ImgBurn will take care of all your burning needs.

Just be careful when shopping for a Blu-ray writer. A lot of them are labeled as "Blu-ray writer/burners", but are actually only Blu-ray readers than burn standard DVDs. Always read the fine print before ordering. A good red flag for this is price. If it is less than $50, it probably doesn't burn Blu-rays (or maybe doesn't burn dual layer discs).

Tangible storage is also cheap and easy.  Any standard CD/DVD case will hold your archive and you can store or transport your burner in a sleeve or hard case made for 7" tablet computers. Both these options are very cheap and very easy to find.

I realize this Blu-ray archive idea may not be so feasible with the impending 4k revolution on the horizon. Those large file sizes will need to be addressed in some other, probably yet undiscovered, way. Right now, if you are like me and still work in an HD environment, this isn't such a bad idea.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Frugal Filmmaker on Film Thrive Podcast!

Just in case you haven't tired of listening to me talk, I was recently interviewed by Arel Avellino on his Film Thrive Podcast. He contacted me via Skype and I had a pleasant forty-five minute conversation with him about some core values of Frugal Filmmaking that I've been preaching for a few years now.

If you have the time and are interested about some of the origins concerning this blog and the YouTube videos that go with it, you may want to give this a listen. I'm not sure how well I come across, but always enjoy blabbing on and on about what can be done on a tiny budget.

Be sure to check out the other podcasts on Film Thrive. Arel has interviewed some interesting folks and they each have something of value to contribute to the filmmaking conversation.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Making of "Collection Day" - Full Cut!

When I was making Collection Day, Tanner Smith was documenting the whole process and creating (per my request) episodes around all ten of our shooting days. Those have been previously "collected" (yes, I did go there) in this playlist, but if you'd like to see the non-episodic version, Tanner has created such a thing and posted it on his YouTube channel.

Even if you have no interest in the film, you might want to check it out anyway. There's always something to learn about filmmaking watching someone else do it. And for those of you concerned about my dry presentation on my instructional videos, watch this video. I'm a little less dry.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Frugal Holiday Gift Guide 2014

The holidays are rapidly approaching, so I thought I'd do something kind of fun by sharing a top five list of frugal holiday gifts from things that I've had some experience with over this past year. These are all things that I find extremely valuable in getting your film shot.

If you don't want to watch the video for all gory details and witty banter (what?), here is the list complete with links on where to buy these items and accompanying videos that explain them better.

5) Sony NP-F970 Clone Battery (power your camera with this battery)
4) Leatherman Wingman (highly recommended sheath)
3) Sony a5000 mirrorless camera (great deal on this entry-level cam)
2) Chisso 7" External Monitor (in gray and silver)
1) Dual Angled Flash Brackets (use them to construct The Frugal Camera Cage)

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

R&D: The Itsy Bitsy (Camera) Slider

Here's a little project I've been working on that I wished had worked better. Okay, it's really not working at all, but I like the idea and might have to pursue it from a different direction. I thought of the idea when I saw a link to a tiny version of the RatRig and thought about making a cheap, small camera slider out of off-the-shelf parts. That's when I came across the "two-way macro rail slider" on eBay.

Macro sliders are supposed to be used to incrementally move your camera back and forth along a rail until you have your super-closeup picture in focus. I've used them in the past on my DIY Steadicam, The Frugal Floater. It made for a great camera stage where the incremental moves could be used to achieve balance. I thought this longer version could also be put to good use for something it was not made for.

 The first version of the two way slider was too cheap to be of any use. The gears that drove the slider mechanism did not play well together and there was actually some grinding when used. This led me to spending two more dollars on the "Fotomate" branded slider that looked the same as my short version used on The Frugal Floater. Cosmetically, the only difference is the Fotomate label and the rubber pad on the top that resembles a tank tread. The inferior model has no name and no tank tread rubber.

Anyway, my first attempt to use this gizmo as a camera slider was to remove one of the cold shoe mounts from one end, mount the camera and turn the knob manually to move the camera platform. To make the cranking easier (and more practical), I drilled out a window crank with a 1/2" drill bit. This opened up the 3/8" hole in the crank making it fit nicely on the slider knob (it even includes it's own set screw!).

Problem was, the sliding motion wasn't very smooth. I even tried counter-balancing the platform by adding weights to the opposite end, but it was still too bumpy. This led me to flip the platform upside down, mounting it to my tripod. The camera was mounted to the sliding mechanism (pictured) and this would slide along the now-stationary platform. This solved the weight issue, but now it was too light. And still bumpy.

