When budgets for TV and commercial productions started shrinking about a decade ago, necessary expenses like grip trucks suddenly became a luxury. Gone were all the goodies that made us look good and quality of productions started deteriorating. Producers however were still looking for quality work and crews who still could create the same type of work even with smaller budgets. Those who were able to achieve this prospered, those who didn't vanished. One of the most useful piece of equipment in my van that helped me conquer the budget blues wasn't even build for video production, in fact the only place you can find it is an industrial supply house, that's aluminum structural tubing. http://www.mcmaster.com/#catalog/118/1928/=irgw11 I also see it often on Ebay at a substantial saving.
I started using structural aluminum after grip truck left with low budgets and everyday I find new uses. It's like when I was a kid playing with the only toy I had, an erector set, only today I'm making money with it.
Let's start with the interior of my van, it's completely made on 3/4 (1") tubing. It's strong, lightweight and I can easily readjust the configuration to fit new equipment.
Even the racks for the Matthew stands are made from the same components. We substitute the Allen screw with a Matthew hand bolts.
This is soft metal and easy to cut to size, I recommend a small miter saw with an aluminum blade.
Structural Aluminum on the job
Setting up lights on ESPN's Gruden QB Camp was a real challenge. I wanted to use all Kinos but there's no place for stands, everything had to be mounted on the ceiling. Unfortunately regular ceiling scissor clamps and the small drop ceiling track weren't strong enough to support the weight. The solution was to build frames so we can build the support across several ceiling tracks to better distribute the weight.
With pieces of tubing remnants we built several H frames, it only took minutes to build each one
We then moved over one tile and inserted the frame above the ceiling creating a solid platform to mount the light
For the 4x4 Kino we had another challenge, with the low ceiling of the room the light was mounting too low and interfering with the jib moves. Again we used remnants to make a custom frame so we can recess the mount further into the ceiling.
See "GRIDS 2" on the Tips & Tricks section for additional uses of structural aluminum in productions.