Perspectives of a Writer and Musician

Issues related to writing, publishing and playing jazz music: One man's muse.
by Al Stevens

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Location: Florida, United States

Friday, November 24, 2006

Making a Video - Hello, Dolly

Among my many projects is one to produce a DVD that explains how to build a professional ventriloquist figure by using materials and tools commonly found around
the house. This is a low-priority project. I work on it when more urgent projects are waiting on the bench for something to set up or for something I ordered to arrive.

The introduction to the video will pan around my studio showing various completed dummies that happen to be here.

Panning isn't that easy. I tried hand-holding the camera and walking around, but the result was jerky with a noticeable bump with each step I took. I do not glide gracefully when I walk.

And so I built a camera dolly, a device on wheels that you can pull along a track—in this case a virtual track, not a real one—along the floor while operating the camera.

My dolly uses a hand truck that I use to schlep my sound system and electronic piano. I mounted an old el cheapo camera tripod on a piece of fiberboard and clamped that platform to the dolly as shown here.

The bolts are large threaded hooks. I bent them in a vise to get the proper angle for bolting the tripod legs down. Then I used C-clamps to hold the platform securely on the dolly.

This is what everything looks like to the camera operator.

Here's the first test video. Things are still a little uneven; I'm operating both the dolly and the camera myself. I need to practice and I need a helper to move the dolly so I can concentrate on moving the camera from side to side and up and down more smoothly. The sound you hear is what the camera's microphone picked up. I will
replace that audio with narrative and background music. And, of course, there will be
titles. I also need to set up better lighting and reorganize the scene so it doesn't
look so cluttered and get the kitchen sink out of the movie.

But this is a start.


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