This is a work and progress, but I think the slider rail idea isn't going to work. The gears are just not made for smooth motion. I still want to make the "Itsy Bitsty Slider". I'll just have to try a different method.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Review: Sony NP-F970 AA Battery Adapter

Rechargeable batteries are mostly a blessing, but can also be a curse. If you lose one or forget to charge it or forget to bring it, you can really be up a creek without the proverbial paddle. The worst case scenario is that your last battery dies and will not be ready again for hours. If only you could rush off to the store for an over-the-counter replacement...

This is the idea behind a new back up battery, the Falconeyes BB-6. It is the empty shell of a clone Sony NP-F970 rechargeable battery (which I use to power my camera, monitor and LED lights), that allows you to fill it with six AA batteries. AA batteries are almost anywhere and super easy to obtain. If your last battery dies and you have no AAs, a quick trip to the drug store will get you back recording a lot faster than waiting for a recharge.

Of course, nothing is perfect and this cheap solution has one glaring issue that I point out in the video. It's easily solved with a little effort (using these), but may keep some from trying it. That's unfortunate, because I can see this helping a lot of people who have lost their paddle.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Review: Fotodiox ND Throttle

If you are like me and like to adapt old camera lenses to your digital camera, you're probably familiar with cheap lens adapters. These have vintage lens mounts on one side, and the new digital camera mount on the other. They provide adequate spacing between the lens and your sensor and open up a world of great, older lenses to the digital camera user.

An old trick to keep your lens aperture open on a sunny day is to use ND (neutral density filters). These screw on to the front of your lens and restrict light, so your aperture doesn’t have to (watch the video to see why you’d want to do this). A variable ND filter allows you to change the amount of light coming in, so you don’t have to constantly change filters.

The Fotodiox ND Throttle performs both of these tasks. It adapts old (Nikon G, Canon EF or Minolta) still camera lenses to various digital camera bodies. It also includes a variable ND filter inside of the adapter, so you never need to add one on the front of your lens, and all lenses of varying thread sizes are taken care of.

My full review is featured in the above video and includes a look at what you can do with this fantastic device as well as other low-cost workarounds (like a 77mm variable ND filter with step down rings) if you cannot afford this top-of-the line gizmo.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Painter's Pole 1/4-20" Tripod Adapter

There are all kinds of cool ways and places to mount cameras and accessories. Through the use of the universal 1/4-20" thread (most commonly seen on tripod quick release plates), there is a world of accessories out there and if you can't find one, you or someone else can probably make one.

Such is the case with that staple of DIY production, the painter's pole. Most commonly used as a boom pole, it can also be used to mount and extend any number of items. All you have to do is provide an adapter that gives you that magical mount. There are adapters you can buy (from Amazon and eBay), but making one can save you $10-15.

I have built an pole adapter in the past, but that one was made out of a paint roller and wasn't very elegant. This new model is a lot more compact, sturdy, has a larger surface mounting platform, and give you the added security of a set screw. Once attached to your pole, this thing will only come off when you want it to.

The best news it that this adapter will only cost you $3-5 depending on where you get your materials. Some tools are required, but nothing crazy and most you probably already have. Once you have everything, fabrication and assembly will take you less than thirty minutes.

Adapt away!

1/4-20" large, knurled nut from hot shoe flash adapter
Painter's Extension Pole
1/2" PVC slip plug
1/2" PVC slip coupler
1/4-20" screw, 1/4" long
1/4-20" screw (w/tapered head), 1/2" long
rubber washer with 1/4" hole (optional)

1/4" drill bit
11/32" drill bit
countersink or 1/2" drill bit

Shur-line 5-9' Extension Pole
Leatherman Wingman multi-tool

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

$56 7" HD Monitor Back in Stock!


One of the best deals I've come across since running this blog has been the "Chisso" almost HD (1024x600) monitors, made for the inside of your car. I stumbled across them on a lark and couldn't believe that they were selling an monitor with an HDMI input for only $56. I published the news on the Facebook Group and ordered one myself. I really wanted it to be a good purchase.

I was happy to report that the monitor was actually pretty decent and had some nice features (like the ability to flip the screen, so you could mount it upside down), making it a handy little production monitor. Sure, it wasn't perfect, but who could really complain at that price point?

After my review, I was sure these were closeouts and once current stock was depleted, we would never see them again or the price would be restored to $100+. After a few months of this being true, the HDMI cheapie is back! YouTuber DataQuest Imaging left a comment on my video that they were back in stock at the same low $56 price! Your colors are limited to brushed gray and brushed silver ($58), but it's there!

