Monday, December 27, 2010

Weekly Recap Link List 12-27-10

15 ebook covers: success and failure in the Kindle store

Resolutions for writers (and filmmakers, too!) 2011

The music of '127 Hours'

Video quality: Vimeo vs. YouTube

Handheld digital audio recorder shootout

Building the community web around an artist

Three ways TV changed everything (and what's next)

The next big thing? Yongnous LED video light

Building the community web--those already doing this

Monday, December 20, 2010

Weekly Recap Link List 12-20-10

Shoot 3D products using a suspended 360 degree shooting rig

An Aussie version of the Frugal Crane

Camera stabilizer rig modified

The sound of 'Black Swan'

Affordable Canon FD lenses for HDSLR use

Sick deal: 1TB hard drive for $79

How to use the manual controls with the Sanyo Xacti camcorders

Cool guy makes cool Flip teleprompter for the iPhone

YouTube lifts the 15 minute cap--for some

Roku internet HD video streaming

What font should I use? 5 principles for choosing and using typefaces

Why you must re-write the script

Thursday, December 16, 2010

YouTube Lifts the 15 Minute Cap--for Some

I posted this link recently, but it's important news that I'd like to comment on. If you've been honoring YouTube's community guidelines (no copyrighted material) you probably have a new option you may not be aware of. Go to your account and click "upload". If you've been good, chances are you will get a message telling you you are no longer limited to 15 minutes per video upload. "As long as it’s your original content, it’s fair game regardless of length," states the YouTube blog.

One of my goals with my YouTube channel has always been to partner with them to get the time cap lifted. The reason for this was to upload future feature-length material. I fully plan on releasing movies for all to view on 4 platforms: YouTube, Netflix streaming, Vodo P2P and iTunes. YouTube was the only challenge as you can't just create an account and upload your 90 minute (or longer) movie. Now, however, partnering is no longer necessary. It's a reality right now.

If you don't have an account (or you have one that violates their policy), I suggest you create one, right now, and upload your own material. Even if you don't plan on doing anything with your channel of this magnitude, you may want to later. "Clean" content now puts your channel in the pipeline to be given opportunity later. I don't see how we can lose with this.

Of course, YouTube can pull the plug on this whenever they want. The only consolation is that if they have allowed you to upload something long, it will stay they there, even if this offer is rescinded. They've grandfathered past uploads, so I see no reason they won't in the future.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Sick Deal: 1TB Hard Drive for $79

When working with video (especially the tapeless variety), you gotta have a place to put it. Large hard drives are just part of the equation these days, but fortunately prices are so low that getting a huge drive to archive your video is no longer a cost issue. Today's post is case and point.

B&H is running a deal right now on a 1TB Iomega eGo drive that will give you an immense amount of real estate for a scant $79. A terabyte (that's 1,000 gigabytes!) of space should keep just about anyone (except a RED user) satisfied for a good, long while. I've never used the Iomega brand since the Zip Drive days, but I like what I'm seeing here. A few weeks ago I bought a 320GB drive on "sale" at Best Buy for $49. This deal puts that one to shame.

And hey, it's Midnight Blue!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Camera Stabilizer Rig Modified

Hi Scott,

I was inspired by your Camera Stabilizer Rig from your YouTube video. I made some modifications.

The first one was to move the mounting point to the front frame. This gave me the ability to reach the buttons with my thumb.

The second was to shorten the frame a bit. Instead of 6" pieces, I went with 5" pieces on the vertical poles. Instead of the 4" pieces, I went with 3 1/2" pieces. This also was to allow me to reach the camcorder controls with my thumb.

Finally, I replaced t-joints for all but one of the elbow joints. This gives me the ability to mount the flashlight piece you mentioned in your video.

Again, thanks for posting your video. I look forward to viewing more of your tips.


Weekly Recap Link List 12-13-10

TRON Legacy: sound for film profile

The kitchen chromakey

The bestseller shift (alternate distribution)

How to balance a Glidecam, Stedicam, Flycam stabilizer

Lighting the natural look of "Crazy/Beautiful"

Digital information only exists if it exists in 2 places

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Kitchen Chromakey

As part of an assignment for an ASL class my wife and I are in, we had to do some signing on video (instead of writing papers). I set up a makeshift chromakey in my kitchen and thought I would pass on how I did it, in case anyone else wants to decimate a room in their house for this purpose.

