Archive | March, 2014

Meet the Story Makers: Scott & Nick with F5Live: Refreshing Technology

30 Mar

F5Live

Our third Tampa Bay maker festival is notable for many things, from being our first two day event, to the number and diversity of makers joining us this year, and for the refreshing presence of Scott Ertz and Nicholas DiMeo of F5 Live,  who will be broadcasting live from Gulf Coast MakerCon 2014 on Saturday.

We asked them to tell us about F5 Live, what they do and why they do it.

GCMC: So – what do you do?

F5 Live: Hosted by Scott Ertz and Nicholas DiMeo, F5 Live: Refreshing Technology is a livecast covering the worlds of gadgets,  gaming, Internet and media. Each weekly show airs live on Sunday nights at 9p eastern time at http://www.f5live.tv/joinus, allowing the audience to chat with the hosts live on the air and ask questions about the topics discussed on the show. After each episode goes off the air, the audio and video are then uploaded and are available for download through any number of services by Monday morning.

The crew also travels the country to cover special events and conventions from the International CES to ROBOCON Tampa Bay and

nick and scott

F5 Live broadcasting from the 16th Annual Orlando FRC Regional in March.

Gulf Coast MakerCon. Special shows air throughout the week of the events. F5 Live: Refreshing Technology is a proud member of the Tech Podcast Network and is part of the PLuGHiTz Live Family. For more information, inquiries or if you’d like to have F5 Live appear, cover or produce content at your event, please visit http://www.f5live.tv or reach out to contact@plughitz.com.

GCMC: Great plug! We highly recommend people contact you.  But – why do you do it?
F5 Live: Because sleep is overrated. Like many of the people and companies exhibiting at the convention, we believe that our time is best used in the creation of things that others enjoy. In other words, we enjoy spending out time with cool things and sharing those cool things with others.

GCMC: How are you participating in GCMC?
F5 Live: We will be broadcasting live from the convention, helping to show off the maker culture as well as the really interesting things that our local makers have created. Our goal is to give everyone at the event a chance to show off their wares.

GCMC: What do you hope to bring to GCMC?
F5Live: Attention; loud, obnoxious attention. Through the broadcast, we really hope to be able to expose the uninitiated to the truly unique world that is the maker culture. Lots of people have passions that they don’t know can be fulfilled, and seeing others doing it might encourage them to try.

GCMC: What do you hope to take away from Gulf Coast MakerCon?
Someone’s 3D printer. Shhh, don’t tell anyone.

Okay – so watch your stuff if Nick and Scott come by, and watch F5 Live – you’ll find it refreshing!  Look for Scott and Nick at Gulf Coast Maker Con all day Saturday, as they help us tell the Maker Story in Tampa Bay!

 

Meet the Communications Makers: Tampa Amateur Radio Club

29 Mar

TARCWe’re excited to have the Tampa Amateur Radio Club (TARC)  joining us at Gulf Coast MakerCon again this year.  We’ve always had “Hams” at our maker festival, and believe they bring a fun, interesting and important element to our DIY Celebration of the Inventive Spirit.

TARC member Jon Rubin shared with us a bit about the club and what it does.

“The Tampa Amateur Radio club (TARC) is a place where people from all different walks of life can come together to share and promote knowledge in radio technology. We do this by sharing ideas, teaching new people, and experimenting to see what works and what doesn’t. We’re also tasked with assisting Hillsborough County in providing backup emergency communication in the event of a hurricane or other such disaster.

“While we are all amateur radio operators, each of us has different things that we enjoy doing with our licenses. Some people enjoy

TARC at TBMMF 2012

TARC at our 2012 Maker Festival

contesting, some enjoy using voice or CW (Morse Code) to make contact with people in faraway places. Still others enjoy using various digital modes of communication.”

Jon acknowledged that a lot of people might question the value of Ham radio when we have cell phones and abundant social media.  He has an eye opening reply.

“Most people don’t realize that local cell networks will go down if as few as 10% of the cell phones in the area are used at the same time. This means that during an emergency situation, such as a hurricane and its aftermath, cell phones may be unusable. Amateur radio doesn’t have to rely on cell towers, or even the local power grid. It’s simple to connect our radios directly to any car battery. Because of this we can assist in getting messages to/from the outside world just minutes after the storm passes.”

