Tuesday, December 25, 2007

#65 Wk47 Cinematography

At the beginning of the week we looked at several movies to better understand how to use the camera to break up dialog and deliver another level of story information.

Despite it's static nature, dialog doesn't have to be a lead weight that kills the momentum of your story. If you shoot it properly, you can actually propel the viewer through multiple layers of information about the characters and the plot without any additional effort required on the part of the audience.

This isn't merely an academic pursuit. In the Killers, our next film project, most of the "action" takes place in a diner where the characters spend most of their time sitting or lying down. Also, we have to show the evolution of the character of Nick, a seemingly minor character, with few lines in the first half of the story, but who becomes the central character by the end.

We review some films, focusing on how to shoot dialog in a static location and keep it interesting. These included clips from Se7en, Jurassic Park, Gladiator, Cape Fear, The Incredibles and American Beauty. All these films involved clever use of camera motion to keep the story moving ahead during a lengthy exposition.

During the last class each person gave a brief explanation of how they would use lights and camera to best present the story in their final project film. In the process I got some valuable feedback about how to set up for different types of interviews, a question I've been looking to answer for a long time.

Monday, December 24, 2007

#64 Wk46 Cinematography

Work is starting to pile and in the interest of streamlining tasks I'm taking a different a approach to recording this show. For the next few months I'm going to produce a less scripted show and be less picky when I edit. The effect, I hope, will be me sounding more natural even as I eliminate production time. You'll let me know if I sound less intelligible, right? I'm interested in cutting down production time without sacrificing critical quality.

The list of things on my plate are
  • increased demand for video in my day job, a big development
  • a class project shooting and editing scenes from the Hemingway script, The Killers
  • independent, paying projects, outside of school and work, such as the promotional videos Laura and I shoot for the Huntington Theatre - there may be another one I'll be involved in coming in January with another classmate
  • and of course my final film project which is a documentary about the life of a professional craftsperson, a potter.

I'll have more to say about my final project in the next show. In this show I continue to talk about using light to control the feeling or mood of a scene that helps to advance the film's story.

Let me know what you think.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

#63 Wk45 Cinematography

This is the first week on the topic of Cinematography. The class is all about controlling light and the camera to create a specific mood or effect. Successful lighting is all about mastery of these two elements in filmmaking. We're going about this by running through tests to see the subtle differences between intensities of lights and how to use camera handling techniques such as tilt, pan, handheld and dolly moves.

I hope the explanation of Key/Film ratio is understandable. Simply put, the key is the brightest light shining on the person, at about 45 degrees to one side of the front, and the fill is positioned on the opposite side of the key also at 45 degrees. Both lights are above eye level.

The key creates a shadow on the far side of someone's face and body and the fill, which is not as bright, lightens the shadow enough to show detail, but not to remove the shadow. You play with how dark you want the shadow to be to create an effect or mood.

I want to note an error I made when I listed F-stops, I listed 1.2, which is an error, it should be 1.4. These are important details.

Monday, December 10, 2007

#62 Wk44 PreProduction

This episode winds up the last week of the Preproduction module. I think it's the most useful, insightful and humbling set of classes I've experienced so far. Most of the show is centered on what I feel are the five most important things I've learned during this time. They are:

  1. You need to surrender control of parts of the film project or your finished product will be deficient.
  2. Filmmaking is a business. Completing a film is not the definition of success, making money on the film is success.
  3. Plan everything until your fingers bleed, before beginning to film
  4. Know what everyone does so you can delegate work properly
  5. Identify your market

On the last point I spend some time talking about a turning point during the last class where, through an open discussion about the status of our final projects, I finally understand who I'm making my film for. This one little piece of information sets me free to explore the possibilities of my subject and at the same time anchors me so that I don't dissipate my energies on too many ideas that go nowhere.

Like I said, a great class.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

#61 Howard Phillips Interview Pt.2

The second half of the interview with Howard Phillips, Associate Director of the Filmmaking program at CDIA at Boston University. Lots of talk about the role of technology in creating films and CDIA's goal of developing a filmmaking community.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

#60 Howard Phillips Interview Pt.1

Howard Phillips is the Associate Director of the Filmmaking program at CDIA and has been my instructor in a number of classes, including lighting and Avid. No need really, to introduce him though, he does an excellent job himself in this, part one of the interview. Let me just say that his willingness to participate in this podcast is an extension of his generosity of spirit to all students at CDIA.

In this show you'll hear him talk about his own experiences learning production filmmaking techniques as well as some interesting tangents he's followed that gives him a unique approach to teaching. You'll also hear him explain the ideas and goals behind the curriculum.

I'll post the 2nd half in a few days. In that episode he'll talk about the present state of filmmaking, the role technology plays in the process of realizing your vision and the possibilities that lay in the future.

Friday, November 23, 2007

#59 Wk43 PreProduction

Another week in PreProduction. We spent a whole class breaking down a script based on the Hemingway short story, The Killers. We analyzed the characters, locations, figured out props, camera and lighting locations. In a future module we're supposed to shoot this script.

I think I've covered this ground already, so I'm passing on those details and keeping this show shorter. I've included some information on how to cast for actors and also explain how everyone communicates with each other, in both preproduction and once the film goes into production.

We're on break over Thanksgiving week, so there won't be journal entry, but I plan to post an interview with Howard Phillips, the Associate Director of the Film program at CDIA. It's pretty long, so I may break it up into two pieces a few days apart.

Things are good with me, how's it with you?

Friday, November 16, 2007

#58 Wk42 PreProduction

This is the first week of the PreProduction Module. This is the class where we learn how things work, how to really make a film. I know I sound kind of bummed out by all the details raining down on us, but that was me speaking from the gut level. After so many weeks of practical classes, the change to straight classroom instruction was a shock, and the depth of the information was overwhelming. This stuff is dense and deep, but also greatly appreciated.

J.P. Ouellette is our instructor, a director, producer and a great storyteller. His knowledge of the planning process that goes into preparing and shooting a film is outstanding. This is the first time in the program we've gotten any amount of this information and while at first it seemed formidable, we're easing into a comfortable learning position. It makes us realize how big a responsibility it is to make a movie. It also makes the process more real and more attainable.

PreProduction - What is it? It's all the planning that goes into a movie before you shout action. Budgeting, casting, scheduling, contracts, rentals, location scouting, storyboarding, shot lists and more. It's a lot to get through in 3 weeks, but at our current rate, we'll hear it all.

In episode #41, I listed a number of Screenplay sites Here's two more links with lists of additional sites, TopTenLinks and Lew Hunter. You can learn a lot about scriptwriting by reading scripts. Remember that every type of production, TV, movie and so on, has their own preferred format for scripts, and those are always evolving. It's a good idea, if you write, to check up on blogs that talk about scriptwriting.

Copyright issues are really important and because I'm way out of my depth in this area, I only mention it in passing. You will find a lot of interesting info in David Battino's podcast on public domain music in episode #16 of his podcast at O'Reilly.com. Anyone involved in producing a movie should take the time to learn more about copyright restrictions so you don't end up losing time or money in court.

Production Note - In the beginning I spoke about the audio settings for this and last episode. I also boosted the amplitude to raise the volume of the quieter parts. Thanks to Dennis for helping me understand the compression process. I know it was a struggle, but I did get a lot of what you were saying.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

#57 Wk41 Directing Actors

Last class in this module, where we quickly edit the footage we shot the previous Saturday and then review everyone's work in class on Thursday.

Capturing to Avid was a lot of trouble, and this wasn't the first time. You need to pay close attention when you capture to your computer, if you want to share your media and project files with other people.

Despite the fact that this was a great opportunity to look at filmmaking beyond the technical issues, there was barely enough time to take it all in. Some issues remain, such as how a director works with the crew. Everyone felt there wasn't enough time to work with the actors as well, or for discussing our experience in general, during class.

I've tred to explain the reasons I think we're often cramped for time and feel we're not getting all the information we need. The most important reason is that there isn't enough class time in relation to the stuff we have to learn. Even with homework and whatever we can find time to do on our own between classes, there's just not enough time.