First, I extended my boom pole and created a makeshift curtain rod that rested on the top of a cabinet door on one side of the kitchen and and was gaffed to the other side. I then hung some green screen material borrowed from and old kids movie-making kit. I then lit the key with two 500w worklights bounced off of the ceiling and set up two clamp lights to illuminate the talent.

We had a small group from class over to watch a signing assignment and to perform for their own homework. I'm sure I went overboard with this (surprise!), but didn't want the end result to be in the dark with grainy video and an obnoxious background.

After shooting I took the video into Sony Vegas, keyed out the green and added contrast along with some saturation. Everyone seemed pleased with the results.

The worklights were on top of the PVC light stands (at 6') and the clamp lights were attached to a cabinet door and a plastic crate on top of the refrigerator. I didn't rig a backlight, but hoped the bounce off of the roof would suffice. I put my gray card on a stand to assist with exposure (my camera loses it when I look at the video) and placed a small "X" on the floor to help the talent know where to stand. All in all, a good experiment even if I still hate the way keyed video looks--so cheesy!

Weely Recap Link List 12-6-10

YouTube Blog: uploading 101 with Professor Compressor

Casting your micro-budget film (part 1)

Walking around dead and looking for a good story

Casting your micro-budget film (part 2)

Ten ways to stand out in this crazy "film" biz

Don't just stand out, stand tall for something

Super wide lens from peephole and film canister

Casting your micro-budget film (part 3)

Designing Sound TV: television for sound designers

Drive by shooting (affordable car window camera mount)

Will Netflix kill the internet?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Casting Your Micro-Budget Film (Part 3)

Today's post is the third in a three part series written by guest blogger Chris Henderson. Part two was published yesterday and Part One the day before that.

Let’s tackle some of the myths of casting:

#1 Good actors won’t work for free.
Wrong. You would not believe the caliber of actors that I have worked with, both as a fellow actor and as a director, on sets where no one was being paid. Using a quality script to woo actors who typically get paid a lot of money for their services is very doable. Also, there are plenty of up-and-coming actors who want to build their resumes or stretch themselves into a meatier role. And depending on where you live, there are plenty of working actors who never get the opportunity to play the lead, and that can be incentive enough. Again though, I don’t care how good they are, don’t cast anyone that doesn’t love what you’re doing.

#2 All good actors have agents, and agents won’t send their people on no-pay auditions.
False. Many agencies send their actors on no-pay auditions all the time but they don’t send everyone. When holding auditions, you should contact as many agencies as you can (some will even let you hold a round of auditions at their office, which is a huge perk). But you should also advertise on Craigslist, with any local actor or film groups, and anywhere else you can. Some actors will see the posting and show up even if their agency didn’t send them. And while most good actors do have representation, there are many who don’t (you don’t want to miss out on this pool of talent).

#3 Theatre actors don’t make good film actors.
Who told you that, an actor who’s never done theatre? Film and theatre are very different mediums, but acting is acting. Yes, some actors feel more at home on the stage than they do on the screen, and vice versa. But I will make the following argument for so-called “theatre actors”: while theatre people are, to be honest, often a bit more dramatic (read: annoying), they are also incredibly dedicated. A play typically consists of four to ten weeks of daily rehearsals followed by two to eight weeks of nightly performances. These actors understand commitment. And they also understand two principles that so-called “film actors” often dismiss: memorization and pacing. A good “film actor,” who has worked often on professional sets or under professional circumstances, understands pacing and shows up with her lines memorized. But actors who spend most of their time on lackadaisical and disorganized sets can develop very bad habits, showing up to set not only not having memorized their lines but not even knowing what scenes are being shot. This will never happen with a so-called “theatre actor.” (This is not to say that you should cast only theatre people, just that you should not dismiss them outright.)

The last thing you should consider when casting is chemistry.

Some actors are great in an audition scenario when the focus is entirely on them, but they may not play well with others. In a balanced script every character has at least a few moments when it’s his time to fade into the background and help his scene partner shine. Some actors have a hard time ceding the floor to anyone else.

