I’m currently taking a six month long course at Malmö Univerity called Experimental Mediaproduction. A week ago me and my group performed the outcome of two weeks hard work. This documentary about the project explains it way better than I do, and I’m sure watching beats reading in this case. I must add that this probably is my favourite project I’ve been involved in since starting my studies in Malmö. If you make it to the end – let me know!
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
By the way! What is your best IKEA-based build when it comes to creating filmgear?
Sins In Vain is a melodic metal band from Sweden and I’ve been friends with some of the members for years now. The band decided to record a cover of Killswitch Engage’s song The end of heartache, as a way to thank them for all the years of inspiration.
The band wanted a video which documents the recording process in the studio and I wanted to give it a shot. A full day in the studio, and everything ran smoothly, probably because we all decided and agreed on the look and feel of the video beforehand. We decided to go for a grainy black and white, somewhat faded video, since the word “nostalgia” popped up a lot when I asked the band about their connection with the song. I shot the video in (FLAT) colour just in case the black and white feel would be a disaster and so I had to prep for this before hitting REC. The studio is very rustic and has a nice homely feel to it so I went with warm lights and tones. The point of the video was to show the love and respect Sins In Vain all have for the cover they were about to record. If I wanted them to look hard as hell and stone cold, I would have gone with a more blue and cold setup. But remember, black and white was always the main goal for the video, the decisions with the colourtemp was just precautionary planning.
A cosy studio usually comes with a lot of extra stuff (this one came with a rocking horse attached to the ceiling), and stuff casts shadows. Lighting the studio was a bit tricky so I often directed my redheads away from the subject, bouncing the 800W light off the ceiling instead. This way I eliminated many of the shadows which would have caused some confusion in the shots. I used vintage constructionlights to separate the subjects a bit from the background, and to add some quality to the cosy atmosphere I was going for. I didn’t use any makeup on the band because I wanted to capture the process in a raw and natural way. Some may argue that one should always use powder on subjects while working with hot lights, some don’t. We went raw and I personally think it adds to the “realness” of the video.
The video was shoot with my trusty Canon 700D and I alternated between two prime lenses. The classic 50mm f1.8 and my latest addition, 24mm f2.8. The 24mm lens gives you a shot which is close to what you see from your own point of view so composing your shot is quite easy since you kind of get, “what you see” from where you stand. The 50mm brings you closer as you probably know and is great for more emotional closeups. I kept the shots stable and consistent always using a tripod or a 60 cm slider. Not going handheld forced me to focus on creating a good composition before each take, keeping the rule of thirds in mind whenever possible. I did shoot some handheld B-roll I labeled “goofing around in the studio”. The plan was to let these images slip into the video towards the end, but while editing it just didn’t match the overall feel I was going for. Instead I used some of those shots in the intro for the video accompanied by sounds captured while setting everything up.
The camera was running on Magic Lanterns firmware. This enabled me to view the shots with bars. I love shooting with bars. They are not permanent but it’s another safety when it comes to editing. You compose your image to match the bars but they’re not there on the actual footage. When you add bars in post you have more control over the image and are able to reframe your footage. Before Magic Lantern (which also lets you shoot in RAW if you wish) I used masking tape on the viewfinder where I wanted the bars.
I’m not going to write a full report on how I edited the video but I had lots of footage to choose from. I shot three takes of each member (Wide tripod / Close tripod / Slider) except Tommy on the drums who got two extra slider-takes to capture the footwork from both directions. The video drops on Valentines day, but until then you can watch the three promo videos below which I put together for the bands Instagram.
Curious about the music? Listen to Sins In Vain on Spotify.
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.
For this I used about two 1970’s Wild West-themed comics and some wallpaper paste.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.