Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Verizon Has Been Prompting People Who Call Me to Leave a Fax

O.k.  So this is pretty annoying.  Evidently Verizon added a prompt to my voicemail message that says “press 4 to send a fax.”  I never signed up for this.  They never told me they implemented it.  And to be honest, it’s pretty F*CKING ANNOYING (especially since people have been “sending” me faxes).

My insurance agent has been faxing me things for weeks --obviously assuming that I was receiving them.

You don’t actually receive anything someone faxes to your Verizon number.  You have to set up a fax service WITH A DIFFERENT COMPANY (you’re on your own here), and Verizon simply forwards the call to that service.  I had never set up a “fax destination number”  because I didn’t even know this option was being offered to the people who were calling me!  Why the hell would I want this?!  It’s not like Verizon is giving me fax service.  To reiterate, you have to find another fax service (who will assign you a fax number), and then Verizon simply forwards anyone pressing “4” to that ACTUAL service.  If I wanted someone to send me a fax, I WOULD GIVE THEM THE FAX NUMBER I SIGNED UP FOR WITH THE COMPANY THAT ACTUALLY OFFERS THIS SERVICE. Stupid.

MASSIVE FAIL, VERIZON.  What the hell?!

You can turn the service off by dialing *86 to access your Voice Mail options.  Then listen to all your damn saved messages (evidently, there is no way to skip this).  Finally you are able to…
Personal options: press 4
Administrative options: press 2
Fax options: press 3

The Mystery of the “Universal” Quick Release Adapter

[UPDATE (11-4-14): Here is a post on the quick-release plate system I’ve been using for more than two years now.]

I have many things to which I need to mount a camera (fluid heads, a Kessler crane, high hats, table dollies, rig cages, shoulder mount rigs, etc.).  Rather than screw a 1/4” #20 thread into the bottom of my camera every time I switch devices, I would like something that makes “swapping” easier.  Luckily there is something called a universal quick release adapter; it’s basically the plate and cradle system that exists for a tripod head, but the tripod head part (the cradle) can be mounted to various objects.

The problem is, all of these “universal” systems aren’t really very universal.  They are all different sizes.  There is no standard for the size of the plate, thus you must by the whole “system” (plate and cradle) together.  There are rumors floating around that certain brands are compatible with each other (Manfrotto and Schechter, for instance), but this situation is pretty rare.  It would be nice if all the manufacturers got together and settled on a standard size for the base plate, but I wouldn’t count on this happening any time soon (meaning: ever).

I have spent hours, days, weeks even, researching universal quick release adapters trying to find the best system for my purposes.  Because I only have three cameras, I only need three plates (the thing you “permanently” affix to the camera).  However, since I have so many things to which I need to mount my camera, I need quite a few of the cradles (the part that mounts to the crane, rig, tripod head, etc.).  Thus, cost is a serious concern.  That said, I don’t want to simply go with the cheapest thing out there, because it needs to work.  I don’t want to mount my camera on a 12 foot jib arm, and have it come crashing to the ground because I had to compromise on quality/security for cost.

I would also like to maximize on the “universal” idea (buying plates and cradles that are more interchangeable with other brands and devices), but there doesn’t seem to be a lot of information out there regarding what plates and bases play nicely with each other.

41UV5la-YkL._AA160_Most of my tripods are Manfrotto/Bogen, so my initial thought was to stick with the brand I use most often.  They are tried and true, and probably the most “known” at least semi-affordable brand in the tripod game (at least as far as still photography is concerned).  Plus, the plates that come with the Manfrotto 357 (w/357PL plate that replaces the 3273 and 3272) and 557 (w/3433PL plate) universal quick release adapters work with the 701HDV, 501HDV, 503 HDV and 526 Pro Video fluid heads, as well as the 561BHDV-1 Fluid Video Monopod with Head.  Still, this means you are buying into (and thus must stick with) the Manfrotto family (sounds like a gangster movie, huh?).

The 357 (with the longer plate included) runs around $45, while the 557 (with the shorter plate) will set you back $50.99.  I have no idea why the item with less material involved is cheaper.

