Thursday, December 18, 2008

#122 Thoughts while I edit

Here are a few thoughts that have been distracting me as I hunker down and edit my film.

In case I didn't go into enough detail in the show, or worse, if all that detail confused you, let me explain a couple things.

In one segment I'm talking about the "Fishbowl" of podcasting. It's a term that has the same currency among podcasters as kleenex has within the general public. With podcasters, the fishbowl syndrome means we have created a world that is not only unique, but separated from most people. Information gets in, but nothing is getting out. And because it's comfortable there's a risk no one inside the fishbowl will make an effort do something about it. This is the same experience every avid hobbiest has, the difference is that podcasters, participating in a "social" media, where communication means community and community building, there is an evangelical weight on their shoulders.

Another term used a lot, ad nauseam really, is "monetization" which I'm not sure is a real word. Apple's dictionary doesn't recognize it. Monetization's intended meaning within the podcasting/social networking community is the process of converting you podcast/social media into a money making machine. Essentially turning your hobby into a job. That sounds like a terrible idea when you put it like that.

What makes some people roll their eyes when they hear it is that the constant request for "how to" monetize is becoming a cliche. There are a lot of facets to podcasting, and monetization is a valid piece. But it's importance is often/sometimes inflated beyond it's real stature in this emerging medium. And, I have come to believe that the fact that the con people feel this way, and the pro people continually request "how to" points to the fact that no one knows how to.

It's like the get-rich-quick telethons on weekend and early morning TV. Never the same guys, always a different method.

Links mentioned in this show:

Monday, December 1, 2008

#121 Ruff Cutz Film Conference

I recently attended a filmmaker's conference that included screenings of independent films. My film was included and while that was gratifying, I found the real value was attending the filmmaker's panels and viewing other people's reactions to my and other films. I picked up a lot of valuable information about ways to navigate the independent filmmaking process and I've included highlights in this show.

I am preparing a number of changes on this site and an upcoming video podcast, as well as completing my film, so, from now on for an indefinite period of time, I'm going to post shows twice a month instead of every week. Once I get a few new projects running I'll return to a weekly show.

Here are the links to people and sites I"ve mentioned in the show.

Ruff Cutz Film Conference

Jim Jermanok - Producer, Writer, Director

Steven Jermanok - Writer

Dale Carnegie - How to make friends and influence people

Michael Corrente - Federal Hill

Ed Sanchez - Blair Witch Project

Michael Phillips - Academy Award winning Producer

Patrick Smith - Animator

Thursday, November 20, 2008

#120 Twitter is Alive

The most recent episode of This Week in Media, #115 has some interesting comments about Twitter's impact on Brand marketing. TWIM is a great show if you want to understand the developing space of new media. Comments starting at about 47 minutes made me realize how important it is for marketers to stay on top of every kind of marketing, especially social networking apps like Twitter.

Daisy Whitney - New Media Minute

Motrin Commercial Flak - Forbes

Monday, November 10, 2008

#119 Rhinebeck Sheep & Wool Festival

It took a lot of time to complete this show. I changed the format, just this once, to the AAC Enhanced format, so that I can include pictures and links. I have also made the pictures available online. I'm using Photobucket, instead of Flickr, because I was having serious problems loading the files. I've never seemed to have much success using Flickr. You can search for them under the heading, Sheep and Wool NY08.

You can view the pictures and listen to the audio through iTunes or on an iPod. I don't intend to distribute this show as an MP3 file unless I get some requests.

This is just an experiment at trying to tell a story, in this case about my trip to the Rhinebeck Sheep and Wool Festival a few weeks ago in October. It was a combination holiday and location scouting trip. I'm planning on extending ideas I presented in my student film about crafts and craftspeople into a regular video cast and I wanted to learn more about the fiber arts.

It was a pleasant event, don't know if I would need to return next year, thought there is an additional day decidcated to interantional fiber vendors, that would be interesting.

It's worth commenting on the amount of effort required to create this show. I'm not complaining, it's just amazing how much work it takes to proof files and use the right ones in the chapter markings. I think it would have been better to just put the images on Flickr and left this as a simple MP3 file.

But then, it wouldn't have been the same product.

All told, it was fun and interesting to make, but I'd have to do a lot more preparation to make this fit into my regular workflow so I wouldn't miss a weekly deadline.

Now that I'm not reporting on weekily events such as classes or assignments at my school, CDIA, I have to create content on my own. It's liberating, but it also places more demands on my resources and time. I can see there has to be more planning into the future so I can have three or more shows in the can to compensate for times when I don't finish a project on time.


Friday, October 31, 2008

#118 Lame Excuse

It's been a while and I've been working, I really have, and it's going to be great, you're really going to love it. 

Give me a few more days.

Thanks. You're beautiful.

Monday, October 13, 2008

#117 Looking back, moving on

I've been spending most of my free time completing the transcription process. This is critical for me to figure out what remains to be shot in order to complete my film, as well as speed up the editing process.

Transcribing is boring, tedious work and there's not a lot of stuff I can say about it, though I try my best. I've tried to speed things up by using transcription software. I started out with iListen from MacSpeech and then, when they came out with Dictate I switched to that, Dictate uses a vastly improved software translation engine that was licensed from Dragon Naturally Speaking on the Windows platform. I think I will have to look into using Dragon on my next project and see if that tops them all.

I've also been using my time to talk with instructors and get critiques on how well my film works. I know it needs improvment. I've spoken to a number of film faculty at CDIA. It's interesting to see how each person views the essentials of filmmaking.

One instructor, who is not a documentarian, emphasized the story elements and how the story is presented. Franco Sacchi, our resident documentary filmmaker was all over the structure of the film and how to use visuals to connect the ideas. I have another critique coming up soon with an instructor who is a strong editing and sound person, so it will be interesting to see how he views the needs of my film.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

#116 Do I like Avid?

It's been a couple weeks since graduation, so I've decided to catch you up with my plans for the coming year. I've got some additional podcasts in the works as well as ideas for this show. you can look forward to more interviews in the near future.

This is an unusually long show and I'm loading a lot of news on the front end, so if you want to skip that, jump to 10:40 where I start my eval of Avid.

My film, Handmade in America is still in process. I'm screening it with a number of people at school over the next few weeks, to find out how I can make a good film look and play better. I'm conscious that meeting the graduation deadline required me to skimp on some quality features, and while I don't want to dedicate the rest of my life to this story, I do want to look back on it knowing I did the best I could given my current abilities. I already see the need to do some pick-up shooting.

Even though I'm out of school, CDIA has a very open approach towards it's alumni, encouraging continuing connections and mentoring between former students and faculty.

I can spend a lot of time validating the time I spent in school, learning this craft, but I'll put that off for another time. I do want to bring to your attention a series of articles by Mike Jones of Digital Basin about whether it's worth your money to go film school at all. His first post was dated Monday Sept. 08, 2008 and continued for 4 more posts up to Wednesday Sep 17, 2008.

In the show, I mention a video host called Vimeo that I'm considering using to post screencasts. Blip TV is similar one that comes to mind. Anyone had experience with either of those, or recommendations of others?

And as far as a host for future sites and blogs, I've committed to BlueHost, a name I've heard other podcasters refer to positively. I've looked at a lot of different hosts, read comparative reviews and I feel that, at least on the basic level, they're more or less the same in terms of features offered. So, in the absence of any clear direction, I'm going with what's appeared on my radar.

Check out the Ruff Cutz Film Festival. I submitted and have recently been added to the films screened at this event, taking place at the Center for Digital Imaging Arts at Boston University in Waltham Massachusetts, in the middle of November. I don't know much except that CDIA is a sponsor, they're encouraging films that are rough, which mine is, and it's inexpensive to enter. I'll be there and let you know about it.

The remainder of the show is spent sharing my thoughts about the pros and cons about using Avid.

Bear in mind, I'm approaching this from a beginner's perspective. As far as I'm concerned, I'm standing on the edge of the learning prairie, the mountains are nowhere in sight and I have no idea if I'll reach the sea on the other side.