After blabbing about this on the Facebook Group today, Facebooker Tanner Hoke commented that there is a similar monitor on Amazon for an almost-equally low price of $59. Probably based on similar hardware, the "Tontec" has everything the Chisso model has with a few bonuses. It has a full-size HDMI port instead of a mini, which makes more sense than the mini-HDMI on the Chisso. It also has a VGA port, so you can also connect any computer to it, if that's what you need. The only downside I see is the permanent composite breakout cable that dangles from the bottom of the screen. I'd totally open the case and remove that thing ASAP.

If you're like me and own a camera with a tiny monitor attached, having a much larger 7" external monitor is really nice for composition and focus. I used mine on my short film Invader and have since made two videos that stem directly from my experience shooting in the sun with this monitor. One is about making a DIY monitor hood and the other is a review of an articulating sun shade (the Versa-brella) that you can attach directly to your tripod.

I'm glad this monitor has returned. For Frugal Filmmakers everywhere, it's well worth the money.

UPDATE: Confirmed compatibility with this monitor
YES: Sony NEX 5n
NO: Panasonic GH2/3, Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera

If you have purchased this monitor, please comment about whether or not your camera works properly with it, so we can add to this list. Everyone out there will thank you!

Friday, November 7, 2014

LCD Battery Charger for Sony F970, F550

When shooting my last short film, it was the first time I was really able to test out my Frugal Cage setup. This included my two external battery setups, one for my camera and one for my monitor. I was very happy that my camera would accurately report how much power remained in the external battery, just as it would for the internal one.

My monitor, on the other hand, had no such software (I presume) to report battery usage or power remaining. As a result, I was never sure how much power remained, so I was flying in the dark about when it would poop out. I knew I had about six to seven hours using the Sony F970 battery, but it's always nice to know when you're about to lose your monitor and plan accordingly.

I was also shooting on back-to-back days and only had two batteries per piece of gear to get by (and only one for an LED light). Even when I went home and began recharging, the larger batteries were not completely full when we began again the next morning. I needed a better charging solution than my cheap travel chargers were giving me.

That's when I went charger shopping online and came across the no-name model featured in my review. It was better built, had a large LCD for battery info, and was a quick charger with supposedly double the charging speed of a standard charger. I was pretty excited and felt that the feature list more than justified the $25 price tag.

My complete findings are in the video above, but I can say that I like this model. Its got its quirks, but it addresses all my needs and seems to fit the bill. I retrospect, I've noticed that it doesn't have a way to charge in your car, but my travel chargers do, so I can just use them for that. Others might want to look for something that does both.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Clamp Light 2.0

Something I like to do is revisit the old, good ideas and update them. Some things will always be useful and inexpensive, but upgrading those ideas with new technology or tweaks can be very helpful. This time out, the clamp light gets an overhaul.

There is nothing really wrong with the old version of the clamp light and the cheap PVC light stand that held it up. I recently acquired a more professional light stand and wanted to migrate the clamp light over to it, while improving the functionality and how it looks. The above video is the result of my efforts.

I throw a lot against the wall in this episode and don't completely address everything. One thing I mention but haven't really tested yet, is using a portable power pack (like the one used to jump start your car) to power these LED lights in the field. Since these lights consume much less power than their incandescent counterparts, I want to get one of these battery packs and see how long they can power at least three of these lights when no wall outlet is available. Definitely a future episode.

One might argue that with the advent of cheap, battery powered LED lights, that there is no real reason to use LED bulbs in a clamp light. I would argue, however, that if you already have the clampies, why not reconfigure and keep using them? Time will tell, but here's the information anyway, just in case you find it useful.


Spring Clamp
Fotodiox 6.5' Light Stand
Generic light stand
Mini ball head
1/4-20" Threaded stud rod end with ball (x4)
1/4-20 male to male adapter
SAE (English) tap and die set

Cree 75w equivalent LED bulb
"Daylight" color temp (5000K)
"Tungsten" color temp (2700K)

5-in-1 Power Pack with dual AC outlets
3 Point lighting tutorial

Music is "Show Your Moves" by Kevin MacLeod

Monday, October 27, 2014

Q&A: How Do I Make Money?

A question on a lot of minds is how to parlay this whole YouTube thing into a viable income stream. Personally, I would love for YouTube filmmaking to be my full time job. Until that dream happens I work full time (not making videos), and tinker to try and figure out how to make money from the wild-west known as online video.

In this Q&A, I explain exactly how I'm making some money (it's no big secret, really) and the different entities that involves. Size does matter in this case, and the more regular eyeballs you can get on your content the more money you make. I go into more detail in the video, but that's the stripped-down version.

