Monthly Archives: January 2011

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What is a Teleprompter? In some situations, it could be a life saver. Especially when you're renting a location and time is limited. Teleprompters are extremely useful tools when you're working with a host or anyone that needs to read off lines while looking directly into the camera's lens. Most green screen shows like Tosh.0 or Talk Soup have these types of tools. Many ENG reporters are setup with prompters too. You might think that placing a sheet of paper close to the camera's lens would be just as effective, but try it and you'll see that little bit of offset is very noticeable. If you've ever had to wait on a host to memorize lines or had problems nailing a speech, you need to start looking into Teleprompters.

Teleprompters use a reflective angled mirror to display text from a screen while the camera is positioned behind this angled glass. The camera does not see the reflection and looks pretty much normal shooting through the beam splitter. To optimize the reflection, the entire rear panel needs to be covered and prevent any light from hitting the back of the angled reflector.

Here's a DIY teleprompter from Tompter.com. This version I have uses a bent sheet of heavy acrylic with a special tint film to act as the beam splitter. The one i'm showing is an unfinished version of the 'Tompter' and was sent to me to show me how effective this DIY setup is. The finished versions which can be purchased normally includes: Monitor, Stand, Acrylic Mirror & Bag assembly, and 10' VGA cable. That's pretty much everything you need to start shooting except for a laptop. All for not a bad deal (considering you get a monitor too). You can check out some other Teleprompters here at B&H. Free teleprompting software can be downloaded from various websites, all this information is at Tompter.com.

Acrylic itself may have many cons, mainly because it's not as scratch proof as glass and can collect dust. There are advantages to using acrylic though, and even the super high end Teleprompters which run thousands, sometimes provide the option of acrylic over glass for durability. If you're shooting in a war zone, acrylic might be the better type of material to carry around. The special beam splitting tint film on this Tompter is very effective even when the lights in the studio are on. Even when two 1000 watt lights are aimed at it's direction the text was still very readable. I did not notice any color shifts or much loss in exposure. Now the one I have here is an Acrylic based Prompter, but if you need Glass there's also a higher end Glass beam splitter available from Tompter too. By the way Tom is pretty open about making these and is working on a DIY video to share. If you have questions about making your own, you can contact Tom at for more information about Tompter below.

I'm going to finish this version up with a light stand mount and put this thing to use! To keep my iPad from falling out, I figure i'll just add some velcro to the back of this iPad Hard Shell Case.

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find-price-button DIY Teleprompter Kit w/ LCD Screen, Stand, Prompter - Tompter

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NextWaveDV.com reviews the Linco Flora Fluorescent lights and puts them against some very expensive Kino's. (Hey, I get a shot out too!). Although not a true match against the Kino's, the Linco's seem to hold up very well through the tests. Looks like a solid design with a great output at a budget filmmaker price. Unlike cheaper FLO's, these Linco's seem to be more tolerant to higher shutter speeds with less banding. Keep in mind I believe they are testing at 1/1000ths shutter speed, which isn't something you'll be using with 'in studio' video.


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find-price-button Linco CFL Flora Lighting Kits Softbox - via eBay

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find-price-button Linco CFL Flora Kits Softboxes - via Amazon

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visit-button Express35.com DSLR Rigs and Accessories

If you aren't following @express35 via Twitter you might have missed the sneak peek. Looks like this adjustable camera base should be the missing link for those looking to add more vertical height to the camera position. This is a missing component with most rigs which were compensated with battery grips + quick release adapters. One nice thing is that it's both the Camera base and the Tripod mount. With the Gini rig I received, I had two seperate plates. Now it's just a matter of pricing, and hopefully bundled with the RigX components that were used on the cheap $24 dollar shoulder support....

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If you've been experimenting with Flash photography, you might start to gain interest in light modifiers. With different types of modifiers you can shape the light and target exactly where you want it to be. I know some guys who carry between 4-8 speedlite flashes (or more) when on assignment. My favorite modifiers for small speedlites are honeycomb grids or snoots. These create a somewhat spotlight effect perfect for hair, rim lighting, or background seperation.

If you're running around at an event, the most common modifier is the large diffuser. So that you aren't casting harsh shadows, you'll need a Stofen, Light Sphere, or Globe. Here's a great kit for a great price and even comes with a set of colored diffusing panels. We often use colored Gels over speedlites, but these colored diffusers seem to work in the same way allowing you to add different colors to the background without having to change out the whole roll. The video seems outdated with the $100 dollar price tag, as they can be found much cheaper now.

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find-price-button Flash Kit Softbox, Colored diffusers, Snoot, Grid, Globe, Barndoors, and more

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Vimeo member Film Cyfrowy runs through a few samples on why so many of us rely on ND Filters for video. If you're working without ND filters and need to bring your exposure down, you can try stopping down your aperture, but you'll lose all that gorgeous Depth of Field look. You can also drop the exposure by bumping up your shutter speed too, but that will give you a completely different look. To gain a little bit more control of your final footage, you can cut out the amount of light coming in with ND filters. One fast way to do this is to use the variable Fader ND filters which lets you dial in your exposure. There's pros and cons when working with Variable Faders which you can find more information about here: http://cheesycam.com/variable-nd-filters-fader-filters/

24 Comments

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[Above] SpiderTrax Rotational Video Dolly

The SpiderTrax Rotational video dolly is an interesting little product with a long personal history. I recently caught several articles on the web about the SpiderTrax dolly and how I (myself) have been dabbling in DIY versions of this. I've even received several emails about what I thought about the product and 'reviews' i've done. If you don't know the history, I actually created this product and design. Before this simple 4 wheel design hit the Internet, the most common 'skater dollies' were based on a three wheel design by P+S Technik which ran over $6,000 dollars.

