Reflect on This
Need to pump more sunlight into your next production? Then get yourself down to your nearest hardware supplier’s lumber department and look for something called Insulfoam R-Gard. You can buy a 4-foot by 8-foot by 3/8-inch sheet of this material, which is normally used as a vapor barrier and insulator for construction. For videographers, its silvered foil side, which adheres to a white Styrofoam base, is a perfect reflector for either soft- or hard-light delivery at less than $6 a sheet.
But wait, there’s more. Break out a roll of duct tape and make yourself some folding reflectors by taping two sections together with a hinge. Now, go on location and lean the opened reflectors against something to angle the sun into your work, if you are short on help.
And that’s not all! If you spring for a second 4- by 8-foot sheet of this stuff, use that tape and box cutter knife again with the second sheet and you can fashion a carrying case complete with tape-strap handles to carry your homemade reflector kit. You will travel light, bright and tight to your next event for about the same money as you’d pay for a burger and fries for you and your assistant!
Everything to Gain
I found Jim Stinson’s Home Video Hints (March 2002) article useful. However, I would add a note to Jim’s procedures for pre-blacking your camcorder tapes.
Most cameras have an automatic exposure control that boosts the video gain in low-light conditions, such as recording with a cap-covered lens. This produces a "black" that is slightly grainy or lightly snowed. The camera will boost whatever video noise it finds in lieu of a strong video signal and give you a slightly less than pure black.
If your camera has a manual exposure control or override, you can get a cleaner black by setting the exposure control to manual and turning the level as far down as it will go. You don’t even need the lens cap. By recording only a null black signal, you eliminate the camera’s automatic gain boost for a low- or no-light image.
Other than that, I strongly agree with Mr. Stinson’s recommendations for pre-shoot tape preparations. It’s attention to these little details that contribute to more professional-looking projects. Thank you for useful articles.
Park Ridge, IL
A simple method of labeling tapes that I use, without having to use the supplied labels (since I reuse tapes) is to put a small stick-on note between the case and the interior label card describing what’s on the tape. It is easily removed and can be easily reached to update the contents.
Another Bright Idea
Funny you should have a segment in the March 2002 edition about camera lighting. I just began a business last year shooting weddings and the like, and found late-night reception interviews almost impossible with the on-camera light. My Mini DV camcorder required some light, but night- light filters didn’t seem to soften things enough to prevent guests from squinting or just staying away altogether. While pondering what to do one late night in my favorite watering hole, I happened to look through the front window to a store across the street. In the front window, there it was a lit-up lampshade. Just enough light, evenly distributed, and no squinters in sight.
The next morning I bee-lined to the Home Depot for a mini lampshade. Next, I visited my local art supply store for a soft and sturdy filter-like paper. I chose a white diffused Mylar paper. I glued the Mylar to the bottom or base of the shade. I stretched open the wiring at the top of the shade and voil. The wire clamped around the light, yet allowed breathing room for the heat to escape.
My next event to shoot was a New Year’s Eve gala. Party-goers lined up in droves to get on camera, and the client loved it. OK, so there’s a lampshade on my camera. But it gets me a better shot of the guy with the lampshade on his head. A permanent, reusable filter for under $10. Just wanted to share my bright idea. Thanks for all of yours.