Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Deal: 7" HDMI Monitor for $39

 One of my videos that seems to get watched quite regularly is my $56 7" HDMI car monitor that I made work as a field monitor. It still works, and is one of my better finds. That same monitor (and this one) is now $39, and would be the lowest I had ever seen it, had I not seen it yesterday for $29! Of course, I wasn't able to post about it in time, but I couldn't believe how low that price was.

Still, $39 is pretty darn good for this type of screen. Sure, you have to use some cable adapters and battery add-ons (watch the video for more info), but it works really well and I put it into use shooting my short film Invader from a couple of years ago. If you need an almost-HD monitor and are strapped for cash, check these out. They're good deals and fit the frugal bill.

Coming Up for Air

It's been a long time since I last posted anything, and it feels even longer. It's only been six months, but in that time I've been able to step back from almost everything Frugal Filmmaker and attempt to re-assess what I am currently doing and what I want to do in the future.

I've been on a self-imposed social media blackout of sorts, with no posts here and no new videos since last September. It wasn't my intention to go under the radar (and I have still posted to the Facebook Group, Twitter, and Instagram), but the more I didn't do it, the easier it became to just relax for a change. No deadlines, no crazy schedule, no pressure.

Of course, relaxation of this sort completely disrupts any momentum that you are trying to build for your brand. Declining numbers on all Frugal Filmmaker fronts are ample (and expected) evidence that staying away will not promote growth. And actually, I'm okay with that. It is this interruption that has caused me to shift my focus in a new direction that I can live with.

The catalyst for this change was a full-time job that was more demanding than I expected (duh). Initially, I was very frustrated that I could not maintain the weekly, dual-video schedule that I had maintained over the past few years, and work full time. Something had to give and it was the "jobby" that was not able to support the family. At first, the Q&A show went back into hibernation, then my main video releases stopped.

In my "Where did I go?" video I mentioned falling into a "creative coma" and felt a newfound difficulty/fear of just talking into a camera. I had been away for so long it was no longer second nature--it was downright uncomfortable. I had no desire to do it again. Not because I didn't want to, but because I couldn't justify the pressure I was putting on myself. So, I stopped applying it.

During the downtime of wondering how or if to return, I was always comforted by you wonderful folks out there (you know who you are), who have sent me positive vibes during this tough time. Almost every other day I would get an email or a comment either asking me to return, or to just hang in there. Though I rarely answered, I was always lifted up by the kind thoughts of others. I don't quite know how to express the gratitude I feel for the wave of support these past few months other than to just say thank you.

When I started the Frugal Filmmaker in 2010, a major goal was to earn a living building this brand. Well, it hasn't happened how I planned, but I'm okay with that. While I am going to start releasing videos and blogging again, I won't force myself to be on a rigid schedule. If I can produce weekly videos, I will. If I can't, I won't. I'm not going to let analytics run my life. It's not realistic and not worth the self-imposed stress.

Though significantly reduced, I'm still making an income from YouTube, Amazon and eBay (and some PayPal donations).  Since I now help to support the family by working full time, all the income generated by TFF will now be reinvested in the channel and the short films I want to produce. I've considered Patreon, but I like the fact that even though the monthly money is modest, the channel is now self-sufficient.

I want to make films and want to share the things I learn as I attempt to become a better filmmaker. That goal has never changed. What has changed is that this isn't an attempt to make a living anymore. It's a way to achieve a sense of creative satisfaction through narrative storytelling. That's all. The rest is just gravy.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Tip: Endoscopic Camera Fun!

I'm always on the lookout for weird, cheap stuff that can be used in interesting, filmmaking ways. My latest find was a $5 endoscopic USB camera on eBay. This small camera lives at the end of a USB cable that plugs into your computer. It's water-proof and has four tiny LEDs that flank the camera, and illuminate anything directly in front of the lens. Made for inspecting drains and other tight spaces, this thing has to have some good filmmaking applications, right?

Now to be totally fair, this is a very cheap camera. It shoots grainy, soft, jittery, 4:3, standard definition video, that uses an auto-iris, so video levels are all over the place. You also must be connected to a PC (or Android phone for a more portable setup), which limits what you can really do with this thing.

Aside from creating some strange POV stuff (see the video), one very practical application here is pre-visualization, or pre-viz. This is the process of creating a quick and dirty version of your film using action figures or toys to create a "living storyboard" of what your actual film is supposed to look like. It can also help show how you want to create a complicated sequence in the cheapest way possible.

Whatever you decide to do with this gizmo, your mileage may vary. It's a cheap tool that may come in more handy than you think. And you really can't go wrong for the price.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Where did I go?

It's been over a month since I created a new video or posted on this blog. I've had a really hard time getting in front of my camera to create new content, and I can't really explain why. I don't think I've lost interest or am suffering from burnout. It actually feels closer to stage fright, or fear of creation.

I think part of this is due to my waning numbers as of late. The channel and blog aren't as popular (relevant?) as they once seemed to be, and the amount of subscribers and views are way down. At my peak I was gaining 250 subscribers per day. Now I am down to 30-40 subs per day. Not super inspiring.

It has also been almost two years since I produced a short film. Not only has this affected me as a filmmaker (I can feel the rust forming), but it also hampers content-building. I always get my best ideas when working on a film, usually as solutions to problems. The rest of the time my stuff comes from untested, what if scenarios. The first source is probably the best.

Instead of just returning with a new DIY video, I felt pretty strongly that I should give some kind of explanation of what was going on with me. I've always pretty very grateful for all the viewers who have hung in with me, and this video is mostly for them, the die-hard subscribers. They'll be the only ones to watch anyway.

So, here I am getting back on the horse. I'm not sure this is going to be any easier than it has been, but for me, it's necessary.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Script Breakdown: Making a Frugal Short Film, Part 5

In the fifth part of my series on Making a Frugal Short Film, we take the script we wrote last month and break it down. It ain't rocket science, but this is an important part of chopping your script into digestible nuggets. If you are going to produce your script, you need to understand how all the pieces fit together and plan accordingly.

In the video I cover isolating (with colored pencils!) characters, props, locations and fx shots. Next up is writing camera shots in the margins, which is the inception of your storyboards and an eventual shot list. Finally, dividing your script into 1/8"-based scenes will tell you how each scene is for future planning.

This is basic pre-production and while it may seem trivial, it is very important toward comprehending how you are going to pull everything together. Next month we start thinking about critical crew positions!


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