Thursday, October 27, 2011

Envato Mail Freebies

Envato is a company that has created websites (which they term "marketplaces") for every type of creative professional. They have over a million members on their marketplaces. The two sites that I use most often are for footage and After Effects templates, and for music cuts. Their prices are among the lowest for the quality they offer. Each month they send out an Envato newsletter that includes eight or ten free downloads from their various sites. Check it out.

Rig Wheels Mini Dolly System

I know I just posted last week about another mini dolly system, but this one looks great as well. I don't think either of these are a replacement for a full-sized portable dolly, but this one, Rig Wheels, is really very versatile and leaves a lot of its uses up to your imagination. You can watch the promotional video and learn more at their website.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Editing the Movie Courageous (Part 2)

Steve Hullfish has a continuation of the article I linked to last week on the work he did for "Courageous". It is a bit on the technical side, but has some good insight into the behind the scenes decisions that must be made in post production.

Read the article here.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Directing Fact #4 - Location is Everything

There has been a cliche in the business world for a long time that goes, "Location, Location, Location." It simply means that nothing is as important as where you choose to set up your business. This applies to shooting a film as well. The choice of location will impact the production in a number of ways, both on-screen and off.
On the practical side, there are many considerations that go into choosing a set. These include location fees, cost of travel, ease of access, distance from other set locations, availability of extras, availability of crew, availability of power, water and restroom facilities, sound considerations, natural lighting considerations and more. When you are operating on a small budget, the impact of each of these is magnified. For example, even something as simple as a bathroom may be the determining factor in the final choice of location. A big budget project would never think twice about bringing in a facilities trailer where needed, but even an extra $100/day for a porta-potty could be outside the budget of a small production. Likewise, a small budget may consider a couple of hours drive between locations to be cost-prohibitive due to the extra fuel and mileage charges, whereas a studio film may be able to shoot in Moscow, Buenos Aires and Morocco all in the same week. Because of these financial limitations, directors often have to "settle" for what is available and close.

The big thing to remember is that what ends up on-screen is all that matters. Often we think we have to have the perfect complete location, when in fact we only need a couple of good "spots" to shoot. It would be nice to find an amazing old factory with all of the right junk in just the right places, but the truth is that we can get by with a brick building in an alley and probably tell the story just as effectively. No, it will not have the epic establishing shot you pictured, but many films (even large budget films) these days do quite well without establishing shots. A good DP should be able to get you a great look even when you have very little to work with. I remember being very disappointed in a couple of the locations we ended up with on my last film, especially for our scenes in the woods. However, once we put it on a long lens, it was amazing how that spot just came to life. In the end, that location in the woods turned out to be one of our better ones.

This is not to say that the location does not matter, because it does. The primary consideration, however, is that it has the right feel about it. One of the things I really wanted to achieve on my film, since it was for children, was a bright, happy and colorful feel. Contrary to my earlier beliefs, this had very little to do with the lighting and had everything to do with the sets, props and costumes. We missed the mark on a number of scenes because I did not understand how much that feel would be impacted by the location. Several of our scenes, for example, were shot at a building that we had free access to. The building had a couple of rooms that I felt would work perfectly. What I did not consider was that the very nice, warm earthy tones of the paint scheme (and lack of color contrast) would make those entire scenes feel moody, dark and less interesting visually, despite the colorful costumes our actors were wearing. Even a white wall would likely have been better in that it would have provided more contrast with skin tones and the costumes--and would have felt brighter and happier overall. On the other hand, had we been shooting something with a more moody feel, that location may have been the right choice.

There are obviously hundreds of considerations when choosing a location, but from my limited experience, I would say that finding something to fit and enhance the overall "feel" of your movie is far more important than having a list of great individual locations with varying looks and feels that ruin your story's continuity. Make this your number one priority whenever possible.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Editing the Movie Courageous

A few of the crew members on our recent film, The Solomon Bunch, were also a part of the crew of Courageous. This is a fantastic film, and one that I recommend you go and see. After three weeks in theaters, it is over $20 million and is still in the top 10 (despite being in only about a third the number of theaters that other major releases are in).

Steve Hullfish worked with Alex Kendrick on the edit for Courageous and has a very in-depth article about how they handled the workflow from two RED cameras and some 5DmkII's. It is featured on ProVideoCoalition today.

Read the article here.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Super Portable Mini Dolly

I am totally over buying cheap stuff and trying to "DIY it." Most of the time the hassle is not worth the results--and you end up with a product that is quirky at best and makes your clients question if they have hired the right person. This little dolly, less than $100, seems to be a great little product that is well-built and will certainly offer more than $100 in production value the first time you use it. If you use HDSLR's, GoPro's or other small cameras, check out the extremely portable Pico Flex Dolly here.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Flag Kit from Digital Juice

Without tools for controlling and shaping the output of your lighting instruments and the sun, you will never be able to get consistently great results on-screen. This set of flags and scrims looks to be a tremendous value. As long as you have some C-stands or at least light stands with grip heads, you should consider adding this kit to your toolbox. The best thing about it is that it is super-portable, although I am not sure how durable it is for everyday use on-set. Knowing the track record of Digital Juice, I am optimistic in that regard as well.

Learn more about the DJ Flag Kit by visiting their site here.

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Great Camera Shootout

You will enjoy watching this episode, the third and final installment, of the 2011 camera shootout. It is very interesting to see how each film camera handles different situations. If you will be deciding on a camera purchase or rental for a particular project, you will want to watch these videos first.

Watch episode here.

Where It Goes, No One Knows

Don't you just love it when you find new information that shows you that the way you have been doing things for 20 years is really not the best way? Well, actually, I do love it. Better to find out late than never.

This article gives some really good insights into the use of your fill light. The ideal placement may not be where you think it is. Take the time to read this article by Art Adams, and you may improve your lighting design tremendously.