Sunday, April 6, 2014

The "Collection Day" Trailer is Here!

My thesis film is done and if you were one of the kind souls that donated $10 or more to my Kickstarter campaign, you'll be able to watch it online tomorrow night. If not, you'll still get to see it, it'll just take longer. For now, enjoy the trailer and I hope it makes you want to see the film that is going to get me out of grad school!

Friday, March 14, 2014

The Making of "Collection Day": Day 7

On this day we were going to shoot in two locations, a motel lobby and a motel room. We had a lobby location (a converted theatre lobby), but the second location had not been obtained as of that morning. As we were setting up, DP Jarrod Beck asked me, "Where are we shooting this afternoon?" I replied, "When we wrap here, you will all eat lunch and I will go find the motel location."

That's exactly what happened. Seedy motels aren't listed on Google, but I knew of a road near the theatre that had two of them. I went to the first one, rented the largest room they had, and we were in business. It should have been taken care of long before, but like many locations on this shoot (glass office, suburban home), they were found at the very last minute. It this case, it was literally the same day.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Review: Fotodiox LED98A

Obviously, you need light to capture an image. While there are a variety of cheap options, one that may set you back a few bucks, but is extremely useful is an LED light. These are banks of LEDs crammed into a very small package. They offer lots of light, the ability to run on batteries, low-to-no head output, and a small profile.

Fotodiox sent me one of their LED98As to review and I quite like it. I'll admit, at $50 it's not the cheapest option, but what it lacks in low price, it more than makes up for it in quality and accessories (an included case would make it perfect). Check the video for details or my other LED video light review if you're looking for something cheaper.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Flash Brackets are the New PVC

There's been an interesting development in the past year or so that bears commenting on, especially if you are into building your own camera rigs. In the recent past, the material of choice has always been PVC pipe. It's cheap, it's pretty sturdy, and you can make all kinds of configurations with it. It has been likened to Legos and Tinkertoys for adults. I have used it to build a hand-held rig, light stands and camera dollies (among other things) with it.

If there is a downside to this wonder material, it's that it seen as a red flag of cheap production values. No matter what the final image acheived by using a PVC rig, there is a good chance you'll raise the eyebrow of disapproval from the client base. This doesn't necessarily mean they are snobs, but that in general, white plastic pipes don't scream high quality gear to anyone. It's cool what you can achieve with this stuff on a private level, but if you choose to make money, presentation is part of getting work.

Kind of a nifty movement that raises the bar of DIY quality is the use of metal flash brackets to make some pretty cool and professional looking rigs. These are made from hard aluminum with a nice black finish. They come with rubber padding and 1/4-20" knurled knobs. Made to hold cameras or flashes in various configurations, they can also be put together to make just about anything. Though more expensive and not quite as versatile, they look great and add a touch of class if you are willing to spend just a little more for it.

Dual L Brackets - $10

These are probably the most common brackets you'll see in custom rigs. They come in a two-pack and consist of two right angles (with a long and short end) that are very different. One bracket has two channels that the knurled knobs can travel the length of. The second has a partial channel on the long end and several threaded 1/4-20" holes on the short end. This is the building block of the Frugal Stabilizer II and Krotoflik's Krotokam, a Steadicam Merlin-style stabilizer.

Single Flash Bracket - $5

This is a very simple aluminum piece with a channel and knob setup that has a cold shoe mount on the far end. I've never liked the cheap shoe mount (and always replace them), but this little thing can be very useful when modified. This was the basis of my Frugal Camera Fattener which gives my small camera a larger area to hold when shooting and I use it all the time.

Dual Straight Bracket - $8

This is a straight aluminum piece that has a 1/4-20" thread flanked by two channels with matching knobs that you can attach two items to. Chung Dha created a "camera cage" with two of these and some hand grips and has made all kinds of DIY stuff from these brackets. Be sure to check out his YouTube channel.

Foam Camera Handle - $7

Camera handle grips with a 1/4-20" thread (male version on one side, female on the other) will come in very handy when you are making any kind of rig based on these brackets. They screw right in to any number of points and are cheap enough that you can get quite a few for not much money. You can always make your own, of course, but these are pretty decent (and decent looking) for an inexpensive retail product.

C-Bracket - $8

This one is a little more unique and less used in the DIY world, but it's out there and you might be able to work it into something you are wanting to bring to the world. I've been trying for awhile to re-work the Frugal Floater using this bracket (sadly, with no luck) and Chung Dha has used one for his Gunstock Camera Rig.

So there you go. If you are considering designing a custom rig and you care about how it looks, you might want to check out some of these brackets to see if they will work for you. They do cost more than PVC, but they look great and are stronger than plastic (which means they should work better with larger, heavier cameras). I've been using them a lot lately and am very pleased with the results.

One final note about these brackets. PVC pipe and certain parts may be hard to come by depending on what state or country you live in. All of these above mentioned parts can be found through many vendors on eBay, making them equally available to just about everyone.