Owning the latest state-of-the-art video equipment is very cool, but making your own gear can sometimes be a lot more fun. Let's DIY it this month with Audio Accessories. A microphone
A microphone "blimp" - or "zeppelin," as it is sometimes called - is essential for stopping wind noise when you are recording outdoors. Undoubtedly, you've seen them in use on the evening news or on TV shows such as Law & Order, in the outside-the-courthouse scenes.
It is a given that they are effective in eliminating wind noise; it is also a given that commercial blimps are expensive. A commercial blimp can cost $200 or more, but you can make one yourself that's just about as good in about an hour, and it will only cost you about $20 in materials. You don't need an engineering degree to put it together, either, you'll need only some common household tools and materials to do it. (Tool & material lists can be found at the end of this article.) Here's how:
I got the mesh bird feeder at a local hardware store for under $5, the faux fur at a crafts supply house ($2/package), the mesh strainers at a discount store ($1 for the pair) and a 12" paint roller at a garage sale for $1. You'll need only the 3"-diameter strainer, so you can retire the 5" one to your kitchen.
Use a hacksaw to cut the bottom off the feeder. A Dremel or other handheld grinder with a cutting wheel makes the job go a lot faster.
Next saw the handle and cup-lip off the 3"-diameter strainer. After removing the roller cage, I also sawed a 4" section off the paint roller, to bring it down to 8" length. If you're buying one, get an 8" or 9" roller to save yourself the work of sawing off the excess length.
I used two cable ties to temporarily hold the roller shaft to the bottom of the bird feeder. The open (unsawed) end of the feeder goes to the rear of the handle, while the sawed end of the feeder goes to the end of the roller shaft.
Mix some epoxy and apply it generously along the shaft where it joins the feeder cage, and let it cure completely before moving it. Be sure to use some newspaper or other disposable covering for your work surface, so you don't drip epoxy on it from the cage/shaft assembly.
The faux fur comes in a single piece folded in half. Use a utility knife and a straight edge to cut one of the pieces in half along the fold line.
Apply a piece of double-sticky tape to the uncut piece of faux fur on the cloth (non-fuzzy) side, and press it down firmly. Remove the backing from the tape, and put the half-piece of faux fur you just cut - with the fuzzy-side down - onto the tape to extend the length. Press it down firmly, and keep pressing on it to make sure it adheres well through the fuzzies on the surface.
Loop a rubber band through the feeder cage about 2" from the end, and then loop another on the other side of the cage diameter in an exactly opposite position. Loop two more in like fashion at the other end of the feeder cage, so you'll have a total of four rubber bands looped.
Here's the feeder cage with the four rubber bands looped and waiting to receive the mic within the cage.
Slide the mic in with the cable end toward the rear of the cage. Note how the rubber bands provide an excellent shock mount for the mic, which is an Azden SMX-10 Directional model. It's a simple but very effective solution.
Drill a 3/8" hole in the feeder end cap to accommodate the mic cable, thread the cable through and affix the cap using the original hanger that came with the feeder. In addition to holding the end cap on the blimp, this hanger will serve nicely as a cable-keeper if you loop the cable around it.
Here's a view of the blimp before you add the fuzzy faux fur covering. The screen strainer simply pushes snugly onto the end of the feeder cage, and the original bird feeder hanger holds the rear end cap in place.
Cut a square from the remaining piece of faux fur material. Spray the fabric side with some all-purpose spray adhesive, then affix it onto the strainer cone. Trim any excess with scissors, and work the material so that it sits on the strainer grill as smoothly as possible. Use newspaper to avoid getting any adhesive overspray on your work surface.
Spray the outside of the end cap with adhesive, and use the remaining faux fur material to cover it. Use the scissors to pierce the material for the cable access hole.
Here's the fur-covered cable end cap (left) and blimp screen end cap (right) ready for use.
Apply Velcro strips to the cloth side of the faux fur, leaving about 1/2" to accommodate the handle shaft. The hook side of the Velcro goes on the bottom, and the latch side goes on the top, spaced about 1/4" from the edge on both sides.
Insert the screen and cable end caps on the blimp cage, lay the cage on top of the cloth side of the faux fur and wrap it around the cage, fastening it with the Velcro to secure it.
Here's the finished blimp ready for service. You can either hand-hold the blimp or use a painter's extension pole - or the pole used for my do-it-yourself jib project (Videomaker, November 2008)!
Tom Benford has been writing articles about video, photography, filmmaking and myriad other subjects for over 30 years, and he has authored more than a dozen books.
Side Bar: Tools
- Hacksaw or Dremel with cutting wheel
- Electric drill & 3/8" bit
- Utility knife
Side Bar: Materials
- Tubular mesh bird feeder
- Faux fur
- 3"-diameter mesh kitchen strainer
- Paint roller
- Double-sticky tape
- Epoxy & mixing stick
- Cable ties or wire
- 4 thick rubber bands
- All-purpose spray adhesive