Stripe Your Tripod
Here’s a foolproof way to make your partially-extended tripod level on a flat surface if it doesn’t have a
bubble level. First, lay your tripod on its side and extend its legs fully. Now place a yardstick or ruler on each
leg as flush to the rubber foot of each leg as possible. Take a felt-tip marker and mark off increment lines on
the outside of each leg using whatever increments of the ruler you desire (i.e., one inch, 1/2 inch, etc.). Make
sure to mark each leg the same way. When in use, just set up each leg to the same number of increments and
your tripod will be level.
Mikes sold for camcorders usually clip onto an accessory shoe. This creates problems if you have a compact
camcorder that doesn’t have an accessory shoe.
One neat solution is to screw the microphone directly to the tripod mounting hole on the bottom of the
camcorder. This is easy to do because many microphone mounting brackets already have threaded holes that
attach to standard mike stands and tripods; just be sure the mike pod you’re using isn’t one of the ones that
doesn’t have this standard-sized hole. Find a 1/4-inch diameter bolt and saw off a 1/2- to 3/4-inch length,
depending on the depth of the hole in your microphone. Carefully file off the edges of the sawed end so
you’ll have a usable thread. Screw one end into your camcorder and you’ll be able to attach your microphone
directly to this mount.
A Better Mousetrap
Radio Shack sells a nice little PZM microphone that I use to record, among other things, room tone during
musical performances, lectures and presentations. Too bad it’s not wired as a balanced microphone; then
again, it’s not a $300 unit.
But wait–it is wired as a balanced microphone! Radio Shack simply chose to add an unbalanced
phone connector to give it wider appeal. If you cut off the 1/4-inch phone plug, you’ll find two wires, a red
and a white, and a shield. By attaching an XLR male connector (red to pin two, white to pin three, and shield
to pin one), you’ll get a decent balanced mike for a decent price, one that you can move around without much
concern for cable length. Also, you won’t have to worry about someone stealing your $300 mike.
San Francisco, CA
A letter in a recent “Tools & Tips” about making hard-shell cases was nice, but my system works better
and is easier. The sporting goods department at K-Mart offers a double pistol carrying case which has a nice
outdoor design. It’s a reasonably priced hard-shell case with egg crate foam inside. If your equipment is
thick, you can remove one of the three layers of foam to make more room.
If you suspect your remote control doesn’t work, point it at your camcorder and look at it through the
viewfinder (or a monitor) while pushing the button. If it’s working correctly, you’ll see a light flashing. The
reason you can “see” the infrared through the viewfinder is that the image sensor from your camcorder
responds to infrared light, which is invisible to your eyes. I have tested this on a camcorder with a Newvicon
tube and on one with a CCD; the flashes of light were brighter on the CCD, but still visible on the tube
Jean Des Rosiers
I own a Sony Hi8 camcorder that has an infrared (IR) remote control option. Recently I had to activate the
camcorder from the side as I walked into the picture. Since the infrared receiving window was directly above
the lens, this made normal activation impossible. I solved the problem by sticking a small (one cm square)
mirror perpendicular to the IR sensor, using double-face tape. Because of the angle, I was able to activate the
camcorder 45 degrees in front and in back of it. To shoot from the other side, just turn the mirror over and
Instead of spending $17.95 on a pop filter for voice-over microphones, you can build one for a dollar. Buy
an embroidery hoop (at least four inches in diameter). Loosen the screw to separate the inner hoop and
stretch an old pair of nylons over it. Put the outer hoop back in place, keeping the nylon taut while tightening
the screw. Then cut off any excess pieces of nylon. A coat hanger made of pliable wire will hold the filter in
place while using the microphone.