Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Making of "Hostages"

Here's another "Making of" episode covering the short film I uploaded last week, "Hostages". While this movie is pretty short, I did learn a few things, which I share in the video. The greatest lesson this time out was to shoot in sequence if you're depending on the weather that day. I left out a shot, then couldn't shoot it at the end of the day, as the lighting had drastically changed (duh!). By the time the time the proper lighting returned (almost a week later), the car needed for the shot was unavailable. Live and Learn.

"Gunplay" font

Script and Storyboards (requires Celtx)

Script (.pdf)

Monday, February 27, 2012

Recap Q&A: Which Web Show is Best?

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Zoom H1 handy recorder

Tascam DR-05 portable digital recorder

Tascam DR-40 portable digital recorder

Audio-Technica ATR-3350 lav mic

Shotgun Microphone Shootout

Havard Nordgard's pan and tilt system

DIY pistol grip camera mount for $1

DIY Glidecam / monopod modification

Easy cut PVC DIY shockmount

Cinematography: Theory and Practice, second edition

White paper lantern, 24" diameter - $7

Tascam DR-05 portable audio recorder case

Short Film: "Hostages"

Make your very own demon

Toy guns becoming a criminal offense?

YouTube Creator Playbook v2 now available

Kris Kuhn's "Frugal Buggy"

16GB SDHC card - $14

Malbert Gansuen's DIY camera slider

Free Filmmakers and Acting Talent Network

DIY Filmmaker Bi-weekly contest

Vegas Movie Studio HD - $29

Gip Gippie's follow focus

Gregory Cannon's camera bracket/camera rig

Adrian Culda's DIY shoulder rig

7" Standard Def external monitor - $46

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Short Film: Hostages

Hostages is a (very) short film I wrote and directed last semester for my Previsualization & Digital Workflow class. No dialogue was allowed and we had lots of previz, including animated storyboards. I'll be revealing those, the script, overhead diagrams, and some behind the scenes photos and things I learned in a "Making of" episode next week.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Recap Q&A: Web Series or Feature?

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Universal iPhone tripod mount - $2.19

2.7" LCD camcorder hood

Alternative Zoom H1 hard case

Donald Wren's double shoulder rig

Donald Wren's Camera Jib / Crane

Zoom H4n Handy Portable Digital Recorder - $272

ART USB Dual Pre 2 Channel Preamp - $79

Work lights from Lowe's with PVC extensions

Gentrit Bajrami's paintball camera mount

James DeRuvo's refurb Canon camcorder on PVC FigRig

James DeRuvo finds PVC FigRig stand

G-rar Vdb's PVC stabilizer rig

Best time to publish videos to YouTube

Free sound effects

David Curtis' chromakey test

Growing Your YouTube Channel

David Stembridge's DIY Steadicam (in progress)

DIY Squib - Making a bullet blast effect

Joseph Puente's inexpensive gels

DIY DSLR viewfinder

Gip Gippie's DIY follow focus

Henry Feige's PVC shoulder rig

24" paper lantern for cheap soft light - $7

Sean Scarfo's DIY slider

Gip Gippie's DIY LCD viewfinder

David Curtis' DIY lav mic windscreen

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Growing Your YouTube Channel

Since this was one of the few times I've actually written a script for my video voiceover, I thought I would just publish the entire thing for your perusal.

The first thing you need to do is come up with a good brand name. This name should be clear and to the point, completely explaining what your content is about. It’s very important that you get this right, as once your brand name is out there, it won’t be easy to take it back. I liked The Frugal Filmmaker because it clearly says that this content will be about microbudget filmmaking. YouTube will let you search for names to see what is available. “Frugal Filmmaker” was taken, so I added “the” on the front, and I had a channel.

Next, I set up a mini distribution network to launch different forms of media. This network is a group of free websites that each provide a specific service. I have a YouTube channel for video, a Blogger blog for written posts, a Facebook group to invite members to and share links I find from around the web, and Twitter to repeat those links and microblog about filmmaking tidbits. The most important thing about this network is that it constantly refers to itself, making it grow.

When I create a video, I post it on YouTube. I then embed the video on my blog. I post a link to the blog post on Facebook and Twitter. At the end of the week I take all the links that have accumulated on Facebook and publish the list on the blog and in the description of the weekly Q&A video. It constantly comes full circle.

A word about the Facebook Group. When I first set it up, the purpose of the group was to post links and promote my videos and blog posts. Now the thing has taken on a life of its own and has become a thriving forum. There, links, advice, answers to questions and video critiques are commonplace and the responses quick. The members are knowledgeable and friendly and there is a ton of great information constantly changing hands. It’s become totally self-sufficient.

