Wednesday, February 23, 2011

PVC Camera Shoulder Rig for $15



Knoptop is back with Quick FX, this time showing how to make a shoulder rig for your camera. To be totally honest, I'm not a big fan of the shoulder rig. I'm pretty tall (6'7") and if I were to use one of these contraptions, everything and everyone would be shot from a high angle and look puny. I prefer more of a free-floating rig, which gives me more adjustment on the Y-axis, rather than just pivoting on my shoulder. Lots of people like to use their cameras this way however, so if you are one of them, here is Knoptop's (highly entertaining) version.

Be Safe! Work Light Screen



Last week I posted a video about modifying your hardware store work lights to run cooler and be more compact. That mod involved removing the glass from the work light so heat could escape. A viewer pointed out that the glass functions as a protection against an exploding bulb, and what I had now was very unsafe. I had no intention of making something dangerous, so I am quickly responding with this video that details how to insert a safety screen where the glass once was.

Now your light will still run cooler, but you have the added precaution of a barrier between you and any bulb popping that might occur. Safety is very important on any set and I would never want anyone to be hurt by anything they learned to do on this blog.

Press play!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Zoom H1 vs. H4n Digital Recorder Showdown



A digital audio recorder is a great thing to have. The sound quality is always better than what you can get in your camera and if your camera offers no mic input, it's a great solution. The Zoom H1 is a great bargain and a fine recorder for the money ($99 and I do own one), but how does it compare to its older brother the Zoom H4n?

Today on DSLR Film Noob, Deejay does a literal comparison of sound quality. It's surprising how similar they sound, leading me to believe they have the same electronics. What's not surprising is that the extra $200 goes to options and build quality and if you need good sound in a rugged package, the H4n is the one you want. The Zoom H1 is great, but I also concede how flimsy the thing is. It's not something I would want to test in a harsh environment or even drop on the ground. It feels that delicate.

Another perk of the H4n is separate XLR inputs with individual level control. Deejay has mentioned the "audio clip protection" trick before and it's something you just can't do on the H1.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Work Light Hacking



A common source of inexpensive light (other than the sun) are these hardware store work lights. These blasters of illumination come in a pairs of 500w beasties (a 250w version is also available) that sit together on a metal stand. You can easily find them, and they are pretty popular across the web for lighting a microbudget set. I don't think they work for all applications (nothing does), but are very good for specific things. In the above video I share that purpose, as well as some simple tweaks that make these lamps more versatile and practical.

UPDATE! Please read the follow-up post: Be Safe! Work Light Screen. It's very important.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Laser Beam Effect--No After Effects Required



If you subscribe to Knoptop on YouTube (and you should) then you've already seen this video, but it bears repeating. Here he instructs us on how to create a simple beam effect using Photoshop and his editor, Premiere Pro. Even if you use another video editor (I use Sony Vegas) and another photo editor (I use the cost-free Gimp) all his ideas are solid. It's a great and fast way to create simple effects without vomiting up a load of cash for After Effects.

Also in the video is a link to his video about painting a squirt gun to make a ray gun prop. Make sure you watch that one also. The "distressed metal" technique is amazing (and easy!) and is something you'll want to know for future reference.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Sick Deal: 1.5 TB Desktop Drive for $84

B&H is selling another massive drive to slap all of your video onto. This time it's the Western Digital Elements 1.5 TB Desktop Hard Drive (which means you need an outlet to power it) for the silly-low price of $84. That works out to about 5.5 cents per gigabyte. And did I mention shipping is free?

Ridiculous!

UPDATE: The thing just dropped in price 4 more dollars! Now $79.95!

Tom Blizzard's Frugal Crane Mod

Tom sent me these pictures recently that address the problem I had with the Frugal Crane / Jib, that causes a slight tilt in the camera platform. This was due to the weight of the camera pulling down on the rubber wheel. My original solution (yet unpublished) at the suggestion of a YouTube viewer was to put a mini ball head mount on the platform that would allow adjustment.

Tom's solution is a lot better, as he has modified the front pulley to more sturdily handle the camera platform. If you examine these photos carefully you can see how he did it. Kudos to Tom and his problem solving skills.

These extras might give you a better choice. The mending plate had pre-drilled 1/4" holes, but they were all at the wrong place(s) (that's normal). That's why you can see part of a hole just below the end of the mending plate. That hole is not used. I drilled a 3/8" hole just above it for the axle.

