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Hack 10. Control Your Camcorder Remotely

Hack 10. Control Your Camcorder Remotely

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Programmableremotescanbearealboonifyou'velosttheremote,because

manywebsitesofferdownloadableconfigurationfilesforahugerangeof

devices.CheckoutsitessuchasRemoteCentral

(http://www.remotecentral.com).TheIRemittersintheseremotesarealso

usuallymuchstrongerthantheonesintheremotethatcamewiththecamcorder,

whichmeansthatyoucancontrolthecamcorderfromfurtheraway.

1.11.1.2.IRremotes.

IRremotecontrolsworkonlywherethereisalineofsight,andthat'snotmuch

useifyouareinoneroomandthecamcorderisinanother.Fortunately,thereis

anothersimplesolution:addanIRextender,suchastheSmartHome8220A

(http://www.smarthome.com/8220A.html;$50).

IRextendershavetwoparts:atransmitterthatpicksuptheIRsignalfromthe

remoteandconvertsittoaradiosignal,andareceiverthattakesthisradiosignal

andconvertsitbacktoinfrared,whichthecamcorderpicksup.Byusingradio

signals,theycansendremotecontrolcommandsthroughwallsorother

obstacles.

Ifyouarecomfortablewithasolderingiron,it'snotdifficulttobuildone

yourself.You'llfindplansforseveraldifferentIRextendersat

http://www.mitedu.freeserve.co.uk/Circuits/Interface/candi.htm.

1.11.1.3.Combiningthebestofbothworlds.

IfyoucombineaprogrammableremotewithanIRextenderandawirelessvideo

transmitter,you'vegotaremotecontrolcamcorderthatyoucaneasilyput

somewhere,andthenretiretoanearbylocationtowatchthevideo.Andyoucan

evencontrolthecamcorder,zoominginandoutandstoppingandstartingthe

recordingasrequired.



1.11.2.AddingaRemote-ControlledPanandTilt

Whileyou'rebuildingtheultimateremote-controlledcamcorder,whynotaddthe



abilitytopanandtiltthecamera?Youcandothiswitharemote-con-trolledpan

andtilthead:adevicethatfitsunderthecamcorderandallowsyoutopanthe

camcorderleftandrightortiltitupanddown.

IpickedupaMemorexPan-O-MaticoneBay.Itcanpan120degreesleftto

rightandupanddown20degrees,anditcomeswitharemotecontrol.When

combinedwiththeprogrammableremote(programmedtocontrolthepanand

tilthead,aswellasthecamcorder)andtheIRextender,Ihaveafully

controllablecamcorderthatcouldpanandtiltformaximumcoverage.Italso

runsoffbatteriesandfitsontoatripodtomakeiteveneasiertomountanduse.

Figure1-14showsmypersonalsetup.

AlthoughtheparticularmodelIuseisnolongermanufactured,thereareother

wirelesspanandtiltheadsavailable,suchastheX10(yes,theyarethepeople

behindallofthoseannoyingwebads)NinjaPanTilthead

(http://www.x10.com/products/x10_vk74a.htm;$99.00).Thisoneusesaradio

remotecontrol,soyouwon'tneedtousetheIRextendertocontrolit.



Panandtiltheadsaren'tstrongenoughtomovealargecamcorder

(suchasaCanonXL1).Theyshouldbeusedonlywithsmaller,palmstylecamcorders.Ifyouhavealargercamcorder,you'llneedtoinvest

inaprofessionalpanandtiltheadthatcanhandletheweight.



SecondhandpanandtiltheadsfromCCTVsystemalsopopuponeBayalot.

Youcouldpickuponeforlessthan$40.However,mostofthemarewired

models,inwhichyouneedtorunacablebetweenthepanandtiltheadandthe

controller.Ifyoubuyone,makesurethatitcomeswiththecontrollerandthat

youareconfidentaboutwiringitup.

Figure1-14.SonyCamcorderonaMemorexPan-O-Maticbase



RichardBaguley



Hack11.MonitorYourCamera



Knowingwhatyouarerecordingwhileyoushootcansaveyouhours,and

evendays,offrustrationandmoneyduringtheeditingprocess.

Practicallyeveryvideocamerahasaudioandvideooutputs,butmostpeopleuse

themonlywhentransferringvideoafterit'sbeenshot.Byusingtheseoutputs

whileyoushoot,youcanmonitorwhatisbeingrecorded.Notonlydoesthis

allowyoutotakecareoftroublesimmediately,suchasfixingabadaudio

connection,butitalsoenablesyoutotakefieldnotesthatyoucanrefertowhen

editing.



1.12.1.DeterminingYourCableNeeds

Thereareavarietyofconnectionsforcarryinganaudioand/orvideosignal.If

youplanonmonitoringyourcamerawhileyou'rerecording,youshouldrunout

toyourlocalRadioShackandgrabthenecessarycablesandadaptorsforyour

cameraASAP.Whileyou'rethere,pickupacoupleofspares,sinceyou'llloseor

breakoneatthemostinopportunetime.