This is really a bootcamp. There are a lot of ways you could slice the curriculum to get more time at the expense of other classes, but then where would be be? Think of what you would be missing. As it is, there's a ton of topics we're merely touching on. I'm sure people in 2 and 4 year DAY programs feel as though they're not getting everything they want.

There may be tweaks that can be made to the content of this program, but you have to recognize that how you're learning is tied to the structure of the curriculum. As long as the end goal is to train people who have no experience in filmmaking to get a job in the field in 9 or 18 months, we're going to continue to careen through the material at breakneck speed.

This is what I signed up for and I wouldn't change a thing that would affect the final outcome. All the same, it feels good to complain, once in a while.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

#56 Podcamp Boston 2

This episode of the Video StudentGuy is about the day I spent at Podcamp Boston last Sunday October 28. This is my first time attending a podcamp and I was really looking forward to it. Over all, it was a good experience. I'm sorry I couldn't have attended the previous day, I was in class There were a number of sessions specifically on video casting that I know would have been interesting. To top it off I was really tired, it was a busy busy week on all fronts. I never would have made it through the weekend if I attended both days. Next year I'll be done with school and I'll have a lot more time for user events like this.

By the way, just after I posted this I found this link to a video recorded during lunch, Sunday I guess, from the sound of it. Fool that I am I went to the cafeteria and ate lunch! Anyway, its an ad hoc discussion about the value of the conference as the nature of new media and new media producers matures. I feel very strongly that those of us who are about to launch our careers in video should be up to our armpits in new media. This is our wave. Thanks to Bob Goyetche for recording and posting this video.

On a side note there is a podcasting meetup that takes place monthly in the Boston area. CC Chapman is the contact person for this. It was on hiatus during the summer, but I spoke to him at end of the day Sunday and he said there will be something coming up soon. Like all meetups, its open to anyone, not just people producing podcasts. I hear about them mostly from Mark and Bob on the Canadian Podcast Buffet show, but I don't doubt they're friendly, congenial get-togethers no matter where they occur.

One note about the show, I start out with a rant about the venue, the Boston Convention Center. I've got some pictures I need to put up on Flikr. Obviously it had a significant impact on me, but it doesn't in any significant way detract from the quality of the event, I just tend to notice UI issues and the convention center definitely has a UI problem. If you're not interested in listening to me go on and on about it, just move ahead to 4:18, thats when my review of the sessions I attended begins.

I understand attendance was smaller Sunday than Saturday, and it felt somewhat subdued, so I didn't get a chance to meet a lot of people, but everyone I spoke with was happy to talk and share their ideas and knowledge.

Guido Stein - it's a Purl, man - knitting podcast
Jane Quigley - Digital Grit - exchanged cards, though I don have a card yet
Ben Ortega - Phive Tacos - another card
Faye Anderson - Anderson@Large - Citizen Jouralist - local politics, we had a nice conversation about the role of podcasting in political action
C.C. Chapman - Managing the Gray, Accident Hash - go to guy on the local meetups
Chris Penn - FinancialAid Podcast - cofounder of Podcamp
Chris Brogan - cofounder of Podcamp
Neil Gorman - Broken Toasters, Will Shatner and Podcaster Burnout - here's a link to a similar presentation he made at Podcaster's Across Borders
Beth Lawrence - Grow See This - we had a nice conversation at lunch
Gary Marriott Grow See This videographer - creativegeniuscollective.com Lead programmer at cyberwalker.com - he indulged my questions on videocasting production techniques

Sessions Attended

Recording Remote Interviews - Dan York
Software for recording Skype conversations:

Social Media for Business - Isabel Hilborn
Social Networking 101 - Chris Penn
Creating a Great Podcast Listening Experience - Jared Spool
-check out Chris Penn's site to see what I'm talking about.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

#55 Wk40 Directing Actors

Podcamp 2 show coming up. Got me to thinking about how to make each show easier for someone to get into if they're listening for the first time.

Actors in the scene we directed and shot are Hannah Barth and Ed Hoopman.

Laura, John and I created a short film based on a scene from The Blue room. The class is about directing actors and I was the director, Laura the DP and John handled the sound. These soft skills are very different feeling from all the technology skills we've been learning. Its spinning around like a child in clockwise fashion, then reversing suddenly to a counter clockwise spin. You feel totally different, dizzy and yes nauseous.

I had a great experience in this new role, but to be honest, I had a lot of problems figuring out exactly what the responsibilities of a director are and how he/she relates to the production crew.

As always, there's never enough time, but in this module it seems everyone was frustrated by the compressed production schedule.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

#54 Wk39 Directing Actors

I forgot my pop filter and you're going to hear it. I apologize and promise it won't happen again, I just don't have time rerecord. I've used a limiter and have compressed it a little to save your ears, I hope that does the trick. If you find the popping too annoying, just pass to the next show, though I think it's worth the bother.

The first week of the Directing Actor module. Our instructor, Steven Maler, Creative Director of the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company led us through several exercises that put us in the position of the actor, so we could see first hand what an actor needs from a director to deliver a great performance.

I'm not ready to channel Stanislavski, but I get the point of method acting. Reading scripts in front of the class and improvising dialogs between characters shifted our focus radically from the technical aspects of production and editing. It wasn't that difficult and I think the teacher gets a lot of the credit.

Another new idea we learned was the concept of the beat. Check out the link, I don't know how well I explain it. It's pretty important, both for the actor and director. The point is to know what good directing can accomplish.

The last part of the show I get kind of moody and cow eyed wondering why I bother and what's the use in trying. Somehow, when I think of Jeff Daniels, I feel all better. Let me know what you think

Finally, I'll be joining the seething throng at Podcamp Boston 2 at the Boston Exhibition Center this coming Sunday October 28. I'll be the guy with the Canadian flag bandanna. I hope you check it out.

Monday, October 15, 2007

#53 Wk38 Avid Edit Lab

I'm trying out a new, scaled down intro, whadya think?

Here are a few podcast recommendations in the show:

Podcamp Boston 2 is taking place Oct 26-28 at Boston Convention Center. Registration is free and there's a lot of seminars presented by regular people who have their own podcasts. During the sessions there's a lot of give and take between the audience and presenter, so everyone has the opportunity to contribute their experiences. I plan to be there on Sunday.

The Avid Edit Lab module finishes this week and I've got the highlights. I also have some comments to make about editing and the rocky road Avid has led me on.

We spent about 4 hours in our Saturday class critiquing the films we handed in. Nothing is ever finished, you just pick a point in time and stop. The critique was great, lots of useful comments and everyone was engaged. Two Film projects and eight people, so there was a lot of variations on how the same problems were solved.

Monday, October 8, 2007

#52 Wk37 Avid Edit Lab

Howard Phillips is out for the next couple weeks, down in Washington, directing the fall program at the new CDIA campus. Good luck everyone. Filling in for Howard is Chris Bowan.

Chris is an Avid editor and has a lot of tips for accelerating the editing workflow. He showed me a lot useful thing using key commands for editing. It can be awkward to use at first, but it makes a big difference in how quickly and smoothly you get things done. Eventually you can work entirely through the keyboard, with your right hand and the mouse in your left hand. Or vice versa, if you're a lefty.

Between learning Avid and editing a dialog centered movie I have a feeling, shared by a few people in class, that this project is much harder. Rather than trying to create a completely finished final cut, I'm spending my time playing with different types of edits. Trying to keep the story moving ahead smoothly. I'm relying on straight cuts, no transitions and looking for shots that lead well into each other. The dialog is controlling what I choose to keep in and out and if it deviates from the script, I'll take that chance.

So I'm not thinking about the finished film, but how I take care of individual aspects of the film. Hopefully that will lead to a good, finished feeling cut. Same results either way, but different methods. I'm hoping that I'll learn more by taking the long road.

