DIY: Camera Shoulder Rest – Part 2

June 22, 2009 by Derrick Faw · 3 Comments
Filed under: Equipment 

Several people have requested that I give a better explanation of how to construct our Camera Shoulder Rest. It has been several years since I built the device, but I will try to explain the best I can out of memory.

The frame was constructed of flattened steal. I bough a piece with pre-drilled holes. I cut the steal into two pieces, one being the camera arm and the other for the shoulder support. The shoulder support was then bent in a curved shape. Be sure to allow plenty of extra space for the padding to be added later.

The camera arm was then attached to the shoulder support with a nut and bolt. To give added support to the arm, I was able to find a curved bracket and bolted it between the camera arm and shoulder rest. The device is now ready to paint.

The handle was made from a small rubber-handled plastic flashlight. The light head was cut off using a hacksaw. Then with a long bolt and washers it can be fixed to the end of the camera arm.

I purchased some padding from a cloth shop and fashioned it around the shoulder support. Then secured it with needle and thread. Now with some cloth I sewed a sleeve that would fit around the shoulder support. This process proved to be very difficult. In hindsight it may have been easier to fix the padding and sleeve before bending and attaching the shoulder support the camera arm.

To make the design hands free I had to devise a belt system. I used nylon strapping that can be found in most hardware stores or cloth shops. On each end of the shoulder rest I made a loop, similar to a belt loop. After this another strap can be threaded through the loops to act as a belt around the wearers chest. A plastic buckle was used to fastened the belt around the chest. It also allows for easy adjustment. This will hold the camera rest down on the shoulder. To keep it from sliding off and making it a totally hands free design another strap was used. It was attached near the top of the curve of the shoulder support and running diagonally across the back, then attached to the belt strap.

The last step is to fix a method of attaching the camera to the camera arm. I used an extra plate from quick release tripod mount, then with a bolt and wing nut it can be moved and removed easily. I provided a diagram below to hopefully illustrate my design and meanings better.

camperch001

I would like to add that there are also several good camera rest available for purchase for those not wanting to attempt your own model. Use the link below for a nice selection from B&H.

BH Photo Camera RestS-800 Super Pro Shoulder Support

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DIY: Building An Editing Station

December 12, 2008 by Derrick Faw · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Computing, Editing, Equipment 

The two basic tools needed to film these days are a camera and a computer. Digital editing has brought filmmaking to a whole new level and availability. Now anyone with a half decent computer can do basic video editing in the comfort of their own home. Though it doesn’t take long to realize, a powerful machine can process video quickly and efficiently. The worst thing about computing has always been waiting on processes. Last year at Christmas, Samantha’s sister gave her a nice collection of flashy gadgets for a computer. We decided we should build a whole new computer to house these treasures. In the process it became apparent we would be building a whole new editing station to run on both Linux and Windows XP. We have never really liked off the shelf desktop systems. The low end models are too basic with junk for components The upper end models are way too expensive. Both are usually stacked with proprietary software and not to mention Windows Vista. I became interested in building my own machines about 10 years ago, and haven’t thought of doing it any other way since. To the novice it might seem frightening or too complex, but it is very easy and affordable. For film editing you basically have two platforms to choose from, Mac or Windows. If your choice is Windows or Linux or both then why not build your “dream machine”. If you prefer running a Mac operating system, you are probably better off to purchase a system from them. Though it is possible to build a machine to run Mac, there are legal issues in doing so.

One great advantage of living in Paris is Rue Montgallet. Located in in the 12th Arrondissement, this street and it’s surrounding neighbors are home of more computer stores than can be found anywhere I know of. Paris is funny in that way, if you want computer stuff you can go to the computer street, if you want a guitar you can go to the music street, the same works for photography and other areas of interest. Many of the stores there collaborate together in a website http://www.rue-montgallet.com/, but be forewarned, use it as a guide only. The stores are sporadic and prices and availability may vary slightly. The best thing to do is establish a relationship with an individual store, which we have, or you are doomed to walk the streets in crowed little shops looking for the right component at the right price. At any means by the end of the day you come home with better deals than you can find anywhere else. Back in North Carolina I found that the Internet is the best place to shop for computer components. For a good place to start, try places like B&H. There you can also find a full range of top quality computers for all your video, audio, and photo needs.