So a lot of my concerns and ideas are limited by my exposure and use of this program. I don't think this negates the usefulness of what I've got to say though. I think this program is really, really weak for the beginning user. There was a time when the only way you could learn this software was from the cocoon of the production company that had spent hundreds of thousands of dollars for each Avid workstation. Anyone who was chosen to learn this tool had the benefit of a seasoned professional editor, as well as their own years as assistant editors, watching in the shadows.

Experiences like that can still be had, but they aren't the norm anymore. At the midpoint on the user curve are people such as myself, people who want to produce their own independent films with a small team of people. Bootstrap filmmaking. This is where Final Cut Pro and Premiere have taken the lead and Avid is lagging behind. I think Avid has a lot to offer today's independent filmmaker, but I think they're shutting people out by raising the learning bar too high at the point of entry.

I'm going to check out the book by Diana Weynand, Final Cut Pro for Avid Editors. I haven't been able to find any books for people who use Final Cut Pro and want to use what they know to learn Avid, but I have found a few sites. Avid's site has video tutorials geared towards FCP users, Editing Organazized has a useful blog post about how specific editing actions are invoked in either program, Final Cut Pro to Avid and the Avid Community site also has tips and tutorials.

I'm committed to this course regardless of wolves, snowstorms or bandits, so any helping hand you can lend would be kindly appreciated. Thankye.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

#115 CDIA Screening and Graduation

As you know I've handed in my final project and this show is about my class's screening and graduation at CDIA. Yes, I'm done, but it's not over, it's never over.

Working up to and over the last minutes of my deadline left me very tired. As a result the remainder of the week's activities were a blur. I should have been able to talk about events in greater detail, but the truth is that I had very little capacity to absorb the experience. In some sense I was living in the moment, not anticipating the future or recalling the past.

I'm not much on ceremonies or "special events" in any case. They are what you make of them. I think the people who share them with you carry more weight in your memory, so I guess you could say that what I recall here is what I considered the important part.

I certainly was nervous about the screening and showing my film in front of a lot of strangers, it went off well though. People laughed in the appropriate places and I got a number of kind and constructive comments, which demonstrated more than anything else, that some people were paying attention.

The I want to give a special nod to Bob Daniels, the guy who runs the school, for some intelligent and brief comments about what lies in the future for the graduates.

What's next. As I said, it isn't over by a long shot. I'm doing a little polishing of the film so I can submit it to a local film festival, coming up shortly in Boston, called the Ruff Cutz Festival. As the name implies, you can submit the film where ever it is process. Some money is on the line, but I'm not holding my breath. I'm more interested in preparing my film for submission, and if it makes the cut, having the chance to watch another crowd of strangers judge my film.

Independent of that, I plan to meet with several instructors over the next month and discuss ways to enhance the film. Essentially I'm going to have the critiques I didn't have time for, before I handed it over for graduation screening.

Once that's done, I'm not completely sure what to do with it, other than use it as a calling card. I plan to create a site for it as well as other videos that I produce about craft - all crafts I hope.

There are two reasons I want to do this:
I want to continue to exercise all the skills I've been exposed to and hone this filmmaking craft. I don't want what I've learned to atrophy due to disuse. I don't have any plans at all to set out on a filmmaking career, I don't know yet what the next step for me is.
I really like this subject matter, it's really a big part of who I am and finding the stories are sort of like discovering parts of myself. I also think there's a lot of people out there who have the same feelings and creating a link between us seems like a the way to begin this odyssey.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

#114 Panic on Day Zero

Day Zero - Project Due

It's fitting that this show, which is about the final day of my film project for the Film program at CDIA at Boston University ends with a lot of energy and emotion, because, up 'til now I've been holding it in, quite well I think.

I wouldn't say I lost it, but it was close, it was more like clawing my way back onto the cliff edge that I was sliding off. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

I only want to say that over these past 4 weeks the excitement and fun of editing and completing a film has completely leached away to frustration, stomach gnawing stress and all other kinds of unpleasant feelings due to having too much to do in way too little time. In the end I have to confess to dreaming too big.

I'm not apologizing for that, nothing I've experienced so far will change that about myself, but I have learned that I never want to do a film this way again. We'll see if I can hold true to that promise.

Today was a race against time, right up to the wire to complete color correction and titles - how many times have I talked about getting those two things done.

I seem to have gotten on a rag about various features of Avid, GUI in general, but Titles really took me for a beating. In the end I had to bail on using titles in Avid and did something quickly in Final Cut Pro. Don't do this at home, it's very, very painful and time consuming. Bringing an exported Quicktime file from Avid into FCP requires that you render the entire timeline and the titles will have to rendered each time you tweak them. But it was necessary to meet the deadline. I would be better to know how to use the tools within Avid. I'll let you know how difficult that really is in the next few weeks, once my head clears and I can approach learning it with a little more time.

I also plan to do a review of working in Avid, talking about the pros and cons. I know that most people listening are not using Avid, maybe not even using Final Cut Pro, but it is an industry standard tool, for the present, and I would like to give the benefit of my experience, as painful as it sometimes has been, so that you know where it sits in the pantheon of NLE gods.

Avid, FCP, FCS, titles, color correction, transcode, tape transfer

Sunday, September 21, 2008

#113 Abiding by Murphy's Law

Day 2 & 1

As a result of excellent feedback from Linda, my wife, I've made some significant changes to the order in which speakers are introduced. I had begun with discrete, self contained blocks, where an individual presents themselves. Of course I intended to mix individual's comments together where they touched on the same topic as the film progressed, but it was made clear to me through Linda's perspective that I could begin that earlier, so there wasn't an obvious transition from one person speaking at a time to many people speaking.

It was a real structural problem for me and I'm grateful for the insight she provided. You know, I know what I want to do and could have acted alone, but I had nagging doubts that my perspective was too inside, too familiar to be trusted as far as how much I could ask the audience to accept as they were introduced to the film's characters and ideas. Things such as the pacing, I'm using a lot of rapid cuts. It really pays to have someone you can trust who can offer concise, intelligent comments.

Day 1 ends and I still don't have the film transfered to tape. I spent a number of hours but between working with HD footage in Avid and moving it to HDV tape, or SD for that matter, there were lots of unresolved problems. And I lost a lot of editing time in the process.

Not that this isn't my own fault for starting late in the first place.

I mention a number of suggestions made by one of my constant instructors, Howard Phillips, for enhancing the movement of the story and I did a poor job of explaining J & L cuts, so follow the link to find out a little bit more. I've added them throughout the film to ease the audience from one cut to another. It's a subtle thing. The difference it makes is not so much what it adds, so much as what it removes, which is often an abrupt, gawky cut between two speakers, or scenes.

Another point I missed in the excitement of reciting my day, is that the 90 second segment where I introduce a new character and I thought I was going to have to scrap it because I didn't have B-roll to cover several jump cuts. I forgot to mention the solution, which was to use dip-to-color between the cuts. It's only a second where the clip fades in, then out to black, but it heals the jump cut wound quite nicely.

Now, I know how to do this and had used it sparingly in other parts of the film, but I thought it was too much in your face, it would be too jarring to the viewer if I did it several times within 90 seconds. I was assured by people whose opinions matter that it was fine and acceptable. I don't know if they meant in general, or under the circumstances of the looming deadline, but I gladly accepted it like a get out of jail card. We'll see how people react at the screening.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

#112 Room to breathe

Days 5, 4 & 3

Still working on the rough cut, focusing on story pacing, removing things that take you out of the story.

I'm reflecting a lot on the meaning of craft, the subject of my film, and being as tired as I am I'm afraid I'm not completing whole thoughts. I'm gaining spontaneity at the price of coherency when I'm not reading off a script. You tell me if it's worth it!

About five and a half minutes into the show I'm trying to make a point about the life craftspeople try to lead and I'm using a sports competition metaphor and it utterly fails. What I'm trying to say in this instance is that the measure of success is the process of work and learning they're engaged in, their life's journey, not a specific accomplishment or feat.

Trust is a perennial issue for me, and exercising trust in the audience is what I need to do as I continue this edit. Just as Jay Moonah said At Podcaster's Across Borders this past June, the content is the audience. They create meaning out of the context of their experiences, in this case, watching this film when it's done. Learning to trust that people are paying attention and pulling all the disparate pieces and ideas within the film to create a whole that leads them to… what, my way of thinking.