I need to investigate storyboarding, it would help me visualize the film better before I begin shooting. It's very easy to overlook crucial takes at certain angles and frames. I believe it would have helped identify how one shot would lead into another. I'm discovering that at certain points in my cut I need a specific view, or angle of one character to help lead into another character's dialog. I can see that what I want isn't there. I would like to know what that would be while I still have the opportunity to shoot it.

I include a brief description of how to prepare still images for use in video. Despite years of trying to understand it, I still get confused when I talk about it. If you take anything useful away from my comments, let it be to do research for your own understanding. here are some links about different types of TV screen resolutions, NTSC (what we use in North America and western South America) PAL and SECAM. You have to be careful of the pixel dimensions of your still image because TV uses rectangular pixels, unlike square pixels that are used for computer displays. Find a good book on Avid too, like the one we use as a manual class.

Show notes are in the lyrics section of the mp3. Drop me a line at videostudentguy.gmail.com.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

#51 Wk36 Avid Edit Lab

This week we begin the Avid Edit Lab module, continuing to learn how to use Avid as we cut a movie from footage we shot a month ago. I'm finding it very difficult to get this. I'm looking forward to actually digging into a project where I have to cut it from capture to export. Be forewarned, if you've already got experience with FCP, it's going to complicate your brain learning Avid.

The film we shot for the Huntington Theatre demonstrated to me how awkward the color correction tools in FCP 5 are. I know, they're way better in the next upgrade of the Suite. Apple's Color app is a great deal, amazing deal, but I don't have it yet. I asked Howard, our instructor to show Laura and I how to use the color tools in Avid. Cool, powerful and intuitive, at least to someone who's been color correcting digital photographs for years. You use curves, not levels, not unlike Photoshop, only different. Of course I'm used to thinking in CMYK, from years of prepress work, so I'm sure it will be bumpy ride to the top.

Scouring the web for new podcasts I discovered one on wood fired pottery. Oten Maxwell's podcast, The Firing Log about using a woodfired Anagama kiln, was very entertaining for the long drives home from school and it got me to thinking about the divided lives professional crafts people create for themselves due to their livelihood. They produce one of a kind objects in a mass production world, they use 15th century tools in the 21st century and they work outside the mainstream workplace. How do you live when your focus is high touch in a high tech world. I got to wondering how it looks from their perspective.

Our final project is a 10 minute film, give or take, narrative or documentary, subject of our choosing. It's still early, but I'm going to investigate this a little further, so don't be surprised if you read some comments about frits, fluxes and fettling knives.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

#50 Filmmaking Manifesto #5

I've come to the end of the series of podcasts about the Digital Manifesto that Mike Jones posted on his blog, Digital Basin. That was earlier this summer and I try my best to explain why it's taken me long to post 5 podcasts.

Throughout the series I've been using his ideas in the Manifesto as a guage to determine how current the curriculum at my school, the CDIA is. It did very well - 9 out of 13. Here are the issues, numbered according to the Manifesto followed by the episode they were reviewed in.

  • 03 Compositing #35
  • 04 Distribution w/o hierarchy #37
  • 05 Owning the entire filmmaking process #37
  • 06 Software agnosticisim #37
  • 08 Screen Studies integrated into Production #39
  • 09 Succeeding despite obstacles #39
  • 10 Promoting the story ahead of production values #39
  • 12 Collaborative Learning #44
  • 13 Teacher as Facilitator #44

Not Passed
  • 01 Composing Space #35
  • 02 Virtual Camera #35
  • 07 Immersive Sound #39
  • 11 Personal Stories #44

These episodes were different from what I usually post, they involved big ideas and how they fit into the world of filmmaking. Keeping the idea threads connected from one episode to another, particularly when a lot of time passed between was difficult. Time to think and understand seems to be a constant problem for me.

For all the effort, I enjoyed exploring ideas and that took me to unfamiliar territory
Bear in mind, these aren't my ideas, I'm just having fun poking at them.

I thought of a couple of things to add to the manifesto:
  1. Get Teachers and students to better interact between related/linked fields, such as audio, 3D and fx, even web design. I don't think the fringes of our filmmaking experience should be familiar territory.
  2. Get more exposure to the supportive technology used for digital distribution.
Collaborative learning tools, such as blogs and wikis have a lot of potential that I hope to explore for sharing ideas and information and for promoting my work.

Towards the end of the episode I talk a little about how all this technology is pushing against the boundaries of a stifling culture of intellectual protectionism. If I sound a little harsh, it's only because I've only recently come to recognize how limiting it is to withhold access to resources that, if they were more available, would result in a great deal more creativity to the benefit of everyone. I'm sure once I get used to it I'll return to lamblike complacency.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

# 49 Wk34-5 Intro to Avid

I'm running to keep up again. I spent a lot of time recently on a non-class film project for the Huntington Theatre in Boston Mass. We did a promotional film for a play that is running through next week called the 39 Steps, a comedy based on the Alfred Hitchcock spy thriller. It was a lot work in a short time, but I, along with classmate Laura got it in on time and made the client happy, so it was good all round.

This is the end of the Module on the introduction to Avid, but there's another 3 weeks of Avid that follows where we edit our own film. I'm going to spread my comments about Avid over the next few weeks. This week I'll give you a general overview of the program and talk specifically about the user interface and how important it is to organize your files properly in Avid, as opposed to to Final Cut Pro.

We edited the 39 Steps promo in FCP, but it's really difficult to use one program on a job while you're learning a different one in class. There's a lot of lessons we learned, like how difficult it can be for two people to edit one film, dividing up production tasks and working remotely.

I thought you would be interested in the process of setting up for the shoot, so I included that as well as described the equipment we used and why. Towards the end of the podcast I've included a list of things I would do differently, or pay more attention to if we have a chance to do this again, which I believe we will.

Some of the highlights of the post production process was doing color correction, creating and working with a soundtrack and setting the compression values to optimize file quality for posting on Youtube.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

#48 Wk33 - Intro to Avid

I've finally gotten a handle on some of my recording tools, such as the Mbox2 mixer and my condenser mic. I hope you've noticed an improvement in the audio quality. I'm still working on production quality, but I got a helping hand from Erica at CDIA, who helps maintain the audio and classroom maintenance for the Recording arts program at school. She demonstrated that my problems were due to my incompetence and not the equipment manufacturers. She also gave me a quick but thorough tour of Pro Tools. Sometime soon I'll take a few trips into Pro Tools country to record a few episodes.

Another problem I had was the absence of a mic stand and so I made one out of coat hanger and I used the leftover wire to create a pop filter which keeps the mic clean and softens annoying plosives.

This weeks classes continues the module on learning Avid. Since we have already covered Final Cut Pro earlier in the program everyone was wondering how you work the two together in a single workflow. Avid and Apple don't make it easy, but thanks to software plug-ins from Automatic Duck, and a bunch of money, you can make them friends.

I continue the saga of a filmmaking project I'm involved in with classmate Laura creating a promotional video for the Huntington Theater in Boston. We're shooting audience reactions following a performance of the play 39 Steps.

Finally the class gets to attend a screening of the documentary This is Nollywood, produced by some of CDIA's own, Franco Sacchi, Aimee Corrigan as well as renowned National Geographic photographer Robert Caputo. You may not see it in a theater near you, but you'll find it as a DVD online. If you're curious about the exciting filmmaking scene that is developing in West Africa you should check it out.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

#47 We'll Talk

I'm sorry you weren't there when I called. I'll talk to you next week.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

#46 Wk32 - Intro to Avid

This is the first week of a new module where we learn how to use Avid Xpress Pro, in preparation for editing the footage we shoot a few weeks ago. Avid doesn't have the mind share among would be filmmakers as Final Cut Pro does, so I spend a little time talking about it's place in the filmmaking world.

It is the premier NLE and there's always talk about how it measures up against FCP, so I've included 1, 2, 3 different articles comparing the two. A very significant difference is that the companies that produce these programs have very different missions. Apple is all about bringing the professional media experience to the consumer, Avid is focused on the production needs of professional media makers thru it's own post production systems and the many companies it has acquired, like M-box, Digidesign and Softimage.