Also, particularly when the script calls for any kind of romantic scenario, you need to make sure that your actors have chemistry with each other. Sarah and Keith may perform a convincing romantic scene with each other, but Sarah may not be quite so convincing when you pair her with John. And you really want John for your leading man. As great as Sarah is, you can’t force chemistry.

Callbacks are a great opportunity to try different pairings and various groupings of actors to determine who works best with whom. Really try to spend a lot of time with this, because otherwise you might find yourself in the very uncomfortable position later of having to fire someone because they aren’t working with everyone else. This sucks!

And if you have an actor at your callbacks who doesn’t want to stick around and take the time to read with everyone else because she’s got somewhere else she would rather be, she’s going to have somewhere else she would rather be every time she’s scheduled for filming.

If you’re putting together an ensemble piece, chemistry is even more important. You may want to cast less experienced or perhaps even less talented actors if they blend with your other cast members. Again, here’s a great argument for rehearsals, because with them you will get everyone growing together, and if everyone’s on the same page, you will have a much better and more convincing film in the end.

Now wrapping up this series, in summary:

The casting call and the auditions are an extension of the film itself and they should reflect the film your making.

Be upfront and honest about EVERYTHING.

With a micro-budget, personality is every bit as important as performance.

Cast people you want to work with and who want to work with you.

Make sure all of your actors work well with each other and have chemistry together.

If an actor doesn’t love the film you’re making, that actor should not be in the film you’re making.

Happy casting!

CHRIS HENDERSON is the writer and executive producer for the upcoming series “The Gap.” He graduated from the University of Utah with a B.A. in Film (focus on Screenwriting), and has worked full-time as an actor/writer/director/producer in the film/theatre/television industry of Salt Lake City for over 10 years. Check out “The Gap” on facebook at:

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Casting Your Micro-Budget Film (Part 2)

Today's post is the second in a three part series written by guest blogger Chris Henderson. Part one was published yesterday.

Today, let’s talk about how to run your auditions.

First of all, allow plenty of time for casting. You don’t want to send out your casting call a month before the auditions because people will forget or lose interest. However, it’s perfectly acceptable to hold the auditions a month (or even several months) before you plan to actually begin production. There are a lot of reasons for this, among them:

If you only hold one round of auditions, there will be a lot of talented actors with scheduling conflicts whom you will miss out on. If you hold auditions and plan to start shooting a week later, you won’t have time for multiple auditions.

People are going to drop out. Maybe they withdraw from the film because they don’t like the script, maybe they get a better offer, maybe they start dating someone who’s uncomfortable with them performing a screen kiss that absolutely cannot be cut from the film. Whatever the reason, odds are at least one actor will drop out of your film and you don’t want to be rushed to find a replacement.

Holding auditions well in advance gives you plenty of time to mull over your decision and then, once you’ve made it, gives you plenty of time to get to know the actors you’ve chosen.

SIDE NOTE: I know a lot of actors don’t care for them, but I am a huge advocate of rehearsals. And I don’t mean just a basic table read; I mean doing actual scene work. It helps you find your actors’ strengths (and capitalize on them) and identify their weaknesses (which hopefully you can fix or hide). I believe you should always be rewriting your script (or at least fine-tuning it) to fit your actors – but that’s another post altogether.

And really, if you don’t find the right actors in your initial auditions, post another casting call. Keep looking. There comes a point where you may have to settle, in order to move the production forward, but definitely don’t settle right away.

So how should you structure your audition? The short answer: Any way you want. This is your film. These are your auditions. You can run them any way you see fit, but here are ten suggestions:

1. At least for the initial audition, hold an open call. This means allowing anyone (agency representation or not) to show up and read for a part. Don’t schedule appointments. See everyone on a first come, first served basis (and don’t let people jump the queue – this will just frustrate the actors who have been waiting).

2. Find a place to hold auditions where you can bring auditioners into a separate room with the door closed. Other actors shouldn’t be able to hear how their competition reads the scene.

3. Show up early (or at the very least on time) for the auditions. (Again, you’d be shocked by how many directors show up late for their own auditions.)

