Saturday, May 28, 2011

Covering the Legal Bases On a Movie

On our film, "The Solomon Bunch," one of the producers and I have been using this book from the American Bar Association for drafting contracts. They have contracts already made up for agreements with writers, actors, directors, crew, locations and much more. With a few adjustments here and there, we have been able to do ourselves what should have cost us several thousand dollars. The revisions are easy, since an accompanying CD-Rom has all the files available in text document form. I would recommend this book to any filmmaker as I cannot imagine a simpler way to go about it. The fact that it is from the ABA lends credibility as well, since many similar products that are available come from other filmmakers and not necessarily a legal authority. You can find the book on or buy it from us when we finish our movie.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

History Channel Using My Footage

Here's a weird feeling. Lying in bed watching television and out of the blue seeing something you shot. The History Channel is using my footage in a promo about their special Memorial Day lineup. The shot that caught my attention was particularly familiar since I have used it many times in my own productions. They didn't steal it, though. It was purchased through one of the online stock footage brokers I use.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Free Footage from RevoStock

Here is a free video clip from RevoStock. This one will only be up this week, so download it quickly if you want it.

Shooting Headshots Using A Flash

Every once in a while I come across something from the photography world that I could use. Even though there are many overlapping principles between photography and video, there are many things I still need to learn about DSLRs. This course from Steele Training looks like something that I may take advantage of in the near future. Among other things, it deals with shooting headshots and portraits using only a flash.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Creating Videos On A Tight Schedule

David Womack at has a helpful article about getting a project organized and finished when on a tight deadline. It deals specifically with church media productions, but is great advice for anyone who is creating content. My only question in reading the article was how he has time for so many "peer reviews" of his project at every step or the way if he is really on a deadline. Even so, it is a common sense approach to making it happen.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Lighting Tip #8 - Be More Controlling

Getting a good frame in the end is all about learning to control your light. Getting your instruments properly arranged in a 3-point lighting setup is fine for a usable shot, but that shot does not necessarily become a great shot without controlling it. Through the use of flags, scrims, gels and cookies we can get a frame that has the desired impact and dramatic effect.

Flags are simply a black piece of material or foamcore that is used to control the spill of the light. This may be to keep light off of the background or a particular subject. It may also be to keep light from shining directly at the camera creating lens flares. Whatever the purpose, it is not unusual to see several flags of different shapes and sizes being used to control a single light's output. It is helpful to know that the edge of the shadow created by the flag will be softer the closer it is placed to the light. Gels are generally used to color-correct a light to match the other lights in a scene. They can also be used for adding color as an effect in a scene. Scrims are diffusion material that comes in different thicknesses. They are used for lowering the light level and for softening the source by making it bigger. Finally, cookies are cutout shapes that are placed in front of a light to "break it up" and cast a more random pattern of light. Whether used on the background or on other elements in a scene, this tends to make a scene more interesting and often helps it to feel more natural. In the above example from a production by the company Encendedor, you see quite a few light-control techniques being used, including a scrim placed directly on the front windshield of the car.

Friday, May 13, 2011

On Set With Cinematographer Bob Scott

I was on-set yesterday visiting Bob Scott, the cinematographer who will be director of photography on our movie, "The Solomon Bunch," next month. We caught a few minutes here and there on breaks and lunch to discuss our plan. The rest of the time I observed the process.

I took a few behind the scenes picts with my Blackberry included here. The film is called, "Laughing At the Moon" and is being shot in Knoxville, Tennessee on about a five week schedule. The top two pictures are of a scene that was shot in the evening and as the sun disappeared, lights were added to supplement. I thought it was interesting that when the 12K (big light closest) was put up, it had very little diffusion. As the sun provided less and less light on each take, they actually added more diffusion to bring the level of the 12K down and brought the camera's iris up slightly. I assume this was so that they could still include some of the sky in the shot. If you instead added more light, then your sky would look darker and darker. At some point, you do have to abandon the sky and get shots that do not include it. The good thing is that they were able to get the master shots (wide shots) while the sky had light, then get their closeups without needing to show it after the sun was gone completely.

In the top shot, you see the First AC (assistant camera operator--also called the focus-puller) on the left, the Camera Operator on the dolly, and the Key Grip in the background looking on. The bottom shot is inside the tent that housed "video village," where the Director and Script Supervisor watch each shot as it happens. Here, the AD (assistant director) checks the frame for anything out-of-place. On the screen, you can see Bob Scott, the Cinematographer, explaining to the actor where exactly he would need to put his hands on the canvas to begin his abstract painting. Bob actually filled the role of Director as well in most cases, since the Writer/Director of the film is also the star and is on-screen in nearly all of the scenes.

Free Stock Music Collections

Footage Firm announced more royalty-free music collections today. Each collection costs only about $8 (shipping and handling) and includes different length cuts for each song. I recommend their products and use them often. Check it out.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Lighting Tip #7 - Outdoor Subjects

Common sense would tell you that if you are shooting a subject on a sunny day, you should position the subject so that he/she has the sun lighting their face, right? While this may be necessary and desirable in some situations, it is not generally the best way.

Backlighting, or rim lighting, is critical for a professional and flattering shot. In fact, when outdoors, it is often desirable for the backlight to be much hotter than the key. This is almost impossible to do, however, if you use the sun as your key. So, what is the best approach?

Most DP's will use a combination of diffusion and bounce in order to get the best shot possible. First, face the subject with their back to the sun (offset a little is actually a good idea for eliminating lens flares and creating less symmetrical shadows). Second, put a diffusion screen between the sun and the subject to knock down the overall light level and soften shadows a bit. Third, use a bounce (reflector) in front of the subject to act as a key light. In my experience, a white bounce usually works best. Silver is usually too harsh and causes the subject to squint (as they would if they were facing the sun). Now, sometimes you will not be able to generate enough light (depending on the look you are going for) just using a bounce and it is necessary to use an HMI in place of the bounce. The picture above is from the Elk Run Productions website and illustrates this. They have a number of other examples of lighting setups at that sight that you may want to look at as well.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Solomon Bunch Rehearsals

Working with actress Kay Hall and a bunch of great child actors at a rehearsal for our film "The Solomon Bunch." I am pleased with how well most of them are doing even as this was the first rehearsal for these scenes. You can view more picts and info about the film at the Facebook page.

Monday, May 2, 2011

What Should We Think About Bin Laden's Death?

My pastor, Roy Mack, has a great post about Bin Laden today. It is one thing to rejoice as an American, but what is God's perspective on all of this?