If your camcorder has manual white balance, here’s a great way to create sepia tone or a yellowish tint to your footage for an old-time nostalgic look: Simply white balance off the blue sky. Zoom in so that the blue sky fills the whole frame and then reset the white balance. The camcorder’s white balance function will turn the blue of the sky to a neutral gray and everything else will have a yellow tint. It’s a great way to create this effect in the camcorder without having to rely on external filtration or post-production color-correction techniques. This same technique can create a variety of color balances. White balance on something yellow to turn everything blue, and then, if your camcorder has a manual iris control, underexpose by a stop or two to create a “day for night” moonlight effect, even in bright sunlight. White balance off something red to turn everything green (makes a great “night scope” effect). With imagination, these off-color effects can come in handy, especially if you’re creating a fictional story. Of course, using a color viewfinder or a color monitor ensures that you’re getting exactly the color you want on the screen.
Pompano Beach, FL
Point the Way
In a recent video production, I needed to use an animated pointer to follow street directions on a map. After several unsuccessful attempts with gravity, fishing line and magnets to move the pointer, I found another way.
First, I created an appropriate-sized pointer on paper and cut it out. Next, I taped the pointer onto a clean piece of pane glass without showing any tape (I used glass from a picture frame). I placed the glass with the pointer over the map. Off-camera, I used a rigid piece of wood against the side of the glass; this piece of wood became the “fence” that guaranteed the pointer would move exactly where I wanted it to when I slid the glass over the map. With practice, and indirect lighting, the result was more than acceptable.
I was asked to cover a birthday party with a friend’s 8mm Handycam©. While looking over the camcorder, I noticed that the rubber eyecup was missing. I immediately devised a temporary one using an empty 35mm film canister. I cut an opening at the bottom end and slipped it on the eyepiece like a sleeve. It worked well and I was able to capture the fun and excitement of the party with the canister reducing the glare on the eyepiece almost completely.
If you shoot 16:9-ratio video on one of the new Hi8 or Mini DV camcorders, but you don’t always have access to a wide-screen monitor for viewing, consider this alternative to watching skinny images. Run the video through a video mixer, like the Videonics MX-1 or MXPro, and begin a transition that shrinks the picture vertically. When the proportions look close, check them by aiming a live camcorder at a round dinner plate; then hold a saucer against the monitor’s screen and adjust the transition until the on-screen circle matches the saucer. Use this setting to make a standard 4:3 letterboxed dub of your footage.
The resulting image would look very much like a letterbox version of a major motion picture. It would have a black section taking about a quarter of the screen on the top and another taking about a quarter of the screen at the bottom. In between you would see the entire image in 16:9 ratio, with correct proportions.
For low-light situations, a high-powered focusing flashlight can provide illumination on small areas while shooting at remote locations. By changing the focus, the flashlight can provide a spot or wide beam and can prove handy when conventional artificial lighting is not available. Another idea is to use a nine- or twelve-volt lantern or emergency light. If the light has a rim or lip around the lens, you can attach diffusers or colored gels with a clip-type clothespin. Many of these lights also go from spot to flood.
Carson City, NV