TARC is bringing a couple of portable antennas and some different radios for display and will have a full setup working and on the air.  Visitors will be able to actually use some of the radio, and will be able to get information about upcoming licensing classes, and more.

So come out to Gulf Coast MakerCon 2014 and enjoy this great opportunity to TARC and give Ham radio a try!

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Meet the Maker & Gulf Coast MakerCon Sponsor: Gabriel Anzziani, of Gabotronics

28 Mar

GabotronicsWe welcome Gabriel Anzziani, of Gabotronics, back to our Annual DIY Festival of the Inventive Spirit for a third year in a row, and this year, as well, with gratitude to Gabotronics as a Gulf Coast MakerCon Sponsor.

Gabriel Anzziani, founded Gabotronics in 2009 and has been moving full steam ahead every since!  We first made

gabotronics

Gabriel Anzziani, at our 2nd annual maker festival in 2012

his acquaintance two years ago, when he attended our inaugural Tampa Mini Maker Faire in 2012.  His remarkable and remarkably tiny, oscilloscopes  captured everyone’s interest in 2012, and since then, he’s expanded his line of products to a dizzying array of embedded systems and custom electronic designs, and now he’s a regular on the Maker Fair circuit.

 Gabriel is also a Kickstarter whiz, successfully funding at least three campaigns, for the Xprotolab Portable and the Xminilab Portable, and most recently his Oscilloscope Watch, which had a goal of $60,000 and closed out at almost $70,000.

Gabriel will have a great selection of his awesome products available for sale at Gulf Coast MakerCon April 5 & 6.

About Gabotronics

Gabotronics is based in Lakewood Ranch, FL, specializes in design and manufacture embedded systems, a direct outgrowth of founder Gabriel’s lifelong interest in electronics. Gabriel remembers disassembling RC cars, and building fans with the motors; creating door alarms from dial phone parts; and getting shocked when playing with relays, and always imagined having his own company called Gabotronics. He got his bachelor’s degree in Electronics Engineering at Simon Bolívar University in Venezuela in 2003. Gabotronics was formally founded on 2009.

“I really enjoy designing, inventing, making,” says Gabriel. “When I receive feedback from my customers saying that my products are awesome, it makes all the hard work worthwhile.”

Many thanks, Gabotronics, for supporting Gulf Coast MakerCon 2014!

Meet the Game Makers: Suncoast Skirmishers

27 Mar

suncoast skirmishers

One fun new element of this year’s Celebration of the DIY Inventive Spirit is the incorporation of International Tabletop Day into our event, made possible thanks to Suncoast Skirmishers.  We spoke with Dominick Trascritti, who heads up the RPG Gaming portion of the group, who told us a bit about the group and what it brings to Gulf Coast MakerCon 2014.

“Suncoast Skirmishers is a group that is associated with Historical Minature Gaming,” explained Dominick. ” It is really a loose group made from members who specialize in role playing, historical miniature players, fantasy/science fiction gamers, and board gamers. Most members are also members of the Pathfinder Society of Florida who play Paizo’s Pathfinder Living game, Historical Miniature Gaming Society South, Story gamers,thumbs_tabletopday2014_600x500 and smaller groups.

“In its essence all tabletop gaming is about imagination, and socialization. Players share something to explore, if it’s a fantasy world, a “what if” question from history, or even exploring game theory. Players play in the same room, and socialize before and after a game.

“Professional gamers are employed not only by militaries around the world, but “serious games” also allow business to help managers gain confidence, and urban planners practice for disasters or operations.

gaming

Tabletop gaming

“There are many skills that come from gaming in this manner. First are simple math skills, pattern recognition, strategy, and statistical theory. Softer skills such as persuasion, speaking, and confidence are also exercised.

“In role playing games teamwork, attention to detail, planning, and flexibility under pressure are exercised.
Many players also like to know the actual history then try new twists on the story, for example, “What would have happened if Cornwallis at Yorktown was able to break out and continue to fight the Revolutionary war?”

