Posts Tagged ‘record’

DSLR FRIDAY: (China) Balls of Fury

Made in China, I assume.

I shoot my video contest entries with a DSLR for one reason and one reason only: It’s cheap.  My Canon T2i cost me about $900 and shoots full 1080 HD footage.  Compared to a $5,500 Panasonic HVX200, that’s a ridiculous deal.  Yeah, you lose a ton of features (like decent audio capabilities) when you don’t shoot with a real “video camera” but unless you’re a well-stocked pro, a DSLR is the best, most affordable option around.

So if your only video camera is a DSLR, you’re probably doing your filmmaking on the cheap.  Which means you need to come up with some low-cost solutions to the challenges that DSLR shooting presents.  One weird thing I’ve noticed about my DSLR is that it hates shadows.  It’s really unforgiving if you use a strong light source.  If you don’t diffuse your lights (including the sun) you’re going to get some stark shadows, especially under your subject’s eyes.  I’ve found that a great, cheap way to soften the look of a video is with one of the oldest tricks in the book: China Balls.

It seems like at least one a year I talk to a filmmaker or read a film book that recommends lighting a scene with a China Ball.  You know what China balls are right?  Those big white, paper balls that you put a light into?  (By the time you read this I probably will have added a giant picture of a china ball to this post)  For some reason I never heeded the advice of those China Ball evangelists.  But now I am a convert!  I started using them a few months ago and the results are pretty sweet.  Check out this video I shot for the Insinkerator assignment that Poptent ran back in the spring.  This entire video was lit with China Balls and natural room light.  Oh actually, the shot of the happy baby was done by my long distance collaborator, HappyJoel.  He did the adorable song for this too.  But the rest was done by me and my big, white balls:

Is that some even lighting or what?  Check out the shots of the “snacks” at the 19 second mark.  There isn’t a hint of shadow on that table.  That’s the magic of the china ball.  You can find a lot of tutorials online that explain how to build a China Ball light but here’s how I built mine:

Also probably made in china

Step 1:  You can order a china ball online here but I just went to Pier One Imports.  I bought 2 decent sized balls for like 16 bucks.

Step 2:  Head to Home Depot (ok, I prefer Menards but I think that’s a mid-western chain) and buy a cheap clamp light like the one in this picture.

Step 3:  While you’re at Menards (or wherever) pick up a 300 Watt clear or white light bulb.

Step 5:  The rest is pretty self-explanatory.  Rip that silver dish part off your light.  Pop open your China ball and put it’s metal support in.  Then put the socket into the ball and shove the cord into the ball’s cord holder bracket thing.

And that’s that.  Now the disclaimer.  BE CAREFUL!  The thing you just built is really goddamn dangerous!!  Most China Ball tutorials will tell you to use a 100 Watt bulb max.  But 100 Watts will only be enough if you want “moody” lighting.  You want to light up the night!!  But if that 300 Watt bulb touches that paper ball you’re fucked.  It’ll start smoking in a few seconds if the bulb has been on for a while.  So if you’re stupid enough to actual build this ball of death, here are the precautions you will need to take:

1.  Always make sure the bulb is hanging in the dead center of the ball.

2.  Always turn the light off when not filming.

3.  Always have a fire extinguisher on set.  (You should always have one whenever you’re setting up hot lights, actually)

So now that you’ve got your ball you’ll need to hang it from something.  A pro or semi-pro would probably stick it on a a “C-Stand” like this one. But one of those suckers will run you $165!! Screw that noise.  I just hang my China Ball from this a simple boom mic stand.  Here’s a picture of the exact mic stand I use.  Guess how much it cost?  Less than 30 bucks!  You can even buy one at Best Buy.  And let me tell you, this thing is perfect for hanging china balls.  It can extend really high so you can get the ball all the way to the ceiling (to mimic a room’s actual light source.)  Plus, the thing is super light weight and can fold up and fit in your car trunk.  A old fashioned C-Stand is so awkward and weighs so much that if you knocked one over you could break somebody’s nose.  So these mic stands are 500 million times better for suspending china balls then a big ass metal stand.

You know what?  I’ve been thinking about it and my version of the China Ball is just too dangerous to actually attempt to build and use.  So please do not build the lighting device I just explained how to make.  For the record, this post is intended for entertainment purposes only and if you burn your house down, it’s not my fault.

Godaddy pays out record amount to contest winners


Did you watch the Indy 500 on Sunday? Nope, me neither. But I had a good excuse, I was out shooting an entry for the contest. But if you did happen to watch the race on Sunday then maybe you caught the reveal of the winners of’s first commercial contest. If you didn’t catch the reveal well, I guess it’s a good thing you have the internet. Here they are:


Godaddy has the winning videos posted to their “” site and videos there are stupid hard to embed. So to watch the winning ads, you’ll have to click here:

Of the 10 finalists that were announced a few weeks ago, “Go Momma” and the “Get Online Rap” were two of my favorites so I’m glad to see them win. And I’m guessing that marketing nerds across the web were amazed and impressed that godaddy’s top choice was so different that the type of ads they usually put out. To quote Godaddy’s own press release, Go Momma was uncharacteristically “Cleavage-Free.” The ad  has aired a few times on TV so keep your eyes open and you might just catch it.  I bet Godaddy is going to wind up airing it a lot.  As well they should.  I think Go Mamma is easily the best GoDaddy commercial ever because instead of being a confusing, PG-rated strip show, it actually explained what does!

But the big news isn’t really WHO won this contest…it’s HOW MUCH was won. Here’s a quote from that Godaddy press release I mentioned:

“Five Honorable Mention winners will receive $15,000, raising the prize winnings to $250,000, which makes Go Daddy’s “Create Your Own Commercial” contest the highest guaranteed payout of any commercial contest in advertising history.”

Wow. So apparently, Godaddy was so impressed with their finalists that at the last minute they decided to give 5 other videos “Honorable Mentions” awards of $15,000 each. Wait a second…if there were 3 big winners and 5 honorable mentions, that means 2 finalists didn’t get $15K. Man, sucks to be them! (You can see all the Honorable Mention Winners here.)

And there’s some other news to report; the mystery of why this was called’s Super Bowl video contest has been solved!  Turns out the contest was announced on Super Bowl Sunday and it was never Godaddy’s intention to actually air the winning ads during the big game.  I follow video contests as closely as pretty much anyone around and I didn’t hear about the godaddy contest until a few days after the superbowl.  So the name of the contest never made much sense.  Why start a “Superbowl” video contest right after the game just ended?  But now that the whole thing is over it’s pretty clear that Godaddy was attempting to out Doritos, Doritos by creating their own, bigger version of the Crash the Superbowl contest.  Maybe next year Godaddy will call their contest “Crash the Indy 500.”  Or maybe not…that pun is only funny until a racer dies in a flaming wreck.

So is Godaddy gearing up to try and overtake Doritos’ Crash the Superbowl contest as THE must-enter video contest of the year?  You know, I certainly hope so.  I sort of think the Crash the Superbowl contest has run its course.  Yeah it gets bigger every year but a video contest that gets 4,000 entries is just out of control.  Godaddy only got about 500 entries but the average quality of those videos BLEW AWAY the average quality of the 2009 Crash the Superbowl entries.  Doritos ads have been done to death and it’d be great to see another company step up and make a grab for the title of the Ultimate User-Generated video contest.  In fact, I’d like to see Godaddy run this contest again this fall and air the winners during the actual Superbowl.  If Doritos does the Crash the Superbowl contest again, it’d make for a great story.  Not only would the media be interested in who won each contest, they’d cover the unofficial contest which would be to see which company would air a better User-Generated ad.

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