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:


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