416JdHWN18L._AA160_The 357 is made for larger (longer) cameras, but the longer plate has the added effect of allowing you to slide the camera forward and backward by up to 3.15 inches.  This is great for accommodating different lengths of lenses, and also for adjusting the center of balance if you are using any sort of rig with your camera. The 557 only has 20mm, or .8”, of travel.  Be aware though, many people complain about the extra length of the 357 when using DSLR’s.  For instance: the extra length of the base plate can interfere with viewfinders and battery backs in the back, and/or adjusting the focus/zoom in the front.

Though both plates fit in both receivers, evidently the 357 is slightly wider than the 557.

[update: it has been pointed out that “slightly” actually means a full 6mm; also, the receiver plates have different widths for the “grasping side plate” so the 357 and 557 are not necessarily interchangeable when using both receiver cradles.  Be sure to check the comments for more information.]

If I could purchase multiple receiver cradles (just the receiver) for a cheaper price (not paying for the plate as well), I would definitely go the Manfrotto route.

In the process of writing this post, I found this Calumet quick release plate on Amazon for $35.  All of the reviewers are saying that it is interchangeable with the plates for their Manfrotto 501’s, so… here is a less expensive quick release system, though not as cheap as the 717 system listed below.

A company I only recently became familiar with because of the very affordable DSLR Cage they are offering,, offers a quick release system called the Fancier 717 Quick Release Adapter.  The Fancier 717 wins hands down on price.  For $60 you can get THREE cradles.  Since I need more cradles (I have more devices than cameras), this is ideal.  Most other systems require that you purchase the base plate and cradle together, so you end up with all these extra base plates.  The base plate cradle combo is $25, and you can purchase the base plate by itself for around $14.

From the P&C site:

This Custom Quick Release Base is designed to work with the Fancier WF717, WF717AH, EL717, and other 717 Video Fluid heads from Weifeng or Fancier. The Quick Release Base is solid metal with one 3/8" threaded access port and two 1/4-20 threaded access ports under the base. There are also (4) 1/4-20 threaded ports on one side of the quick release plate that can be used with accessories when the receiving adapter is not mounted.

The 717 is 2 1/2'” x 3 1/8'”.

This system is also a little more “universal” in that the product is made in China and rebranded for quite a few different companies (Fancierstudio, ePhoto, Cowboy Studio, Photograpy & Cinema, and DMKFoto to name a few).  Thus, it should work with equipment from all these companies.  I think I’m actually going to buy the ePhoto 717AH fluid head ($75 on Amazon) to see if it’s useable.

61CkVVXWdQL._AA300_For what it’s worth, Zacuto offers the RC4 (which is evidently a Manfrotto 394).  This baseplate has an incredibly low profile (it’s very thin), though as you can see from the photo, it still elevates a camera considerably. By the look of it (the shape –it’s almost square with one rounded edge), I can’t imagine there’s any chance of this being compatible with anything other than itself.  Still, at only $45, the price is well within the possibility of outfitting your entire system and not breaking the bank (surprising from a brand like Zacutto, who’s prices are pretty much cost-prohibitive in every other category).

This base plate looks very similar to the Manfrotto 410PL (replaces 3271), which is only $16.95 on Amazon, so I’m not sure what’s going on there.

A lot of people seem to like the Giottos MH621 Quick Release Adapter with their Gitzo sticks, but it doesn’t seem to be compatible with other brands, so I don’t really have any interest in it (the Giotto plate is 1.8” wide and the Manfrotto plate is 2” wide).

I’ll post more info. and updates as I find them (see link at beginning of this article), but for now, I’m going with the Fancier studio 717 system.  Fingers crossed!

Research sources:

Monday, August 13, 2012

Photography and Cinema DSLR Cage

I am getting ready to make a cage for my 7D DSLR video rig.  I had been planning on using strut channel from Lowe’s with metal posts and bicycle grips.

414xUHUdm5L_largeHowever, last week, Photography and Cinema released an affordable (what?!) cage called the GearBox.  It’s $80 (currently –they have a $130 with a slash through it, so I imagine the price will go up after the “introductory period”).  I can barely build something comparable from scratch (and this comes without all the work).  Most DIY blogs with info on how to build the strut channel/bicycle grip cage say the cost will be around $50, for for $30 you’re getting a rig with pre-drilled holes and a cut out in the base so you can swap out the battery without removing the camera from your rig… and you don’t have to do all the work of building it!