No, this film is not like driving cattle through a narrow, fenced in path (don't know the name of the path, sorry), but I do hope that it will direct people to think about specific ideas with new understanding. Providing some understanding, that's sufficient for me.

editing, video, filmmaking, rough cut, craft,

Thursday, September 18, 2008

#111 Holistic Film Editing

Day 7 & 6

Originally I thought I'd name this show Recognizing Mortality. I've heard that if you want people to find your posts you need to give them names that reflect the general nature of your content. I thought that fit because editing requires you to face the death of so many things, ideas, hopes, illusions, favorite bits, not to mention your own inflated ego. However, oblique, inside-joke titles, while clever, don't have much value if no one gets them, or listens. So I decided to change the title to something that at least will show up in a search on film or editing. Am I selling out my art for convention or monetary sake?

I don't know if Holistic Film Editing is any better, but I think it's appropriate because in this show I'm all about working the entire story on one timeline, making sure everything works together. There I go repeating myself. Forgive me if it seems like I'm continuously in search of what I mean, but, well, I am.

One of the requirements for graduation, besides finishing this film, is to give up a minute of the film, uncompressed, that will be shown during graduation. It's a great idea, but I begrudge every distraction at this point in time. My film is very rough still, so I had to pick a minute of footage and clean up the audio, do a little color correction and make sure i t was coherent before I could export it. Fortunately I had a segment that I had already done some finessing. Still, a distraction.

Right now I'm taking the segments I've created and place them in order on the timeline so they work as a whole. That involves making changes at the beginnings and endings of each, so there's a comfortable, natural transition in terms of ideas. This is pretty tricky and I'm finding that, where it's difficult to accomplish that, I may have to choose to radically change one segment or the other to make the transition coherent. Either that, or I need to add more footage to make the transition, or lead-in make sense. And you know, by transition, I don't mean a transition effect, I mean adding clips that allow the viewer to make the leap from one idea to the next.

Here's a couple lessons that I've been learning during the past few days while editing. I'm pointing them out here because doing the edit is where they've become real. All the preparation, classroom instruction, friendly advice wasn't enough to take this to heart. Editing, especially against a tight deadline is what has really brought it home to me.

  • Try not to edit with blinders, you have to always keep your eyes open to the entire story, not just individual segments

  • Getting feedback early and often helps a lot. Early because it's then that you can afford, ego-wise, to surrender ill conceived ideas that are apparent to others, but hidden from you.

  • Trust the intelligence of the audience. Once they are engaged in the ideas you're presenting, they will be able to follow on their own, they don't necessarily have to be lead to conclusions.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

#110 Critiques: Scaling Illusions

Day 8

Over the past year I have been trying, without success to figure out how to use a calibrated monitor to display video coming out of the computer, as I color correct. Today we had a color correction class for Final Cut Pro, something that was arranged outside of the program, based on specific requests from our class. I think that speaks volumes about how flexible and generous the school and the instructors are towards meeting the needs of students.

Anyway, I'm going to create a screen cast, post it on YouTube and you can link to it to see how it's done.

The unfortunate thing is that you can' display HD footage through an SD monitor. So there you are, I have HD footage and I can't monitor my color correction, I have to go solely by the scopes, the Waveform or RGB Parade monitor, VectorScope and Histogram. Of course the trick is making sure you're viewing your results on a calibrated monitor.

Of course, that's not nothing, it counts for 90% of the way home, but that last 10% is the difference between a vacant stare and a smile.

I've used a monitor for color correction on SD footage shot for a Practicum film back in May. (Show 91) It made a big difference, not only in terms of quality, but also in building my confidence in my own color correction technique.

Howard Phillips, a frequent instructor screened my latest revision and gave me a very good critique. There's so little time, so every intelligent comment is greatly appreciated. The big problem is that I'm making the same point over and over again. I couldn't see it myself, but once the scales were removed from my eyes it was embarrassing how obvious it was. That's half the value of having others review your film. And getting that input before you're too attached to the cut is the other half.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

#109 How the days run down

A really long, typical, frantic day

Arrive early at school to pick up equipment and I trigger the alarm

Once back at work I quickly set up for the shoot at 1:00, so the shoot in short order, quickly tear it down and capture it before I run off to school to return the equipment

I'm trying to squeeze in a little editing and hand off copies of a rough cut and end up wasting most of my time.

Really, the day is an example of how lack of time leads you into making stupid mistakes that waste more time.

After wrapping up the day I include a few comments about coping with the stress and allowing the film to work itself out in the moments between getting things done.

Friday, September 12, 2008

#108 Editor's Confessional

Countdown to final project delivery. Days 11 & 10.

A lot of hand wringing, but there's hope too!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

#107 Roughcut on the run

Day 14 Editing
Day 13 Shooting
Day 12 Driving home through heavy, sticky traffic

I'm still pulling together the entire story of my film, still in rough cut mode. I'm just beginning to set boundaries and eliminating individuals wholesale, because the film isn't long enough to include more than a certain number of faces and voices. I don't know what that number is, but I've already eliminated 1 of 4 key interviews I did with potters. I found that when I introduced each person at the beginning of the film, one individual didn't fit. It was an odd experience that I had never had before and I it hit me like a vague itch as I was assembling the cut. It was completely apparent when I saw it full blown, along with my class, during the screening I reported on a few episodes ago.

It's one of those gut feelings you need to cultivate. As painful as these choices are, I know that hanging on to scenes, footage or characters that don't move the story ahead is like driving full speed ahead into a mud-hole. And nobody wants that.

Wise or not, I chose to give up a night I would otherwise be editing, in order to attend a series of talks at school by professional editors and filmmakers. Jay Rose was one of the highlights, as was Michael Phillips of Avid. The main message was geared towards the younger students, about finding your way into the media business, even if it means being a coffee toting intern. The critical thing to achieve is contacts and develop a set of work references that will lead you to your ultimate goal.

Five speakers, they all said the same thing: Be persistent and persevere.

The next day I used my evening to take some hirez stills at Sawmill Pottery, Dot Burnworth's studio. I have great interview footage of Dot, but I had to leave early the day of the shoot and got very little B-roll, particularly of her work.

One of things I realize I must, must, must do going forward, whenever I finish a shoot, is right away, within 24 hours at the most, review the footage. I didn't and a lot of time passed before I reviewed it. When I did and realized I had little to no B-roll (poor planning and poor execution) and by then it was too late to arrange a 2nd shoot. The best I could do was take digital stills and use them in a pan and zoom effect. I haven't tried this in HD before, so I will have to see how well it works. It better work, because I'm counting on B-roll to hide a lot of jump cuts.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

#106 Rough Screening

Day 16 & 15

I'm quite busy using all available time editing my film. My podcasting solution is to record summaries every couple days and posting them. I'm counting down the days until I have to hand in the project and this show is the second one in the series, days 16 and 15.

Even with this clever idea I still am a little pokey posting these as I still don't have much free time to edit and even write this meager blog post. The days I'm talking about are not in sync with reality, which I think would be much more dramatic, but since I'm not getting paid to do this and my paying job doesn't subsidize my podcast, I'll cut myself some slack. Once the deadline passes and I can walk out my front door and see that big yellow circle in the sky, I'll have time to post them in short order AND finish that symphony I've always wanted to write.

How is it I have time to write this now you say? Well, here's an Avid life lesson. I'm using a G4 Mac, about 1.67 megahertz, 2 gig of RAM and a fast 500 gig Firewire 800 external drive. I'm using Avid Media Composer two. It does the job well enough, I've only been cutting up to now, but I'm dreading working with effects.

Whenever you connect your connect the drive with your media and project file infromation into another computer, Avid will reindex you media when it is launched. Sometimes, like on an Intel Mac Pro workstation with a fast SATA drive, memory, processor etc., it can index pretty fast and only keep you waiting a few minutes. Sometimes more. On a computer like mine, a lot, lot more.