“In many parts of the hobby, the miniatures and tables must be designed, fabricated, painted, and repaired. All these are skills that are learned or taught.

“For Gulf Coast maker Conference, we hope to bring this hobby to light to others, show the players how games are played, and provide chances to play full scale events.”

Meet the Maker: Jason Rawley, of Fireblade Comics

26 Mar

fireblade comics

We love the cosplay and gaming elements of our event this year, and are happy to welcome Jason Rawley of Fireblade Comics to our line up for Gulf Coast MakerCon 2014.  We asked him to tell us a bit about his work and what he’s bringing to our maker event.

GCMC: What do you do?

JR: Fireblade Comics began as my dream of producing online, live-action, interactive comics. As it’s developed over the years, I also incorporated my other works with custom action figures, props, and other collectibles.

GCMC: Why do you do it?

JR: I grew up in the 80’s as a huge fan of comics and movies and I was drawn to the realm of film making at an early age, especially special effects. Even as early as elementary school I Jasonwould create props and set pieces for the school plays. Art has always been in my veins so over the years I’ve done everything from graphic arts, website design, drawing, writing, and crafting. I’ve been building scale models for many years so that led to customizing action figures. Prop making became more of a demand as the cosplay community has grown, to the point where I get quite a few commissions throughout the year from people who come across my other works.

GCMC: Why do you think it’s important or valuable?

JR: I believe all art is important as self expression while is essential to us as humans. For those who get into cosplaying or collecting, this can be a great escape from the stress of normal life. So it’s always a privilege for me to be able to use my art to express myself while at the same time creating things people will use and appreciate for years.

GCMC: How long have you been doing it?

JR: I’ve been crafting, building, and customizing since early childhood so most people would say it was “all my life”.

GCMC: What do like best about it?

JR: As a form of self expression, being able to create things from my imagination is a wonderful release and a therapy. It’s taken me places and I’ve gotten to make many great friends over the years.

iron-man-unleashed-ver2-18GCMC: What are you bringing for folks to see or do at Gulf Coast MakerCon?

JR: I’ll be bringing a healthy selection of my customs including an array of props from sci-fi blasters to Ghostbuster gear as well as some action figure bases and displays. If possible I’ll bring some work-in-progress pieces so I can demonstrate how projects move through the construction phases.

GCMC: What do you hope to get out of your Makercon experience?

JR: I’m hoping to meet some good people with the same interests and fanboy fascinations as myself as well as get some feedback on my projects.

Come check out Jason’s awesome work at Gulf Coast MakerCon April 5 & 6!  Get your discounted tickets today!

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Meet the Maker: Todd Emmons and the Bait Dipper

26 Mar

Bait Dipper

We’ve got some great inventors showcasing some awesomely cool inventions at Gulf Coast MakerCon this year, and one of them is Todd Emmons, with his Bait Dipper, built just for the avid fisher person in your life!

We asked Todd about the Bait Dipper and his upcoming visit to Gulf Coast Maker Con.   As you can see, ToddJessica Harrelson 03-23-14 likes fishing, and also the opportunity to make a positive impact through what he loves to do – invent – and fish!

 

GCMC: What do you do?

TE:Invent new products.

GCMC: What inspired you do it?

TE: The love of fishing.

GMCM: What makes your invention different from other things that are already available?

TE: It solves a problem of retrieving live bait from a bait well or bucket.

GCMC: What will you be sharing at Gulf Coast MakerCon?

TE: The Bait Dipper. All-In-One, Aerator, Flashlight, Tackle Box & Flip Top Opening with Bait Window.

GCMC: Is this what you do full time?

TE: We are working our way there. We also are owners of an internet marking company and a construction firm.

GCMC: What do you love best about your work/product?

TE: Sharing our vision on helping out our community and being around something we love ( Fishing )

GCMC: Why do you think an event like Gulf Coast Maker Con is important?

TE: So we can inspire others, that they can do what ever they set their minds to do. Also It is part of our branding efforts as we try to attend all expos trade shows and festivals. Networking is another great source for information on advancing your product.

GCMC: What do you hope to get out of participating in Gulf Coast MakerCon?

TE: Brand awareness, helping others, and a great time meeting new people.