Anyway, back to YouTube. The question everyone wants answered is: how do I get more views and subscribers? While there is no “magic bullet” that will guarantee you anything, you can be sure of one thing: content is king. Make good content and people will follow you. Know your niche and make videos people are searching for.

YouTube is the number two search engine in the world and you should know what your audience wants. In DIY filmmaking, terms such as dslr, crane, jib, dolly, slider, stabilizer, and shoulder rig are all hot search words. If you can, try to do something first. If it’s been done, do it better or add a unique spin. Separate yourself from the pack.

My most watched video is the PVC stabilizer build. There was nothing like it on YouTube at the time I posted it. Now that design is everywhere. Even on topics that may be well covered, your fans will want your take anyway, and you should give it to them. I’ve learned this lesson over and over.

Remember to tag properly. When you upload your video, you have four places to optimize your search results. These are the video file name, the YouTube title, the description and the tags. Fill these boxes with lots of hot terms so people will find you. Only use terms that apply to your channel’s theme, however, or the video itself. Don’t use generic hot terms so you’ll get lots of landings on your page. You don’t want disgruntled people spreading bad press about you.

Next, create a regular release schedule. This is one of the most powerful tools in audience growth, but also the hardest to pull off. I saw a doubling of my daily subscribers and views when I committed to a consistent release schedule, Mondays and Wednesdays. When you create anticipation, people will show up to watch. This takes a lot of work, so be prepared to work hard and put in full-time hours.

Something else you can do to market yourself is to make alliances with other YouTubers who have similar numbers. Deejay of DSLR Film Noob came to me and wanted to network. He now posts a link to my channel in his videos and I post his videos on my blog. I do the same thing with Knoptop and his show Quick FX. We all have a similar audience, but none of us have the same show. It’s a mutually beneficial situation that lets us spread the word and grow our channels together.

It’s important to engage your viewers in conversation. All the venues I participate in allow for two-way conversations via commenting and emails. Take advantage of this. Respond as often as you can. Viewers appreciate it when you take time to answer their questions and make them feel like their voice is important, which it is. Eventually, you can make shows specifically for your fan faithful. The Recap Q&A is a perfect example of this. No one is searching for the content of that show, but people who like what I’m doing will tune in. It’s just one more way to connect.

Finally, use the analytic tools at your disposal to discover trends and important facts about your viewership. YouTube will not only give you numbers and demographics, but allows you to see inside each of your videos and find out which parts people are watching and when they are tuning out. Sites like Socialblade and VidStatsX let you look at trending subscriber numbers, views and projections of future numbers. All these tools can help you make adjustments to keep your channel growing or correct mistakes that may be setting you back. They are incredibly valuable—and free.

Also check out Freddie Wong's "The Secrets to YouTube Success". It should be considered mandatory reading on this topic.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

DSLR Film Noob Returns (with a review)!

After going AWOL for a few months, Deejay has returned to the YouTube airwaves and is back with a typically thorough review. This time he takes a good look at the Samson Airline Micro, a wireless lav system that costs $300. That's a lot of money (though much less than the Senneheiser model he compares it to) and though it sounded pretty good, I really didn't like the clunky way you were forced to program the transmitter/receiver combo. If I had to do some limited range wireless audio, I think I'd go with Deejay's bluetooth discovery he showed us awhile ago.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Recap Q&A: How's the New Format?

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Raynox HD-6600 Pro 58 wide angle lens

Canon Powershot with video mode and manual features ($79)

Canon S100: Best P&S for video right now

Zoom H1 Handy Recorder

Tascam DR-05 Portable Digital Recorder

Canon RF200 (mic input, manual audio, headphone) $289

Sony Vegas product comparison

Canon EOS T2i (body only)

Dave Dugdale's DSLR lens picks

Stu Maschwitz' DSLR lens picks

Getting better as a director: gaining trust

David Curtis finds a spring for the stabilizer rig

David Curtis' triple-camera rig

Wayne Poe's PVC stabilizer rig with three lights

Karen Foster's PVC stabilizer w/Zoom H1 shockmount

Color correction gels 4/$7

David Curtis and spotlight diffusion

David Curtis' DIY steadicam test

Havard Nordgard's crane/jib mount

Refurbished Canon Camcorders

$1 Budget: cases and a headset, oh my!