I don't know what I did, since I didn't disconnect my drive and launch my project off another system, but after a taking a couple hours for lunch I turned the drive back on, relaunched Avid and voila, indexing. As long as it takes to write this, maybe post this.

Just be careful to budget time for this kind timewasting, and keep the mylanta at hand.

In this show I'm reviewing the our class screening. There were 4 films shown. Two are essentially done, one is a narrative, excellent, another is a trailer for a documentary, also very very good. One class member was MIA, turns out he never got the date for the screening. His film, a narrative, is pretty much done as well. The other person in the class showed a portion of her film, which is being edited by another class member and plans to show a trailer at graduation.

My film was not complete, I had put together about 70% of it, no really, more like half of it. Still it was 20 minutes long. I'll explain why in the show, no need to get into it here. I got a lot of constructive feedback and was raring to dig in the next day, but it didn't work out that way.

You'll have to forgive Day 15's segment. I've tried a number of things in Soundtrack to help it out, but I couldn't combat distortion which is due to wind on the mic. I argued with myself to take it out completely, but, for the sake of documenting my progress, I left it in.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

#105 Subclipping Hell

Subclipping is a necessary part of organizing your project, creating structure. Doing that will allow you to rip through your media as you pull the story together. With the deadline I have, about 3 weeks when I recorded this show, what I feel I really need to do is begin editing, but that would be disastrous and lead to chaos with the amount of footage I have to work with.

I'm using Avid over FCP. I've chosen to use Avid for this project even though I have more experience using FCP. I've discovered a few drawbacks that could negatively affect meeting the deadline.

Finally I have begun editing the footage, starting with discrete topics, keeping a general story order in my head. I find this process works for me. Once I got enough footage cut together I moved the contents of these sequences into a single timeline sequence to see how well everything pulled together to tell a cohesive story. It's still incomplete, but I'm very encouraged.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

#104 Transcribing

21 days left.

I've used my time during the past week transcribing all the interviews I recorded using a tool called MacSpeech Dictate. It does a good job of converting the spoken word to text. It's a new program that uses the dictation software engine developed by the people who created Dragon Naturally Speaking, a PC only program.

It took me a week, but I was able to do it during my hour plus commute. I still have to go back and review the text and correct any errors.

The best part of all of this is that I'm reacquainting myself with the words of my interviewees and I've fallen back in love with my story and my film. I don't know where I went, but I'm back.

So the next step is to subclip the footage based on topic and then I can use that to build my story.

Friday, August 8, 2008

#103 Wk75 DVD Authoring

Well, at last, the final week of classes. I talk about compression in DVD Studio Pro and Color Correction in Avid, including some suggestions for improvement on the DVD authoring class.

I'm finally out of my lethargic funk too. I have 30 days to complete the edit, pick up a couple shots and finish the film. I'm way behind, so I'm making plans and thinking focused.

Friday, July 25, 2008

#102 Podcamp Boston 3

I attended the Sunday sessions of Podcamp Boston 3, which was held at the beautiful Harvard Medical School conference center. I met a lot of generous, interesting people and really put the work in networking. There were a lot of presentations, about 4 or 5 every hour, about 5 times during the day, but I spent more time talking to people outside of these sessions.

One of the cool features of this conference was something called a BrainTorrent, which was a beautiful oval room full of tables with name tents on them, each one with a different topic or concept and anyone was welcome to sit down and join the conversation. That's where I met Mary Anne Davis and Guido Stein. Mary Anne is a potter and Guido is a knitter and we got into a conversation about social media and craft and before you know it, I was recording it.

My own feelings about the even were very positive. I'm so happy I met as many people as I did. More people than I can remember and credit. Meeting Keith Burtis was very fortunate. His live woodworking video cast is very cool and I'm looking forward to conversations with him about the production aspects of creating video shows.

I'm always impressed by the number of people who blog but aren't yet podcasting who attend these shows. It's a good sign that the events don't put off an exclusive feeling and it's healthy to talk to people who are just as passionate about new media but aren't in the podcasting fish bowl. Sharon Couto is one blogger who attended the event with an eye on moving into Podcasting.

I moved into a new media space that I hadn't intended to become involved in, at the encouragement of Mary Anne. I now have a Twitter account, the user name is Bermamot. I haven't posted anything, anything at all since Sunday. I'm a busy guy, but I'll give it a chance. There are definitely two camps, people who are infatuated with Twitter or microblogging, and people (and one of them) who don't see the sense at all and don't have any time for it. I feel as though I'm standing at the door to the Twilight Zone.

Finally let me mention a cool site I saw at a BrainTorrent table. I'm going to use it when I set up my upcoming website. It's a program that analyzes your website for Search Engine Optimization - SEO. It explains what each suggestion means and it appears very thorough. It's free at Thanks to Mike Volpe from for coming to the conference and showing it off.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

#101 Wk74 DVD Authoring

2nd week of the last module in the Filmmaking program at the Center for Digital Imaging Arts at Boston University.

We're going through the Apple Pro Training series book, DVD Studio Pro 4. It's an excellent book, all the books in the series are great tutorials and are a good introduction to the Pro Tools suite. They lead you through a series of projects focusing on different parts of the authoring process, using media from professional projects.

It's interesting stuff, but we're all a bit tired and looking forward to being done in a week.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

#100 Podcasters Across Borders

Welcome to the longest show I've posted to date. On average these shows run about 15 minutes and when they've gone over 3o minutes I tend to break them into parts. The main reason for the length, which is about 52 minutes, is the inclusion of multiple comments and excerpts from presentations from PAB. My main goal here is to give you a sense of the event, which is quite unique among conferences. But the downside is how much time it adds to the show. And editing multiple interviews complicates the production process. Even up to the last few hours before posting I found some errors that required me to rerecord some sections. Most of the changes are changes in attributions, another time sink in production, which I got wrong on the first recording pass.

I'm satisfied with the final show, even though it's long. If it's a bother, let me know, I'm compressing it down as much as I can. In the future, I'm thinking about using Apple's AAC format, which makes mp3 files smaller but retains higher quality. It also allows me to bookmark and add graphics, but, as far as I know, AAC files only play on iTunes and iPods and I don't want to exclude any listeners. Any thoughts?

Because I am including a number of voices besides my own I've added a note at the bottom of the blog that indicates the type of Creative Commons license I'm using, which is attribution, non-commercial, share alike. I'll talk a little more about CC in a future show, right now understand that you can use all or part of this show as long as you include the name of the speaker and where the audio came from. You can't sell it and if you include any part of it in your own podcast you are bound by the same license. Thanks to Connie Crosby for pointing me the the right direction on this topic, for some reason I find the legal aspects of publishing baffling.

This show is about my experience at Podcaster's Across Borders and begins with my personal thoughts about the event. Halfway through I have some excerpts of presentations and some brief commentary on what I took away from the experience and then I finish with a series of interviews I recorded at the end of the weekend as the room slowly emptied. It was a great experience and I've put in a lot of effort trying to put into words what it all meant, because, as I try to explain, PAB wasn't your regular new media conference. Lots of people were trying to figure it out besides me. Check out the comments on David Peralty's blog and you'll see a wide range of reactions.

If you're just interested in the excerpts I've got the timecode listed below. In addition, all the presentations will be posted at Podcaster's Across Borders throughout the summer. Subscribe!

I've also listed the names and URLs of all the people mentioned or heard in this show. Some have podcasts, some blogs and some are thinking about it.

If there was any message or call to action people took away from the event (and there was plenty) one of the most important was find your voice and share it. I second that.

  • 00:27 - About me and the show
  • 06:45 - Tim Coyne presentation
  • 09:56 - Tim Coyne interview
  • 16:51 - Tod Maffin presentation
  • 20:50 - Jay Moonah's presentation
  • 26:46 - Me trying to make sense of Marshal McLuhan
  • 33:51 - Chris Brogan's Jolt
  • 41:30 - Attendee final comments
  • 50:11 - Closing remarks

Conference attendees and presenters who have kindly allowed me to record and post their comments in this show:

Monday, July 14, 2008

#99 1/2 - Whoops!