I've got some details about a project I'm involved in along with Laura, who I've worked with in the past on the genetic fingerprint documentary. We're going to shoot audience reaction to the play, The 39 Steps, that will be running at the Huntington Theater during September and October. It's a lot of work in a short time, so it should make for some interesting experiences.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

#45 Wk31 - Film Project II

This is the last week of the Film Project II module, which is to say the last week where we can shoot footage that we will edit in 3 weeks.

We don't have anything more we plan to shoot right now, but we may. This week we reviewed our footage and talked about it in light of what we already learned in previous classes and this project. We had problems lighting, but the final footage looked quite good.

There's also information about how to log video, before you capture and I explain how the camera sees compared to how our eyes see.

Next week is another new module where we learn how to use Avid.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

#44 Filmmaking Manifesto #4

This is the last post that where I discuss the 13 proposals in the Filmmaking Manifesto from Mike Jone's blog, Digital Basin from earlier this summer. I've learned a lot, have you? During these episodes I've tried to stay focused on Mike's ideas and how CDIA measures up against it from my narrow perspective as a film student.

I plan one more show on this topic where I talk about what I've learned personally. It's not a recap or summing up, though I will probably spend a few minutes doing discussing just that. What I'd really like to do is reflect on some things that were a little too far off topic to include previously as well as some actions I want to take.

This week I'm going to cover the following items:
  • 11 - Creating Personal Stories
  • 12 - Collaborative learning
  • 13 - Teacher as facilitator
As far as personal stories are concerned, I'll elaborate on the writer's block I've experienced. Happily in the previous post in this podcast I believe I have beaten off. Look at #43 for more details. I haven't read much on how to write, but I was strongly affected by Stephen King's book On Writing and since he's the kind of author you either love or hate, I included two reviews of the book.

I'm very interested in the use of wikis and wikia for collaborative learning. There are applications for business, education, content managment, anything. I cite Podcamp as a place that uses wikis for scheduling presentations. It's anarchic, but in the right situation it can be the right tool. You should listen to Mike's audio presentation on Blogs, Wiki's and the new world order.

On the subject of teaching again, I invoke the words of Kahlil Gibran on children.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

#43 Wk30 - Film Project II

This week our team hunkers down and puts in long days of shooting the scene for the second film project. The team consists of Jonathan, Dennis, Mike, John and myself. Despite difficulties, all the effort pays off. I hope I'm not spoiling the suspense for you.

In process of learning my lines and and other performance skills, during an impromptu acting bootcamp, I have a story writing epiphany that releases me from the curse of writer's block.

There are a few technical details I include, such as a production breakdown list, a shot list or storyboard, a master shot, blocking and what is a C47.

I also try to describe the the wonderful feeling that you get after you stop banging your head against a wall, also known as success.

Finally there's a fair bit of talk about the satisfaction that comes from working as a team. I admit that my description is a little over the top, particularly where I invoke a few lines from Shakespeare's St Crispen's day speech as delivered by Henry V. But I do mean it. I love that speech by the way. There's a particularly poignant performance in the Danny Devito film Renaissance Man, it's worth checking out.

All told, it was a week of hard effort, valuable insight and worthwhile achievement.

Drop me a line at videostudentguy@gmail.com or leave a comment. In any event, thanks for stopping by.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

#42 Wk29 - Fillm Project II

Very short post this week. We're preparing ourselves for a multimodule film project.

This week we're choosing our script and team members. Have to shoot the script and show some footage in another two weeks. Following that we're learning how to edit in Avid, then another three weeks of editing.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

#41 Wk28 - Screenwriting

This episode is all about Saturday's class where we diagram the movie Manhunter, by Michael Mann. This is the precursor to the Silence of the Lambs, and Hannibal Lektor is just as scary in this even though he is a minor character.

Using scripts of The Village, by M. Night Shyamalan and Heat, also by Michael Mann, we looked at how to do the formatting. Writing the content of a movie is a whole other matter which we didn't get into. The first step in the door is the actual format of the script. People are very particular that it look a certain way, all the letters are crossed and dotted, headings are just so. Also I pass along some tips for things to avoid when writing for visualization.

Here is a list of items for formatting the page:
  • Location
  • Action Block
  • Character Name
  • Parenthetical
  • Dialog
  • Transitions

Lots of software you can use, Final Draft we're using in class, Movie Magic Screenwriter is another app available. Demos are available. There's a free, opensource screenwriting software called Celtx that I have downloaded, but haven't really looked at.

Books are available, but looking at scripts, which you can download from IMSDB, SciFi Movie Page, Simply Scripts and the Weekly Script. A couple online magazines are Script and Creative Screenwriting.

#40 Wk28 - Visualizing Fiction

Due to a change in the curriculum at CDIA, this module was broken into two parts, the first two were about production audio, this one is called, well, you can see what it's called in the title, and it's about film studies, history and what we call film grammar, which is the construction of the story through camera frame, sound, editing and everything else that goes into creating a film.

There's a great deal that we covered, but of course I'm going to talk about all the interesting things. Genres are discussed briefly, we review some films, such as Manhunter that demonstrate how to build suspense, not as easy as you think.

For some reason I use an analogy of Impressionism vs Jackson Pollock and then from there move into the horror genre, specifically zombie movies such as Night of the Living Dead, Shaun of the Dead and 28 Days Later.

There's a number of guidelines for judging the value of such movies as Heat and Memento like intention, 30 degree and 180 degree rule, misdirection and the concept of filmmaker as Auteur.

For a number of reasons I've divided the week into two episodes. The next one will be about screenwriting and how important the formatting of the document is.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

#39 Filmmaking Manifesto #3

This week is another installment of my review of CDIA, the school where I'm enrolled as a film student, where I'm grading the film program using the points presented in a filmmaking manifesto written by blogger and educator, Mike Jones, who writes the Digital Basin. By the way, Mike is in Australia and I make reference in the podcast to a presentation he delivered on Sound and Space at the University of New South Wales. I'm afraid it came out as South Wales, and I don't want you looking for Mike in Great Britain.

Here are the topics for this week:
• Multi-channel and Spatial sound
• Screen studies
• Working with clearly defined obstructions
• Working Lo-Fi but High-Concept

These episodes are independent of my weekly journal and it's been exhausting and enjoyable putting out two each week. There's one more post about the Manifesto and then I'll do a follow up show with my personal thoughts about this topic and how it's impacted doing this podcast.

Do some reading on Neil Postman, he has lots of food for thought.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

#38 Wk27 - Production Audio

This week we focus on using the wireless mic and placing the mic so that it is hidden. How to work with people so you can do your job efficiently and professionally.

The big shoot in Thursday's class involved running multiple mics through separate mixers to 3 cameras. It was a real pressure cooker. Impressions were mixed, but I think we learned a great deal about our deficiencies in this area.

Begin prepared and displaying confidence are key assets of sound production people. There's a lot to think about and nothing can be overlooked.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

#37 Filmmaking Manifesto #2

This episode is the second in a series about the current state of filmmaking education, specifically certain concepts which are already a part of the filmmaking landscape, but which are not on the map of most schools.

I'm using Mike Jones' Filmmaking Manifesto as the model for measuring how well schools are keeping current with evolving trends in the real world. Specifically, I'm using the school I'm attending, Center for Digital Imagining Arts at Boson University as a stand in for every school.

Check out Mike's blog, Digital Basin, for lots information about a wide range of topics regarding the production filmmaking world. You should check out the Manifesto on his site, since I'm not going through it in as much detail as him. He also has a number of mp3 files of presentations he's made on subjects covered in the Manifesto.

Finally, check out the comment he left following the previous podcast.