Joseph Puente's FigRig

Efrain Sabino's PVC stabilizer rig

Macro tubes: getting closer on the cheap

Gregory Cannon's Opteka LED light review

Importing AVCHD footagage into FCPX

Adrian Cerchia's PVC steadycam test

Sean Scarfo's cheapy follow focus

Joel Thomas' PVC cap substitute

The proper use of jump cuts

Alex Soares' PVC stabilizer rig

Adorama flash bracket vs generic flash bracket

Sean Scarfo finds hand grip and shoulder pad material

Samson Airline Micro wirless mic UHF system review

David Curtis' PVC table dolly

Sean Scarfo finds 150, 200, 300 watt equivalent CFL bulbs

Sean Scarfo finds 300w equivalent LED rechargeable work light

Scott Davis' DIY shoulder rig tutorial

Thursday, February 9, 2012

$1 Budget: Cases and a Headset, Oh My!

This is the first installment in what I hope is a long-running and informative series. The idea is simple: what filmmaking tools can I get for a buck? Once a month I plan to share three of these ideas that can be had in any brick-and-mortar store. I will share online ideas if I find them, but the chances of finding stuff for one dollar online (with no shipping costs) are pretty slim.

In my first episode, I share how I used a cell phone case as a home for a Zoom H1 Handy Recorder, a point-and-shoot hard case for my lav mic, and a cheap non-working headset as a cool prop. I think the potential for these kinds of finds is huge, so I hope to share many more of these with everyone.

I'd buy that for a dollar!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Recap: Questions Anyone?

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Zoom H1 handy recorder

Tascam DR-05 digital recorder

Sony Movie Studio HD, $36

Audio-Technica ATR-3350 lav mic

Sima Quickonnect - $8.03

NHL Hockey Tape

Mini ball head

Sean Scarfo finds cheap counterwieghts

Sheena Vaught's frugal dimmer

Sean Scarfo's modified fig rig

Feeling nervous on day one? 5 Steps to curb your anxiety

Weathering props: fake moss

$1 windscreen for Zoom H1

Dave Albin finds 27 LED worklight - $5

DIY steadicam Smoothee mod

Dave Albin finds 20 LED worklight with flexible tripod arms - $6

Heikki O. Laukkaen's 3D-rig

Sean Scarfo finds $5 eye loupe

Tip: remote screenwriting

Sean Scarfo attaches $3 LED light to camera rig

Sheena Vaught's frugal light stand

Sheena Vaught's frugal jib

Sean Scarfo's shoulder rig w/lights

Tamara Stampone's PVC stabilizer rig

David Curtis' PVC stabilizer

Aerial slider product shoot BTS

Justin Leyba's DIY slider test

Adam Davis' PVC stabilizer rig

Sean Scarfo's DIY LCD viewfinder

$10 DIY camera slider

Sean Scarfo's DIY shoulder rig

Marcus Seelig's DIY shoulder rig

Alan Collins' PVC stabilizer rig / shoulder mount

Benjamin Duncan's shoulder rig plans
3D render

Alex Grooff's DIY shoulder rig

Knoptop delves into DVD-Rs

Cam Pagan's Frugal Crane

Wayne Poe's stabilizer upgrade plans

Scott Davis' DIY shoulder rig (and video)

Chris Butterfield finds pulleys for Frugal Crane

David Curtis' test of ring camp light

Benjamin Duncan's FigRig design

Friday, February 3, 2012

Knoptop Delves into DVD-Rs

Dave is back with another installment of Things You Didn't Know You Didn't Know, this time covering some cool facts about recordable DVDs. Despite the fact that we are moving into a VOD world and DVDs are becoming obsolete, this is good stuff. I still enjoy authoring a disk, as you can get pretty creative with the right program. Dave uses Adobe Encore, I like the lesser-known (and now no longer supported) DVDlab.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Tip: Remote Screenwriting

Modern technology can sure make life easier. With computers, smartphones and the internet your world is wide open to possibilities. Take screenwriting. In this tip episode, I share an easy way to work on your script whether you are at home, on the road, or even at work. And while you may need specialized software to finish, you only need the simplest kind to get started.

Celtx screenwriting software

Fade In screenwriting software

Dropbox online storage

Prolost: Screenplay Markdown Lives!

DV Rebel's Guide


Test Script:


A tall and lanky SCOTT EGGLESTON (40s), sits at a cluttered countertop feverishly pecking away at his laptop. A small cell phone with a cracked screen sits next to the computer.

The phone vibrates and begins a slow creep toward the edge of the countertop. It falls and is caught in mid-air by a bony hand.

(into phone)
Yello! No, I'm not here. Call me back and leave a voicemail, k? I'm right in the middle of something.

The phone hits the counter with a crack. The typing resumes.


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