Tips to Clip: February 2013

Easier Than Makeup
I am following up on the tip in last month’s column about fixing a shiny bald head with Lancôme T.Contrôle Matte Finish cream. I have learned that Lancôme has discontinued the product. Too bad—it was the best stuff for dulling shiny skin of any color. If you have a favorite alternative, please share it at

I believe that the interview subject’s head shining under lights is our problem, not his, so I always try to avoid embarrassing him. Only after all else has failed do I pull out the makeup.

A less obvious solution to a shiny head is to add diffusion to the backlight, change the light’s angle or use a flag or barndoor to block the light from hitting the top of the head.

If that doesn’t work, my next step is to try a circular polarizing filter. Rotating the filter will often make the glare go away. You should be aware that the polarizer will also absorb about two stops of light, so it might not be practical indoors or wherever light is limited if your lens is already wide open. On the other hand, opening two stops may help concentrate attention on your subject by lessening your depth of field and throwing the background out of focus.

In both cases the problem can be solved without ever letting the subject know that it existed.

Battery Substitute
Speaking of things that are no longer available, the battery for one of my favorite fieldwork multipurpose microphones has also been discontinued. The Sennheiser ME 80 modular microphone system power supply uses a special 5.6 volt battery. I searched all the normal channels without success. Finally I called Chris Currier at Sennheiser USA, who says he gets the question a lot. He then gave me the URL for perhaps the only remaining source of a correctly sized battery. The EXS23PX is actually 6 volts, but Chris says it will work. The web site is

Hidden Tips
This is what I call a tip within a tip. In the image accompanying the Battery Substitute tip, you see the ME 80 microphone in the background and the battery being loaded into the power supply in the foreground. Two tips helped make the image.

First, since both my hands were in the photo, the camera was triggered by its self-timer. Second, on the first attempt the microphone rolled out of position while I waited for the self-timer. The next time it was held in position by a wooden toothpick placed out of sight like a miniature wedge.

Lav Nest
An old 35mm film or similar canister will protect your lavalier microphones if you follow this tip from Neville Chambers of New York. Drill a hole the diameter of the wire in the middle of the canister top. Next, make a slit from the hole to the lid’s edge. When it’s time to store the mic, slide the wire into the slit so the mic hangs inside the container. If your mic doesn’t have a foam windscreen, put a couple of cotton balls or a piece of foam rubber in the canister as padding.

Chill Out
If you want a really unpleasant experience, try grabbing a metal tripod leg during a shoot when it’s below zero outside. If you don’t want that sensation, follow this advice from Mike Silverstein of Grand Rapids, Mich. Cover the legs with pipe insulation from your local building supply store. The insulation comes slit lengthwise, so it should slip on easily. A wrap of gaffer’s tape will hold it in place. An extra benefit: the insulation acts as padding when you carry the tripod over your shoulder.

Cable Cover
Taping down cables is important to everyone’s safety, but doing so can cause some problems. Gaffer’s tape is expensive; duct tape is less expensive but can leave a residue or pull off paint. A better answer is 4” wide painter’s masking tape. Painter’s tape is comparatively cheap, leaves no residue and saves time because you can secure a cable with just one pass. (Narrower 2” tape usually takes two or three passes.) As an additional benefit, you can tell your client you are using it because its yellow or bright blue color attracts attention so people are less likely to trip.