If you have a question you'd like to see answered on this show, please email me at thefrugalfilmmaker(at) I'll try to answer you in person as well, but email is the best way to make it onto the show. Thanks!


Suction Cup Camera Mount
Newwer CN-90F Follow Focus Fix
Collection Day (featuring Rachel Van Hampton)
The Making of Invader
Frugal Crane 2.0

Friday, October 24, 2014

Tip: Spider Gripper (audio recorder holder)

It seems like there is always something interesting not made for making movies that you can twist around for a filmmaking purpose. While looking for a way to make my cell phone more "poseable" so it could sit or hang while I watched a video, I found this $2 spider thing. It has eight spindly legs and a rubberized surface and you can slap your phone into it and put it into all kinds of positions.

Like the spring-loaded cell phone tripod mount before it, this gizmo is easily repurposed to hold other things, most obviously smaller audio recorders like the Zoom H1 Handy Recorder. It can hold other items as well (like power supplies attached to tripod legs--see the video), but it seems really disposed to wrapping around a recorder for more mounting options than afforded by the 1/4-20 plastic mounting threads found on the back. In fact, if your threads are shot, who cares? Use the spider.

If anyone has other productions uses for this "Spider Gripper", I'd love to hear them. Please comment below! Everyone can benefit from your contribution.


1/4-20 Flash Hot Shoe Mount Adapter
Metal Camera Quick Release Assembly
Gorillapods (and clones) on eBay

Music: "Kick Shock" by Kevin MacLeod

Monday, October 20, 2014

Q&A: Why Do I Make These Videos?

The Q&A continues (two weeks in a row--what?) and hopefully I answer questions without looking stupid. Jump cuts help, but I'm often flabbergasted about what to say. Something comes out anyway, and I hope it's helpful. If not, I apologize now.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Review: Versa-Brella (tripod umbrella)

When I posted my DIY Monitor Hood video, there was a great comment which asked me why I didn't just use an umbrella as a shade, which would also shade the operator and protect the camera from rain. The short answer was that I just wasn't that smart. It was a great idea and I began poking around the web for ways to attach an umbrella to my tripod.

The first thing I found was a device that allowed you to attach an umbrella to bicycle handlebars. It was cheap, so I ordered one thinking I could easily adapt it to a tripod arm. It didn't work so well. Next I found an umbrella with a clamp on it, but it had a straight shaft, so I couldn't adjust it to block a moving sun. Finally, I came across the Versa-Brella and it looked just right.

The Versa-Brella has a universal clamp that will grip anything of any shape that is 1 1/2" or less in size (like a tripod arm or leg). It has three articulation points, so the thing can be positioned just about anywhere. It has fabric that is 50 UPF to prevent sunburn and it has safety tips so no one gets hit in the eye with the pokey parts.

When I found the Versa-Brella, I immediately emailed the company that makes them, Sport-Brella, and requested one for review. This is a fairly new product and none of their promotional materials catered to filmmakers or photographers. I knew I had to have one to let the frugal community in on this. They sent me one and the above video is my review.

Synopsis: If you shoot lone wolf in direct sunlight, you're gonna want one of these.

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Q&A Returns!

It's been awhile, but I feel like it's time to bring some kind of Q&A show back to The Frugal Filmmaker, so here it is! I as I explain in the above video, the reason the show came to a halt before was that my portable studio (my car) lost its timing belt and was put to rest. Not only that, but my schedule changed in such a way that it became impossible to produce the show the way I had been doing it. I needed some kind of reboot, and after kicking around a few options, feel like I can start doing it again.

While I will still produce a "normal" show every Thursday, the Q&A will come out every Monday morning. I think this is a very important time slot for a show that is really made for anyone who is an avid follower of what I have been doing and might care about my opinion on this or that. It is not a show filled with metadata that can be searched, but one for viewers who want to start their week with an injection of Frugalness! I hope this show is successful in doing that.

I used to shoot and post the show very fast on the same morning that I would upload it, but now my workflow is a bit different. These shows will now be shot on Saturday, which will give me time to edit them and add some extras, which I never had the luxury of doing previously. I hope this will lead to a more interesting video experience and allow me the time to juice the show withmore creative flair than before.

What do you think?

Friday, October 10, 2014

Tip: Alien Blood Makeup for $1

Now here's something I really want to find an excuse to use. It's the same chemicals used in glow sticks, only in a more controllable package--the Glow Glove! I found this oddity in Dollar Tree (while shopping for fake human blood) and quickly took it home to be dissected. It's a clear, dopey looking plastic glove-within-a-glove with the aforementioned glow stick juices. Pop the inner packets and they mix together to give you a luminescent hand!