Production note: I'm aware that there is a distinct difference between my introductory section commenting on the last episode and the remainder of the podcast covering the three points below.
  • 4-Multi-platform scalable delivery
  • 5-Ownership of end to end process
  • 6-Software Agnosticism and independent skills

Obviously I recorded them at different times using different devices, different locations. A professional, or even someone relatively knowledge about in audio post production would be able to reconcile the tool and hide, or at least equalize the different sounds. That's not me, not right now. I don't even have the time to rerecord this and post it in time, so I'm settling for the fact that you can at least hear what I'm saying.

I make a few passing comments regarding Danny Kaye, Kahlil Gibran and The Prophet in order to make a point or two, Doesn't that combination make you even a little curious?

#36 Wk26 - Production Audio

Production audio, hands on, boot camp like. Lots of opportunity to run and trip, and learn.

Frank DeAngelis is the instructor. Providing us with real world experience with a run and gun edge. Just another example of the variety of resources the school provides for our benefit.

So relieved, I'm really tapped, energy wise. Not afraid to work at learning, but between stress and tight deadlines I needed to use a different part of my brain. It was like someone knew we needed a breather.

In this module we get practical information about handling equipment, bringing to the set what you need to get the job done and working with what you got (not always the same) to get the job done. Often during class we came up short when we went through the kits. Something was missing, batteries, clips, connectors were bad. The motto of the class was "pack your own parachute" because if you only find out on set that something is missing, it's too late and no one gets the blame but you.

The focus was on using a boom and wireless mics (Sennheiser eW100 G2 wireless) and a mixer (Sound Devices 320) to control the audio from 3 sources going into the camera.

Another mantra was"treat the equipment with respect". As students it's easy to treat any of the equipment as casually as Stretch Armstrong, but you have to remember to develop good habits now, because there’s more important things to do when preparing for a paying gig than cursing yourself for breaking a wire connection or dropping a wireless transmitter, for the fifth time. How often do you expect you'll get rehired.

I don’t mean to sound like your mom, but you know, students are the worst and it gets old faster than finding your roommate's underwear in the freezer, again.

For those of you interested or with enough patience I've added a little detail about how a mixer fits in the production workflow, what it's used for, how it operates. I've tried my best to simplify things, it's still a very involved process.

Monday, July 23, 2007

#35 Filmmaking Manifesto #1

I recently discovered a blog about filmmaking and filmmaking education called Digital Basin. The author, Mike Jones has written a number of posts about 13 issues that he feels are critical to the success of a film student in today's world, but which aren't getting the attention they deserve in the curriculum at most film schools. He calls it his Filmmaking Manifesto.

Read the posts, he makes a lot of valid points. I've always felt that CDIA was quite progressive and I thought it would be interesting to measure my school using his ruler.

I'm not interested in bashing the school, or promoting anyone’s agenda, but I feel his blogs have given me an external perspective on how well CDIA is preparing me for my future.

I'll continue my weekly journal shows, these will run alongside as a special topic.

I hope your find the ideas interesting and more importantly, it gives you your own ideas.

Submit a comment or drop me a line at videostudentguy@gmail.com

Thursday, July 19, 2007

#34 Wk25 - Non Fiction Narrative

And in the End...

This week it all ends, at least for the current film project. I'm talking about last minute deadlines and the mixed feelings that result. There's always some vague unsatisfied feeling when you finish an all consuming project, as this one was. For me, I'm so glad to get this off my back, but also I realize that even though my mind an nerves are refilling with a sense of ease, there's still a sense of lack. Just putting a name to it is difficult, I still can't articulate it.

I know that I'm looking for a response, feedback, realization, something that I wasn't looking for when I started. Not affirmation, not the satisfaction of a job well done. All those things are welcome, for sure. I think it has something to do with purpose. Either the purpose of this project wasn't realized in the finished project, or it was too small a goal.

I'm just going to sound stupid trying to figure this out in a blog, so just leave it at this, that gnawing unfulfilled feeling you get when you're full, but you're still hungry.

So this episode is about meeting the deadline, the client meeting and review of the finished project. I add a little commentary at the end about gleaning meaning out of the experience.

Lastly I add a brief how to regarding multi-track audio editing between FCP and Soundtrack.

Below are the steps I go through in the podcast:

Select the File menu
Select Send To
Soundtrack Pro Multitrack Project

Make sure both options, Open in Sountrack Pro Multitrack Editor and Include Background Video are checked and click Save.

When you work with the audio in Soundtrack you’re going to be shuffling files between the two programs quite often, so I like to name my files to indicate what program they were saved from and what program they’re to be editing in. So when I export it from FCP I might call it FilmName, then add from Final Cut Pro to Soundtrack Pro. I usually abbreviate it, like FCP-SP, or simply F-S. Exporting it from Soundtrack Pro to FCP would be the reverse, FilmName S-F.

Following the export, Soundtrack Pro launches and opens the file in the Multitrack view. The stereo track from Final Cut displays as a single track in Soundtrack Pro. In Soundtrack Pro you can add additional tracks, such as sound effects, loops and other dialog.

By default there’s only one track for audio. You can add more tracks by right clicking in an audio track and selecting Insert Track Before, or After.

Add your audio and then Export the file, it’s an audio file, it has a .aif extension. Choose File/Export/Export Mix.

Import the audio file into Final cut. It appears as a single track.
Place in the video sequence. If you want to edit it, right click on the audio track and choose Open in Editor.

Soundtrack Pro comes to the front and tells you that the aif file is linked to a .stmp file, a Soundtrack project and asks you if you want to open the audio file or the project file.
Choose the project file to edit the individual tracks

The file opens with each audio element in independent tracks.

Make further changes to the different tracks, or add new tracks, then, as before, Choose File/Export/Export Mix and save it with the name you saved it as in the previous export, it supplies the same name by default.

When you go back to FCP you’ll see the changes are updated.

In this manner you can work between the two programs to keep you audio modifications in sync and still be able to work with each track separately. Without having to deal with a large number of separate tracks in FCP.

Monday, July 9, 2007

#33 Wk24 - Non-Fiction Narrative

I've played around with a different recording device, the Mbox 2 plus a Sennheiser mic. I think the quality is vastly improved, but now I have to deal with keeping my head in one position so that you don't get dizzy listening to my voice move back and forth. Isn't learning fun?

This week is the middle of the module on creating a non-fiction 2 minute film. I've tried to describe how we organized ourselves, developed the story and set up the shots. I think the biggest issue during our shoot was the pressure of trying to get the shooting done in time. Also still a big concern is the confidence of knowing how much coverage was necessary. Our footage ratio was 1:25, which is 25 minutes of footage for every minute of the final cut. I think that's acceptable.

The best part is how well we all worked together. It was a real pleasure to be part of a focused, dynamic team. Considering how little time we had, it was a necessity.

Friday, July 6, 2007

#32 Wk23 - Non-Fiction Narrative

I'm back after a week on the road and on vacation.

In the musing department I reflect briefly on the differences between the highways in the US and Canada and the filmic charms of upstate New York.

It's the beginning of a new module, this time I'm working with some guys on a 2 minute film that would be used as a warm up for a live presenter. The client is a film distribution company called Enterprise Media. You can see more examples of what we're trying to accomplish at John Cleese's video training site. There's 3 weeks to complete this, so there's lots to cover in a short amount of time.

Not in this episode, but coming soon, I'm going to talk about a site that has sparked my imagination and prompted me to create a series podcasts about the future of filmmaking education. Mike J0nes at Digital Basin created a manifesto for filmmaking educators a few weeks ago. I thought he was on target regarding the changes that dynamic media schools will have to make in order to adequately prepare their students for the rapidly evolving media production marketplace. I've always considered CDIA to be in the lead of adopting new technology, with a healthy sense of pragmatism, so I was interested in how my school measured up to Mike's idea's. Take a look at his manifesto and stay tuned, the series begins in a few weeks.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

#31 Wk23 - Hiatus

I'm on vacation, talk to you in a week.

Still fuzzy sounding in the background, I gotta get a new mic.

Monday, June 25, 2007

#30 condita , succurro , eruditio

Lots of last minute editing to reach Thursday's deadline. In the end, as is always the case, I had to stop before I was satisfied. I will continue to edit and incorporate the comments gleaned from the critique.

