12v DIY LED Filmlight – without soldering.

DIY-builds and hacks, Film, Photography

More than once I’ve been planning a shoot (both film and photography) and stumbled upon a big problem. No electricity. If you’re documenting your urban explorations, or shooting a scene at night in the woods, a flashlight isn’t always going to cut it. This has bugged me for quite some time and I’ve been wanting a battery-powered LED-panel for ages. But as you know, these come with a pretty juicy price tag. I’ve been checking out tutorials where people build their own panels using LED-strips which are cut up and soldered back together with wires. Soldering is a thing I have yet to master, so I started to think about alternative solutions. This is what I came up with.

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I built this lamp using 10 meters of (5050) RGB LED-strip which I got dirt cheap from eBay. RGB-strips come with a remote, which lets you mix your own colours so the possibility to get various coloured lights, from the same lamp, without filters really got me going. Soldering RGB’s would be even harder for me since there are more connectors (four instead of two) so I started to think about how to line up the strips without cutting them apart.

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I live nearby an IKEA, and I really like to walk around the shop to see if there are things which can be modified into filmgear. Cue the wonderful TROFAST box. This box is cheap, lightweight and comes with a lid in frosted plastic. Perfect if you want to soften your light. The edges are rounded so I figured I could just loop the strip (folding is a big no-no) around the inside walls of the box. But looping them on the sides probably weakens the output a bit since it’s not shining directly out of the box. I thought of it for a bit, and realized a reflective surface could give me an extra needed push. So I went to the hardware store (Hornbach is my home away from home).

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Here I found aluminiumtape (my new spiritanimal). I roughened up the walls of my box with P120 sandpaper to make sure the tape would really stick. I found a nice place at the top where I could put the beginning of my strip (a small box-reciever for the IR-controller with a DC input). The alutape was fun and easy to work with and the LED-strip stuck to it perfectly as i began looping it around the walls.

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I attached an adjustable flagpoleholder made out of metal to the box. These are easy to find online and most of them will fit onto a C-stand. On the back of the box I put some industrial strength velcro so that I can attach my Anker Astro Pro II powerbank (12v output) and fire the lamp up wherever I may end up shooting.

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As I mentioned before, the lid for the box is frosted plastic so it works like a diffuser. To make sure the lid doesn’t fall of when the light is angled, I drilled four holes in the box so that the hooks of the elastic SKÅDIS straps from IKEA would stay put.

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The lamp lit up beautifully when I tested it in a pitch black room, and I’m really happy with the way this build turned out. I can store all the cables and the remote inside the lamp, (since it’s a box), and there are no delicate parts on the outside of the lamp which could become damaged when transported.

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I hope you found this useful and that you’ll have your DIY-eyes with you the next time you set foot inside an IKEA. The place is packed with objects just waiting to be transformed. If you have any questions about this build, let me know.

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By the way! What is your best IKEA-based build when it comes to creating filmgear?

A case of the comics.

DIY-builds and hacks

In yesterdays post “Filmmakers hardcase for less than $35” I mentioned that I might cover the interior with vintage comic book pages. I spent about an hour thinking about it in bed last night and as I woke up this morning I knew it was something I had to do. I think it turned out really nice, and besides adding uniqueness to my cases, it should also give the insides some extra stability once it dries up.

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For this I used about two 1970’s Wild West-themed comics and some wallpaper paste.

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Filmmakers hardcase for less than $35.

DIY-builds and hacks, Film, Photography

Any filmmaker (or photographer) tends to accumulate lots of gear, or as my friend Murphy calls it; stuff. And as you know, most of the stuff is quite useful once you’ve dragged it all to set. My main focus these last years has been on getting my hands on all the wonderful tech-stuff you need (and want) and each time I’m heading out, I’m doing so with a bunch of suitcases, padded bags and backpacks. So I decided to step it up a notch and get some nice cases to keep my things safe, in one place, and to be honest; to make me look less like Kevin Costner on his rig in Waterworld (1995).

I did what everybody does and started looking at hardcases online. I decided that a few padded Pelican-cases would be nice. And then I came to my senses and realized that I’d rather save the $300 for more (you’ve guessed it!) stuff. So here’s what I came up with:

How to make your own fitted hardcase to keep your gear safe while looking fly.