GCMC: Anything else you’d like to add?

TE: Yes!  Whatz Up Products Inc. with the manufacturing and assembly of the “Bait Dipper” is partnering with the Transformational Learning Center a division of Broken Beautiful Ministries, Inc. a Christ-based organization whose vision is to bring hope to a targeted area in West Pasco County, Florida by bringing together businesses to teach, train, equip and encourage individuals who are caught in a cycle of entitlement or who are re-entering into society from jail, prison time or the less fortunate. This transformation will be achieved through job training and discipleship which in turn creates self-esteem that comes from working and taking pride in their accomplishments.

You will feel a sense pride as well that you are helping make a difference in the lives of so many and that the product is “United States of America Made”.

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We hope you’re inspired by the Emmonses obvious pride in their work, and come see their BaitDipper and other great creations at Gulf Coast MakerCon!

Meet the Idea Makers: Tampa Bay Inventors Council

25 Mar

TBIC

The Tampa Bay Inventors Council (TBIC) is a long time friend and partner of LI4E, and we’re delighted to welcome them to Gulf Coast MakerCon 2014, where they’re hosting the Florida Inventors Showcase.  We talked to Wayne Rasanen, president of TBIC, to learn a bit more about his great organization and what they’re bringing to Gulf Coast MakerCon.

GCMC: What do you do?

WR:  I help coordinate the Tampa Bay Inventors Council meetings and activities plus, plus, plus…

GCMC: Why do you do it?

WR: Inventors need guidance to avoid getting ripped-off by bad actors so TBIC provides a forum where inventors can meet to share their experience.

GCMC: Why do you think it’s important or valuable?

WR: America is great because of the ideas we generate and the businesses we build. Helping that process is vital.

GCMC: How long have you been part of TBIC?

WR: Although I first attended in 1996, I have been active with the board since 2003 and president for the past eight years.

GCMC: What do like best about TBIC?

WR: I like helping people learn and connect with opportunities. When an inventor makes it on the market I’m thrilled to have helped.

in10did

Wayne showing a Tampa Bay Mini Maker Faire 2013 visitor his In10Did keyboard.

GCMC: What are you bringing for folks to see or do at Gulf Coast MakerCon?

WR: TBIC has been involved with Maker events for several years and know that it is a rewarding place to be. I will be bringing my keyboard innovation but several inventors will be showing what they are working on.

GCMC: What do you hope to get out of your Makercon experience?

WR: Feedback on product development is a big plus but it is great to see what others are doing to help fuel our creative minds.

GCMC: Anything else you’d like to add?

WR: Come hungry to learn and you will leave all filled up!

As you can see, Wayne’s a busy man of few words – but as you’ll be able to see at Gulf Coast MakerCon  2014, he’s definitely a man of action, leading a great group of not just thinkers but awesome doers!  Among the inventions that will be on display on behalf of TBIC:

So head out to Gulf Coast MakerCon April 5th and 6th,  come hungry to learn – we’ll fill your plate up!

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Meet the Science Makers: Sarasota Scientific Instruments

25 Mar

color tubes ssi

Gulf Coast MakerCon is an Affiliate Event of the USA Science & Engineering Festival, and we’re proud to help take our place among events all over the country working together to re-invigorate the interest of our nation’s youth in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) through engaging hands on learning.   Among our great participants at this year’s DIY Celebration of the Inventive Spirit is Sarasota Scientific Instruments (SSI), a nonprofit organization supporting science education across Tampa Bay.

We talked to Jennifer Holt – Queen of Discovery (aka Director of Programs & Education) at SSI, who told us more about this great organization.

GCMC : Tell us about SSI – what it is, what it does, and why it does what it does.

JH: Sarasota Scientific Instruments (SSI) is a non-profit organization that provides opportunities for hands-on exploration in science, technology, engineering and math. SSI began in Imagine schools palmer ranch 22006 in Pinellas county with a program called the Science Lending Library. The science lending library allows teachers to borrow equipment and kits needed for hands-on science exploration and experimentation in the classroom. Through the years Sarasota Scientific Instruments has partnered with many different organizations to facilitate lending of science equipment to teachers in Pinellas, Hillsborough, Sarasota and Manatee counties. Today, SSI not only provides equipment for borrowing to the four counties, but has also branched out to include educational outreach. SSI is also working to secure a location for a fabrication laboratory which will be open to schools and the general public for Sarasota and Manatee counties.

