4/21 Blog Entry - StillMotion: 11 Tools Every Ninja Needs

The elite warriors of unrivaled wit, composure, and intelligence; the ninja. Existing for centuries under our noses, these masters of stealth have infiltrated the ranks and mediums of almost every aspect of our society [it is written]. No doubt, filmmaking is no exception. In fact, StillMotion has confirmed the presence of ninjas in filmmaking and has even constructed a list of tools that these film ninjas use to be successful. I don’t know how they managed to get intel on the ninjas without getting killed; maybe they’re all ninjas themselves. 

Film ninjas don’t follow the routines of creating a story. While it’s okay to follow your subject and film everything for b-roll, ninjas already know everything about their subject: what drives them, the process of what they do, and how it all works. As it has been decided by the Elders of Old that the 20% of video a film ninja shoots contains 80% of the story. Everything is predetermined and expertly executed. 

As for the 11 tools, StillMotion lists out pieces of equipment that will take you a long way. Go through the list and see what there is; everything can be bought or rented. Unfortunately, either option costs a great deal of money, but if you’re a ninja you can probably just kill someone to get what you need. If not, just donate your body to science and you’ll be halfway there to affording the Canon C100.

Ninjas are swift and certain in their movements, and it’s important to do as the ninjas do when filming and building a story for a piece. With determination and certainty, the edges will be surely smoothed, and your final product will shine with the brilliance of the rising sun. -gong noise-

4/14 Blog Entry - Mediabistro Elevator Pitch

Mediabistro has a wide range of content on their YouTube page that I suggest you check out. One of which is a video series called Elevator Pitch. In this, people pitch ideas to a businessman who has just walked out of an elevator. I find this to be a fascinating way to expose new products, in regards to how on-the-fly the pitches are. Not knowing the face or reputation of someone who you’re pitching your product to is an interesting and refreshing concept.

In this episode, a man pitched a mobile app called ‘Sonar’. This app is an interesting networking app that allows you to see other network updates and relationships from other people who are around you. The idea is that there is a constant and mutual connection with people everywhere you go, and it’s all in the phone in your pocket. I personally find the concept to be very interesting, and ahead of its time. Within the next 3-5 years, it’s going to be hard to imagine a world that isn’t exactly about what this app is trying to accomplish right now. The Digital Age is thriving with no signs of slowing down, so an idea like this is going straight down the right path in terms of relevance and innovation.

4/7 Blog Post

Truly, documentaries dwell within their own microcosm of film style, and demand things that are foreign and unfamiliar to those who have never made one. Writing the script for a documentary, in my experience, feels like 80% of the whole project. Getting interviews, transcribing the interviews, arranging the best parts of the interviews into a solid story, knowing what you’ll use for b-roll, knowing what SHOTS for b-roll will make it in the script, etc… In its early stage, everything is prone to change or altercation in your script. Once you start moving things along, I think that’s when things become more clear. 

One thing this reading talks about that was new to me is a post-shoot script, and what a wonderful thing it is. In my short documentary project I talked about in my last post, I didn’t have a post-shoot script. I had my finalized script and then had to film the interviews and b-roll at the same time. Sending the interview questions to my subject beforehand helped things go smoothly, but a post-shoot script is evidence that things may not always end up how you planned. Not being able to get a certain shot, or even ending up get a BETTER shot are all things that would warrant a rewrite in your script after shooting. I was lucky for the interview to go basically how I had written it beforehand, and to get all the core shots I wanted for b-roll.

Documentary scripts are truly important, and demand a lot of precision and effort. Learning how to properly write one, and doing so routinely is sure to improve your skill set.

Truly, documentaries dwell within their own microcosm of film style, and demand things that are foreign and unfamiliar to those who have never made one. Writing the script for a documentary, in my experience, feels like 80% of the whole project. Getting interviews, transcribing the interviews, arranging the best parts of the interviews into a solid story, knowing what you’ll use for b-roll, knowing what SHOTS for b-roll will make it in the script, etc… In its early stage, everything is prone to change or altercation in your script. Once you start moving things along, I think that’s when things become more clear. 

One thing this reading talks about that was new to me is a post-shoot script, and what a wonderful thing it is. In my short documentary project I talked about in my last post, I didn’t have a post-shoot script. I had my finalized script and then had to film the interviews and b-roll at the same time. Sending the interview questions to my subject beforehand helped things go smoothly, but a post-shoot script is evidence that things may not always end up how you planned. Not being able to get a certain shot, or even ending up get a BETTER shot are all things that would warrant a rewrite in your script after shooting. I was lucky for the interview to go basically how I had written it beforehand, and to get all the core shots I wanted for b-roll.

