I have been in the audio public address equipment rental business for 57 years in the greater Milwaukee area. During that time, as you would imagine, I have seen many a broken mike stand returned to my shop without the base. Having need of a video camera mono-pod for a customer I went to my pile of old mike stand parts to try and put something together. I took the adjustable chrome tube, from one of the fallen, and placed a large washer and nut on the bottom where the cast iron base was. Over the washer and nut assembly I fit a rubber chair leg glider for a stable foot. Digging through my audio connectors I found that the threaded housing of a 1/4-inch Switchcraft headphone plug (the older big ones) fit the threads on the top where the mike cradle would go. In that plug sleeve I put a 1/4-inch screw washer and nut through the top with just enough of the screws threads sticking out to fit into the camera’s mount (see example). Voila! A monopod.
Since I made that first monopod I have sent over 100 happy customers off to use this tool for still and video work. Try it and see for yourself.
Don’t Toss That Cardboard!
I recently purchased a soft-side camcorder case for my digital camcorder. Upon unpacking and inspecting the case, I noticed that aside from the usual wads of paper stuffed in the pockets to give the bag shape, the main compartment had a section of corrugated cardboard about 1/4-inch thick that went up the side, across the top, and down the other side. Rather than discard it, I decided to use it to help add a little rigidity to the case (and protection for my camcorder). I covered the cardboard with contact paper and placed it back in the case just as it was. Either side can lift up easily for access to my gear, then tuck back down nicely in place. Corrugated cardboard is one of the best materials for absorbing shock and protecting fragile items. Just ask any moving company. It’s inexpensive (practically free), and very lightweight. The contact paper helps keep the cardboard intact and looks a little nicer.
Keep it Simple, Chief
My advice is to avoid using a computer to make your videos altogether it is too complicated. But if you are a videophile, that isn’t an option. So here is alternate advice to keep your sanity and make your videos better. Keep it simple. It’s the simple shots that are more effective (i.e. the Bach scene in film The Shawshank Redemption). No complicated transitions to draw attention to the edit. Cuts are supposed to be invisible, transitions are to bring scenes together. If you keep it simple and plan it out, you won’t end up throwing your computer out of the window.
Still Cameras: Who needs ’em?
Many of the newer camcorders can take still photos on memory cards. Some of them even sport megapixel CCDs for still photos. A camcorder’s lens can zoom as much as 25x, take closeups within 1/2-inch and accept filters. Some also reduce shake. Also, what you see in the viewfinder is what you get in the photo (no parallax to worry about). Use the close up capability to shoot flowers, insects, stamps, coins etc. Use telephoto to shoot birds, wild animals, zoos, boats etc. Put on a 2x accessory lens to shoot the moon, comets, sunsets or faraway objects. Use a tripod for distant shots, a polarizer for sunny shots, and red, orange color filters for sunsets. Shun digital zoom. Keep subjects in your shots simple (uncluttered). These shots are great for e-mailing and making 4×6 prints.
Focal Length Lesson
Here’s a simple way of defining an f-stop: Think of the f-stop as a fraction. For example, f/4 is actually “f” divided by 4, with “f” being the focal length of the lens. In other words, f/4 means the diameter of the iris opening equals the focal length divided by 4. So if the focal length of the lens is, say, 50mm, then the iris diameter at f/4 would be 50 divided by 4 = 12.5mm. Consequently, the iris diameter at f/22 would be 50 divided by 22 = 2.27mm. It therefore follows, that f/4 is a large f-stop, (which gives a large iris of 12.5mm dia.), and f/22 is a small f-stop, (which gives a small iris of 2.27mm dia.).