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[Above] P+S Technik Skater Mini

DIY'ing a three wheel rotational dolly isn't as easy as it looks. After sitting at home for many months seeing what was available on the web, I decided to tackle the project more simply - Just use four wheels. I tested different designs for several months and then finally placed the product into the hands of PhotographyAndCinema.com. After my initial video showcasing the simple design with upside down axles (to get lowest possible angle), tons of new rotational dollies have spun up. So even though I did a great job at separating myself from this product, just remember that every single knock-off four wheel rotational dolly with upside down axles stemmed from a tiny little blog called Cheesycam.com.


[Above] Sample use of P+S Technik Dolly


[Above] Sample from my own personal SpiderTrax Rotational Dolly - over a year ago.

The SpiderTrax Dolly project for me was successful in making a very simple, low cost design and still be able to replicate all movements of P+S Technik. Forward, back, side to side, and rotational shots were just as fluid. Now before you start searching for a SpiderTrax Dolly, i'll let you know that the original version is out of stock. It's a discontinued item [will there be a v2.0?? Hmm...].

So if you're shopping around for a rotational dolly, there are other versions out there mostly found via eBay. You can tell homemade stuff just by looking at photos, I would stay away from that stuff. If you're looking for a solid product, check out this new version. Smaller than my original design, and cheaper by a few bucks. Anodized plated with fancy markings and graphics. I wanted to see how they went about copying my design and decided to check it out for myself.

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Ok not bad. It's actually pretty nice compared to what's out there on the current market. A finished looking product. They took the round axles and shaved them flat underneath. This not only brought the axles lower to the baseplate, but allows it to lock down fairly snug with more contact area. Instead of using the 52mm skate wheels, they went with RollerBlade type wheels. I didn't go this route because I wanted the lowest possible profile. It also added more contact area when turning. I personally like the wider skate board wheels. Outside of a few differences, this Rotational Dolly should be a solid option to replace the now discontinued 'SpiderTrax Dolly'. So if you've been waiting for the original to come back online, sorry it's not, but good news is that here's a great alternative above all the other hundreds of rotational dollies now on the market.


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find-price-button Konova Rotational Video Camera Skater Dolly

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The world of Macro (super close-up) is quite commonly associated with tiny forms of life such as insects and flowers. This video is an inspiration on what can be done in forms of story telling all shot in Macro mode by Vimeo member Emotion.

No information on what it was technically shot with, but if you're on a DSLR a lens very capable of performing at this level would be one of my favorites - the Canon 100mm F/2.8L Macro IS USM Lens.

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find-price-button Canon 100mm F/2.8L Macro IS USM Lens

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These are two of the most popular and smallest DSLR stabilizers. I'm not going to say one is better than the other when it comes down to the actual video footage. End results between these two micro flyers would be the same once you have them fine tuned and balanced. The main differences to consider between these two is cost, quality of build, time to balance, and handling.

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First no surprise here, the Flycam Nano can come in about three times cheaper than the Glidecam HD1000. The Flycam Nano comes in a bit smaller than the Glidecam but this also means it won't handle as much weight. If you want to stick to the smallest flyer but are concerned you might be pushing the limits too much, then the HD1000 might be the safer bet. The Flycam being the smaller stabilizer can pack down smaller for traveling. Of course the Flycam Nano can easily handle a 7D + Tokina 11-16mm (and then some), which is about the average weight needed for most entry level flyers. The Flycam might be a better choice for smaller cameras like the Sony SLT-A55 or Panasonic GH2.

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The Flycam build quality isn't as polished as the Glidecam. Cheaper materials, painted metal instead of anodized plating, lack of fine tuning knobs, tiny handle, and non-professional looking weights. That's what helps keep the cost down. The Glidecam is far superior in build quality, but fancy plating alone doesn't make it a better flyer.

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The Glidecam handle is much larger and more comfortable to grip. The Glidecam handle is the same width as it's larger HD2000 and HD4000 siblings making it possible to use the HD1000 with a full Vest. The Flycam has a much smaller and shorter handle designed to be used with an optional Flycam Arm Brace.

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The Glidecam HD series stabilizers also have fine tune knobs. The fine tuning knobs allows micro movements of the stage making exact placement of the camera much easier and faster to the center of balance. This is a great feature for anyone who seems to change out lenses, cameras, or accessories that require the entire stabilizer to be rebalanced. If you're pretty much set with the camera + lens combination for flying, a Flycam Nano with a quick release adapter should do the trick. No need to rebalance.

Here's a sample video with the Glidecam HD1000: http://cheesycam.com/glidecam-hd1000-dslr-video-stabilizer-demonstration/

Here's a sample with the Flycam Nano: http://cheesycam.com/flycam-nano-stabilizer-abused-with-7d-tokina/

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find-price-button Glidecam HD1000 Video Camera Stabilizer

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find-price-button Flycam Nano Video Camera Stabilizer