I have found a great dolly to use with a handheld or tripod-mounted camcorder. It’s a rolling "creeper," which mechanics use to lie on to work underneath cars. Pretty much any auto parts store or large discount retailer carries them. Try to get one with bars on the sides, so you can place the tripod legs on them. Test out the creeper at the store to make sure it rolls smoothly. The only problem is the ground or floor you’re working on has to be fairly even to eliminate jogging or bouncing. The mechanic’s creeper is an inexpensive way to create dolly shots.
When blacking a tape, insert a dummy mike plug into the mike jack of your camcorder. This means you won’t inadvertently record your house noise (and you don’t have to tiptoe out of the room). You can make a dummy mike plug by cutting the connector off a pair of headphones.
Compressing My Way
After reading the video-editing card article in the April 2001 issue, I realized that people might have the same problem that I used to have.
I bought a $100 FireWire card for my PC. It uses a DV compression that isn’t compatible with anything but MGI’s VideoWave (the program it came with). But I found a way around that.
I use MGI’s VideoWave to capture the footage and split up the scenes, but instead of rendering the file using DV compression, I use uncompressed .avi files. (You’ll need to create a new Produce Template and select AVI Uncompressed for the file type.) Next, I use Premiere or Media Studio to compress those .avis into SoftDV format. Now they’re compressed in the standard DV format, and this format is compatible with everything.
Santa Cruz, CA
Baby Stroller Dolly
An easy way to quickly make a fairly good dolly is to use a baby stroller. Place your tripod in the stroller, and extend the legs to the necessary length to get a stable fit in the baby’s seat. I use a suitcase’s safety belt to hold the tripod securely in place. When I have do not have a tripod with me, I place one or two pillows in the stroller with a hard-cover book on top of them and place the camcorder on the book, again securing the whole thing with a luggage belt. This provides an interesting low-angle shot. Then I aim the camcorder, turn the stabilizer on, and I gently push the stroller to create a smooth dolly roll. It does not cost anything and it works well.
Vancouver, BC Canada
Here are three lighting safety tips I learned from an old Hollywood lighting technician. 1. Wear gloves when adjusting lights. High-powered lights get extremely hot, and it’s necessary to have gloves to adjust them and add accessories like diffusers and gels. 2. Stabilize lightstands with sandbags. You can buy them or make them. Sandbags weigh down the base of a light stand, so that if someone stumbles over it, the lights don’t come crashing down. 3. Use gaffer’s tape to secure cables. Running a bunch of cords all over the floor is dangerous. By using gaffer’s tape to keep them in place, no one will trip and hurt themselves or knock over your lights.
Only Two Camcorders
I have been shooting weddings for several years now. I have found that limiting the shoot of the ceremony to two camcorders is the most cost-effective method. With more than two cameras, there is so much raw footage to go through that editing becomes too time consuming. With only one camera, there’s a chance that you might miss something or not get a good angle on it. I have been able to make very thorough and poignant wedding videos with two camcorders positioned in different places and the time spent in editing is worth the money I’m paid.