Here's the deal, normally I test the links in the show notes by posting it and then taking it offline, until I'm ready to post the audio. This is what I was doing this morning just before I rushed out of the house to take care of some errands. Obviously, I forgot to take the blog offline and while this isn't normally a crime, since I was talking about THE PODCAST, and it's not ready to go up, I took the notes down in order to avoid more confusion.

I'm sorry for those you who have been looking for episode 100 online. I'll be posting it in the next day or so.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

#99 Wk73 DVD Authoring

Another new module and the final one of this Program. This week plus two more and I will be done with school, but not with my film. Finishing the film will be my priority once school is finished. It's sort of like graduating and then having to go to summer school, or cleaning up after the prom. Or something.
There's no time to rest though, until I finish my film my stomach is going to be churning and adrenaline is going to be pumping.

This final class is shoe horning in two ideas, DVD Authoring and Color Correction. We're using Apple's DVD Studio Pro for the authoring and we're looking at color correction in Avid, which has superior tools for the job over Final Cut Pro. Not so Color, Apples newest tool in the Final Cut Suite. I address them all in this show, including reasons why Color, which is the deepest and richest of the three tools for professional color correction, should not be the first thing you reach for when you correct color. Take a look at the T L Cooper Eclipse, an expensive sophisticated keyboard/input device that allows you maximize the color correction workflow. There's a great review of using this tool at Ken Stone's site. In the show I refer to Pitch Black, Titanic and the Lord of the Rings series are good examples of using color throughout a film to evoke place, mood and time.

Macaela Vandermost
is the instructor for this module. She introduced the idea of color correction at the beginning of the class, because we're going to be spending a full day on Saturday, the last day of the class, learning about color correcting in Avid. A lot of people in class felt they should get an overview of color correction in FCP and she kindly obliged. Color Correction is a difficult concept to grasp and it's even harder to do well, so getting an introduction at the beginning of the class and then more in depth instruction at the end should make it easier to get it.

We spent the entire class Tuesday looking at color correction and Thursday we did a quick run through of using DVD Studio Pro 4 to author a DVD. Classes for the remaining module will go into depth on the critical aspects of authoring, such as compression, creating menu navigation and menu graphics and developing an efficient workflow.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

#98 A Tale of Two Conferences

There's an interesting event coming up towards the end of this month in Boston. Podcamp Boston 3 takes place July 19th and 20th. You can get directions and other information, including a list of sessions that will take place through the links I've provided here.

I attended this event last year, and I talked about it in episode #56. The conference founders, Chris Penn and Chris Brogan, both attended Podcasters Across Borders last weekend and I was fortunate enough to interview Chris Brogan and asked him to weight the advantages of each.

I was fortunate enough to interview Chris Brogan for a few minutes between sessions at Podcasters Across Borders and asked him to comment on the two events.

I hope you get a better sense of both events through my comments and Chris' interview. There was only a few minutes to chat between some sessions, so our conversation was rushed. I think you'll find if you attend Podcamp Boston 3 that there will more time and space for conversations and meeting new people.

I want to say thanks to Chris for talking with me. I know he's going to be at Podcamp and I hope you'll be there too.

Friday, June 27, 2008

#97 Wk72 Post Audio

Vacation week coming up. That means time to edit my final project. Woo hoo

Since I took off the last days of this class I got an F. But, but once I hand in the assignments it will be turned into a pass. If I do a really good I may get a high pass, or, gulp, a very high pass. Lots of motivation there.

There's 4 weeks left to the end of class. I'm going to miss it once it's gone. I am looking forward to finishing my film without the distraction of class attendance and assignments. I guess you could say I've already checked out.

Once again I'm talking about Podcasters Across Borders without providing any clips from the interviews I recorded. Coming up, I promise. Check out and sign up for Podcamp Boston 3 if you're in the area. Take a look at the sessions being offered. It's just a good, only different.

Speaking of good conversation in a hallway, I end the show with some perspective I got from Federico about the whole point of this filmmaking program, which is getting a job being a filmmaker.

This was a familiar message, but I saw something new that I hadn't before. I got it that I don't need to treat this like the last film I will ever make. It won't be if I end up using it to get a job making the next film. People are going to recognize, regardless how much time and attention I lavish on this project, the essential value I add to the filmmaking process. If they are professional they'll filter out the flaws and see the potential. Its hard to have that much faith in yourself, or other people.

But I don't want to leave you on a downer man. Right now I'm excited about editing my film and I'll probably be at school as often as I have been, so I can concentrate - and knowledgeable people will be available to help me see a clear path to the finish. Just like in production, you don't make a film with just one person.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

#96 Wk71 Post Audio

This is a very short show because I recorded it as I was exiting the house on my way to Podcaster's Across Borders in Kingston, Ontario Canada. It was a great weekend of of learning and conversations with a lot of really interesting people. As I was getting the links for the previous episode I noticed that Podcamp Boston 3 is in a few weeks. I was caught completely off guard. Last year it took place at the end of December, so barely 6 months has passed. During PAB, I was fortunate enough to interview Chris Brogan, one of the cofounders of Podcamp and a key organizer of Podcamp Boston. Look for the interview in an upcoming show and seriously consider attending the event on July 19 and 20 (Saturday and Sunday).

Catching up with past classes, this week is the 2nd week of the Post Audio module. With a little help from instructor Doug Plante, I finally understand the process of spotting and scoring.

Spotting is the process of identifying the location of music along the timeline that would help support or anticipate the mood you want a scene or action to convey.

Scoring is using the spot marks and comments to place music along the timeline that fits the moods you want to support.

I'm surprised how my view of the edit of the film I used changed as I went through this process of spotting. Looking at the film, which I had created in a previous module, I was surprised to discover the moods it presented were not what I had originally intended. It's an interesting way to look at familiar footage with more objective eyes.

Of course, you don't make changes once someone begins scoring a film. You score a film, that is it's locked down, editing is completed, so that the editor won't make changes that would require the music director to completely rewrite the score. After all, the score is tied directly to the timeline.. Change the film - change the music.

Oh well.

#95 Wk70 Post Audio

Been at PAB, expected to have posted this and the next show before I left. No time, as usual.

This episode and the next was in the can and waiting for post before I left for Canada last week. I thought about post dating these episodes, but that seems a little dishonest.

Podcaster's Across Borders was a great event, met a bunch of people and got a lot of ideas to chew on. It wasn't a technical conference, it was more about networking and idea sharing. I've never been to the Portable Media Expo, now called New Media Expo, which will be out in California later this summer, August 14, but I have been to Podcamp in Boston.

All three events are different in how they approach social media and there's something valuable to be learned from attending all of them. Podcamp and PAB are within driving distance, but California is too far for me to travel this year. I would say that PAB was the most informal. The schedule was packed though and most conversations I had were short and had to be followed up at the end of the day's sessions.

Give me a few days and I'll have a post up for that, along with some brief interviews I recorded.

Talking about whining. What do you want from me? Well, that's the question this time around.

I would like to know how real I should be reporting the student experience; it's not just the subject matter in class. I believe that how you cope with the demands of school will tell you how you will deal with the pressures of production work in the real world. Just another undocumented learning opportunity in the curriculum of life.

I've reached the point where I have enough material to begin editing and begin shaping the story of my film. I've got a lot of work ahead of me with almost 300 gigs of video, about 12 hours of footage. Organizing this much footage is going to be critical in order to meet the September deadline for the final cut.

Over the past week I had the following shoots and classes:

  • The class this week was the beginning of Post Production Audio
  • We're going to score music for a film we've already created
  • Using sound effects and foley on a commercial
  • Using the audio tools in Avid and FCP
  • Outputting the audio form a film to OMF for editing in a dedicated audio application, like Pro Tools.
  • The physics of audio, including the inverse square law
  • Last day of the week I met with and interviewed Ron Sbardella, a veteran potter of 25 years.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

#94 Podcasters Across Borders

I'm attending a new media conference called Podcasters Across Borders in Kingston, Ontario Canada this weekend. There's going to be lots of interesting people to meet and things to hear and learn. There's not much else in this show except my expectations.

