Friday, April 24, 2015

Frugal Cage Teleprompter



As promised in the Frugal Camera Cage II video, I've created a teleprompter option that I've detailed in the above video. Prompters are great for reading copy while looking directly into the camera lens. I've been struggling lately with having to adlib all of my content, but writing it then reading while looking into the camera should makes this process a lot easier less stressful.


Since the main Frugal Cage is already in place, adding the reflective glass and repositioning my external monitor was easy. Next, I fed the monitor from my laptop using the free Easyprompter.com. All I have to do is read while the text scrolls. I still make mistakes, but now I don't have to worry that I'll be up all night trying to hit the same points in every take. It's all right there in front of me.


PARTS LIST
Dual flash bracket (straight)
Hot/cold shoe camera adapter
Glass from 5"x7" picture frame (any retail store)
Mini ball head

OPTIONAL
Tablet tripod mount
Smartphone tripod mount
Quick Release Showdown

Monday, April 20, 2015

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Review: Glide Gear DEV-1000 Camera Slider



Camera sliders can be a great alternative to the old filmmaking standby: the dolly. When you don't need a long or complicated dolly shot, but just need gentle tracking across a wide shot, a camera slider is perfect.

The Glide Gear DEV-1000 is an entry level slider that runs just 23" across and will give you just enough length to get those shots and needs only one point of support (like a tripod). It's well-made, good-looking, compact, effective, and affordable. I go into more detail in the video (as well as show off some test footage), but I couldn't find much to complain about with the DEV-1000.


Like a lot of camera gear, a slider is a specialty item that you will probably only use occasionally. If you do need one, and want to class-up your video, this model is a good choice for small-to-medium camera setups.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Frugal Cage Lens Support



I really like adapting vintage lenses to my little Sony NEX 5n, but the longer the focal length gets, the heavier the lens. This is especially true with old glass that is completely surrounded by metal. I have a Minolta Celtic 135mm f/2.8 that I really like, but there's no way I can hang it on my small camera's lens mount when attached to the Frugal Cage.

I needed some kind of lens support, but without a rod-based camera rig (the Frugal Cage is flash bracket based), I wasn't sure what to do. Enter the 7" articulating "magic" arm. This gadgets have 1001 uses, but when attached to the forward bracket of the Frugal Cage, it can also act as a lens support. All you need to do is attach some hoop-side velcro to the provided nut and lock it into place.

Now the end of your heavy lens is supported and if it move forward or back while focusing, the lens barrel will easily slide along the velcro without getting scratched up. This trick also worked on my large Vivitar Series 1 zoom lenses, which means I will finally get to use them for some narrative shoots.


Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Free HDMI Lock



The HDMI port on your camera is great for connecting an external monitor to, but seems not so friendly in keeping that connection solid or resisting damage to the port. A common camera cage accessory is the "HDMI Lock", which is basically a small clamp that attaches to the cage and holds the HDMI cable in place by gripping the cable so it can't move.

This is a good idea, but these clamps seem kind of expensive for what they do. I wanted the same thing for the Frugal Cage, but couldn't figure out how to attach something to the cage that would hold the cable right next to the camera. Then it hit me--why not attach the cable to the camera itself?

I use a 90-degree connector to run from my camera to my monitor and the vertical part of the connector runs right by the camera strap connector. All I did was take a black wire tie, run it through the strap connector and twist it closed over the connector. Now that HDMI cable is securely fastened in place and will not move, let alone accidentally come out during a shoot or wearing out due to excessive movement.

I realize this isn't the most elegant (or a quick-release) solution, but maybe I can find a narrow velcro strap that would do the same thing. In the meantime, I've got an HDMI lock that didn't cost me a cent. 

This little discovery also makes me look at those strap connectors in a new light. I've already been using the other one to brace my camera against one side of the Frugal Cage (and the hook side of some velcro) and now this. I wonder what other uses we can get out of these solid metal lugs. Any ideas?


Monday, April 6, 2015

Q&A: What Focal Length Should I Use?



It's Trivia Monday! If you can correctly answer the Frugal Filmmaker trivia question (found in the above video) first and by email, you can win your own Short Film Idea Deck!

STUFF MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE

Frugal Cage 2.0
The Frugal Filmmaker Short Film Idea Deck
How Focal Length Shapes the Face
3-Point Lighting
John Alton's Test Light
Radio Shack clip on microphone (#33-3013)



Friday, April 3, 2015

Pimp Your Rig with Follow Focus Stickers!


When I reviewed the Newwer CN-90f Follow Focus awhile back, I noticed that the flat, gray surface of the focus gear looked very blank. It was so flat and uniform that it cried out for something to be put there. I realize this is completely unnecessary for it to function properly, but it just struck me as unfinished. I had to put something in that space!

The gray disk in question measured 1 3/4" across, so I began scouring eBay for an affordable sticker that was round, would fit, and would give my rig some character. After pondering and obsessively searching, I narrowed it to the biohazard sign, the radiation warning, crash-test dummy markers and a simple white star.


The build materials varied, with center wheel stickers being the most robust (encased in plastic!). They also cost the most, running from $10-13 for four. There were also heavy-duty stickers, which were about half the cost, but gave me more stickers than I wanted. I finally settled on decent a quality vinyl sticker (here's another good choice), which was the best price at good quality. They even threw in an extra sticker as a bonus, making the price even cheaper.

Applying the sticker was easy. I simply peeled the backing off, put the sticker in place (with the clear vinyl still attached), rubbed the whole thing with a credit card, and peeled off the outer clear layer. Presto! I now had a cool sticker to decorate my formerly boring gray disc. I was also surprised how perfect it was. Advertised as 1 1/2", the star points perfectly fit in the blank area, which made placement super simple.


Again, I realize this is totally frivolous, but it's also fun and makes me wonder about other ways to add a nice (if not campy) aesthetic touch to my Frugal Cage rig. I've already got a monitor with a fake woodgrain case, so what's next? Fuzzy dice?

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Frugal Cage 2.0



The Frugal Cage is probably my favorite DIY rig since the advent of the Frugal Filmmaker. An inexpensive camera cage that allows for the attaching of all kinds of accessories (without rods!), I'm constantly impressed at what I can do with this thing. Now in it's second incarnation, it's come a long way since evolving from the Frugal Stabilizer II. In this video I go beyond Frugal Cage Fixes and address two key issues I've had with the cage, as well as a suggestion that should aid flexibility if you are using a smaller camera with the rig.


 The first thing I do is elevate the camera so I can access the battery bay. If you are doing consistent short-form content (like my Q&A), you want to be able to swap batteries (if not using some form of external power) and dump the memory card easily and quickly. This was a problem with the original rig, but by stacking two quick release systems on top of each other, the camera is high enough (while remaining stable) that the battery bay door can now fully open. Now the battery and memory card can easily be removed and replaced as fast as possible, without having to remove the camera.



Next up was raising the top bracket and being able to lock it down in two places. In the first version, you could raise the top bracket, but you'd lose a point of contact. By adding an extra hole and tapping it with 1/4-20 threads (detailed in the Fixes video), you give the rig a critical lock-down point and eliminate instability.


After messing with this setup to create this video, I came across ways to add a lens support, a teleprompter, and a matte box. Those will be detailed in future videos. Until then, enjoy all the cool stuff you can do with this rig, and let me know if you come up with any of your own!

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