1.12.1.1.Video.

Monitoringyourvideorequiresyoutosendyourcamera'ssignaltoatelevision

orprofessionalmonitor.SomecamerashavesimpleRCAjacksforaudioand

video,whileothershaveeitheracombinedA/V/Phonesjackorsomething

proprietary.Whateveryoursituationis,youwillneedtotransmitthesignalfrom

yourcameratoyourmonitor.

Althoughtheimageofwhat'sbeingrecordedisimportant,youshouldalsoturn

onthecamera'sdisplaysothatthecurrenttimecodeappearssuperimposedover

theimage.Bydisplayingthetimecode,youwillbeabletoreferenceitinyour

notes.Withoutit,yournoteswillbelessuseful.Figure1-15showsaCanonXL-



1andaJVC3-inchLCDmonitorconnectedtogetherviaanRCAcable,which

allowsforgreatmobility.

Figure1-15.Connectingtoasmallmonitor



Unlessyou'resettingupinalocationforalongperiodoftime,portabilityiskey.

Asmall,13-to15-inchtelevisionworkswellinmostsituations.However,ifyou

planonfollowingacameramanaroundtoshootadocumentary,forexampleyou

shoulduseasmaller,portableLCDmonitorinthe3-to7-inchrange.

1.12.1.2.Audio.

Whenyouaremonitoringyouraudio,youwillwanttouseheadphones.The

obviousreasonforthisissothatyourmicrophonedoesn'tpickupwhat'sbeing

recorded,becauseyourmicrophonewillprobablypick-uptheaudioemitting

fromyourheadphones.Thatwouldresultinanechoandpossiblyevenfeedback.

Thelessobviousreasonisthatheadphonesallowyoutohearwhat'sbeing

recorded,asopposedtowhat'sbeingheard.Thetwoarenotthesame;your

microphonemightpickupsoundsyoueithercan'thearorwouldn'tnormally

pickupon.

Yourcamerawillmostlikelyhaveajackthatwillallowyoutopluginapairof

headphones.Themostcommonconnectionsforyouraudiowillbeastandard

headphonejack(1/4")oramini-headphonejack(3.5mm),andadaptorsare

availabletogofromonetotheother.Becauseadaptorsareavailable,youarenot

limitedtothetypeorstyleofheadphoneyouchoose.Figure1-16showsthe



maleendofa1/4"microphoneadaptoranda3.5mmmini-adaptor,respectively.

Figure1-16.Microphoneadaptorsin1/4"and3.5mmsizes



Ifyouarenotpersonallyworkingwiththecameraifyou'vehiredacameraman,

forexampleyoushouldrunanaudiolinetowhereyouarelocated.Ifyouare

shootingwithmultiplecameras,youshouldatleastmonitorthecamera(ordeck)

whereyourprimaryaudio,suchasaboommicrophone,isbeingrouted.



1.12.2.SettingUp

Gettingyourequipmentgatheredisonlyhalfoftheequation.Theotherhalf

involvesputtingtheequipmenttouse.Todoso,youneedtoknowaboutthe

locationyouwillbeshooting.Knowingaboutyourlocationwillhelpyou

determinehowyouwillpoweryourequipmentandhowtorunthesignalfrom

thecameras,amongotherfactors.

Agoodpracticeistosetuparollingcartwithyourequipmentonit.Usinga

three-shelfcart,youcanusethetopshelftoholdyourmonitor,placeyourcupof

coffeeandothersuppliesonthemiddleshelf,andabinwithavarietyofcables



onthebottomshelfalongwithasurgeprotector.Thisbasicsetupallowsyouto

movefromonelocationtoanotherquickly.Ifyouwanttoberesourceful,you

canevenaddaVCRtothemixandrecordareferencecopyofyourfootage

whileyou'reshooting.

1.12.2.1.Wired.

Theeasiestsetupistorunpowerandtheaudio/videosignalviacabling.Ifyou

arenearapoweroutlet,you'lljustplopyourequipmentdown,plugitin,andgo.

Dependingonhowfaryouarefromthecameraorpoweroutlet,youmightneed

alongAVcableorextensioncord,respectively.

1.12.2.2.Wireless.

Ifyoucan'truncablefromyourcameratoyourmonitor,youcanstillsendthe

signalusingawirelesstransmitterandeitherdisplayitonatelevisionsetora

compatiblevideoreceiver.Therearemanywirelesstransmittersonthemarket.

Hereareafewplacestolook:



X10

VideoSENDERpackage(http://www.x10.com;$79.99)



Studio1Productions

ShotWatchervideotransmitter

(http://www.studio1productions.com/shotwatcher.htm;$495)



TheSpyStore

Avarietyofvideotransmittersavailableat



http://www.thespystore.com/videotransmitter.htm

NuTexCommunicationsalsooffersagood,small,wirelessvideo

solution.NuTexisaTaiwan-basedcompany,soifyouwantto

purchasetheirproducts,youneedtofindaretailerwhocanimport

them.Moreinformationabouttheirvideosenderisavailableat

http://www.nutex.com.tw/mini.htm



Goingwirelesshasitsadvantages,buttherearedisadvantagesaswell.Themost

obviousisthefactthatsomewirelessfrequenciescaninterferewithyour

audio/videosignal.Intheextremecase,Ihaveseencellphoneswithbuilt-in

walkie-talkies,suchasthosefromNextel,tearavideosignal,renderingthe

videouseless.Studio1ProductionsisupfrontabouthowtheShotWatcher

causesproblemswithCanon'sXL-1.Whateverchoiceyoumake,youshouldrun

testsbeforeyougointoproduction.