I created this episode so that I could pare it down to under 3 minutes and submit it to the PAB site as a teaser for this show. They're taking audio submissions from attendees that represent their own show. I figured I would just use the opportunity to talk about my expectations of the event, how I feel about the potential of new media and tie in what my show is about.

It is an interesting experience cutting down something to meet a another purpose - sort of like creating a trailer of a movie.

Take a look at the teaser page and listen to my audio and compare it to this show. And listen to the other shows, there's a lot of great entertainment and information represented on that page.

I'll give you updates when I get back next week and hopefully include some interviews.

Monday, June 9, 2008

#93 Wk69 Editing II

Continuing shooting.

A Raku firing class with Susan Gerr of Birch Mountain Pottery, Old Sturbridge Village, a recreation of a New England village in Sturbridge MA and another potter, Dot Burnworth at Sawmill Pottery. This puts me over the hump as far as enough video to begin editing.

Check out the Digital Production Buzz episode for May 22 and listen to the first interview of Norman Hollyn, an editor and teacher at USC, he has a lot of interesting comments on learning how to edit. At 11:50 or so into the podcast he makes a comment that strikes me as both simple and profound when it comes to summing up the message of a film when you begin editing.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

#92 Wk68 Editing II

I've updated the show listing on this duplicate blog, and I will continue to keep it updated until I can wrestle RSS to the ground and combine both feeds into one.

Lots of shoots this week, follow the links below to see who I've been talking to.

Huntington Theater

Cornwall Bridge Pottery - Todd Piker

Paradise CIty Art Festival

Debbie Miller Designs

JAK Designs - Jennifer Armstrong / Tanya Alsberg at Paradise City

Kelly O'Briant at Paradise City

Linda Huey

Birch Mountain Pottery - Susan Gerr

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

#91 Wk67 Editing II

Color Correction tips, SSNSC Practicum and shooting the She Loves You promo video at the Huntington Theater

List of links to subjects mentioned in this show:

South Shore Natural Science Center

Huntington Theater - She Loves Me

Sunday, May 11, 2008

#89 Wk65 Editing

I'm discontinuing posting on the Blogger site. It's just a duplicate of the Libsyn site and that seems to have the most traffic. I'll leave a note with a link to the Libsyn site.

I lost data because of a damaged drive, which I hadn't backed up. Don't do this at home okay?

At the same time I was digesting this trauma I was conflicted over which camera I should use which CDIA loans out. You can try to follow my various colliding trains of thought that led to the ultimate decision. I did decide, but the real issue isn't the camera, so much as it is trying to grasp the phantom of security when it comes to assuring I will always have a camera to shoot with when I need it.

It appears that getting comfortable with insecurity is the lesson of the week.

Just to make sure I learned my lesson I had to shoot an open house at Birch Mountain Pottery and I hoped to interview some of the customers. It makes my stomach ache to have to ask complete strangers to sign a release form and talk to me on camera. I managed to walk through that fire, thanks to Susan, her family and everyone who attended. I don't see the fizzy feeling is going to go away over time. Man up, right?

Monday, May 5, 2008

#88 Wk64 Editing

Nikki Bramley is our instructor for this module. She was assistant editor on The Price of Sugar and has a lot of experience editing in both FCP and Avid.

I spent this week trying to nail down my workflow with Avid Media Composer and P2 media There was a problem bring in the media. It comes down to a very specific workflow.

I also had technical problems working with Avid due to the presence of the unsupported versions of QuickTime and the Mac OS. She provided me with a table that contains all the versions of Avid, Quicktime and the OS and what works with what.

When you're working on a production system don't update iTunes, it automatically loads the most current version of Quicktime.

You can find information on the Avid forums at Avid, Creative COW and the LA Final Cut Pro User Group

I'm behind on defining a narrative arc. Nikki gave me some suggestions such as creating little scenes or stories within your story. I mentioned that in a recent episode. She encouraged me to imagine and write down what they might be before I arrive at a location.

I took a day off of everything and joined my wife in seeing a knitting superstar speak at the Calvin Theater in Northahmpton MA. Her name is Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, otherwise known at the Yarn Harlot. She was very funny and uplifting. Do a search for her name and Northampton and you'll find dozens of blogs that documented the experience.

Friday, May 2, 2008

#87 Wk63 Shooting

Once I got back from NAB I got a little sleep, did a little non-film garden work and learned the value of the Assistant Director. It's their job to budget time and and make sure everyone is on schedule.

During a recent night shoot I got some ideas about budgeting time on the set. You need to respect the needs of other people, set a stop time and stick to it and be prepared to stop even when you're not ready. You can't push people to work beyond their limits and not pay a higher price later on.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

#86 NAB Conference Pt3 Wednesday and Thursday

On Wednesday, the last day of seminars at NAB I attended a series of classes on Flash Video as well as an introduction to the Adobe Media Player. You should google the AMP because I believe it has significant implications to independent content producers.

Thursday was the last day of the exhibition and I chose to look at prosumer cameras from JVC, Canon, Panasonic and Sony in order to see what the state of the art is for filmmakers such as myself and what the future might hold.

There's also been an interesting back and forth between myself and Mike Jones in the comments section of episode # 84 about new codecs and cameras and the larger picture of how to evaluate and choose the right camera for you needs. You'll see a counterpoint on this subject between Mike and a reader on his blog.

I have to confess that after an entire day looking and handling cameras from the above mentioned 4 manufacturers the most important thing I leaned is that I barely have a clue as to what the determining factors of an effective video camera. The debate rages on without a clear winner and I'm just beginning to realize I what it is I need to know.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

#85 NAB Conference Pt2: Sunday through Tuesday

Here are the classes I've attended over the last 3 Days

Sunday Classes
Keyframing in Avid
Understanding Podcast Metrics
Long Form editing in Avid (Documentary Production)
Main Title Design for Film and Video (in After Effects)
Mastering Media Management for Avid Editors

Monday Classes
Emerging Web 2.0 Technologies
(walked the show, saw Panasonic)
Broadcast Worfkow on Avid (Documentary Production again)

Tuesday Classes
In Depth PS CS3 for Video
In Depth Color Correction in Avid
Looked at XD Cam at Sony
Blender at Lowell -

Color Correction and Avid Production. Lots of on lighting in earlier classes

I'm just giving a quick overview of my state of mind and the classes and show booths I've seen. I've included a superficial comparison between Sony's XD CAM and Panasonics HVX200 and newer HPX 170 (arriving sometime in the summer) Also info about the new AVC Panasonic.

Please excuse the pops, I chose not to rerecord so I could get this out quickly.

Monday, April 14, 2008

#84 Wk62 Shooting

The week before I took off for Vegas and NAB, I got in some shooting, in particular on my documentary.

I began my film project by shooting two interviews, one at the Wesleyan Potters, a craft coop and the other of a professional potter at Birch Mountain Pottery.

Both shoots gave me trouble with the lighting, but overall I got a lot of good footage and excellent sound bites.

I also dedicated my weekend to handling the lighting on a classmates film, John.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

#83 NAB Conference Pt1: Friday and Saturday

In this show I'm talking about the classes I attended and some general commentary about Las Vegas.

Here are the sessions I sat in on, check out the full schedule

Friday Seminars
Fast Start with Apple Color
Digital Video Production: Lighting

Saturday Seminars
Practical Triming for FCP
How to build a blog to support your podcast
Making a living off of your podcast
Under Podcast Metrics
Effective Documentary Production

Saturday, April 12, 2008

#82 Arriving in Las Vegas

I thought I'd pass on a few notes and travel tips as I make my way to Las Vegas for NAB.

#81 Wk61 Shooting

Lots of episodes this week and not a lot of time to write notes.

In this show I run down the film project status of each person in class. I also managed to get in two days of shooting for my own film and I try to describe the lighting work I did over the weekend for John's film.

Monday, April 7, 2008

#80 Wk60 Preproduction II

Projects are accelerating

A classmate, John is in the lead with his film project. He has a shoot on the weekend and I'm handling the lights.
We've done a lot of planning, but due to unknown space restrictions, and a lot of unknown unknowns, we're going to have to play it by ear as far as framing and lighting are concerned. There's going to be lots of communication back and forth between the DP and lighting

Tuesday we discussed our shooting schedules in class. I'm scheduled to shoot Thursday and Friday. What a relief to have something to shoot before I go to Las Vegas.