Sarasota Scientific Instruments and the science lending library program is supported by the Faulhaber Foundation. The Faulhabers, who are both engineers, are passionate about providing hands-on science experiences and have worked to fill the need to bring those vital learning experiences into the classroom. After all, how can you fully understand science concepts until you have the opportunity to apply them and actually experience how they work?

Imagine schools palmer ranch 1GCMC:  Can anyone use the Science Lending Library?  What’s it cost?

SSI’s Science Lending Library program is free to teachers in Pinellas, Hillsborough, Sarasota, and Manatee counties. Sarasota Scientific Instruments’ educational outreach and festival programs are available for schools, community festivals, school science nights, or any other special events for a fee depending on the program type and length. Please visit our website at www.sarasotascience.org for outreach program offerings and costs.

GCMC: What will MakerCon guests be able to see or do at the SSI booth?

At the Sarasota Scientific Instruments booth, guests will be able to browse through the selection of equipment available to teachers for borrowing through the Pinellas/Hillsborough branch. Guests will also get to try out a few of the science tools from the science library.

Please make sure to visit the SSI Faulhaber Fab Lab in the Makerspace Makers Corner, as well,  to see the exciting lab being established in Sarasota.

 

Meet the Maker: Cameron Eckelberry, The Digital Berrybot

24 Mar

Cameron Eckelberry

We’ve got some Music Makers this year, at Gulf Coast Maker Con, including eclectic electric musician Cameron Eckelberry, performing under the name The Digital Berrybot.  We asked him to tell us a bit about himself and his work.

GCMC: What do you do?
CE: I write Electronic Music, I self-produce it and self-distribute it.

GCMC: Why do you do it? Why do you think it’s important?
CE: It makes me happy. Being lost an entire day in a sonic, creative adventure is what I live for. Not to mention, the possibility of giving someone a boost with an aesthetic, aural Cameron Eckelberrywaveband. Sometimes life can push someone down so hard that the only way to reach and bring up the person is the arts.

GCMC: How long have you been doing it?
CE: I started playing in Punk/Alt. Rock bands about 10 years ago, I started making electronic music though, about 7 years ago.

GCMC: What do like best about it?
CE: The freedom, making electronic music has empowered me to do whatever I want. Working in a band, you can be a bit restricted in regard to full artistic control, as it is generally run as a democracy. Don’t get me wrong though, that can lead to some fantastic outcomes.

GCMC: What are you bringing for folks to see or do at Gulf Coast MakerCon?
CE: I’m going to performing a live mix of my latest album . Every performance is different and I look forward to everyone getting their funk on!

GCMC: What do you hope to get out of your Makercon experience?
Technology always interests me, so I am really stoked to see all the cool gadgets people are building! Maybe we can get some cool collabs going?

Come get your funk on at Gulf Coast MakerCon 2014!

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Guest Blog: Show & Tell Isn’t Just for MakerCon

24 Mar

chuck stephensLI4E Volunteer and Maker of all Trades, Chuck Stephens, shares his thoughts on the power of sharing.
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Have you ever heard of Luigi da Vinci? Luigi was a brilliant maker during the Italian Renaissance. He spent all day building models and perfecting his ideas. He was a happy man doing whatever he wanted and exploring his curiosity. One day he’d play with his model flying machines and the next day he’d imagine new buildings or study the nature of living things. He was content to pursue his passions and the world left him to it. He mostly kept to himself but once in a while he liked to share a wineskin with his neighbor Leonardo the artist, and they would spend a nice evening talking about Luigi’s toys while Leonardo sketched amusing pictures. “

“Ah , Leonardo,” Luigi would tease. “You live your life in pictures. Men are remembered for doing, not dreaming! I build machines that fly while you sit and doodle them on parchment. What legacy is that?”

At these times the artist would smile slyly and offer Luigi another drink and soon he was off on another wild demonstration while Leonardo scribbled away.