Maintaining a machine that has the best of modern technologies is tough. It takes no time at all for technologies to be replaced and advanced. We built our machine early this year, by now better components would be much cheaper. Though this might seem disheartening, if you build a machine that works good for you, stick with it. The number one advice I know to give in keeping your editing station working good is to keep it clean. It should not be your primary computer, limited exposure to the Internet and useless software will keep any Windows based system running a lot better.

There are many issues to consider when building your machine. What editing software do you want to use? What operating system is needed? How does your camera output? There are many guides online that deal with computer components and building systems. A few simple Google searches will yield a world of information. I will reserve any lengthy descriptions of components in this article. To build a machine the following hardware will be necessary:

  • Processor
  • Motherboard
  • Memory
  • Hard Drive
  • Video Card
  • DVD Burner
  • Case
  • Power Supply

Processor: We chose the Intel Core 2 Duo E6750 (2.67 ghz) for our machine. A good trick is to wait until a new processor is released and buy the previous version. The price will have been reduced and you still get something probably better than you had before. For editing video I recommend the best processor for the money you have available to spend, it will be the heart of your system. Research forums and reviews very carefully before you make this choice. For example at the moment Intel makes the best series, next week it could be AMD.

Motherboard: AKA mainboard. First it has to be a model which supports your processor. There are many companies making many models of boards, we chose the Asus P5K. The selection of a board is also critical to the performance of your machine. I would advise a large board with a lot of room for oversized video cards and to allow good air circulation. This was especially a concern for use because we have a Canapus DV Storm video acquisition card that we picked up on eBay a few years ago. Another important consideration is to have an adequate number of USB2 and firewire connections for your needs. Choose a motherboard capable of holding the maximum amount of memory (RAM), you will not be disappointed and it will help you get the most out of your processor.

Memory: We bought 4 GB G-Skill (6400 ddr2-800) of RAM for our machine, don’t go too cheep and get the fastest possible and also made by a reputable brand.

Hard Drive: Any new board you buy now will have SATA connections for hard drives. Which is really beneficial for video editors because of the increased speed. For any kind of serious editing I would advise having new hard drives, and even duplicates for backup. Don’t put yourself through the heartbreak of loosing all your data. There is only one hard drive I recommend, it is the Seagate Barracuda. Get one of sufficient size, recently we purchased two 1 terabyte drives for backups at a very reasonable price. You can do your own research but from our experience you will find nothing more dependable. For more information on how our backup system works, check out a post in Samantha’s personal blog about Building Our Backup system.

Video Card: Even if your computer has an onboard video controller, I highly suggest investing in a dual output video card. When editing it is very beneficial to have two screens running at the same time. We went with a fairly cheap card, the Nvidia Geforce 8400gs. For our purposes it works wonderfully. If you are handling 3D on the other hand, you should get something a lot better.

DVD burner: We went with a Pioneer DVR-212. It has a SATA interface and capability of burning dual layer DVDs. According to your specific needs, you may wish to have the capability of burning Blu-Ray, which we do not at this time since we do not film in HD.

Case: Now you have all you need to process and you need a house to put it all in. I do not suggest getting a case with a built in power supply. These can be noisey or not carry enough watts to keep your system healthy. Since we had all the bells and whistles from Samantha’s sister, we needed a case with a window. Cases can be bought for half the price we paid for ours, but for both of us it was love at first site. We got the Antec Nine Hundred hardcore gaming case. It is simply loaded with features and looks good too.

Power Supply: Don’t go cheap! Get yourself at least 500 watts and preferably by a superior brand. Cheap supplies tend to be unreliable in their power delivery and very noisey. Again, as with all components, Do The Research.

We also added a simple 16 in 1 card reader on the front panel. So with a lot of screwing, plugging, and arranging, we built a great editing machine for a bit less than €500. Note though that price does not include screens or the Canapus card, which we already had. Note: a video acquisition card probably isn’t necessary for your machine, it is an added luxury you can probably do without. Also, you will of course need an operating system, e.g. windows and or linux and your favorite editing software. The night we put it together we took a few pics, the end product looks like this.

OK it looks like a night club, a bit unnecessary for video editing. But it gets the job done and life should be enjoyed.

