Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Q&A: How do you make characters sympathetic?

Today I answer questions about motorized gimbals, pulling focus on Steadicam shots, long unbalanced mic cables, my tiny studio lighting, and simple ways to flesh out characters.


Stayblcam review
Lanparte motorized cell phone camera stabilizer
3.5mm to XLR adapter (Amazon : eBay)


Thursday, March 24, 2016

Review: Stayblcam Camera Stabilizer

I have a love/hate relationship with gimballed camera stabilizers. You can get some really nice smooth shots, but boy are they touchy and require lots of practice to operate properly. Just balancing these things can be a headache, which also includes the one I built myself.

Electronic gimbals are all the rage right now, but the cost ($300 and up) will keep many frugal filmmakers from even trying them. That puts us back into the balancing ring, where we must adjust, pamper, and hold our breath to get smooth shots on successive takes.

When Stayblcam contacted me, I was intrigued--and then it showed up in the mail. I'd never seen a balanced gimbal-style rig in such a portable form factor before. In its collapsed state, it's only about 12" long, but pull it apart and it quickly becomes full size!

When expanded, you have a counterweight, the gimbal, and a cell phone mount. Yes, the Stayblcam is aimed at cell phone shooters, which is fine. I was curious, however, if this was a serious piece of gear I could use on a real shoot, or just a novelty for hobbyists?

I go into more detail in the video, but suffice it to say, it is not something I could trust on set. Due to the fixed nature of the gimbal (it's a two-axis gimbal, not three), too much shake goes from my body right to the lens, when it should be eliminated by the rig. This results in a noticeable side-to-side jitter that makes the footage distracting and unusable. 

I really like the idea of the Stayblcam. If the kinks can be worked out it would be worth a second look. As is stands, I can't see myself purchasing one.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Making a Frugal Short Film, Part 2: Reviewing Resources

Last month I talked about what the definition of "Frugal Short Film" actually was, and this month we take a first step into formulating short film ideas. There are many ways you can do this, of course, but the most frugal method is probably brainstorming from the inside out.

As mentioned by Mark Duplass at last year's SXSW film festival and pioneered by Roger Corman over fifty years ago, this method is the process of cataloging your resources and making a film within them. This is one of the best ways to help you wrap your head around ensuing production vs. the "outside in" method where you write whatever you want and start figuring out how you're going to pull it off. Using existing resources is a lot more frugal than going in blind and hoping you're going to somehow save money and time.

In the above video I share five resources that can give you basic pieces of story inspiration. These pieces include locations, props and costumes, makeup, actors, and money. Next month I'll share some ideas about forming this raw material into a story, but until then gathering info from list should keep you plenty busy.

Making the Frugal Short Film Series
Part 0: Planting the Audience Seed
Part 1: What is the Frugal Short Film?

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Q&A: Any suggestions for a no dialogue short?

Today we talk about "silent" shorts, using the Zoom H1 with your camera, the Frugal Crane 2.0, a panoramic shot outside my window, and what the future holds for The Frugal Filmmaker and Alaska.


"Behind the Walls" (a great (almost) no dialogue short)
"the payoff" (my own no dialogue short)
"Hell in the Pacific" (1968, Hollywood (almost) no dialogue feature)
L-bracket with grip and cold shoes (eBay : Amazon)
The Frugal Fattener 2
The Frugal Cage Playlist
Frugal Crane 2.0


Friday, March 4, 2016

Tip: Keychain Tools

While I am an ardent user of my Leatherman Wingman as multi-tool of choice (whether I'm on a film set or not), there are always times when I can't use it and which I had something smaller. There are multi-tools that fit into your pocket, but I prefer sleek stuff that fits into your pocket and doesn't create a lot of bulk.

When viewer Aaron Villa sent me a tip about using a washer connected to your key chain (see video above) for attaching and detaching quick release plates, it got me thinking. What other useful tools would live happily on a key chain?

Besides the washer, I always carry a metal USB drive and a small knife that folds into a key-shaped sheath. These are very handy, don't take up much room, and are inexpensive. They work well for me.

 What about you? Do you have any that you always carry in your pocket living next to your keys? Please comment and share! I'd love to see what other people are using.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Q&A: Why do you write strong female characters?

Today we're talkin' handheld mic stabilization, filmmaking red tape, free soundrack help, jump cuts, and strong roles for women. And there's a trivia question!


Today's prize: BT-168D Battery Tester
PVC Stabilizer (now for microphones!)
PVC Microphone Shockmount
Creating an action heroine from the ground up


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