I've definitely learned to give myself more time for editing, video doesn't edit itself. And don't put it off, things come up that steal your time, use every spare minute you can. Do I sound spastic? Editing, I've learned, can do that to you.

But the critique was great. We saw everything everyone had to show. Not everyone delivered both the profile and the how to. I just squeezed by with a rough cut of the profile. I'll talk about a bunch about things I've learned form editing and the critique.

Finally, following a listener's email I've decided to tear the veil and give up a little information about myself.

Monday, June 18, 2007

#29 Wk21 - Editing Lab 1

Crunch Time

I've been really busy editing stories to meet a deadline so I've got a short episode this time.

Just an update on the editing process - things that can go wrong and ways to cope with stress, or not, you can decide if I'm coping well.

We're going to use iDVD for final output so I've listed all the steps for exporting from FCP and creating a finished DVD in iDVD.

Next week I'll give you the highlights from the final critique.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

#28 Wk20 - Editing Lab 1

Episode 28 begins with comments from episode 27 regarding the idea of context

I offer my Ballpark view philosophy and consider some ideas for adding variety to the podcast thru
  • Interviews
  • Editorials

Audio Mixer

We get a quick introduction to the audio mixer in FCP including how to
organize the tracks in the mixer environment without changing the order of the audio tracks in the timeline
recording on the fly mixing changes using keyframes
adding Audio Mixer buttons to the timeline
axporting audio to Pro Tools and Soundtrack Pro

Firewire Firewire Firewire

I note a couple pitfalls to avoid when dealing with external drives
No USB capture in FCP
Reformat your drive when you get it out of the box
  • Use the Disk Utility in Applications/Utilities
  • It's simple and fast

Finally, I mention visiting the Bison and Alpaca ranches of New England for some B-roll

Monday, June 4, 2007

#27 Wk19 - Final Cut Pro

I've included some musings on taking time to think and putting things in context.

Check out this book by Edward Dmytryk, On Film Editing

I've included some musings on taking time to think and putting things in context.

Despite my interest in putting things in a thoughtful way, I manage to run through a bunch of processes like a kid running through the woods during a thunderstorm. So I quickly explain how to, among other things, different kinds of cuts, using the motion feature in FCP, working with filters and compositing.

Most of the week was spent editing a rough cut of our projects. We have to get them done in 3 weeks. In-between editing Federico likes to show us some student films and discuss how successful they are. That's been really instructive.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

#26 Wk18 - Final Cut Pro

Continuing with the Final Cut module, for the second week

I was looking for some new production video and audio podcasts on iTunes and was reading the comments when I got curious about this podcast's page. I checked it out and was surprised that there was a comment. The writer was very generous and encouraging and indicated that while he hoped one day he would be able to do some filmmaking, this podcast gave him a look inside the process of learning filmmaking. Just one comment, but I was both humbled and gratified. It doesn't take a lot of encouragement to lift your spirits.

I haven't done much since I began to promote the podcast and I know of several things I could do. Frankly getting an episode out each week is often a struggle in time and effort. I have yet to check my stats on Libsyn, my hosting site, to see what, if any number of downloads there have been. Occasionally I check the blogs to see if there are any comments and even rarely do I check my email. I think that's the least I could do. Already I'm making myself busy. I'll do better, I promise.

This definitely points out my main goal though, which is to create a journal of my school experience, regardless of anyone else's participation. I don't mean I don't give a damn if no one listens to this podcast, or sends me comments and emails. I've already said how good an experience that is. I mean that my primary motivation, apart from any other consideration, is to create the podcast consistently through the end of my program at CDIA and in the process incorporate the best production values that I can. I don't know how much time I could devote to developing a community, no matter how small, of people interested in talking about my experiences in school, or theirs for that matter, unless it were to happen. I do know that I can learn a lot from creating this podcast and using it to reflect on what I discover each week at school. I'm just as glad that other people can do the same.

More stuff about Final Cut Pro editing strategies. Placing shortcuts to menu commands using the Button Bars in the top of every window pane, Timeline, Browser, Viewer etc. Option-J brings up the Button command lists, Option-H brings up the virtual keyboard that displays all the command key combinations. Rendering, which applies a special effect to a selected clip and then writes a file that stores that effect, can be a big time saver, and at the same time a disk hog. You'll need to remove these files from time to time. The wise thing to do is to delete them within Final Cut Pro, as opposed to deleting them from the Finder, otherwise you could get headaches from persistent alerts that media files are missing. Use Command-R to generate a render.

By the way, I'll always refer to the Apple Command key as the Command key, not the Apple key as I hear it often referred to in class and by other students. Maybe it's just old school, but I can't think of it as anything else.

As far as transitions are concerned, there are four which are recommended for their consistently effective impact:
  • A Straight Cut
  • dissolve
  • Fade to black
  • Dip to Color
Finally I discuss a variety of export options, depending on the medium you're sending you film to. Most importantly, from an archival standpoint, send your film to tape (DV tape on your camcorder). Also I mention exporting using Current Settings, Flash for web and Audio to OMF.

Thursday night was the Practicum showing. Student projects that created products in their media for local non profit organizations under the direction of a professional filmmaker. Great professional looking work.

Finally I mention a recent episode of This Week in Media, show # 53, Learning to Learn. TWIM is produced by Pixecorps.tv. I listen to this podcast weekly, very new media oriented with an emphasis on filmmaking issues. This one is about learning strategies for professionals that help you keep current.

Leave a comment or send me an email.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

#25 Wk17 - Final Cut Pro

This is the first week of the Final Cut Pro module. Tuesday night was a special topic class, separate form the module.

Our speaker was Robert Patton Spruill, director of Squeeze and a documentary on Public Enemy which is in final production.

He brought some fresh perspective on how to live your life as an independent filmmaker. I also appreciated his perspective on the program at CDIA versus, Emerson College, where he teaches as well.

Federico Muchnik, the video program director is our instructor for the Final Cut Pro module. He has an easygoing style that he uses effectively to cut through all the mucky details and focuses specifically on the need to know stuff for filmmakers. We’re covering a lot of ground in a short time, the point is that we’ll do the real learning once we start cutting. I cover the things I think are most important to the editing workflow.

Somehow I got into a rant about archiving files. It’s definitely something you need to consider before you go to far into a project. Finally I bring up an important point about capturing video. Don’t capture video to an external drive connected via USB. Just don’t’.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

#24 Wk16 - Film Project 1

Click on the podcast title to link to a player of this post.

After a review of our footage from last week's shoot we returned to New Hampshire and spent the morning at the Jackson Estuarine Lab. We filmed the steps that will ultimately be a movie on how to make a genetic fingerprint.
This module has been an excellent learning opportunity. I have learned to check equipment before I leave the equipment room, to make a shooting list before going on locaiton and most importantly, I learned a valuable lesson about setting the white balance on a DVX100.

Finally I end with an insider's description of the Pixelcorps. This is an online community that serves video professionals through training, mentoring and job postings. There's a summer special of $50 for 3 months membership. It's a good deal.

Go to Pixelcorp.tv for a good source for production video podcasts.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

#23 Wk15 - Film Project 1

Our team chose to shoot both projects at the same location. In the How To, our guest biologist, Steve, who works at the Jackson Estuarine Laboratory, demonstrates how to devine the genetic fingerprint of bacteria The profile is on the very same lab which monitors marine biology on the coast of New Hampshire.

We had a number of temporary setbacks because we didn't check our equipment but we end up with quite a bit of usable footage.

I'm still recording using the built-in mic on my Mac Powerbook. I've discovered you can do some decent audio correction using the Channel EQ. I'll talk about that in the next post.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

#22 Wk14 - Film Project 1 and NAB Wrapup

This episode includes a wrap up of NAB. I focus on Apple and Adobe's new products and a little bit about the Red Camera.

Although I didn't attend the first week of the new Module, "Film Project 1" I lay out the details: get coverage for two 5 minute videos, one demonstrating how to do something, the other is a profile of an individual.