Documentary scripts are truly important, and demand a lot of precision and effort. Learning how to properly write one, and doing so routinely is sure to improve your skill set.

March 31st - Writing a Doc script

Truly, documentaries dwell within their own microcosm of film style, and demand things that are foreign and unfamiliar to those who have never made one. Just last semester in EMF 225, it seemed like all of the production techniques I was learning was buildup towards my final project, which was a short documentary. 

Framing, lighting, storytelling, and scriptwriting were all things that I learned, and I realized that they all play substantial importance in creating a documentary. Not to say that they aren’t important or aren’t used in other styles, but the way everything was able to click when going into this project gave me strength and realization, which helped me pump out a solid piece. 

It was the most systematic process I had ever experienced in dealing with a film project, and the reading breaks the process down, as such. Everything needs to be broken down and laid out and organized and rearranged into a sequence of things that you need to get done. Scheduling interviews, making sure you’re capturing the story that you want told, are all things that can drive you up the wall as you plan things out.

On top of that, the reading talks about giving your project style, which is something I heavily subscribe to. Being boring sucks, and making something that’s boring will suck. At the same time, it’s good to make something that’s true to who you are, and trusting it to be interesting to others.

My project entailed a good friend of mine and his involvement in convention culture (ex: Comicon). As a nerd, this is something I feel strongly towards, and my friend’s story is an interesting one to tell, because it’s still going. I captured the story of him starting out as any other normal person attending these conventions, to evolving into someone who joined the ranks of cosplayers (people who dress up as characters from media), to doing photography for cosplay as well.

What ended up being the hardest part about the project was capturing footage. There was a small anime convention up here in Flagstaff that he drove up to attend, and capturing him in real-time at the convention, as well as the convention itself, proved to be difficult. I would set up a shot and then someone would move on, enjoying the convention, and the shot wold be lost. But hard work paid off, and the project ended up being a success.

Sharing passions with someone, and channeling your passion through their own passion is helpful, and certainly additive to the project’s content. 

The exercises I learned in 225 and this final project are the only real experience with documentaries I have. You can watch my project here. However, there is another documentary that I’m currently working on for fun, entailing the story of myself and my two friends who grew up together and started making videos. It then became a hobby, and soon a passion for me, so I want to be able to have my story to tell be accessible to everyone.

3/24 Blog Entry - Promos

Promos! Promotions! Pay attention! Get hyped up! Buy our product!

Promotions are the very essence of a form of video that are meant to invoke a very specific emotion or thought into your audience. The goal is to leave a certain and lasting impression on your audience; basically, to be memorable. Over the years we’ve seen many forms of advertising that have broken through to us, and now some commercials remain lodged in our heads as means for entertaining small talk. 

The “Instant Promo Producer” video was sort of like a propaganda poster, only in video form. While it was helpful and was referred to when watching the successful promo examples, there was something sort of spooky and subliminal about it, I guess to artistically capture the way commercials and other promos are delivered to you.

After watching the promo examples, I realized they all things that people respond to: humor, fast pacing, and wit. the Internet is a HUGE place and people are on it most of the time because they think they have nothing else to do (hey, kind of like the whole TV thing), so a successful video has to immediately have things that people care about seeing. 

Be quick, to the point, be a little unpredictable, throw in a dash of humor and you have a successful video. Or, at least a memorable one. In recent years we’ve seen promos with these traits stand out above the rest. Rewinding the clock, how could anyone at the time not remember this commercial today? It’s so strange, and makes you wonder what just happened. But that’s the point. While still fresh in your head, the commercial /stays/ in your head and perhaps even makes you want to buy Starbursts.

Another one follows the same thing, and is quoted by just about everyone these days. Things that are goofy but self-aware are grabbing, because it’s so easy and fun to go along with the silly premise while watching. 

To make a good promo, you have to know what people respond to, what makes them interested. It doesn’t even matter to make them interested in your product until you make them interested in general. That, to me is how it’s done, and should be done.

Week 6 Entry

Ah yes, the world of lighting. It is one that I in particular would like to get to know better. A lot of these readings don’t deviate too much from what EMF 225 taught me, such as the DSLR Lighting Techniques video on Vimeo, and the rundown of the three point lighting method. Lighting for interviews is something that I have nailed, so I found the first three readings to be a bit dull, since that’s what they used as a template to teach the methods. PhillipBloom’s rundown of the different lights was interesting, but I wish they had used them to show how different scenes can look. 