DIY: Camera Shoulder Rest

December 4, 2008 by Derrick Faw · 3 Comments
Filed under: Equipment, Filming 

Rather you are a professional or amateur camera user, you probably have experienced fatigue after shooting for extended periods of time or had difficultly keeping the camera steady under certain situations. A few years ago Samantha came to the conclusion that we needed a shoulder rest for our camera. One day she came home from work with a piece of paper of a rough design and told me I was going to build one for her. After looking at several models available for purchase, we came to the conclusion it was a good idea to give it a try. No one model at the time had all the features we thought would be beneficial and would of stretched our pocket book at the time. We set a budget of €50, roughly equivalent to $65. This price also included the tools needed for construction, such as a drill, file, and hacksaw. I had just moved to Paris and unfortunately I had to leave behind a multitude of tools back in the US. Our first stop was Leroy Merlin the French equivalent of stores like Lowes Hardware and Home Depot. I have always like to design things in the hardware store, looking at pieces and get inspiration of what all can be possible. The design was simple, piece of flattened steel, some nuts and bolts, a flashlight (for the handle), and a nylon strap. We then went to a fabric store for cloth and foam padding. The most expensive piece of the whole design was the purchase of a €16 tripod mount from Fnac. With tools in hand I put together what we affectionately call the Cam-Perch. The hardest thing in the whole construction was sewing the shoulder pad together. We’ve had great success with the Cam-Perch. It offers a stable and adjustable method of holding the camera. It can be strapped on offering more control and hands free filming as Samantha discovered while she used it while riding a bicycle through NYC. Actually she was even stopped by a filmmaker who inquired about it. I told her I wished she would of sold it to him on the spot, but she would in no way part with it. The Cam-Perch was first designed to mount a small camcorder, but holds our Canon GL2 just fine.

Cam-Perch

For those of you wishing to build your own shoulder rest you can take ideas from my design or ask questions, which might lead to another post of how to construct it. You can also check out http://www.instructables.com/id/DIY-camera-shoulder-rest/ for a very good tutorial on how to make a simple and cheap shoulder rest.

NOTE: This post has been continued DIY: Camera Shoulder Rest – Part 2

There are several good camera rest available for purchase for those not wanting to attempt your own model. Use the link below for a nice selection from B&H.

BH Photo Camera Rest

S-800 Super Pro Shoulder Support

Introduction to Guerrilla Filmmaking

November 30, 2008 by Derrick Faw · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Equipment 
John Cassavetes filming Shadows

John Cassavetes filming Shadows

It doesn’t take long to realize that filming requires more than just a good camera. It takes a lot of various equipment to make a video project come together. The first thing you will discover when you want to experiment with new techniques is that video equipment is very expensive. The good news is that with a little ingenuity, motivation, and a do it yourself (DIY) attitude you can make much of your own equipment reasonably cheap. A lot of people tell aspiring filmmakers that they don’t have a chance. That the business is too closed to outsiders, especially here in France. Well I for one refuse to that advice, but I keep it in mind. Just as with the popularization of hand held cameras in the late fifties a “New Wave” of filmmakers were born, today we stand at another crossroads. Filmmakers do not necessarily need to rely on big distribution companies anymore. A whole new audience has arrived via the Internet. Thus increasing the possibilities for new talent being discovered. If you have a drive to make your own films you can get it done, take John Cassavetes for example. His tactics for making films are now that of legend. Unable to receive funding from conventional sources, he looked anywhere he could to bring things together. From his own personal savings, acting in several films, contributions from friends, and multiple mortgages on his home, he was able to find the necessary money to make his films. He cast and crew consisted of friends, students and other volunteers. He has even been know to siphon electricity from a city power line. Ultimately though, the mark of his films was the passion and edge represented in the final product and not the methods he went about to achieve them. Since then several guerrilla filmmaker have made their mark on Hollywood. Most notably people like Spike Lee and Robert Rodriguez. One very important issue to consider though when looking to save money is the legality of what you do. For example shooting without permits in certain locations could cause yourself a lot of trouble. Also if you film in a professional environment, it is not a good idea to look cheap. People like to know they are paying for quality, and unfortunately appearance can play a hefty role in that aspect. As we begin in our own films, the issue of equipment and money is very near to us. It will be necessary for us to save money and cut corners whenever we can. Personally I have always liked to invent and make things, which is an added bonus. Also you may find, as I do, that what you might need simply doesn’t exist or needs modification. In upcoming post we will talk more about specific ideas and techniques to keep the cost down and have quality equipment on hand.