Check out these podcasts that provided a lot of live coverage of the NAB event: This Week in Media, FX Podcast and Digital Production Buzz.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

#21 Wk13 - Training at NAB

There's lots of training on Flash video, HD cameras and workflow, Audio production, compression and color correction in FCP. I'll give you the highlights.

Of course there's classes on After Effects, 3D software, Adobe suite, Final Cut Pro suite, Avid, HD DVD production. There's tons of stuff to learn and hard choices to make.

Once the exhibition show opened on Monday April 15 I fought the crowds to find out stuff about Apple and Adobes new offerings. I've got a little news, more to come in the next episode.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

#21 Wk12- Las Vegas and NAB

I try to cover my harrowing adventures to the show and the past 3 days of training seminars I've attended.

#20 Wk12 - Errol Morris

The night before I took off for Las Vegas, which I know you're really tired of hearing about. I promise. I'll stop mentioning that soon. Anyway, on Wednesday April 11 I joined some of my classmates for a screening at Brandeis University by Errol Morris of a work in progress film about Abu Graib. He showed pieces of the film, rough cuts, talked briefly about the genesis of the project and that because of previous visits to the campus, felt the University community would have provide some valuable feedback to what he presented.

He was a quiet unassuming personality who took his work seriously, but in a self deprecating way. I was surprised by his demeanor. Considering the seriousness of the works I've seen, not everything certainly, I expected him to be more severe. Not complaining. Really, it's one of the reasons I attended.

There were a lot of interesting questions about the source material, how it was available, how he got the people who took the photos to be interviewed and whether they were being honest or trying to cast themselves as victims.

He made it clear that this was not an anti governement movie, but that it was about the banality of war, and the sheer stupidity. It was grim viewing, but also breathtakingly absorbing. He said it should be coming out later this year. Watch for it.

#19 Wk12 - Documentary and Interview

Another show recorded at Logan Airport, complete with guest ambient speakers. Any suggestions on how to eliminate them would be greatly appreciated. By the way, I did finally get to Vegas, about 1am local time. I got to my room and collapsed at 3:30. Maybe I'll fill you in on my exciting trip in another episode. I was very happy to stop.

So this episode covers Tuesday nights class. Howard Phillips, who taught a previous class on lighting, filled in for Franco who was out sick. We reviewed some video people shot the previous week using the camera handheld. As I mention in the podcast I appreciate having multiple teachers in a single class, although not at the expense of the health of anyone. Even if they recover information or techniques, I feel I can benefit from their differing experiences and perspectives.

Currently I'm attending seminars. I'll be posting episodes shortly. The trade show hasn't started yet. I'm really loving all the information. There are about 8 different tracks on video production, software and hardware and I can only choose one at a time. Come Monday I'll have to skip some classes altogether to see the booths on the floor. And it's a big floor.

Following right on the heels of this post is one about a screening I attended of a work in progress by Errol Morris, the guy who produced The Fog of War and other great documentaries. Coming right up.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

#18 Wk11 - Documentary and Interview

You going to hear the cuts in this episode. I recorded this podcast from Logan Airport in Boston, waiting for my plane to Las Vegas. Lots of background noise. There just doesn't seem to be quiet rooms at this airport. I thought the Men's room would be a little obvious. I'm also editing in Adobe Audition instead of Soundtrack pro and Garageband, so the production values are going to suffer from my limited experience with that program. I think it's quite the capable piece of software, I'm just unfamiliar with it.

We watched the first 15 minutes of an excellent documentary called Children Underground, by Edet Belzberg about the lives of a group of children who live in the subways of Bucharest Roumania. From that we took a number of lessons about shooting cinema verite with a handheld camera.

The assignment for the class was to take multiple shots of an individual working at a computer. All different angles and perspectives, from above, over the shoulder, in front, close-ups of hands on keyboards and mouse, the monitor, the desk, etc. It was all about coverage, getting every shot you could need to demonstrate the detailed actions of someone working on a computer, probably with the intention of using it as B-roll for a voice-over, or over dubbed interview. Shooting handheld for even 15 minutes is very fatiguing.

We didn't get time to look at the video, but we did discuss our experiences while we were waiting for everyone to get back. In the next week we'll review them and take on another assignment.

In the meantime I'm still waiting for the plane. Heavy winds in Nevada they say.

Friday, April 13, 2007

#17 Wk10 - Documentary and Interview pt2

The ummm, ah episode. I'm trying really hard to streamline and shorten the production process for podcasting. That means working off of short notes, instead of a finished script and not spending so much time editing, removing annoying ahs and spaces. And as much as I've tried, I've still spent too much time editing the audio. I can't stand listening to me stumbling along, why should you. Still it's a little rougher that usual. Let me know what you think.

This episode includes notes about a documentary preview, So Much | So Fast, and Q&A with the filmmaker, Steven Asher. His comments on how to make a living as a documentary filmmaker were interesting.

Thursday and Saturday we prepared and shot an interview which I describe as well as give up some pointers on how to conduct an interview.

Finally I talk about the RED One camera. It's the one to watch at NAB this year.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

#16 Wk10 - Documentary and Interview pt1

Another quick set of notes for this podcast.

This week begins the class on documentary and interview. This podcast is only about Tuesday night's class. I'm going to put out a second podcast covering Thursday nights special topic where we screen a just released documentary and get to question the filmmaker, and then Saturday's class where we set up lighting for an interview and then interview someone we don't know.

I also take the time to bleed all the humor out of David Brenner's jokes with my sad delivery

I discuss the sad lot of Julie Amero

Check out Errol Morris' films, and the commercials on his site. He's the one who did the original Apple ads about switchers.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

#15 Wk9 - Filmmaking Fundamentals

Just a brief note, you'll have to listen to the podcast to figure what's on. Click on the title to link to the audio or subscribe to it on iTunes.

This podcast closes the last classes of the Filmmaking Fundamentals module. I also give a run down of things to see at the National Association of Broadcaster's show in Las Vegas, coming up in April. Lots of stuff about software, cameras, video editing seminars.

I'll see you there.

Friday, March 23, 2007

#14 Wk8 - Filmmaking Fundamentals

I'm talking about a variety of shoots this week. We're shooting an action scene using a dolly and shooting a dialog scene with a variety of OTS (over the shoulder) angles, including dirty and clean singles. Once all the camera work is done we'll be editing it into rough cuts next week.

I also discuss a number of Filmmaking events taking place in the next couple months. In Boston the Independent Film Festival will be taking place, April 25 - 30. They're looking for volunteers. Another film festival is online, called the One Minute Film Festival.

The 48 hour film project is closed in Boston, but it's a wicked cool event you should look into to get a complete tour of the video production experience.

I will be attending NAB mid April and while I talk a little bit about the things I plan to see and learn at the show, including training by FMC, I'll talk about at more length in the next podcast.

Some of the updated announcements I expect to see are Adobe CS and Production suite, Apple FCP and an update to Avid for the Mac/Intel processor.

Red camera is going to make a big noise with a demonstration and possibly a limited sale of it's new camera that shoots 4k video.

Friday, March 16, 2007

#13 Wk7 - Filmmaking Fundamentals

Creating a Short Narrative

This module is all about putting into action what we've been taught to date about light, camera work and sound. After a brief introduction by our instructor Tom Robothan we were thrust into the preproduction process. Our goal was to shoot five scenes from interviews to action and dialog and then cut it together.

It's an excellent example of the team-orientated learning that is a big part of CDIA's curriculum. This week is all about planning and next week we'll do the bulk of the shooting. The last week is for editing.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

#12 Wk6 - Lighting

I'm way behind so I'm posting this fast and short. This show is less than 5 minutes long.

This week we finished the lighting module. We did an exercise with 3 point lighting on 2 people and another exercise outside using daylight and reflectors.

Saturday and Sunday I shot video of a reception and awards ceremony at Brandeis University for their annual film festival, Sundeis.