4. While most actors will have printed out their own sides and brought them along, you should have plenty of copies on hand for those who didn’t.

5. Video tape the auditions. Not only does this give you something to go back and reference later, but if you video tape the auditions you don’t need to have three dozen people in the audition room with you.

6. Don’t have three dozen people in the audition room with you. Who really needs to be in the room? I mean, who REALLY NEEDS to be in the room with you? I can’t answer that for you, but those are the only people that should be in there. Sure, there are plenty of Hollywood auditions where twenty people are staggered around the room, half of them texting and not even paying attention. You are not making a Hollywood movie. Be considerate and respectful. You don’t want your actors to be uncomfortable or intimidated.

7. Don’t make actors do ridiculous things or jump through hoops just because you can. And don’t ask actors to do anything in an audition that makes them uncomfortable, unless it’s in the script and they are aware of it beforehand.

8. Bring auditioners in in pairs or have a reader to read the part opposite them. Don’t do it yourself. It looks unprofessional and prevents you from focusing on the performance.

9. Remember, you are auditioning for the actors every bit as much as they are auditioning for you. Do not go into the auditions with the attitude that you are above them or that you are doing them a favor. (If anything, they are doing you a favor.) Again, show respect to every single person who comes in to read for you, regardless of how shy, unprepared, or insane they may be.

10. Apart from being respectful, which is the most important thing to remember, here is THE MOST IMPORTANT TIP OF ALL: Have someone you know and trust, and who knows you, come along to sit out in the waiting area to sign people in and answer questions. This is your spy. This person is going to watch how the actors behave when they don’t know they’re auditioning. Half the audition takes place out here. Why is this so important? Everyone is going to be nice and complimentary when they’re standing in front of the director. Not everyone is going to be nice to their fellow actors or the “secretary.” On a micro-budget set personality is every bit as important as performance, and you simply can’t gauge that in an audition.

In the third, and final, post of this series on casting, I will address some of the myths of casting, as well as a couple of additional tips for what to look for in your actors.

CHRIS HENDERSON is the writer and executive producer for the upcoming series “The Gap.” He graduated from the University of Utah with a B.A. in Film (focus on Screenwriting), and has worked full-time as an actor/writer/director/producer in the film/theatre/television industry of Salt Lake City for over 10 years. Check out “The Gap” on facebook at:

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Casting Your Micro-Budget Film (Part 1)

Today's post is the first in a three part series written by guest blogger Chris Henderson.

So you’ve written a brilliant screenplay, you’ve found a spectacular crew, and you’ve applied for three separate shiny new credit cards. You’re ready to make your film. Now you need to cast it.

Whether you’re making a short, a feature-length film, or an entire web series, casting the right actors is, in my opinion, the single most important aspect of filmmaking. Yes, even more important than having a taut, compelling script. You can write dazzling, poetic dialogue, but if it’s delivered by a stiff, monotone mouth-breather, it will fall flat. On the flip side, a great actor can actually mask deficiencies in the script with his face or body language. (This isn’t to say that an intriguing story isn’t important; it absolutely is!)

Now I am not a casting director, but as a writer/actor/director I have been on both sides of the audition table, so I hope you’ll find my perspective helpful.

Let’s start with the casting call. Now there is an industry standard for an official casting notice (it includes a short plot synopsis, character breakdowns, pay scale, etc.), but we’re not talking about the industry standard here. We’re talking about a casting call for your micro-budget film. You can make it read however you want, and you can include whatever information you feel is relevant. But here are some things to consider:

Your casting call is the first impression of your film that you’re sending out into the world. Make sure it accurately reflects the kind of production you’re developing. If you send your script to L.A. and have Breakdown Services create your casting call, actors are going to expect a highly professional film with a large budget and are going to feel swindled when they show up for the auditions in your garage and read opposite your grandma. Likewise, if your casting call gives little or no information about the actual film or characters and is riddled with spelling and grammatical errors, actors will think you are disorganized (which you probably are) and have no idea what you’re doing (which you probably don’t), so don’t expect a big turnout. (By the way, unless you have no other choice, don’t hold auditions in your garage.)

Your casting call should probably include the following information:

Brief plot synopsis.

Brief (one or two line) description of each character.

Projected timeline for the production.

Time, date and location of the auditions. (You would be surprised at how many audition notices I’ve seen that forget to include this info.)

Compensation (Copy and credit is fine. You’re making a micro-budget film and you can’t afford to pay the actors? That’s okay, but be upfront about it.)

Contact Info.

Attach audition sides, or provide a link. (Don’t make people email you for the sides. There are plenty of tools on the internet, like Sendspace or Dropbox, where you can easily link to the sides.)

Choose your audition sides carefully. Make sure the scene gives the actors an opportunity to really show what they can do. Also make sure the scene is representative of the work as a whole, both in character and tone. Some actors are uncomfortable using profanity and will feel tricked if the audition scene is a squeaky-clean conversation about family values, and then you surprise them later with 183 F-bombs.

Now this next part is VERY IMPORTANT: Your sides need to be from the actual script that you intend to produce!!! Okay, if you’re paying scale, use whatever sides you want; but if you’re paying anything less than scale, be aware that you are auditioning for the actors every bit as much as they are auditioning for you. It’s for this reason that I say don’t make the actors email you for the sides. As an actor, if I have to email an independent producer for the sides to a micro-budget film for which actors are not being paid, I am automatically skeptical of the quality of the film. I feel like they’re keeping things under wraps because they themselves are not confident with the quality of their screenplay. But the fact is, you don’t want people auditioning for you who don’t want to be a part of THIS project, especially if you’re not paying them. If they don’t love your script, they’re not right for your film. I cannot stress this enough.

Be as upfront and honest as possible about EVERYTHING. Obviously you don’t want to be divulging details about how the film ends to just anyone, but always be honest. Don’t downplay the commitment you expect from your actors (and your crew for that matter), and don’t make promises you can’t keep. If you do this, your production is going to fall apart midway through when people feel deceived and become resentful. Be upfront. If the actors can’t make the commitment you’re asking of them, then they are not right for your film.

On a micro-budget film, when you aren’t paying the actors or can’t pay them very much it is all the more important that they love the film you’re making. Otherwise every day on set will be drudgery. (That is, if the actors don’t bail on you at the last second for something they would rather do.)

In the next post, we’ll discuss holding the actual auditions.

CHRIS HENDERSON is the writer and executive producer for the upcoming series “The Gap.” He graduated from the University of Utah with a B.A. in Film (focus on Screenwriting), and has worked full-time as an actor/writer/director/producer in the film/theatre/television industry of Salt Lake City for over 10 years. Check out “The Gap” on facebook at:

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Sanyo CG10 deal: $109

With this being the "black friday" weekend when everyone goes totally insane to save a few bucks, I thought I'd chime in. I don't have a big list to share (PVC pipe prices don't change much), but there is one good deal that lasts through the weekend.

If you don't mind shooting with a small camera, the red HD Sanyo Xacti CG10 is on sale right now for $109. It's got a ton of manual features (white balance, focus, exposure, zoom lens) and some bonus ones (macro focus, webcam mode) that make it very attractive. A feature I really appreciate that some camera makers (including Sanyo) seem to be dropping at this price point: a tripod mount.

The camera isn't perfect. It doesn't come with an AC adapter (and you can't buy one), which means you're stuck with battery power so you'll need at least a second battery. These can be found on eBay for $1 (and with double the capacity of the stock version--sick!) and since the CG10 comes with an external charger, you can be shooting while the backup charges.

Someone on YouTube suggested that I make a Frugal Filmmaker episode around this camera since I keep babbling about it so much. It's a really good idea. There are some good, inexpensive DIY mods you can do to this camera to extend its usability quite a bit.

And you always wanted a RED camera anyway, right?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Narrative Promo: The Findle

Here's a short promotional video I recently created for a client. I liked the fact that they wanted me to tell a story rather than just pimp the product. I love working with talented people and we had some good ones not only in front of the camera (I had worked with Jessica Pearce previously on Midnyte), but behind as well.

Chris Henderson is an excellent AD/line producer (he's incredibly organized) and Doug Clift does anything you want with everything he has. I also want to speak highly of Josh Rowley our sound guy and Rochelle Jahdi (also from Midnyte) who did an excellent job with costumes and makeup.