You’ve heard of Luigi da Vinci, right? He was a genius!

To do is to be- to document is to be heard

familab

Familab sharing at LI4Es 2013 maker festival.


How is a maker different from a hobbyist? I’ve had a few lively debates about this in various forums and I think it boils down to communication- makers love to share their work and knowledge. Makers don’t read Popular Mechanics and write letters to the editor- they read tech web sites and leave comments that other readers can comment on. Makers don’t just use gadgets- they hack and modify them and then go on their blogs and tell others how to do it. While a hobbyist can enjoy their craft in isolation, a maker has a need to share what they do and how they do it. Openness and sharing are at the core of the maker movement.

Much like academia, in the maker community it’s ‘Publish or perish‘. The growth of the maker movement was fertilized with millions of blog posts, Instructables, Youtube videos, comment threads and Tweets. The internet allows enthusiasts to become ambassadors. I’ve learned everything I know about electronics from Forrest Mims’s Basic Electronics book and the internet. No matter what problems I encountered or questions I had, the answers were just a few mouse clicks away. I was able to learn everything I wanted at my own pace.

Most important- I stayed interested. I got exactly what I wanted out of electronics when I wanted it thanks to thousands of other hobbyists who took the time to post a video or answer a question on a message board. Through this easy access to shared information makers become self replicating. User created resources inspire new users who create their own resources- rinse and repeat. By documenting our work we help others become makers.

OK I’ll confess- I’m the worst! I hate to break my work flow with camera work or blog posts. Stopping to set up a camera and tripod takes time that could be spent learning and building. Even as I’m writing this article I’m thinking that the four channel mixer I’ve been working on for my lunetta synthesizer isn’t building itself. When I finish a project I’m already thinking about my next one so I rarely stop to shoot a video. I rarely even get good photographs of my projects- I just play with them and then go build new stuff.

Even when the video or photos get shot the job’s not done. At the least it needs to be trimmed and edited. You may want to add graphics and titles, animations, music or voice-overs. It may need to be reformatted to load quickly on Vimeo or Youtube. You’ll also want to write a description and add the right tags so folks can find it. In the end picking up my soldering iron and starting the next project seems like a lot less hassle.

A New (Maker) Year’s resolution

In the last couple of years, Tampa Bay Mini Maker Faire, now Gulf Coast MakerCon, has become the focus of my year, project-wise. Everything falls into two categories- things to get done before MakerCon and things that I can’t start until after MakerCon. Since it has become the bookends of my year, maybe a New (Maker) Year’s resolution is in order. Mine is to better document my work.

This happens to coincide with the start of Hackaday’s new Projects page.  I signed up and started a page there but I really need to change my approach to documentation. I want to focus on video since my projects are mostly sound based. As usual I went to the internet to see what others were doing. People make instructional videos on how to make instructional videos- now that’s meta. After a few hours of good and bad advice, I found my game plan for documenting my work. Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you set out to document your projects with video.

Plan your work and work your plan

overlap project notes 2Planning is the key. Figure out what you want to say and show before you start recording. It can be as simple as an outline that covers your key points or a full script- whatever works for you. Also plan the visual aspect of your video. Is there good lighting? Can the camera ‘see’ you? If you need to move or change positions can you do so without blocking the shot? If your dealing with lots of steps or movements in your video it may help to create a simple story board, a comic book-like set of sketches planning out key scenes, movements and actions. You can download story board templates from Incompetech here http://incompetech.com/graphpaper/storyboard/ Planning and visualizing your video project will help you see problems and solve them before your cameras are rolling. When I’ve made videos in the past I’ve found that hand written cue cards and a plan for the shot save me a lot of time and frustration. Planning your steps will also help you insure that you have all necessary materials handy when you need them.

Make it easy for yourself

After you have your video planned out it’s time to start filming. In my house this is always a daunting task. My workbench is in the living room so things need to be rearranged a little to make room for a tripod and lights. Since my bench is along a wall it’s hard to get a good camera angle. The best way to avoid these hassles is to plan your work space with video in mind. Avoid tripods and design camera mounts into your workbench. Action cameras like the GoPro with lots of mounting options are great for this. It can also be as simple as using squares of adhesive Velcro with a cheap webcam.

instructional video

Chuck’s instructional video on how he made a drumbot.

