12 Mattes a Year
When I recently purchased a new calendar, it occurred to me that the beautiful scenes that appeared on each month of my old calendar would make great backgrounds for my video titles. I cut them out and glued them onto cardboard to keep them flat. Since then, I have purchased many more calendars (they are usually on sale in February). I’ve found waterfalls, bridges, dogs, puppies, lighthouses and much more. Try it!
Dust ’em Off
Whenever I pull a previously recorded video cassette off the shelf, I always use a lens blower brush to clean the edges of the cassette housing prior to inserting it in the recorder. I do the same thing to the tape deck opening of the VCR or camcorder. These steps keep dust from entering the tape path, and spare those recording heads in your VCR or camcorder from unnecessary wear.
I just finished working as a production assistant on a big-budget movie and I noticed their constant use of blackwrap, a specially made aluminum foil with a bonded matte black finish that’s available at photo supply houses for about $1 per square foot. If you go to a hardware store and buy the clamp lights (cost: around $6) and add a photo
flood bulb to that, you can have a pretty nice light to work with. Put some blackwrap on the edges and you have some makeshift barn doors that you can bend any way you desire. Watch out for how many watts the clamp lights can handle. You can find some low-wattage photoflood bulbs at your local camera store. Then you can clamp the lights onto shelves, doorjambs, window sills, etc. Also, you can add external dimmers to get your lighting just right.
Using the Old Bean
The rule, when on vacation, is to travel light. This usually means leaving the tripod at home and paying for it with shaky video. Of course, there are all sorts of camera supports from fences to benches, and even the ground itself, on location. Think of them as tripod legs.
Still, one important piece of equipment is missing: the leveling and supporting tripod head. Here’s an idea for making a bean-bag support that will do the trick: before leaving for your trip, pack a clean old athletic sock in your camera bag. When you arrive at your destination, go to a local market, and for about $1.50 buy a two-pound bag of dried pinto beans. Put the beans into the sock (don’t even bother opening the bean bag if it’s plastic-wrapped) and presto! You have a wonderfully stable and adaptable camera support that you can put on just about any surface to level it out and get great shots. At the end of the vacation, leave the beans and fly back, two pounds lighter and a whole lot happier, with your rock-solid vacation footage.
Harnessing Video Feedback
I’m sure you’ve all seen the psychedelic patterns created by pointing a camera at the screen of its monitor, right? Well, here’s a way to incorporate video feedback into your own videos. This works well for dream sequences, or scenes where a character is hallucinating.
Set up a VCR as source A on your video switcher. Connect a camera to source B. Set up your monitor to show the output coming from the video mixer, and connect another VCR to the mixer’s output to record the effect. Set the camera on a tripod, at the same height as your monitor, and point it at the screen. Now play a video in the VCR. Set the effect to dissolve, and slowly drop your fader from A to B. When the fader is all the way to A, you just see your video. As you lower it towards B, your subjects develop trailers and pulsate. Play around with the zoom and tilt of your camera. By combining this with other effects, you can make really bizarre video. Best of all, it’s easy! Turn on, zoom in, trip out!
St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada