Skycam without a Pilots License
I have read in your magazine the importance of getting different angled shots like low-angle or high-angle. I recently bought a telescoping monopod to take on gun-and-run shoots because my tripod is heavy and cumbersome. I discovered that if I extend the monopod to its full length and then plant the foot of it at my waist, I can hold the camera relatively steady about twelve feet in the air. Though my two-inch LCD is difficult to see at that height,
I can see it just well enough to frame my shot.
St. Louis, MO
Baseball Cap Steady-cam
Your article, "Shooting on the Go," in your July, 2005 issue was very useful. I've found one other technique to help keep the picture steady. I call it the "Billpod." Wearing a baseball cap set at the appropriate angle and using the eyepiece, I use my index finger to hold the bill of the cap and the camera together. Works for me.
Supported by Beans
I loved Jenny Hanson's handheld tips ideas in your July, 2005 issue of Videomaker magazine. Here’s a tip I use a lot when I don't want to take a tripod with me when I'm hiking. I made a small beanbag to set my camcorder on when I'm trying to balance it on an unlevel surface like a rock, picnic table or tree stump. It also works to stick under just the front of the camcorder, to give it a bit of lift. When you place the camcorder on the ground or on a very low object, the shot often shows too much ground, but by raising the nose of the camcorder a bit, you get a better angle that shoots up slightly, instead of shooting right out at the ground. Using a small, lightweight beanbag also gives the camcorder a bit of protection from twigs, pebbles or jutting objects, and the beans can be squashed into any formation you want to add more or less height to the angle, or to level it more on one side or the other.
A beanbag makes for a very versatile camera support device. We know there are a company or two that sell beanbag camera supports, but if you can find a beanbag about the size of a loaf of bread, it should work. You may need to unstitch it and take some of the stuffing out. One could be homemade from fabric and, well, beans (synthetic or real). A sweatshirt, sweater or flannel shirt crumpled up in a ball works as well.
— The Editors
I travel a lot by plane to places I am going to videotape and I have a soft tripod case (canvas). I first wrap my tripod with a blanket before placing it in the bag and then stuff the remainder of the tripod bag with my socks, underwear and T-shirts. This not only "super pads" my tripod but leaves more room in my suitcase for other gear. The one time I did not wrap the tripod in the blanket, I found a couple of small holes in two brand new T-shirts. The bag must have been banged against something causing a sharper part of my tripod to puncture the shirts. Better a small hole in a couple of fifteen dollar T-shirts than damage to my $400 tripod, but the blanket seems to absorb those dings now.
As we’re always saying, take care of your gear and it’ll take care of you. Thanks, Ben.
Getting Fogged Down
Here's a couple more ideas to go along with the Randy Hansen article, "Shooting the Four Seasons," (August 2005 Videomaker). Shooting in cold weather can be a bear when you keep going from warm house or car to the freezing Great Outdoors, because you have to deal with fogged up lens.
1. Try shooting some low heat at the lens using either your car's heater, or pointing a blow dryer at the lens.
2. Or carry a portable heater with you and keep the camera near it until you're ready to shoot.
3. When the reverse happens, and you find yourself in a warm humid room, try pointing a cool fan at the lens for a few moments to defog it.