Here are some links mentioned in the audio:

Matters of Light and Depth
American Film Institute
Vision of Light
Cinematographer's Style
All That Jazz
Roy Scheider

Monday, February 26, 2007

#11 Wk5 - Lighting

Practical Lighting

Tuesday night's class began with how to set up 3 Point lighting, the classic TV news lighting. 3 point lighting consists of the main light, Key; secondary light, Fill; Backlight or Kicker, which separates the subject from the background and Background light.

3 points of light, 4 lights, an amazing paradox. I describe our efforts setting up the scene. By the way, I mistakenly used the term "baffle" when referring to a fabric grid we use on the Rifa to direct light forward. I don't know what it is called and I couldn't find it on the Lowel site.

Thursday night we used the same lighting techniques to recreate a night scene and I include pointers on how to do that.

Podcasts for filmmakers

Finally, I introduce a new segment, reviewing podcasts that I feel are valuable learning tools for anyone interested in working in the motion graphics field. Tonight I'm profiling the VFX Show. Mentioned briefly is episode 5 where the hosts talk about their favorite DVD extras that include helpful movies on production techniques.

Take a look at DVD Breakdown for reviews of DVDs and descriptions of the extras. I also mentioned a book by Robert Rodriquez, the guy who gave us El Mariachi and Spy Kids. It's called Rebel without a Crew.

Chapter Titles

  • 00:07 This Week
  • 00:45 3 Point Lighting
  • 01:53 Key
  • 02:18 Fill
  • 03:29 Backlight
  • 04:00 Kicker
  • 05:19 Background
  • 06:55 Exercise: News Lighting
  • 08:54 Night Light
  • 12:22 Exercise: Night Lighting
  • 14:07 What is Podcasting?
  • 18:07 The VFX Show
  • 22:49 DVD Extras
  • 25:25 Close

Saturday, February 24, 2007

#10 Wk4 - Special Topic

Documentary A-Z
This is a special mid week episode of the Video StudentGuy podcast. Thursday night we had a special topic presentation by Franco Sacchi, a filmmaker and instructor at CDIA. He presented his documentary, American Eunuch, as an example of how to create a documentary.

The class covered every step of the production process beginning with finding the idea, preproduction, the shoot, post and promotion. Check out IFP.org for help marketing your film.

Franco briefly referred to the Long Tail marketing concept which I try to explain in a nutshell. This was a term popularized by Chris Anderson of Wired and he went on to write a book about it as well. He also has a blog on it. I believe this business model has significant impact on all content producers and will continue to gain mind-share over the next several years.

Everything about the film should be rolled up into a website for promotional purposes. Include budget, proposal and treatment to demonstrate your organizational skills. You should contrast the earlier American Eunuch site to the more current This is Nollywood website to see how he is using the web to create buzz about his movies. Nollywood is a documentary about the growing film industry in Nigeria. That film is currently in post.

Towards the end of the show I present a few of my thoughts about the movie. Keep in mind I only saw a portion of the film. All the same I give it a thumbs up. I close out with some production notes about this podcast.

Chapter Titles
  • 00:08 This Week
  • 01:25 Franco Sacchi
  • 01:50 Costs
  • 03:44 Find the story
  • 06:31 Preproduction
  • 07:41 The Shoot
  • 08:43 Post
  • 10:03 Promotion
  • 11:40 The Long Tail
  • 13:36 Websites
  • 15:23 Film Commentary
  • 18:10 Close - Production Notes

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

#9 Wk4 - Light up everybody

In this episode there’s a lot of information about the character of light and lighting hardware. To our eyes light is white, but light is always changing color and knowing how to describe it and measure it is very important to filmmaking.

Measuring light
Two ways of measuring light is CRI, the Color Rendering Index and the Kelvin color temperature. CRI measures the strength of light and how consistent it is. CRI values are on each piece of professional lighting equipment and the best piece of information you can learn is to never buy a lamp that has a CRI below 90%. You can find useful information about CRI on GE’s site, including graphs displaying the color consistency.

Kelvin measures the color of light. The two lights used most frequently in filmmaking are tungsten and daylight. Tungsten, which is a red/orange color, is about 3200 degrees Kelvin, Daylight, which is bluish is about 5600 degrees Kelvin. These values are not heat temperatures, they measure color in a range from black on the low end to white on the high end.

Light kits
There are three different sets of lights we use at school. Arri are tungsten lights and they use Fresnel lenses which concentrates light and directs it straight ahead. Lowell are also tungsten lights and Kino lights are fluorescent lights that are color accurate to either daylight or tungsten. The key thing is to not trust your eyes or the LCD on the camera, trust the monitor.

You can control the light by adding on elements such as barn doors, scrims, gels, gobos and diffusers.

Handling electricity
WARNING WILL ROBINSON: Be very very careful when dealing with electricity and make sure yhou understand how to handle lights before using them. I’m giving you a brief overview, don’t rely on what I say alone.

I do my best to explain about calculating the load your lights are putting on your electrical system. Watts, Amps and Volts are the three variables. You get to do the math everytime you set up lights so that you never blow out the circuit.

Watts / Volts = Amps

Amps x Volts = Watts

Lighten up
Finally, a little more information about matching the color of lights. Don’t be so precise, Leave a little room for variation in color within a scene. As long as it matches your intentions, bear in mind that in the real world, we’re looking at multiple colored light sources all the time and don’t think anything of it.

Chapter times

  • 00:08 This week
  • 012:9 Lighting terminology
  • 02:48 The color of light
  • 03:51 CRI
  • 05:42 Kelvin color temperature
  • 06:40 Light kits
  • 08:41 Scrims, gels, barn doors
  • 11:22 Changing color with gels
  • 13:20 Electricity
  • 16:57 Cookies and gobos
  • 18:10 Don’t try to match exactly
  • 20:34 Close

Sunday, February 11, 2007

#8 Wk3 - Camera and Sound

The Sound and the Frustration

This is the last week for the Camera and Sound module. The class broke up into 2 teams of 5 and continued to use the boom mic and lavalier mic. Tuesday we recorded an interview and a narrative short on Thursday. I spend a few moments explaining the advantages of a Boom over a lav mic.

We’re also using a sound mixer which provides greater control than is available through the camera alone. I explain why it is both simple and hard

We experienced difficulties working with the audio that put us under a lot of pressure to meet our end of class deadline. The big lesson is that no matter what the source of your equipment, it makes sense and can really save your butt if you check the working status before you begin setting up the shot.

Of course all the preparation in the world won't save you if you don't pay attention to details. Despite my best efforts to avoid problems, by coming into class an hour early to prep the equipment, I still managed to miss the fact that the video gain was turned on through our entire shoot.
“Wakey, wakey” as a friend used to say.

We worked up a short story that we would shoot as an in-camera edit, where each scene is shot in one take, as it occurs in the story. Each shot is filmed so that the end and beginning fit in with the next and previous shot. No extra footage because you aren't editing it in the computer, it's all in the camera. It took a lot of planning and discussion to shoot, but it was fun and it worked out rather well. It helped that it was a simple story and it was short, only 3 minutes long.

On the last day of the class we’re introduced to optical stabilization, which makes shooting hand held practical. We didn’t get a chance to use it this week, so I’ll talk about it in a future episode.

I also discuss the need to develop a process for double checking, not only the working status of equipment, but also the settings on the equipment.

Howard Phillips, the associate director of the Film program, will be teaching the next module on lighting, which begins next week.

Chapter times
  • 00:07 Last week recap
  • 00:54 This week
  • 01:19 Boom vs Lav mic
  • 03:24 Reel to reel memories
  • 04:20 Mixer revealed
  • 05:18 Production problems
  • 07:08 Shooting In-Camera edit
  • 07:52 Deciding on a story
  • 08:26 The other team's story
  • 09:21 Our shoot
  • 10:17 Critique of video
  • 11:16 Optical stabilization
  • 12:06 Composition concerns
  • 12:46 Checklists
  • 13:40 Editorial: Order order
  • 15:30 Close
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