--Tom

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Liliput Monitor HDMI Blink Fix



This week on DSLR Film Noob, Deejay shares a great tip (and gives credit where credit is due) concerning the popular Liliput external monitor. Apparently the thing will blank out for an agonizing length of time when you hit the record button. It does come back, but I can see the frustration this would cause. The fix is simple and free and is a tip I would appreciate knowing if I owned one of these monitors.

Now I don't use a DSLR (yet), but this tip could also be of value to anyone using this monitor with the HDMI out on their camera. I have an HDMI out on my Canon HFS100 camcorder and have used external monitors on shoots. I don't know if my camcorder would have the same issue as Deejay's DSLR, but it's good to know that there is a workaround if this issue does crop up.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Dana Ray's PVC Stabilizer

Hi Scott,

I built your rig today, very nice. I didn't want to give up my rifle stock rig , so I combined them for when you need a little more stability. I don't have a 4 way piece on hand or I would put it on the bottom and add a long piece down to the ground for a monopod. Kinda nuts I know, but you started it.

--Dana Ray

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Royalty Free Music for Your Video Projects



Okay, I admit it, I'm spoiled. Whenever I have something I really want to put music to, I use a composer. I have a great relationship with a guy who scores most of my stuff and I'm even getting to the point where I can pay him once and awhile. Sometimes, however, this is overkill.

Knoptop chimes in this week with an episode of Quick FX which reveals a great list of resources that will fill any music need you probably have (like a background track), just short of actually involving musical talent. A good example is the nifty riff he employs in his own show that quickens the pace and carries an air of fun creativity.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Frugal Filmmaker: Year One

This past Monday marked the one year anniversary since I rebranded my blog as The Frugal Filmmaker and embarked on a more aggressive campaign to build an audience and increase traffic. The goal was (and is) to give something back to the internet filmmaking community while creating interest for the projects I hope to create in the near future. The numbers say I've been kinda successful, so I'd like to share what I've learned in case you are trying to do the same thing.

The basic overall strategy was to create a simple network of free outlets that would all refer to each other and share similar content in a different way. Hopefully if a consumer subscribes to all of the outlets, they are getting a different enough experience to keep following them all. The following is a description of these various pipes, what I am doing with them, and the results of the past year.

YouTube Channel. Every filmmaker needs at least one of these. It is a free distribution point for your work that can be accessed on any computer, set top box or smart phone. I started The Frugal Filmmaker web show about nanobudget tips and gear. 15 episodes were produced. My goal was to get 1,000 subscribers and partner with YouTube so they would lift the 10 (now 15) minute cap put on new members. At the end of every episode I mention the blog address as well as Facebook, Twitter, Instructables and the email address.

On Monday I hit 1,000 subs and YouTube has since lifted the time cap on obedient users--no partnership required. The top 3 videos are the PVC stabilizer rig, the PVC table dolly and the PVC light stand. It's clear to me that my audience wants inexpensive gear that's functional and easy to make. The most important thing I've learned about YouTube (the #2 search engine) is to create evergreen content that people will always look for. Your views will accrue like compound interest.

Twitter. This is a great outlet for daily microblogging, provided you have something interesting to say. I post some tips, but mostly links that I find useful. These same links are on the Facebook Group and the Weekly Recap Link List on my blog. I had a goal for 1,000 followers in one year, but currently only have 423.

Facebook Group. Another source for aggregating links (including my blog posts) that you can read on Facebook. The best feature about the group is that you can send a message to all members at once (unlike a Facebook fan page). I send the Weekly Recap Link List this way and have had lots of good feedback from people who like getting a list of interesting stuff in their mail box every week. Another cool thing is that members can post on the wall, which invites participation and provides even more content for the Link List. Set a goal for 1,000 group members, currently have 413.

Instructables. This is a great site that lets you upload step-by-step photos of things you've built and add notes to those pictures. I take my videos and break them down into stills, adding notations when done. I also embed the YouTube source video, which helps with views. I've been neglectful of this resource lately and need to get back on the ball. No goals were set here, just to create a slightly different way to attract viewers.

Gmail Address. By creating thefrugalfilmmaker(at)gmail.com, readers and viewers know how to contact me with a unique address that fits well into the rest of things. It's also where I get notified (via my cell phone) of YouTube subscriptions and updates of filmmakers I am following.

