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.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Q&A: Why Sony Vegas Pro?


27 LED portable worklight/flashlight
Playlist of Sony Vegas Tips
Sony Vegas Editors
Playlist of "The $10 Budget"
Watch "Tip: Spider Gripper"

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.


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