While I’m talking about P&C, why the hell haven’t I heard of these guys till now?  Looking around their site, they’ve got a bunch of great (and more importantly, affordable) stuff!

7172_largeI have been trying to decide on which quick release plate system I’ll be going with, and it looks like there is a new contender with P&C’s 717 system.  Previously I was pretty sure I’d be going with the Manfrotto 577 ($51 on Amazon for the plate and release cradle), but I can get THREE cradles from P&C for $60. Hmmmm…

The Swiss Rods and Friction arms look extremely useful as well!


Link to the DIY rig on

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Replacement Ear Pads for Beyer-Dynamic DT150 Headphones

IMAG1006Why Can’t I Find Replacement ear pads for my beloved Beyer Dynamic DT-150’s?  They’ve been my go-to cans for almost five years, and while I treat them with respect, as you can see from the photo, they look like they’ve been attacked by a Wookie.

Message boards across the web are filled with similar inquiries, so there’s obviously demand.  And it’s not like DT150’s are some obscure or flash-in-the-pan set of headphones.  These are widely used in the audio engineering industry!

There are a few possibilities in the UK and elsewhere overseas, but the added expense of shipping and time for delivery is fairly prohibitive.

Even the local audio tech supply house in Boulder came up short except for these UK sources… and if I were to use them, there would be the additional cost of using the supply house as a middleman (vs. ordering direct from UK). Ugh.

There seems to be only one source in the US, a company out of TX called SJ Media Systems (though their web address is –no “s” at the end, which kind of worries me).  I did some Googling and they apparently changed ownership last year, and are working to improve their customer support image.  I sent them an e-mail.  We’ll see what comes back.  Their site is super Spartan… so generic that it looks like a scam site, and has me worried to enter credit card info.  Not only that, but the description page for this item states only an item number.  Since these pads come in vinyl, softskin, and cotton, I have no idea what they’d be sending me.  Again, I’ll see what comes back from my e-mail inquiry.

There is  conflicting information on whether or not you can make replacement pads from DT100’s (which, for some reason, seem to be readily available) work with the DT150’s.  Though some people are claiming “yes,” their credibility seems dubious at best, so I’m reluctant to take the plunge.

Hopefully I’ll have helpful information soon!

[UPDATE] While the response from SJ Media Systems came quickly (same day), and was friendly, it was disappointing.  It would seem they no longer carry the DT150 ear pads, even though they are clearly listed as available on their website.

Here is the response I received:

Dear Dan,

Thank you for your inquiry. We are indeed a legitimate site. We are currently working on site redesign and appreciate your feedback.

As for what you are looking for, unfortunately we are out of stock on that product and by the looks of it we will no longer be bringing in the Beyer Dynamic line.

I would suggest you contact, he may be able to help you out.

Good luck on your search and sorry we couldn't help this time around.

So, as of now, still no luck sourcing replacement ear pads for my DT150’s.

[UPDATE] Thanks to all who have contacted me with suggestions regarding this issue (though I will point out, everyone has suggested sellers in other countries!).  I did recently find this in a thread on

Note: Although Beyerdynamic don't explicitly state in their website that DT150 and DT100 ear cushions are cross-compatible, they actually are cross-compatible! As a matter of fact, before I bought mine I contacted Beyerdynamic Germany tech support who told me that the actual plastic cups are the exact same shape and size in both models, therefore their respective ear cushions can certainly be used interchangeably. This is good news because DT150 cushions are only available in softkin material, while DT100 cushions are available in softskin, velour, jersey and plush.

So I guess I’m gonna try a pair of DT-100 pads (not sure if I’ll do softskin, which is comfortable but pretty fragile, or if I’ll give the velour a try).  I’m a little worried about the DT100 pads being too thin and the discomfort of my ears pressing against the inside of the headphones, but we’ll see.

[UPDATE] I finally just called Sweetwater, and they were able to source and deliver the leatherette DT-150 ear pads direct to my studio for under $35.  Yay!  Meanwhile, I had purchased a set of Sennheiser HD-280’s for $99 (review here), and while I wouldn’t use them for mixing, they will be the new standard tracking phones for our studio.  At the price and sound quality they can’t be beat, and with 35db of attenuation (they are tight), they are perfect for tracking vocals and acoustic guitar and work great for keeping the noise out for drummers (not to mention they’re great for locking out sound to record field audio).