All in all, a good experience. Most importantly, the client was happy.

My favorite anecdote from this project was the fact that I forgot to separately record the students laughing as a result of Brain Lame Guy (Jeffrey Lee Blake) trying to sing the ABC song. I completely overlooked this and was thinking I'd have to record it somewhere else. Fortunately, I found a bit of footage where Jessica cracked a joke after a take was over and the class laughed. Those laughs are in the video.

It was also fun working with my daughter, Melanie. She's an extra sitting in the front row. Watch for her standing up when Jessica becomes the most intense teacher in recent memory.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Weekly Recap Link List 11-15-10

Hack your background stand

Can we make discovery (of our movies) a more integral part of the process?

"I don't have any good ideas"

Electron Stimulated Luminescence Lighting Technology

Double and Quad suction camera mounts

Cool, effective and cheap promo art for "Down the Chain"

How to create a video camera bay for your model rocket

Mini ball head: My new favorite camera mount

Air Hogs Hawk Eye (camera) helicopter

Think small and find success

Entry level shotgun mics

HDSLR shopping? What you want is a Canon 60D

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Mini Ball Head: My New Favorite Camera Mount

I've recently come across a camera mount that I really like. It's a mini ball head that allows 360 degree camera placement, can hold a DSLR and costs under $6. It is solid metal construction and has a 1/4" mounting thread on the bottom. I also like the fact that loosening the screw not only releases the ball, but also the base (to turn). This will give you another level of placement, making it that much more versatile.

This mount solves the tilting camera issue I had with the Frugal Crane, and will replace the plastic mount (which costs $8-12) found on my Table Dolly. I really like it, and I'm sure it will find its way into future builds.

I got mine for $1, after another bidder cancelled on eBay, but I've noticed this model is no longer up for bidding. Still, the "Buy It Now" option for $5.80 (free shipping) is still a smokin' deal. The only downside is that you have to wait two weeks for it to show up as it is coming from China. Very much worth the wait.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Frugal H Frame Mic Stand

I was going out to a shoot when I realized I'm going to need some good sound for this location. I had asked a number of friends to come through and be my boom operator to no avail. I recalled a design I had seen on your site and knew that it was perfect for what I needed. I work with PVC as well so I have plenty of options for buying and experimenting.

I used a ½” SCH80 cap because I had one lying around, drilled a ¼” hole into it and used a 1 ½” hex head bolt nut and flange washer to affix my rode video mic and shock mount. The delivery so far is really good, the video looks great and when the sound is all cleaned up (I filmed outdoor in nyc and got some ambient sound that is fairly low but noticeable) Im sure it will have been a success. I listed this in my gear list as “Frugal H frame mic stand”.

Thank you so much for all the posts and keep them coming.

Chris Hackett
Bald Guy Shampoo Productions

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Canon 60D on Sale for Under $1K

You may have noticed from my sidebar that the Canon 60D is the upper-end camera I would buy if I had the money. If you do have the money, this may be the month to get one. There is a deal right now that could get you a great filmmaker's camera for $999 (good until November 24). You still have to buy your own lenses, but one of the great things about the DSLR video market is the wide (and I'm talking WIDE) range of lens choices. Last year I bought my Canon HFS100 with some accessories for this same price. This year, the Canon 60D would be the obvious choice.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Weekly Recap Link List 11-1-10

Internet TV and the death of cable, really

Steve Albini on being an artist (think DIY distribution)

Use of sound effects in current films

Recording of the week: yo-yo

Reverse engineer this lighting setup

Breakthrough designs for ultra low-cost products (movies?)

A practical guide to field recording (part 2)

What not to say to an actress

Frugal Film ($1500): "Simple Inquisition"

Old portable movie screen as reflector

The guy who embraced the 'pirates' of 4chan (web distribution)

Newbies guide to publishing: It's your universe

Halloween fire house display (lo-tech practical effect)

3-4 things that help films "break out"

Eddie Burns learns to love doing it DIY

Cheap $20 HDSLR shoulder rig

DIY film school grip truck

The fun stuff: art direction and practical efx

The Frugal Filmmaker: Dry erase clapper slate for $8

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Dry Erase Clapper Slate for $8

Here's a very useful tool that I was forced to rebuild when my last one was damaged in a production. Essentially a laminated card slapped onto a clapper slate, this can come in very handy when identifying your footage in post. I blogged about this in the past, but when those old links died, I decided to take matters into my own hands--literally!

