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2.1 Flat and Square

In this lesson you will learn how to set up your tripod to get your artwork or photographs square.

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2.1 Flat and Square

In this lesson, you're going to learn how to get your platform and your camera as flat and as level as possible. So this is an important step, because the more you can get things leveled out and aligned now, in the production phase when you're shooting things. The more time that's gonna save you on the backend in post production, plus it's also going to lead to higher quality results. Because the more you have to warp things in post production, the more things are going to get kind of distorted. So if you can keep things as aligned, and as flat and level as possible, that's going to lead to the best results. So let me walk you through my setup here for my shooting rig. I have this two foot by four foot white plastic kind of utility table. This is a multi-height table, and right now it's set to 29 inches. Now 29 inches is pretty low. It's lower than almost every desk that you might find, certainly lower than the standard countertops in a kitchen, but I like this height because it allows me to get the platform that I'm gonna be using to shoot here, my vacuum photocopy stand, and my camera a lot lower. Which means I don't have to reach up high to make any adjustments on my camera. And I basically don't have to use any step stools in order to reach anything. So everything is at a pretty comfortable level. And I can work sitting down and standing up. And it's comfortable either way. Now on top of my table here I have a little piece of non-slip shelf liner. And on top of that, I have this vacuum photo copy stand. If you want more details on this, I have a tutorial that I put together on how I built this. This is a DIY creation, you can probably see it doesn't look like a commercial product. But basically what this does is I have a nice, flat aluminum platform here that's perforated with holes. And I have several fans around this old computer case. And I can create a vacuum here with this switch. [SOUND] And I can use that to suck the photos or the artwork fairly flat. It doesn't provide a tremendous amount of suction. But it does take out some of the wrinkles. But most importantly, it keeps things very very still, so that when I set it down. It doesn't move or shift, and it's quite easy to position things. So to make sure that this is as flat and as level as possible, I'm gonna use this four foot level. Now, you don't have to use a level this big, you can use a smaller level. This just happens to be the level that I have. I have these paper shims here, these are just some folded pieces of card stock here, I have a few of them folded over several times. And I'm gonna use these, to shim up the corners here, to make things nice and level. So I'm gonna start with a couple of these thicker ones here that I have taped up. And then I'm gonna do the fine tuning with these smaller pieces that are just a little almost two inch by four inch maybe piece. Let's just fold it over. So that actually looks pretty close right there. Next I'm gonna check the x axis here. And it looks like it's tipped up this way just a little bit. So I'm gonna take a few more of these shims here. There we go. So I'm gonna recheck this to make sure. And it looks like I need to just shim it up a little bit more in the back here. Good. That looks fine, and I'll recheck over here, and that looks great. So now I have a nice level shooting platform. The next thing that I need to do is get my camera in here and get that rigged up, get it positioned directly over the center and then get that as level as possible as well. So this is my camera support system that I'm going to use to shoot these photos. Now you may have been expecting a tripod, and certainly you could use a tripod, although getting a tripod rigged up on a table this small could be a little bit tricky. If you had a tripod with really long legs, you could extend the legs so that they shot over the table and then mount the camera underneath. This is a little bit different though, and I like this because it gets all of the camera support stuff out of the way. It's out of the way of the lights, it's out of the way of my hands, and I think it's pretty convenient to use. So, this is a standard C-stand, and attached to this C-stand is this side arm here made by Kupo Grip. On top of this side arm, I have just a standard grip head. It's got a five-eighths inch baby stud on one side, and a baby pin receiver on the other. And then to this grip head here, I'm going to attach my ball head. Now to get my ball head to attach to this grip head, I have this little mounting plate here with a five-eights baby stud on the bottom and this will allow me to attach this, because this mounting plate has a three-eighths inch threaded rod on the other side. So, I can screw that on here and I can take this and put it right on here. This has a nice little flat spot that it'll lock right into. And so now I have my camera quick release plate and a ball head so I can get things nice and level. So now I have all this space here that's nice and clear and I don't have to worry about knocking my tripod or any other rigging that I may have and knocking things out of alignment. Now I'm gonna leave getting your camera level up to you. Different cameras will have different ways to accomplish this. This particular camera has a built in electronic level. Unfortunately, it does not work pointing straight down. Maybe some cameras that do have a level that does work that way, for whatever reason this one does not. One thing that you may be able to try is a little bubble hot shoe level that you can snap into your camera and then check level in two directions, the same that we did here kind of, in the x-axis and the y-axis as well. The one that I have though seems to be manufactured poorly because it seems to be tipped to one side. However, I do believe that this is fairly square so, if I set this on the rear LCD screen, I believe I can get this pretty close, so that's what I'm going to do. I'm going to set this right on the rear LCD screen. I'm going to look at that and move my ball head around until I get this nice and level, and then I'm going to position it so that it's pointing directly in the center of my rig here. So I've gotten my camera as level as I think is reasonably possible in this situation. So now what I want to is make sure that it's centered here on the center of my rig. And to do that, I've printed up this little crazy looking grid here, and I'm going to position that on my rig and turn it on. And I also have this kind of positioned where I want, I'm gonna move the camera as best I can, so that it's pointing directly in the center of this grid. To do that, I'm gonna turn my camera on, and then turn it to live view. I'm gonna put a grid on the rear LCD, so that I can see, basically, what I'm exactly lined up. So now that I have my camera and my rig here as flat and as level as possible, and aligned as good as I think that I can get it, the next thing to do is to dial in the camera settings. And that's coming up next.

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