One week left, let me know what you would like me to report about NAB

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

#79 Wk59 Preproduction II

Lots of activity this week, but little to do with my own film project. Almost all my attention was devoted to Directions, the annual networking event sponsored by my company. I spent four days shooting interview spots of about 30 people. Add to that a lighting gig I'm doing for John's film. John is a classmate, we've worked together on a couple of class projects in the past. He's way ahead of the curve as far as film projects. He's already rounded up his cast, location, got the crew and is shooting throughout April beginning the first weekend of the month.

Somehow I've become the lighting guy. I did a significant light role in our last class project, the Killer, I obsessed about the lighting for the Directions promotional interviews and the video I just shot at the event. That's only because I felt it was a really weak facet of my skill set. Now I think I'd like to work with the camera.

I'll have time to work with the camera on my own project. I'm anxious about getting some footage shot before leaving for Las Vegas. NAB is putting a huge who in my schedule as far as shooting is concerned. I'd feel better taking off the time knowing that I've begun. With all the distractions and obligations it's difficult to get started, but it's harder on my stomach if I don't.

NAB is beginning next week. The exhibition begins Monday April 14 and the seminars start the Friday before. Let me know if you want me to check out specific vendors and you're interested in learning more about a particular technology.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

#78 Wk58 Preproduction II

Whether to use the Canon XH-A1 or the Panasonic DVX200 is more than just HDV versus HD, or tape versus P2 solid state. It comes down to what you know, and I know the Panasonic better than the Canon. Brand wise, I'm all over Canon. The first film SLR I purchased with my own money was a Canon FTb. Tough as a tank; I loved that camera.

It's just that I believe that it's easier to create when the tools being used are transparent, that is, they're so familiar that they're effortless to use, acting as an extension of your body. At this point I can't say this is true for any video camera I've used, but the Panasonic is the closest. In the show I give a little detail on the advantages it has over the Canon.

One of them is the ability to shoot in true slow motion. I've put some examples on my YouTube page of slow motion and accelerated motion footage and as well as a video demonstrating rack focus.

We've spent a lot of time in class reviewing the data forms we need to fill out to create our production book. The book, which is a collection of forms signed, lists of names and shots, drawings, sketches and other information that represents the roadmap to our final destination, the finished film. It's a work in progress, but we do have to something to show before the end of the module.

Don't forget to send me questions you want answered while I'm at NAB, the National Association of Broadcasters conference, coming up in mid April. I'm available for meetups if you're in Las Vegas at the same time.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

#77 Wk57 Cinematic Storytelling

In this show, proposal creation and the review process, developing your pitch and getting started.

I forgot to mention a conversation we had during class about the documentary - narrative continuum, so let me talk about it now.. We looked a a variety of documentaries that range from straight talking head to what appears to be a narrative feature.

Errol Morris has long used the technique of dramatizing reality in order to advance his narrative arc. It's very different from something like the History channel where they dramatize a scene within a documentary. And of course there are a lot of feature films that try very hard to represent an event as meticulously and accurately as possible, not only in the look and feel, but also in staying very close to documented record. Zodiac is a good example of that. Certainly there are fictional elements, but the story revolves around the written record of the events as they happened. As a result it has more of a fictionalized documentary feel to it

There is a divisive sentiment in filmmaking, as there seems to be in all things where people get passionate, of choosing sides over either/or - better/worse. Either you are a narrative sell out feature filmmaker, or a libertarian socially conscious documentarian.

Of course there is a middle ground, and it isn't a separated from either extreme . There are documentaries that have strong narrative arcs and there are narrative films that have a cinema verité character.

The reality is that there is no best, truest form of filmmaking; you choose to do what you like. Cinematic storytelling is a continuum. How you tell a story, either through fiction or documentary is a matter of degree. Each has components of the other and the polar opposites are just in a different location along the same path.

To me, that means I can at least mentally escape the label of being one kind of filmmaker and be free to tell a story in the way that best suits it.

Errol Morris


cinema verité

zodiac, cinema verite, documentary, proposal, pitch

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

#76 Wk56 Cinematic Storytelling

Lots of loose tangents of thought this week. I'm continuing the refining process for my documentary proposal. We didn't spend much time talking about scriptwriting since it was covered in previous modules. You can review previous episodes for more information about that practice. Check out the Grim Reader podcast (be aware that this link will open iTunes) for quick, but insightful advice about preparing your script.

Here a link once more to some video that I produced on my company's website.

Some of the topics this week are about creating a proposal; a written document that describes the film's goals and outlines production responsibilities. Others topics are more personal, illuminative. Such as,

You, the client and the film - always choose the film first. There's always going to be conflict, and the client is going to think they can add just one more thing, or they'll insist you act on a really bad idea. Instead of coming back with what you, IYHO as a "professional" would do and further alienate the relationship, take the middle ground. Come in on the side of the film. When you advocate what's best for the film, you demonstrate that you care about the product. That gains you a lot of respect and keeps the focus off what individuals want.

I've included some ideas about interviewing people. Lots of places on the web give advice about interviewing people. I like to listen to podcasts on the subject, they give me insight into different approaches and as well as something to compare my own skills against.

Relax and ask a lot of questions. Listen to the person and instead of running down a bullet list of unrelated questions. Tie each answer to the following question, or ask them a question that expands what they're saying. Find subtle ways to direct the speaker along paths you want to explore, so it feels as though they are a part of the conversation.

It continues to surprise me how willing people can be to talk if you demonstrate you're interested.

A brief note about the minimum for producing video for the web. Don't go too bare bones in production or post if it's going to reflect poorly on the client.

Finally, I'm going to NAB. It's a great training conference and a chance to see the latest and greatest hardware and software for digital film and video. I'd love to meet up, if anyone listening is going to be there. If you're not, you can send in requests for information I can report on. Let me know either way.

I posted a couple shows last year, #21 and #22. I plan on posting a show each day this year.

Monday, March 10, 2008

#75 Wk55 Cinematic Storytelling

Once again I'm starting another module. This one is called Cinematic Storytelling and its about using visuals to tell the story. The final product for this class is either a script, if we're creating a narrative film, or a documentary proposal.

I just got a Zoom H4 and I have few things to say about it. I'm using it for the next few episodes, so you can expect me to update my impressions.

We've learned some important details about the requirements for our final project. More importantly the class is given a couple of writing exercises that, for me at least, releases me from writer's block. It all comes down to collecting ideas and then refining them until they're in sharp focus.

Grammar Girl has a great episode on writing tips and dealing with writer's block. Check out episode 56. I like this show because it's interesting and practical. I learn a lot about writing clearly and it's pretty painless.

I also heard on a recent episode of Digital Production Buzz a link to an HD Production Workflow Tips. This is a great show to listen to if you want to know what other people are doing in digital video production right now. I haven't had a chance to review the tips yet, but the guy who produced it sounded experienced and knowledgeable.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

#74 Wk54 Edit Lab III

Strapped onto a log, riding the sluice of learning

Check out the links to some interviews and B-roll I produced for a conference put on by the company I work for. It may not look like a lot, but I did it all on my own and it represents most of my life during January. It feels so good when it stops.

I recorded this episode in pieces at different times. Once I met the deadline for my day job I was freed up to complete The Killer edit. At the end of the show I talk about the critique and the different ways other people in the class approached their edit of the story.

I wanted to recommend student screenings to anyone interested in learning more about filmmaking. Your response to the weaknesses of the film provides good insight into what you already know about filmmaking. They're a good source of insight into potential errors and oversights when producing your own film. A cautionary resource, particularly for a student filmmaker like you and I.

The entire experience of producing The Killers has given me a lot of thoughts about getting the coverage you need to tell a story. The fastest path to success is planning through preproduction. Pre-visualization tools like storyboards and shot lists are valuable tools as well. It doesn't matter how you do it, what matters is that you create the edit before you begin shooting.