A better use for this is alien blood, of course. When Arnold Schwarzenegger injures the extraterrestrial Predator (1987), it bleeds glow stick. When I cut it apart, the glow glove had the chemicals needed in nice separate packets that you can combine later. The result is the same as cutting open a glow stick, only here you have way more control over the mess.

Of course, you don't have to use this as alien blood. It could be contents of a test tube in a mad scientist's lab or the big reveal of a victim's blood under a black light. You can do all kinds of stuff and let's face it, glowing practical effects are freakin' cool!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Frugal Cage Fixes (Camera Cage)

When I shot my short film Invader awhile back, I was able to fully test the Frugal Cage, using all the goodies that I had acquired with it. Things went really well, but like all field tests, there were some minor things that needed improving.

The episode above are the implemented improvements. Two are very simple and the third is a bit more complex. The resulting changes make the unit function a lot better (I know changing lenses and batteries will be much easier now) the next time I use it on a film.

If you'd like to watch all the videos (and blog posts) associated with the Frugal Cage, here they are:

The Frugal Camera Cage
External HD Monitor Review
$37 Follow Focus Review
Camera External Battery Power
Battery Cradle Switch Hack
Camera Lens Bands
Monitor Hood
Camera Quick Release Showdown
Camera Grip Handle

There may be more of these in the future as I think this gadget performs very well and can easily accommodate other small cameras over the years as I upgrade.

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Making of "Invader"

When I released my short film Invader a couple of weeks back, several people asked if I was going to produce a "Making of" episode. I've done this with all of my previous shorts, as I am still learning and will probably always be a student of this medium. I hope that by creating these mashups of commentary, behind the scenes, and technique descriptions, that you might glean something useful.

I've also created annotations within the video that will take you to the DIY gear (and how to build them) used to make this film. Enjoy!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Dennis Buettner's "Quick Fist" Monopod Mod

Yesterday I received an email from a viewer who wanted to share a neat gadget he'd come up with in order to help anyone who does monopod shooting (see his video above). An avid monopodder, Dennis shares a frustration that many of us who use a monopod worry about: where to safely set your rig on site when not shooting.

Dennis has a pretty great solution that will only run you about five bucks (well, ten since you have to buy two). He's taken a "Quick Fist" tool holder (made to attach large tools to the outside of your vehicle), lashed it to a quick release plate for his tripod (using cable ties) and whammo! Now he can easily place his monopod rig into the Quick Fist, which has no chance of falling over.

Another perk of this setup (as Dennis illustrates in his video) is that now you can take advantage of all the benefits of a tripod, now that your monopod is securely fastened to it. Smooth panning and tilting can easily be done and when you need to return to monopod shooting, your rig is only a large rubber band away.

I love ideas such as this, where off the shelf products can be re-purposed for DIY filmmaking tasks. The build quality is already there, you just need to make it serve a higher purpose. Thanks Dennis!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

7" Monitor Hood (for Free?)

There is a brief scene in my last short film, Invader, that takes place on a rooftop. It was in the middle of a cloudless day and harsh sunlight poured down everywhere. It looked great on camera, but trying to see my external monitor was all but impossible. I ended up using a black t-shirt to cover my head and the monitor, but I really needed a monitor shade.

While I had tried several eBay options in the recent past, none of them really worked. One was a great idea, a carry case that unzipped on one side to form a hood. It was too small to hold my monitor. Another was a simple shade that attached with velcro. I wasn't impressed by the coverage and it was just barely attached. What if I had to pull out the shirt again? Would it hold?

What I needed was a monitor hood that covered all for sides, was sturdy, and was affordable. I found one I really liked, but didn't feel justified in spending $30-35 to get it. Examining the design, it appeared that it was just a well-made plastic box. That's when it hit me. What about the plastic insert from the Stealth Camera Bag? It was made to hold a six-pack of soda or beer, but would it be the right size for a 7" monitor? I had to find out.

As it turns out, it was the perfect size. My monitor rested nicely into the bottom of the insert. All I really had to do was cut or drill several holes to accommodate the mounting thread, power connector, HDMI port and several extra holes for venting. All these were done with some guesswork and a drill, with the exception of the HDMI hole, which needed some extra labor with a knife.

Now I have a handy monitor hood that cost me nothing, effectively shades my monitor and fits right back into my "camera bag" for easy storage and transport. Bring on the sun! I'm ready.


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