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Pretty Neat Gadget

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Todd Terry
Pretty Neat Gadget
on Feb 12, 2018 at 9:47:30 pm

I probably should post this in Cinematography instead, but thought I'd post it for my Biz&Mkg friends first...

I found this little gadget today completely by accident, and I think it's pretty cool.

Seems I am always struggling when setting up very low shots. I'll often want something that is too low for a high-hat, too low for a slider, and even too low for a sandbag... so I'll end up setting the camera right on the ground. Then I'll need to level it, or adjust it (almost always needed to raise the front). That usually means grabbing a couple of dolly track shims and monkeying with them until I get the shot right. Or, as often as not, we don't have shims handy (since frankly we rarely travel with track anymore, and I never remember to throw a couple in the camera case), so I'm always sticking other things under there to prop the camera...maybe a filter case, a coil of cable, a rock... or more often than anything else, my wallet. None of which is ideal. And it always means a lot of trial and error wiggling the prop back and forth to get the framing right.

While at Home Depot today looking for something completely different in the tools aisle.. I spotted this....

Maybe this is commonplace, but I've never seen this thing before. It's the "Air Shim"... an inflatable shim that's used for by contractors to lift up things like doors, appliances... and now, my camera...

I thought it was pretty darn cool, and now it lives in the camera case. Fifteen bucks.

Forgive the poor cell phone video (it was what was handy). And yes, I'm painfully painfully aware that it is more than time to re-epoxy the stage floor. Please feel free to not mention that. The management thanks you.


Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.

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Joseph W. Bourke
Re: Pretty Neat Gadget
on Feb 13, 2018 at 3:24:00 am

These have been around on an industrial scale for a long time. I wrote a documentary for AT&T back in the late eighties about a "hot slide", the process of moving a digital telephone switcher into place while it was running (to replace the old electro-mechanical switcher). They built a separate building onto the main telephone exchange, installed the new switcher, got it up and running, and then "slid" it into place while it was handling thousands of phone calls. The switcher was riding on fiberglass rails, under which these industrial level air shims were pumped up, and slid on low friction pucks. It was amazing to see! (and film) It's nice to see the technology filter down to a smaller scale. Great idea!

Joe Bourke
Owner/Creative Director
Bourke Media

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Mark Suszko
Re: Pretty Neat Gadget
on Feb 13, 2018 at 4:19:09 pm

I've been using a soft rubber wedge-type door stop for this kind of thing for years. I like that it fits in my fanny pack or pocket.

One time by pure chance I happened to have it on me at an event, a bill-signing ceremony kind of thing, when a late-arriving camera op with a small cannon GL had no tripod ready, and no spot left to put it, as about ten of us were all in a tight scrum around the desk on tripods already. The tardy camera op was quite at wit's end: he had no shot.

I motioned to him to hand me his Cannon, zoomed out full wide, hit record and laid the camera on the end corner of the desk, and of course the vertical angle was wrong, but I reached into my pocket and whipped out the doorstop in front of everyone and wedged it under the front until the elevation of the lens framed the Governor and the scene... perfectly. It was truly cinematic-looking and totally impromptu. A cooler shot than the one I had, actually, but I was shooting for news, not drama.

The other camera ops all looked at me in wonder, and one asked; "how did you anticipate needing that AND having it in your pocket?"

The true answer: After so many years, you learn some stuff.

"Because", I said in a low, gritty whisper: "I'm the goddamn Bat Man." Grinning, they nodded assent and we went on with the gig. Got a couple high-fives as we broke down after.

Yeah, that was a good day.

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