If you would like to make your own clapper board based on the graphics shown in the above video, I've made them available for download.

Slate it!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Weekly Recap Link List 10-25-10

"Stick 'em in a corner" lighting technique

Making mud sound effects

DIY Camera / Lens formed cases

Hal Hartley on the lessons of "The Unbelievable Truth"

Why episodic TV is bad

YouTube Leanback officially launches on Google TV

Router to camera slider for $2.17

Fake rock

Disciplines of sound design

Releasing "Person of Interest" free on Vodo

The Frugal Filmmaker: Free world distribution strategies

Netflix considers streaming-only in U.S.

New book: "From the Shadows of Sound"

A practical guide to field recording (part 1)

Digital bootcamp with Ingrid Kopp (A MUST READ)

5 myths about copyright

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Free World Distribution Strategies

Lately I've been high on the fact that for very little effort and no money, any movie we make can be seen by literally millions of people. It's a very exciting prospect and while the trick is still to make money, global exposure is a good first step to realizing this goal. The idea is to drop your entire film on the web, available to anyone who wants it.

This thought totally flies in the face of the old model that's been in place for years, but for us microbudgeters, that old model doesn't even apply. If you are a small studio or an expensive indie, the old "find a distributor to buy your film" might work, but is still a crap shoot. Movies with big name talent frequently get into prestigious festivals, then never get purchased. Even if you do get picked up, there are so many shady dealers out there, that you often get no money or the money promised is soaked up in fees and you've lost the rights to your project for 25 years.

A better idea is simply this: give your film away, let lots and lots of people watch it for free (which is trackable) and use those numbers as leverage to fund your next film. You can also develop an audience this way, an audience that will want to support you (like any artist) if they like your work. This can be through merchandising or making your film available in different "containers" (like a DVD) which provide a better picture and bonuses like extra content.

I don't know if you can make a living this way, but others are proving this is doable. Stick to your microbudget roots (say $5,000-10,000 raised on Kickstarter) and you could turn a nice profit. Take the aforementioned viewer numbers and get sponsors and product placement in your next film. It could be a nice, healthy, profitable cycle. Add some grass-roots marketing and you could go into the stratosphere.

If you have your film done, then what? There are several places you can start to deposit your movie that will start getting you an audience. Some are easy, others take some work. Vodo is a new site that will place your film in peer-to-peer networks often used for pirating mainstream material. It costs nothing. Since your film is owned by you, you may even get featured! YouTube allows feature-length product (20GB file size and no time limit) if you are a partner. Create a channel and get busy building your audience and views. Apply for a partnership, get it, and post your film. Submit to Netflix. They offer streaming content now and your film could get seen that way as well.

Another exciting prospect is that TVs are now becoming conduits for internet content. "Apps" that play YouTube and Netflix streams are being introduced on modern televisions, video game system and set-top boxes. Now you can reach people who want to be entertained while nestled on their couch instead of at their computer (a better viewing experience anyway). Your potential audience is growing exponentially on a daily basis.

This is a very exciting time. Your film could be seen all over the globe. Computers, TVs and mobile devices are more plentiful than all movie screens combined. That should be our target. No one other than your family will pay to see your microbudget feature. They might pay something afterward, however. Getting your film in front of people is becoming very easy. Just let go of old myths and embrace the now. I truly believe it's our best shot at success.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Build a Camera Crane / Jib for $30

Whew! THAT was a lot of work.