1. Go shopping. I went to a second-hand store and found a really nice set of three aluminum cases in different sizes. I got really lucky here but you could just as well grab a hard-shelled suitcase (BONUS: the wheels and handle make transporting everything easier). The ones I looked at cost about $8. Make a run to the hardware store and grab a can of sprayglue, a sheet of styrofoam and a razorblade knife. Finally you’ll need a sleepingpad and some cloth.

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Set of three second hand aluminum cases ($15) – Sprayglue ($7) – Styrofoam ($2) – Sleeping pad ($6) – Razorblade knife ($1) & an old black T-shirt.

2.  Cut out a few pieces from the sleepingpad to fit your case. If you’re using a suitcase, you might want to start with some styrofoam in the bottom the gain some hight quicker (suitcases are usually quite deep but it all depends on what you’re planning to store in your case.) After this: trace around your objects with a marker.

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For my smaller gear (audio-stuff and ND-filters + fieldmonitor) I just used three layers from the sleepingpad, for my shoulder-rig I went with styrofoam. The nice things about working with layers is that you can customize the shapes to really fit your stuff. It takes some planning since you want your gear to lock in and stay put between lid and bottom.

3. Start cutting. You can use your first cutout as a stencil for the upcoming layers. Remember to customize each layer; you might need to make each shape smaller as you go, it all depends on your objects and if they’re flat or rounded.

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Don’t worry if your edges get a bit jagged and uneven. This will all be covered up with cloth later. 

4. Before adding glue, make sure everything fits the way you want it too. It might be a good idea to check how much space you got when your lid closes. Remember, you need to fill the top of your case to lock everything in. I made my bottom pretty deep so I didn’t really need the space in the lid. To save time and effort, I filled the lid with styrofoam.

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If you’re doing a lot of work with styrofoam and you need it to look clean – get a special knife for cutting styrofoam. I wrapped everything in cloth so I just went with the razor and ended up with fake snow all over the place.

5. Use the same shapes as before when cutting the top layer from the sleepingpad. Just think twice before putting it on with glue. Think vertical flip, mirror, the up-side-down and make sure it all aligns. The next to steps cover the shoulder-rig case so if you’re in a rush, skip steps 6 and 7.

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Sprayglue is very sticky so think twice before you put everything together. You don’t want to end up cutting new squares just because your brain wasn’t all there.

6. For big objects (which go deep), you might want to work with styrofoam entirely. I did this with my shoulder-rig and it saved me about ten layers of sleepingpad. It’s a bit more time-consuming to trace everything and you need to sculpt it a bit more, but just think of all that money you’re saving. And the fun you’re having creating something on your own.

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Here i wished I had that special electrical heated styro-knife, but if you’re careful a razorblade-knife does the job as well. More snow.

7. Keep cutting, adjusting, fitting, cutting. There’s a lot of in and out of the case when working like this, but the end result is satisfying enough, so keep going.

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8. Once you have all your pieces, made sure it all fits so that your gear is all snuggled up and locked in, sprayglue each layer together (build it up layer by layer in the case to make sure it all fits). After this, add another coat of glue and cover it with cloth. I used a T-shirt here but technically you could go out and get some furry material or go wild and cover it in, papier-mâché perhaps? I’m thinking of going wild with some vintage comics I’ve got, and if I decide to do so, I’ll post the result here later.

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End result. Three aluminum cases. One for the rig, one for the fieldmonitor and my ND-filters, and one for mics and the Zoom-recorder. All for under $35.

Was this helpful? Hit me up if you’ve got some questions or ideas for improvement. And thanks for checking in.

Mixing 60fps with 24fps? (Or; how the Tuscan tragic came to life).

DIY-builds and hacks, Film

A while back I shot a video for Magdalena Wolk’s song “Tuscan tragic”. We wanted to do something quick and simple, so adding some sort of flair to the visuals was essential. Shooting a quick video is a great way to give a song you want to put out that extra push. Here’s how we did it.

We had access to a photostudio with a white backdrop so being able to control the lights was a big plus. I also have an old VGA-projector laying around so we decided to project pre-shot footage onto Magdalena and the white background, while she was performing. Doing this instead of adding footage with a blending mode/opacity change gives you more interesting footage since the projector emits a ray of light, hitting the moving subject in various angles, adding lights and darks. And life.