While it’s possible to shoot a simple video in one single take, it can get a little boring and it increases the chance of flubbed lines.. Using two cameras, or even one camera with two separate mounting spots, can make your video much better. Use a wide shot when you are talking and explaining things and a close up to show details. If you do moving shots look into making a DIY steadicam set up to make your camera movements smoother. Watch TV with an eye towards the technical details. Observe how the way something is shot makes it more interesting.

I’ve decided to use an old Manfrotto lighting clamp modified to accept a standard camera mount for my main camera. It mounts easily to my bookshelf and gives a nice long shot along the bench. I also have a small webcam with Velcro for closer angles and a custom mount for my tablet for overhead close ups of my workbench. These are all things I had laying around.

Use a similar approach to lighting. Good lighting will make a cheap camera look better. Flea markets and yard sales are a good source for lighting fixtures and lamps. The main thing to keep in mind is to provide even lighting. Avoid a single bright light as this will cause bright glare and dark shadows. Use several softer lights for better illumination from many angles. Keep your work area well lit and you will always be ready to shoot a video. I have two angle-poise desk lamps mounted on my workbench as well as a couple of small fluorescent tubes. I also use a rechargable LED flashlight with a diffuser for a detail spotlight.

The main thing to keep in mind is that the easier it is to shoot your video the more likely you will be to shoot a video. Having your camera mounts and lights in place all the time makes it much easier.

Don’t forget the audio

how to video

FTC Team Duct Tape students offer a nice little instructional video for FIRST teams.


Great video quality is no good if the audience can’t hear what you’re saying. Keep the audio in mind in your early planning stages. When you’re ready to shoot turn off the A/C or fans. If you live near traffic or playing children, close the windows. Most cameras have a built in microphone. This is fine, but if you are shooting in a noisy environment try using an external microphone or an inexpensive clip-on lavalier mic. If your demo is really loud you can always do a separate voice over later. I have a small collection of microphones and a couple of digital audio recorders but I usually just use the mics on my cameras. Think about adding some music or sound effects. Keep in mind that using music that you don’t have permission to use may get your video pulled by Youtube or Vimeo. Use royalty free music or create your own with Garage Band, Fruity Loops or similar software.

Putting it all together

video editing

Ryder, with FTC Team Duct Tape, prefers full featured editing software, but Movie Maker will do for basic needs.


The final step is editing. Editing allows you to combine video and audio clips to create your final video. You can also add titles, video and audio effects and transitions that add variety to the way one clip fades into another clip. There are plenty of free video editing programs out there, and new ones pop up all the time. Do a little research and find one that fits your needs. There are many video editing tutorials out there that will teach you the basics of your chosen program. Don’t go overboard with the effects and transitions- the information you are presenting should always be the focus. I use Windows Movie Maker and a shareware video format converter. I’ve used expensive, feature packed software in the past, but this does everything I need and it came installed on my laptop.

When you see a video you like, make a mental note about what made it interesting. Was it well written? Was the camera work smooth and clear? Were there interesting extras like graphics, titles or music? Was the presenter enthusiastic and engaging?

Don’t be afraid to learn from others and borrow from other peoples successes. That’s what being a maker is all about.

Keep it simple

The most important thing is to keep it simple. Relax- you’re just talking to some friends, not going out for an Academy Award. Just be yourself and have confidence. Don’t rely too heavily on fancy effects. A clearly presented video done in one shot without titles or effects is better than a video with so much music and graphics that it distracts from the subject. Keep your budget simple, too. A well planned, well lit video shot on a low end camera will be much better than a disorganized, shadowy mess shot in HD. If you don’t have space or decent lighting in your home, go outside. If you don’t own a camera check with your friends, local library or makerspace to see if they have equipment you can use. Work with what you have, but just do it. Learn by doing and experimenting- you can always shoot it again.

Sharing is an important part of making. Chances are you have learned a lot from others around you. Documenting your work is a great way to pay it forward and inspire someone else to try their hand at making something. Makers make makers!

Do your part or you’ll end up like Luigi da Vinci.

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