Monday, February 18, 2008

#73 Wk53 Edit Lab III

I'm having difficulty hunkering down on the edit for our third major film project which we call The Killer. Ambivalence, apathy and fatigue

I've made some comments about HDV again. Thanks to Mike Jones at Digital Basin for his comments, posted in the show notes of VSG #68 about the viability of editing HDV native in FCP.

I'm realizing the importance of pre prod and especially previz in preparing for shoots. Getting enough coverage is increasingly a concern. We just never seem to get enough. It's not the quantity, but the quality, the number of different types and the exact type. FrameForge 3D is a previz tool that I have and I need to get to know it better.

Take a look at the book, In the Blink of an Eye, by Walter Murch. It's a great read and a good introduction to editing.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

#72 Wk52 Edit Lab III

Doug Plante is instructor for this module, Edit Lab II. He is an ex-Avid employee - Avid is in Tewksbury Massachussets. He is also, according to Howard Phillips, the programs associate director, a FCP god.

This week Doug spoke about the fine points of the rough cut and fine cut

He was all business and was there to see we got to the fine cut done. There's not going to be a lot of instruction in this class. It's all going to come as he works with us individually as we massage our edits.

I had a heck of a time working with Avid, lost a whole class before I moved on to FCP 6. Now I have a problem where I upgraded to 6.02 and the school is at 6.0. and guess what, the file types are not compatible. Can you believe it?

I know, Avid files created between a long list of revisions in that software don't cause a hiccup for Avid users, but FCP apparently is very touchy. But a x.0.2 release? It's enough to make you a hater.

But I don't hate FCP, I just feel I would benefit from continuing using Avid. I know FCP well enough to learn the rest on my own. But Avid, I'm surrounded by Avid gurus and I want to take advantage of that knowledge.

I know I tend to treat this like a dog with a sock monkey, but I once again discuss the archival problems with P2 footage. You can't keep it on the card, it's too expensive. And the life of the solid state card is unknown for long term storage. Drives are a problem for long term storage. What are we going to do once we have to give up tape forever?

Monday, February 11, 2008

#71 Wk51 On Location

Part II of the story of the two weekend shoot of our little film, The Killers. I'm talking about both weekends here, including how much the quality of communication depends on the the amount of time you make for preproduction, my
Communication depends on preproduction likes and dislikes regarding lighting and sound recording on set and a little problem we had with the talent

There is a very odd relationship between the crew and the talent on set. I have a few words to say about actors in general and the difficult but critical role the Assistant Director plays.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

#70 Wk50 On Location

Get ready for a slew of episodes this week. I'm finally catching up.

I'd like to thank Mike Jones from Digital Basin for leaving a comment in show #68. Check out his thoughts there and on his site. Also Brian from Galway left a comment in show #69. Thanks for the encouraging words Brian. I'll be around for a while. Let me know what you're doing and interested in doing.

Check out the song on - Itchycoo Park, covered in show #393. It was one of the first two podcasts I subscribed to and continues to be in my top 5.

After a brief rundown of my adventures over two weeks of shooting on location I update you on the type of work that's starting to come to me at my day job. It may be a small dream, but it's my dream all the same to become the video go-to guy at my day job. That's the point of going to school in the first place.

Right now I'm working on a project for both web and tape delivery using video I shot here in Massachusetts and footage shot in other places in the world where the standard broadcast TV format is PAL. Quite an adventure figuring the conversion process for that. Thank God for the internet eh?

Thursday, January 24, 2008

#68 Wk49 On Location

This week we spent preparing for our first weekend of shooting.

I've got some comments to pass along about how to work with the talent, especially if you're crew. We've also made our lives more difficult by not having put more time into preproduction. Everything is connected, from Producer to production assistant. Things go all bass ackward if you don't communicate .

We're going to be using a Panasonic HVX200, which is an HD camera that has many benefits over the camera we've been using up to now, the Panasonic DVX100.

The first thing is that the menu controls and switches on the outside are mostly the same, so the learning curve is limited to working with the media. The HVX can record to tape, but only standard definition. To record high definition you record to solid state memory cards, called P2 cards. Here are a few reasons on why HD is a better format:
  • Images are 2 to 4 times the size of standard definition
  • There is more color in the video
  • It captures real slow motion and accelerated motion
  • The format is easy to transfer to drive, and easy to edit

Disadvantages include:
  • You can't capture to both tape and P2 card at the same time
  • There is no archival medium in HD, you wipe the card and reuse it after you transfer it to your drive
  • The P2 card is expensive
  • The life of a P2 card is unknown
  • HD footage takes up 2 to 3 times more disk space

In this episode I take a shot at explaining the difference between HD format and HDV format and frankly I don't think I made anything clear. It's useful to know, but not critical, so I'm going to lay it out here. If you need to know more, do some research on your own, otherwise, skip the next three paragraphs.

HD and HDV are capture formats. They're good formats for compressing data so you can fit as much data as possible on what ever medium they require, HD requires P2 cards, HDV can use MiniDV tapes, same as for standard definition. Both HD and HDV record the same resolution, and for all I've been told, the same 4.2.2 color space. Standard definition video records in 4.1.1 color. What qualifies as high end digital video, approaching film quality, is 4.4.4 color. I don't need to explain how it works, it's enough to understand that the capacity to capture all the available color is limited as you move from film, to HD, to SD. By the way, film is a poor second to the color capture capability of our own eyes.

HDV cameras are less expensive than HD cameras for the reasons already mentioned in the advantage list above, real slow motion, etc. HD is easier to edit immediately after capture compared to HDV due to the different compression formats they each use. HDV captures footage in groups of 15 frames, called GOP - Group Of Pictures. The first frame contains all the picture information inside the frame, then each frame following that contains only those pixels that have changed. Take a picture of a wall with HDV and the first frame contains all the info, each of the following frames have no new information and so have no additional data. That keeps the file size down so it will fit on the the tape. If a person or even a fly moves through the frame every frame that records changed information has to record it, because it's not on the first frame. But only the pixels that changed need to be recorded.

And thats fine until you need to edit the video. Then you find you can't cut inside the GOP sections, they're like a single unit. To get past this problem you need to convert the digital video to an intermediate codec that reconstitutes each frame, completely restoring the data to each frame. This of course makes the files larger, but that's the price you pay for editing this format on a digital nonlinear editor like Avid or Final Cut Pro.

Next week we shoot the bar scene Saturday and Sunday.

Monday, January 14, 2008

#67 Wk48 On Location

A brief show this week, describing the many different aspects of filming two scenes. The learning this time around is all hands on. The entire class is working together to shoot two scenes from a script. We've each taken on at least one role, in some cases two. My primary concern is creating the lighting with a secondary responsibility for sound.

Once we determined our roles, we broke into two groups. The technical people: cinematographer, sound and lighting worked together while the producer and director spent their time setting the location, set design and casting.

The cinematographer or director of photography took the lead by creating a shot list or storyboard which came from conversations with the director. Once that was done, sound and light could be configured.

We stumbled a few times, lost some momentum because we didn't really know our jobs well (that's where the learning came in), but we regained our footing and finished the week with some preliminary storyboards, a look at one of the locations and our first casting call.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

#66 Aimee Corrigan Interview

This week's show is an interview with Aimee Corrigan, the Director of Practicum at the Center for Digital Imaging Arts (CDIA). The Practicum is a unique part of the CDIA learning experience which takes place at the end of each student's course of study.

The Practicum is an opportunity to take part in the production of promotional material in each student's field of study for the benefit of local non profit organizations. This could include a film documenting the services of a refugee support center, complete business websites for organizations or creating a mulitmedia documentary for an innovative after school program using digital photography and recorded music. The 3D program recently created a short for the Dana Farber Institute that explains Cancer to children. Every Practicum offers students the chance to work on a project for a real world client. It's as real as it gets.

Aimee Corrigan is an accomplished photographer and filmmaker. Her photography has been published by BBC Online and Wired Magazine. Her film credits include the recent award winning documentary, "This is Nollywood", and the just completed film "After the Storm", about the the hurricanes of 2005 that ravaged Houston, New Orleans and their impact on the lives of the children in Mississippi.
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