One of the reasons why I’ve been so demanding in these readings is because I have a vision for a film noir video that I’d like to do someday. Lighting in a black and white film is paramount, so I’d like to see some things that talk about how to fill a whole room, and how to light a scene that takes place outside and at night. These are specific things, but it’s not like the readings didn’t help me get a firmer grasp on it. Three point lighting can go a very long way, and in most cases that’s all I’ll need to do for many of these scenes I have in mind.

And that’s why the last Phillip Bloom video was absolutely perfect and the most important video to me. Improvising, utilizing available sources of light, and seeing what they can do are what stir up the ideas in me. Using a 60D, I may not be able to get the same results, but it makes me a little more fearless when facing how to utilize light.

Week #4 Blog Entry

As I started looking over these readings, my heart basically soared like a candy wrapper caught in an updraft. These readings are about shot composition, and I am a cinematographer! It’s so refreshing to read about how to make your shots look good, because everyone seems to always be so caught up in what’s it like to be a director, or how to be a successful screenwriter. Like, okay, that’s all good and fine, but your good idea isn’t going to seem so good if it looks like shit on the big screen. Actual filming techniques is a practice that some people just don’t seem to pay enough attention to from time to time.

Reading about Mindy McAdam’s article about 5 Shots, 10 Seconds reminded me of one of the early video projects I had to do in EMF 225, which was called the ‘3-Over-1’ rule, which is basically the same concept as this article. When capturing one event or happening, do so with multiple and dynamic shots. I filmed my girlfriend cooking a dish in her kitchen and used well over a dozen different shots, getting a solid A on the project. Even though the event itself was boring or mundane, the video itself was neither of those things, since I offered several different points of view. 

Going off that, reading about Shot Sizes once again took me back to the same project, but it’s important to know this for any project you do. Regardless of when you’re filming, your shots need to stay dynamic and vary in size. i.e., have shots that are wide, medium, and tight at the very least. This is where the cinematic feel in a project will come from because you can portray one item in several different ways, and each shot will give off a different tone from the last.

The last article deviated from the first two, dealing with how to make your videos viral. I more or less took the article as words of encouragement, knowing that really big and even a little crazy ideas can still reap large success. It’s inspiring to be exposed to adventurous minds like the man featured in this article. Living in IKEA for two weeks would be hella rad. too.

Week#3 Blog Entry

After reading through these articles and excerpts, I was given a refreshing reminder that making a film is a process. The running theme was that each reading contributed an amount of information and knowledge as to what makes afilm great, in the form of useful techniques to ulilize when making said film. It goes beyond having a vision of what you want to create and getting the necessary equipment together; executing your vision into the actions of the creative process is a project within the actual project of the film or video that you have planned. In the UT Austin Web Video Guide, a good breakdown on audio, lighting, and framing techniques was listed out, stressing the importance that there are tools needed to make a film whole, that should be treated as an extension of your camera, and that your camera should be an extension of your own vision for the project. In The Digital Journalist’s tips for improving your stories, the breakdown focused less on the technical and compositional aspects of building a film or video, and centered around the themes, narrative, and traits of the actual story to the video. Many would probably use ‘building blocks’ as a metaphor when explaining how to mesh all of these elements into a solid film, but I would argue that comparing a film or video to a sphere is much for appropriate. All of these elements don’t stack up on each other, i.e., one set of elements do not support another other set and so on; all of these elements are dependent and built around each other. When placed together, the editing and fine tuning of the project is like smoothing out the edges of your film, leaving it with no sides, like a sphere. It makes sense to me, anyway.  

Week 2 Posting

As a student, I was born into an era where cinematic production was in a state of transition. In high school, we filmed with analog cameras using DV tape and firewire cables, back when Apple models still had ports for firewire. In just a few years, models came out without them, and so we went digital. I also remember when I first heard about Kickstarter and indiegogo, and have helped back up a few creative campaigns because of it. One of which, was for a small video series that a group of filmmakers I follow online wanted to make. Seeing these particular campaigns for film are inspiring, because very rarely do these projects not go over the projected amount of money they need; the project for the filmmakers I follow, for example, were able to fund their project by over 200% of their initial amount. And when backing these kinds of projects, if you have the money and if the option is available, you can get credit as an execute producer, or directer, etc.. and be able to put that on your resume. That’s awesome.
All of the materials we need to make film outside of professional studios is like a canvas that ourselves then mold and craft in this day in age. High-end equipment can be rented, or even a summer of painting apartment complexes can earn you your own Canon 60D for life. Reading Stillmotion’s blog about the indie film scene today has inspired me to talk about the DSLR Camera Revolution as the topic for an upcoming informative speech I have to give for another class. This information and the facts of how cinematic production has evolved is inspiring and important for others to know, whether they study it or not.