1- 10' length of chain link top rail
2- training wheels with rubber grooved tires
1- dumbell handle with screw collars
1- Simpson Strong Tie A24 angle (Home Depot SKU# 590007)
1- roll of 50lb. test fishing line
1- small hook & eye turnbuckle
1- quick plate from your tripod
2- 1/2" PVC plugs
1- 1/2" PVC end cap
1- 1/2" PVC tee
1- 1/2" PVC elbow
1- 1/2" PVC pipe (3" in length)
1- 1/2" PVC pipe (5" in length)
3- 1/4" machine screws (1 1/2" in length)
4- 1/4" nuts with nuts
1- 1/4" lock washer
2- 1/4" fender washers
1- 3/8" bolt (3" in length)
1- 3/8" bolt (4" in length)
7- 3/8" nuts
2- 3/8" fender washers
1-4 3/8" washers
1- 3/8" lock washer
1- knobbed 1/4" bolt with 5-6 exposed threads
1- 1/4" screw (2 1/2" in length)
1- 1/4" wing nut

Weekly Recap Link List 10-4-10

Three link lists in a row? I think I need to get busy...

All aboard the piracy bandwagon (alternative distribution)

Independent film's path to a viable new business model

Designing Sound: "The Town"

The misadventures of Charles Maynes: Sonic Terrain

Recycled pulp egg tray (sound dampening)

Find the PVC fittings your local hardware store won't carry

"The Social Network" sound-for-film profile

DIY dolly for Canon 7D (or any camera)

Creative challenge II: brainstorming

Recording of the week: Senegal Doves

Three lessons from three films

Kickstarter campaign for the new film "Triptych"

Saturday, September 18, 2010

How Fast of a Class?

Solid state cameras are where it's at these days. Gone is the hassle with tape and its laborious real-time transfer speeds. With a memory card the encoding is done right in the camera and all you have to do is copy the resulting file. It's a great system that is the current standard right now, even in very inexpensive cameras.

Cheesycam is a great blog for DSLR DIY and alerts us to some great deals we can all use. Recently, they've been posting about the 32gb Transcend Class 10 SDHC memory card, a deal at B&H for $63.46. The "class" refers to the write speed, but I wonder what the actual advantage is. I've been using a 32gb Kingston Class 4 for a few years now (it gives me about 3 hours at the full bitrate on my Canon HFS100) and have never had a problem with the speed the video data gets to the card.

There is a 32gb Lexar model that is a dollar cheaper and uses the regular Class 4 speed. I'm not sure if Class 10 is really that much better or just a numbers game by the manufacturer ("10 is 2.5 times better than 4!"), so you might want to save a buck. Of course, getting a Class 10 may future-proof your cards for use in more modern cameras, but I guess only time will tell.


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

YouTube's Partner Program: The DIY Netflix?

One of the goals of producing The Frugal Filmmaker episodes has always been to gain a partnership with YouTube. This allows the folks at Google to place ads on your videos and share a cut of that revenue with you. This requires an application and you must meet unknown requirements of subscribers and views to be selected. I've hoped that maybe I could make the show self-sufficient so that it could run for a very long time.

I've had another thought about this goal, something that could be even more beneficial than a paltry sum: free distribution of feature-length content. One of the other benefits of becoming a partner is your upload limit jumps from 15 minutes and 2 gigabytes, to unlimited time and 20 gigabytes. This is a really big deal.

I try to encode my shows so they looks as good as possible and they still come in at under 500 megs (the longest episode was 11:28 and 418 megs). This means I could make a 2 hour feature and it would come in under 5 gigs, way under the 20 gig limit. I could then upload the entire thing to YouTube instead of a bunch of chunks (which a lot of people do now). This would let me stream full features to whoever wanted it in the world--much like Netflix or Hulu.

This makes Video On Demand a reality to any filmmaker who can make partner--all at ZERO cost. It means potentially world-wide distribution of your work, without hassling with any middleman. It's a very exciting prospect.

Of course, you still have to market the thing. No one will watch your film if they don't know about it. Monetizing it is another challenge, but releasing it for the world to see will get you many more eyeballs than the traditional method (which doesn't really apply to microbudget projects, anyway). And with current trend of YouTube being accessible through your TV and mobile devices, the sky is no longer the limit.

You just have to make partner.

Bjarni Freyr's FF Camera Rig

This is my edition of the frugal filmmaker camera stabilizer. As you can see i used Matthew Sorrels' tip and used an T-joint at the back instead of an elbow. I had to use gray PVC because they don't sell white PVC here in Iceland. I also used my cameras remote and wrapped the wires to the handles so i can control the zoom and record buttons directly from there.


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