Monday, September 29, 2014

The Making of "Invader"

When I released my short film Invader a couple of weeks back, several people asked if I was going to produce a "Making of" episode. I've done this with all of my previous shorts, as I am still learning and will probably always be a student of this medium. I hope that by creating these mashups of commentary, behind the scenes, and technique descriptions, that you might glean something useful.

I've also created annotations within the video that will take you to the DIY gear (and how to build them) used to make this film. Enjoy!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Dennis Buettner's "Quick Fist" Monopod Mod

Yesterday I received an email from a viewer who wanted to share a neat gadget he'd come up with in order to help anyone who does monopod shooting (see his video above). An avid monopodder, Dennis shares a frustration that many of us who use a monopod worry about: where to safely set your rig on site when not shooting.

Dennis has a pretty great solution that will only run you about five bucks (well, ten since you have to buy two). He's taken a "Quick Fist" tool holder (made to attach large tools to the outside of your vehicle), lashed it to a quick release plate for his tripod (using cable ties) and whammo! Now he can easily place his monopod rig into the Quick Fist, which has no chance of falling over.

Another perk of this setup (as Dennis illustrates in his video) is that now you can take advantage of all the benefits of a tripod, now that your monopod is securely fastened to it. Smooth panning and tilting can easily be done and when you need to return to monopod shooting, your rig is only a large rubber band away.

I love ideas such as this, where off the shelf products can be re-purposed for DIY filmmaking tasks. The build quality is already there, you just need to make it serve a higher purpose. Thanks Dennis!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

7" Monitor Hood (for Free?)

There is a brief scene in my last short film, Invader, that takes place on a rooftop. It was in the middle of a cloudless day and harsh sunlight poured down everywhere. It looked great on camera, but trying to see my external monitor was all but impossible. I ended up using a black t-shirt to cover my head and the monitor, but I really needed a monitor shade.

While I had tried several eBay options in the recent past, none of them really worked. One was a great idea, a carry case that unzipped on one side to form a hood. It was too small to hold my monitor. Another was a simple shade that attached with velcro. I wasn't impressed by the coverage and it was just barely attached. What if I had to pull out the shirt again? Would it hold?

What I needed was a monitor hood that covered all for sides, was sturdy, and was affordable. I found one I really liked, but didn't feel justified in spending $30-35 to get it. Examining the design, it appeared that it was just a well-made plastic box. That's when it hit me. What about the plastic insert from the Stealth Camera Bag? It was made to hold a six-pack of soda or beer, but would it be the right size for a 7" monitor? I had to find out.

As it turns out, it was the perfect size. My monitor rested nicely into the bottom of the insert. All I really had to do was cut or drill several holes to accommodate the mounting thread, power connector, HDMI port and several extra holes for venting. All these were done with some guesswork and a drill, with the exception of the HDMI hole, which needed some extra labor with a knife.

Now I have a handy monitor hood that cost me nothing, effectively shades my monitor and fits right back into my "camera bag" for easy storage and transport. Bring on the sun! I'm ready.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

A new short film: "Invader"

Here is the short film that I may or may not have been talking about for the last month or so. If you don't already know, I was contacted at the end of July by Triune Films and Ryan Connolly (of FilmRiot) about a cross-promotional opportunity. They sell sound fx packs and wanted to give me all of them (!) in exchange for an online review, tutorial or short scene or film, with an early September deadline. Of course I selected the most difficult option!

I was flattered that I was included in the list of online filmmakers to undertake this assignment, but also had a ticking clock to contend with. I knew I could get a couple of actors that I'd been wanting to work with (Mindy Van Kuren and Kyle Wiggington), a dependable and great looking location (an abandoned cement plant, briefly featured in Collection Day) and a reliable crew, all on short notice.

Because Triune's content is action-oriented and due to the run-down industrial locale, the story choice was easy: a post-apocalyptic western. I would re-use the gun props from Collection Day (adding a cheap accessory) and create some kind of shootout. After trying to write and scrapping my original idea, I started from scratch and came up with Invader, which you can watch above.

This would be a "Frugal Shoot", in which I can only use gear that I made or own. No Arri light kits from school, no C-stands (maybe this one). Only Frugal stuff. My movies made in this way (I hope) are a showcase of what you can do with a little (and some very talented volunteers both in front and behind the lens). All my films shot in this way bear the "Frugal Filmmaker Film" animation before the movie rolls.


Frugal Camera Cage
External Camera Battery
External "HD" monitor
Camera Tripod Dolly
Frugal Camera Crane (3.0, yet unreleased)
Newwer CN-90F follow focus
Fotodiox LED98A
5-in-1 reflector

Shot with a Sony NEX5n using adapted Minolta Rokkor lenses in 20mm, 28mm, 35mm, and 50mm focal lengths (I really want that 85mm f/2, but it's so expensive!). All post-production (picture and sound) done using Sony Vegas Pro 12.

Monday, September 8, 2014

New YouTube Playlists

Recently I was fortunate enough to be alerted to Christopher Sharpe's new e-book, YouTube Black Book: How to Create a Channel, Build an Audience and Make Money on YouTube, . It was free for one day and I snapped it up and gave it a read over the next couple of days (full review coming). Needless to say, I found it as a huge wake-up call for me and it sent me on some new roads to optimize my YouTube channel for maximum exposure.

Sharpe is a filmmaker turned YouTube producer with not one but two successful channels, Hilah Cooking and Yoga with Adriene. He's done well for himself and his book gives lots of good advice. Some of that advice involves playlists and I realized how poorly organized those lists were on my channel. I now have them organized by category (except for archive of some shows that aren't really searchable) which should make them more appealing to those browsing my content.

Some of these lists can be found below. Check out my Playlist page to see the rest.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Review: 160 LED Light for $20

I've been on the lookout for an in expensive LED light to compliment my Fotodiox LED98A that I reviewed a while back. I shot a wedding interview recently using a borrowed Lowel DV Creator kit and the heat generated from those tungsten lights was very uncomfortable in the small office setting. An LED three-point lighting setup was the answer, but I didn't want to spend a lot of money.

After the Fotodiox review, several people wanted a comparison to the $28 Newwer CN-160 and when I went looking for it, I stumbled across an even cheaper and apparent clone, a generic $20 160 LED light that looked very similar to the CN-160, used the same rechargeable batteries (Sony NP-F series) and also ran on six AA batteries. It didn't have the CN-160's Panasonic battery plate, but I didn't care. I wouldn't use it anyway.

After playing with this light, I really liked it especially for the price. It does have some serious drawbacks that I mention in the video, but if used in the right scenario, it can be quite useful.


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