The Blogger Blog. The hub for all of my content. All Twitter and Facebook posts are published here as a Weekly Link List, in case a reader doesn't follow Facebook or Twitter. The YouTube show is embedded here, as is a couple of other shows that I network with (all current episodes live in the sidebar). Links to all the other outlets can be found here. Readers can subscribe via email or RSS. I wanted 1,000 RSS subscribers, but that number doesn't seem to move much (currently at 385). The more telling numbers (I use sitemeter) for the blog are visits and page views. They have shot up from a modest 1,733/2,766 one year ago to 8,382/15,376 this past month. That tells me I'm doing something right.

I'd also like to say something about the brand: The Frugal Filmmaker. When I accidentally let my previous domain Film Flap lapse, I thought a long time about what new name would totally embody what my new focus was. It's the name on the blog, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and the email address. It's not on the Instructables account as that one already existed, but I should have started a new one. The beauty of that name is that it completely explains itself. I own thefrugalfilmmaker.com which points directly to the blog, letting me out of all that ".blogspot" malarkey.

Things seem to be moving in the right direction. I thank you all for your support, comments and suggestions. Please keep it coming! You are the biggest reason I'm having any success at all.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Stick it to Your Stuff with Super Velcro



Deejay comes to us this week with an episode of DSLR Film Noob about attaching gear together. While it may sound like an obvious thing, it's something you may not have previously thought of. Standard velcro doesn't have the moxie to keep gear of modest weight attached to each other, but the industrial strength variety sure does.

Press play to get all the details.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Knoptop's Cheap LCD Viewfinder for DSLRs



In an continuing effort to share great content from talented folks across the web, I'd like to welcome Knoptop (AKA Dave Knop) into our little network. Like Deejay, Knoptop is a filmmaker with a lot of clever ideas he's sharing on YouTube. He's got some great stuff and I love his zany sense of humor, which is a nice counterpoint to my extremely dry delivery.

Today on Quick FX, he details how to create an viewfinder/loupe that allows easy viewing of fixed LCDs commonly found on most DSLRs that shoot video. The materials are readily available and you'll barely feel the cost. I love these kinds of projects and know that Knoptop will continue to give us more in the near future.

Stay tuned!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Web TV Not Ready for Primetime, but So What?


Last week Eugenia had a great post entitled Cord Cutting: A Matter of Laziness. In it, she refers to the above mini-documentary that removed the cable/satellite from several folks and replaced it with various internet TV set top boxes. These boxes basically act like a computer to send various content to your television, which acts as a monitor.

I love the idea of this, and it is the future. As a content provider, I would much rather have my audience comfortable in front of their TVs watching my stuff. It just makes more sense. No one really wants to watch long-form material on a computer screen. It's uncomfortable and goes against years of training.

As this documentary points out, however, this idea is still in its infancy, as the experience is so different (and unaccessible) that traditional viewing will be around for awhile. Everyone seems to like the idea of surfing and allowing content to be fed to them, rather than having to select it. It's a passive vs. an active mentality.

I think this will continue to change. Netflix's streaming success (and it's Roku box) is evidence of this. The inclusion of apps on new "smart" TVs (which look an awful lot like giant smartphones) seems to be the future. Nerds always accept technology before the masses (I had a DVR long before they were integrated into cable and satellite boxes) and these boxes are no different.

So how does this affect us? Not much really. YouTube is still the universal video player. You can play YouTube clips on every computer, smartphone and smartTV. There are more of these screens than theater screens. Create a YouTube channel and obey their content policy and you can upload content of any length. It's the ultimate distribution point.

It's only a matter of time when these boxes (like the DVRs of the past) will already be part of the hardware you bring home from the store. Plug them into your internet source and you'll have all kinds of content at your fingertips. It might be a bit early right now, but it soon won't be. There will still be a place for live TV, but the stuff we create will have just as much of a chance as anything else, as long as people know about it.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Inexpensive External Monitor is Very Handy



Deejay chimes in this week on DSLR Film Noob with a couple of great videos featuring an awesome find on eBay. It's a little "rear view" monitor intended for cars with cameras implanted in the back somewhere. But hey, a monitor is a monitor and as long as there is a video input and a way to power it, you can used it for any video application.



Deejay comes up with nifty use for this tiny $23 screen, which is to create an articulating monitor for his Canon t2i, which has a fixed LCD. If you have built (or are thinking of building) the Frugal Crane / Jib, this is another great way to check framing and composition when you can't see your camera's flip out screen.

Be sure you check out Deejay's site for more complete information on where to get the monitor and how to to attach it to your rig.

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