Videocrafts: It’s a Grand Old Flag

The pros call them "flags" or "cubes." They’re the little boxes that TV news reporters have on their microphones to identify what channel they work for. Picture a podium at a major press announcement. Usually there will be at least a dozen mikes bearing flags that represent all kinds of television and radio stations. We’ve all seen a reporter standing in front of the White House or cowering amidst exploding Scud missiles speaking into the mike: "This is Joe Shmoe reporting live for Channel 5." The idea behind the mike flag is simple: we already knew what channel he represented because we saw the cube on his mike.

Flags make handheld microphones look proud. I often feel bad for the poor naked mike on that crowded podium. Who’s mike is that? If it’s important enough for the podium, isn’t it important enough for a flag? My heart goes out to the reporter who holds a barren, unidentified mike and tries to bravely pretend he’s actually somebody. That little cube somehow adds credibility to the report.

If you don’t have a mike flag, maybe you should. So what if you don’t do news reports for Channel Five? Who cares that you’re not covering high-profile press announcements at the White House? A mike flag can still add a subtle, but definite feel of credibility to the interviews you shoot with a handheld mike. All you need is a photocopy of this page and a few tools from around the home or office.

Copy, Cut, Fold and Fasten

To begin, use a photocopy machine to enlarge the blueprint below by 140 percent. I recommend using a heavy gauge paper, like card stock, from a local paper store. Once the image has been enlarged and transferred to heavy paper, you’ll need to trim off the excess. Cut on the solid lines, not the dotted. The dotted lines are for folding.

I suggest making your box so that the dotted lines are on the inside when you are finished. After creasing along each dotted line, fold the ends together to make a triangle, and use a piece of transparent tape to fasten it in place. The arches on the template should fold together to form perfect circular holes on the top and bottom of the cube. Tape each flap to secure it. At this point you will have a triangular mike box that will work on a standard hand-held mike. Attach it by removing the cable and sliding the cube on the mike from the bottom. If the holes are too large and the box slides around loosely, use a bit of tape to make the opening smaller.

Identify Yourself

All that’s left is to add your name or logo. Keep it simple or get as creative as you like. You can use a laser printer to generate your text, purchase stick-on letters or design something freehand. Use white paper and black ink or experiment with colors for added effect. While most TV stations have the same design on all sides of the box, you can put a different message on each side. Rotate the cube to suit the shoot. But hey, this is just a template. The creative part is up to you.

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