1.12.3.TakingNotes

Beingabletoseeandhearwhat'sbeingrecordedontapewillhelpyoufix

troublesbeforetheybecomeproblems.Butitalsoenablesyoutotakenotes

whileactionisoccurring,whichyoucanusewheneditingtorefreshyour

memoryorcommunicatewithyoureditor(kindofa"messageinabottle").

Inadditiontothecurrenttimecode,youwanttobeawareofwhattapeisinthe

camera.Ifyouhaveprelabeledyourtapes[Hack#3],youshouldnotethetape

numberalongwiththetimecodedisplayedinyourmonitor.Ifyouhavenot

prelabeledyourtapes,youshouldbediligentaboutnotingatleastthedateshot

somewhereonthetapeassoonaspossible(suchaswhenremovingthetape

fromthecamera).

Youcantakenoteshoweveryouchoose,butifyouhaveascripttofollow,you

canusethesameapproachprofessionalScriptSupervisor'suse:createalined

script.Ifyouareshootingadocumentaryorunscriptedvideo,youcanwrite

downthedateandtimeofanoccurrenceinanadhocfashion.Bothapproaches



willenableyoutocreateareminderofwhensomethingoccurredthatyoufound

significanttoyourproject.

1.12.3.1.Creatingalinedscript.

Tocreatealinedscript,youneedaphysicalcopyofthescriptyouareshooting.

Youalsoneedapencil,asharpener,athree-ringbinder(toholdthescript),anda

ruler.

Whenshootingascene,markthestartingtimecodejustabovethefirstlineof

dialoguebeingspoken.Duringthescene,followalongbydrawingalinedown

thescript,untilthesceneends.Atthatpoint,writedowntheendingtimecode.

Youcanalsowritenotesinthemarginsoronthebackofthepage.Suchnotes

mightincludecontinuitynotes,suchashowfullaglassofwateris,or

productionnotesofunexpectedevents,suchasactorsimprovising.Figure1-17

showsalinedscriptafterafewtakeshavetakenplace.

Youcontinuetheprocessofnotingtimecodesforeverytake,fortheentirescript.

Ifyoudecidethatacertaintakeisgood,simplycirclethetimecode,asshownin

Figure1-17Thisisknownasacircletakeandisusuallyanindicatorofa

director'spreference.Whenyougotoedityourproject,youcanrefertoyour

linedscriptandimmediatelyknowwhereyourgoodtakesoccurontape.

1.12.3.2.Takingadhocnotes.

Evenifyoudon'thaveascript,youcan(andshould)stilltakenoteswhile

shooting.Thesimplefactis,youwon'tremembereverythingthathappens.This

isespeciallytrueifyou'reshootingoveraperiodofdaysormonths.

Figure1-17.Alinedscript,identifyingthatagoodtakeforthisscene

occurredat01:29:03



Forexample,youmightmakeamentalnotethatBobandSarahkissedforthe

firsttimeat3:15p.m.onTuesday.Butwhenyoustartediting,theirkisswillbe

oneofprobablyhundredsofmentalnotesfloatingaroundyourhead.Taking

notesearlyandoftenwillfreeyoutoconcentrateonotheraspectsofyour

project.



1.12.4.UsingYourNotes

Ifyouareunderaserioustimecrunch,youmightnothavetimetologyour

footage[Hack#5].Insuchacircumstance,yourfieldnoteswillprovetobe

invaluable.Theirworthiscompoundedbyeachhouroffootageyouhave.

Withalinedscript,youcanlogyourfootagequitequickly,becauseyouhave

bothinandoutpointsforyourtakes.Moreover,youcanenteraquicknotein

yourlogcommentsaboutwhichtakesweredeemedgoodwhentheywere

recorded.Youcaneventryeditingtogetheryoursceneusingyourcircletakes

firstandfinesseitfromthere.

Usingadhocnotesisn'tasstraightforwardasusingalinedscript,buttheycould

proveevenmorevaluable.Unscriptedprojectsoftenamassmuchmorefootage

thanthosethatarescripted.Infact,somerealitytelevisionshowsacquire

thousandsofhoursoffootage.Imaginesiftingthrough10hoursoffootagewith

andwithoutnotes.Whichwouldyouprefertodo?Now,compoundthatto20,

200,oreven2,000hours,andI'msureyoucanbegintoappreciatethevalueof



fieldnotes.

Nomatterhowsmallyourprojectis,youshouldtakethetotimetosetupand

monitorwhatyourcameraisrecording.



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