Thursday, August 28, 2014

Camera Lens Bands

A couple of weekends ago, I was on the set of my short film Invader, and was able to test out some of my recent gear concoctions, including the pimped out Frugal Cage. One aspect of that rig was using the follow focus I reviewed, and how I was able to interface my vintage lenses using the focus gear from the Frugal Follow Focus.

In that setup I had all my prime lenses that were follow focus candidates, wrapped with a silicone wristband. This allowed the focus gear to attach properly and also improved the grip on the lens itself. It is a great non-permanent addition, whether shooting video or stills.

On the Invader shoot, my first AC (assistant camera) commented how all the lenses looked alike and how they were easily confused in the lens bag. That's when I had the idea that different color wristbands would be a better solution and could easily be chosen when needed.

The wristbands were cheap ($8 for ten) and gave the lenses a nice clean look and still serves the purpose of giving the focus gear somewhere to sit without actually touching the focus ring. There is another option for an even cooler (though more expensive) look that you may also want to consider. Consult the video for a more spendy approach.

Also, remember to measure your focus ring diameter so you know what size band(s) to get. I ended up choosing the "women's 18.5cm x 1.2cm" size and they fit my lenses perfectly. The stretchy silicone also allows them to work on a variety of barrel sizes. If you have to guess, guess smaller. A snug band will still work, where a loose one will not.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

160 LED Light for $20

After my review of the Fotodiox LED98A light, several people suggested that I compare it to the less expensive and brighter CN-160 light that has become very popular. At $28, it's also a pretty good deal, and most reviews seem positive.

Since I'm always on the lookout for the cheapest price and possible cheaper alternatives, I went looking. What I found on eBay is what appears to be a copy of the CN-160 without the extra Panasonic battery plate. This clone appears to run on Sony NP-F batteries (which I've been using to power my camera, my external monitor, as well as the Fotodiox light) and AA batteries, which is a great option in a pinch.

The clincher for me was the price--under $20 (it's $24 on Amazon). It seemed so comparable to the CN-160 and was ten dollars cheaper, that I had to bite. I went ahead and purchased one, which should be showing up later this week. If it pans out, this could mean a three-point lighting setup for $60. A smokin' deal. I'm sure it has its shortcomings, but at that price a lot can be forgiven.

Look for a full review in the coming weeks.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Poor Man's C-stand

C-stands are incredible pieces of grip equipment that have 1001 uses. They are mainly used for holding lights or light modifiers (flags, silks, screens, etc.), but are so heavy duty and strong they can be used for all kinds of support tasks. You'll see them on every professional film set and probably every student film set. They are industry standard and they have been around forever.

They are also expensive. C-stands can range in cost from $150 for the less expensive models to the $200 Avenger stands. Most of us probably don't have that kind of coin to spend on a grip stand when a camera upgrade could be had instead (though this is a thinking error, since a C-stand could conceivably outlive us and our cameras).

They are also very large and somewhat heavy. The biggest problem comes when you have to transport them without a truck of some kind. They are about 6' when full collapsed and trying to squeeze them into a car can be very tricky.

There is a sort-of alternative to the C-stand that can perform some similar tasks, is easy to load into a car and is much cheaper. This is the boom mic stand, commonly used by musicians. Like a regular mic stand they come up from the ground, but then have a boom arm that extends out and over (or straight up if need be).

These are very handy (see the video for details), start at around $20, and collapse into 3-4', which should fit into even the smallest of cars. Their weight is such that you could even sling the thing over your back and hike into a location with it. I wouldn't want to try that with a real C-stand.

Of course, these are not made to replace the real thing. That's impossible. There are some cool things you can do with a cheap alternatives, however. Three of these are outlined in the video. I'd love to hear some of your ideas. Please comment if you'd like to share.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

What I Did Over the Weekend...

This  past weekend I embarked on shooting the short film Invader as part of a promotional effort for Triune Films (yep, the FilmRiot guys) new sound FX releases. The deal was they give me all of their FX packages (including some new scoring stuff) and I review them or make a film. Of course I decided to make a film!

Since I didn't have a lot of time to pull this off (the deadline is the first week in September) and the FX center around action, I had to make some quick choices. I booked an easy location to obtain (abandoned cement plant), grabbed a couple of actors I've been wanting to work with (Mindy Van Kuren and Kyle Wigginton), wrote a four page post-apocalyptic western, and I was off!

This was a Frugal Shoot, so no gear from school was allowed, only equipment that I owned and/or had made. You may recognize the Frugal Cage (complete with external monitor, follow focus and external power), Tripod Dolly, and the first sneak peek at the Frugal Crane 3.0!

Things went pretty well and I was glad to finally field test the crane and the cage. The cage got the heaviest workout, and it showed me that I need to implement several improvements in the future. Look for a video featuring these fixes as well as instructions on how to make the Frugal Crane 3 coming very soon.

Invader is scheduled to debut on September 4 of this year. Watch for it!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Newwer CN-90F Follow Focus Fix

Not too long ago I reviewed a very affordable follow focus unit ($37), the Newwer CN-90F. It wasn't bad, but had too much play or "slop" in the knob that rotated the focus gear. It was wobbly and took too long to reverse direction. Comments on that video reported that others had used the product without the play I had experienced. After taking the unit apart and investigating, it turns out there is an easy fix for this problem.

First you must remove the rod clamp hardware found on the bottom rail of the unit. This is super easy, as all you have to do is remove the adjustment nut and screw and the rod hardware falls right off. Next, remove the three Philips head screws that attach the aluminum adjustment rail to the gearbox (see above).

Once the adjustment rail is gone, you'll have access to four more Philips head screws that are recessed inside the plastic gearbox (see above). Tighten all four of these and you're done! The play in the knob is now significantly reduced and you should have more precise control when pulling focus with this unit.

While this fix has no effect on the overall quality of the unit (it's still made of cheap plastic), it does affect performance. The feel is so much better now that it increases the value and makes the $37 spent that much more of a deal. If your unit was like mine, I highly encourage this fix. All you need is some precision screwdrivers and about five minutes and you're on your way.


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