Magdalena had some great random footage from her travels, some of it shot with a cameraphone. For our project, this worked great since we knew we wanted a natural and heavily mishandled look. Both me and Magdalena are huge fans of vintage footage, so coming up with the different aspects of this video wasn’t really that hard. We mixed Magdalena’s footage with my ink in water footage and edited it together with the full audiotrack as a base.

We did add one more effect to this video, found in the chorus. Magdalena moves in slow motion, but her lips are in sync with the words. How? Performing at double speed while shooting at 60 fps. We shoot the chorus separately, with Magdalena performing to a audiotrack running at double speed. When you bring your footage into your editor (Premiere Pro in my case), all you have to do is change the speed/duration of the clip down to 50% (half the speed of your track running at double speed – duh) – and you’re in sync with the original audio again.

Now – I did have some problems using clips shot at different framerates (the rest of the video is shot in standard 24fps) in the same sequence, so I had to edit together the chorus in a project of it’s own, and then export it at 24 fps. After this, it worked fine.

I did some research and found out that the optimal convertion would be to bring footage shot at 60 fps down to 40% when changing the speed of your clip, if your video is meant to be exported at 24 fps. This because 60 X 40 = 2400. I’m sure there’s lots of information about this elsewhere – but it might be worth testing if you’re planning to try out this effect. Of course, your audio will need to run at a matching speed when shooting.

The wind in the slowmotion footage comes from a leafblower I bought at a yardsale for about $20. The dust and scratches are real filmscans, (most of them come from this brilliant place called filmlooks) which I put on top of my footage using the screen and overlay blending modes in Premiere. Finally, I added a transparent .psd layer with Super16-borders to sell the look a bit more. We shot this video in about three hours. So I’m quite excited to see what we can pull of when we add some more time and planning next time. Make sure to check out Magdalena’s other stuff if you liked this video, since she’s easily found on Soundcloud, YouTube and Spotify.

Got questions about the process? You know where to put them. Full video below.

DIY stacks of cash.

DIY-builds and hacks, Film, Photoshop

There might come time when you need a briefcase full of money. I realize we all need that, always, but I’m talking props here. Stacks of cash bundled up is a great item in any story whether you’re shooting a music video or film. The nice thing about this prop is that it’s fairly cheap and easy to make.

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Here’s what you need:

  • Camera (or internet) and printer.
  • A4 paper.
  • Tea.
  • Razorblade cutter.
  • Gluestick.
  • Newspaper (or ads).
  • Briefcase.

If you’re gonna make stacks of cash with whatever currency you’ve got lying around the house (don’t we all have cash just lying around the house?) the best way is to photograph front and back of the bill you’re gonna make. That way you get a high-resolution image to work with in Photoshop.

If you’re like me and need money from the good ‘ol days, go look around the internet – it’s not that hard to find high quality images of old bills. For this project I wanted to make Swedish 100kr bills from the 1970’s –  and I didn’t have to look for that long. Once you have your images of the bills, have a look at “bill bands” online. You can probably design your own in Photoshop, but remember, the greatness of this prop is in the details so don’t forget to add a serial number and some sort of stamp on your bill band. If you’re doing different notes – change the colours up on your bill bands!

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Adding realistic details to your bill band is gonna take this prop to a higher level.

The rest of the process is quite simple:

  • Soak some A4 papers in teawater (it doesn’t have to be hot – we just want to tint the paper a bit to make the money look used).
  • Crinkle your papers up and flatten them out again. Leave to dry and put them under some heavy books to flatten them out again. The wrinkles will still show, but now your papers will do ok in the printer.
  • Make a A4 document in Photoshop and fill it with your images of the bill you’re using. Make sure you’ve got the correct size. Again – the details.
  • Cut out your bills.
  • Cut newspapers or ads to the same size as your bills.
  • Make a cash-sandwich. Newspapers being your filling – front and back of bills being the bread.
  • Print out your bill bands and cut them out in long strips.
  • Put it around your stack of cash and glue it together on the bottom.
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Cutting newspapers is the boring part here, but getting the correct size is important to make it look realistic.

The thrift shops usually have a briefcase or two lying around for no money at all. I’ve got a nice collection, some of them salvaged from garbagerooms. Once you start looking, you’ll see old briefcases everywhere. Good luck!