Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Review: Writer Emergency Pack

I'm a big fan of game elements used to tell a story. At the most basic level, all games tell some kind of story already, but I really like it when gaming and storytelling go full throttle. RPGs are probably the extreme of this philosophy, but screenwriter John August's Writer Emergency Pack is a unique way a gaming aid can crossover into the real world and help storytellers.

The Writer Emergency Pack is a deck of cards designed to help with the age-old issue of writer's block, or just stale, predictable writing. It's a deck of cards broken into two types: illustrated cards and detail cards. The twenty-six illustrated cards have the same logo on one side and different picture and caption with on the other. The twenty-six detail cards have more details (on both sides) that go into depth about the topic covered on the illustrated card. Both cards, used in tandem, are supposed to help your story snags and help you get on with your life.

The idea is that you shuffle the illustrated cards and draw one, linking it with the corresponding detail card (see the video for an example). These cards give you pictures, scenarios, and challenges that force you to think and help you write your way out of a corner. It's a great spin on the writing exercise and I really like the possibilities it presents.

The cards are of high quality, and the layout and artwork are excellent. I especially love the logo of the drowning man. If you've ever been a writer, you'll know how he feels. This isn't just eye candy, however. The information and the way it's presented is also top notch. No one will lose using this on whatever story (or script) they are trying to write. Away with you, writer's block, away!

If I could change anything, it would be to get all the pertinent info on both sides of one card and double the number of them. This would provide fifty-two options instead of twenty-six. It would also do away with the split deck operation, which is a bit clunky when you draw one card and have to look up the other.


Writer Emergency Pack
$19 + shipping

Monday, April 18, 2016

MAFSF, Part 3: Coming Up with a Story

Last month, we talked about checking out our resources to help set parameters about what kind of film we could possibly make. This month, we literally lay out all of those resources and have a look, which hopefully will inspire what kind of story we'd like to tell.

A good story is crucial to a good film (do you like movies with dumb stories?), but there is no magic bullet for coming up with one. It will largely rely upon your ability to absorb information and processes it into something not only shootable, but interesting. "Information before inspiration" is the old adage, and that's what this video is about.

Hopefully all this brain-rattling will lead to a simple story outline featuring the following:

I. Setup, "kick in the pants" (see video)
II. Conflict Event 1
III. Conflict Event 2
IV. Conflict Event 3
V. Resolution

Next month, we'll take our outline and turn it into a short screenplay.

Friday, April 8, 2016

DIY: Add a tripod mount to anything!

I'm not sure when the 1/4-20" tripod mount became a standard, but there is no shortage of filmmaking accessories that use it. Whether you actually mount the thing (whatever it is) on a tripod, a camera rig or some other gizmo, that thread opens up a world of mounting possibilities.

Then there are the things that were not made to be attached anywhere, except for maybe a tabletop, where they just sit. How boring! What if I want to mount that widget on the Frugal Cage?

Of course, just because Thing X wasn't made to have a 1/4-20" thread, doesn't mean we can't give it one. There are lots of ways to affix that thread onto most objects (filmmaking or no), we just need how to figure out how.

While the video goes into more detail, here are five ways I've learned how to add this thread where there is none:

1. Knurled nuts from camera cold shoe adapter. The two nuts found on this adapter are perfect for lots of things, but their wide, flat nature makes them great for attaching to flat surfaces (in the video I stick one of these on a small remote). Secure them with epoxy or 3M VHB double stick tape.

2. Spring loaded cell phone mount. Found at the end of the selfie stick, these little grabbers (with a thread on the end) not only hold cell phones, but anything small with flat sides. This can include monitors, battery cradles, and a goPro camera. For larger items, try a tablet mount.

3. Pipe ground clamp. I first used these on my Eventpod Monopod, which gave me 1/4-20" mounting points up and down the tube. These can also be used on boom poles and painter's poles (just use padding when attaching). For the end of these poles (monopod excluded), use a 5/8" to 1/4" or my DIY painter's pole adapter.

4. Spring clamp with mini ball head. Found at any hardware store, these clamps usually have 1/4" holes underneath their insulated handles. Once removed, you can easily attach a mini ball head, giving you mounting options anywhere you can attach that clamp (table, shelf, door).

5. Drill and tap. The best way to add a 1/4-20" thread is to literally add a 1/4-20" thread! Drill the proper size hole in your target object, and cut the threads into it with a 1/4-20" tapping tool. These are also great for adding these threads into holes that don't have any.

I've used these techniques many times in the past when I really wanted to mount something to a tripod or rig. It gives me a sort of perverse satisfaction to repurpose something for mounting when the original intent was nothing of the sort. I'll stay out of that box, thank you.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Q&A: How do I shoot out a street light?

Today we discuss the promo reel, simple masking FX, removing audio buzz, cutting down on room reverb, and why are those googly eyes over your speaker?

It's also Trivia Tuesday, so check the video to win one of two prizes!


Audacity audio editor w/noise reduction (free)

Friday, April 1, 2016

Tip: Backup Your Camera Remotes!

If you have several cameras, you probably have several infrared (IR) camera remotes to go with with them. These remotes can be very useful, but a pain to replace if you lose them. In the above video I found a cheap learning remote that allows you to learn your original (or several) remote's signals.

This allows you to compile your most important functions onto one remote, which you can toss into your camera bag. This is not only handy, but will give peace of mind. Take the cheap remote into the field and leave your originals at home!

Silver,  egg-shaped, 7 button learning remote
Yellow, egg-shaped, 7 button learning remote
Boring 11 button learning remote (similar price as above)

Nevo C2 home theater learning remote
Scott sez: These remotes found on eBay are at a very good price point ($15-17), but come with no box or instructions. Do your homework online before purchasing.


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