A couple of neat tools for making cheap camcorders produce awesome footage

There's nothing wrong with being a critic. We serve a purpose, perhaps even a necessary one, but we'd be bootless without the work of others.

I'm not entirely sure what I'm going to be working on now that I'm less-than-fully employed. But I'm leaning toward taking a creative sabbatical, enjoying the last couple of months of summer to absorb—and hopefully create—a little bit of culture.

I'm looking forward to decoupling myself from the internet and creating things that others can criticize.

One of the things I'm already working on is video. You always hear about how it's easier than ever to make professional-level video on the cheap—and that's as half-true now more than ever. The tools are certainly cheaper; the skills are just as expensive and precious as they ever were.

But man, what tools! For less than a thousand dollars, you can buy an inexpensive HD camcorder like my HV20 and a basic editing suite like Sony Vegas. Learning a few basic things about exposure, keeping the camera steady, color correction, and simple editing should only take a few days, especially when you can so inexpensively learn by doing. (I've been shocked at what a difference color correcting makes, and it applies just as easily to footage shot in HD as it does to simple VGA grabs from cellphones.)

Anyway, I'm excited, and I wanted to show you a couple of cool things that are somewhere past the basic DIY world, but not into the full-blown professional world—and the results they can bring.


Kadir K√∂ymen's "Handy35" is a custom mount that lets you wed a photographic 35mm lens to consumer videocameras. There are limitations—the video comes into the camera upside-down, so you'll have to flip it in post-production; focusing is entirely manual; some lenses don't play as nice as others with the whole rig—but for just under a thousand dollars fully kitted-out, the Handy35 V5 makes it possible to achieve film-like video with all that pretty depth-of-field in a package that is sturdy and professional looking.

It's the same sort of thing that makes using new video-capable DSLRs so compelling, but is for the moment still a cheaper option than, say, the Canon 5D mk II.


Those smooth tracking shots that go from side to side are done with great big train-like track systems in professional shoots. Alastair Brown's "Glidetrack" gets you pretty close in a portable solution. You snap a Glidetrack to the top of a tripod and its weighted ends keep everything in place.

The basic Glidetrack "SD" is $320; a model that works with heavier cameras, the "HD", is $475; the $280 "Glidetrack Compact" is half as long, but is small enough to be packed into a travel bag.

Both Together

OC Films shot this test footage with a Handy35 and a Glidetrack. That's just pretty stuff. Note the vignetting that came from using the Handy35 without being fully zoomed in past the adapter. (I like it, but some people don't.)

Poor Man's Steadycam

An oldie-but-a-goodie: Johnny Chung Lee's "Poor Man's Steadycam" can work with all of this stuff to provide gorgeous shots, although depending on your rig it might overweigh the suggest five-pound limit. You can also simply hold your tripod at a balance point to get a similar effect; you could even add a clip-on handle that would give you more stability.

This is barely a list, let only an exhaustive one, so if you have any suggestions of things I should be checking out, I am ready to be educated.

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