Friday, December 23, 2011

Knoptop Finds a Cool Location



Quick FX returns! Yay! This time Knoptop reports on some BTS (Behind the Scenes) footage of a local movie shoot. They shot in an abandoned factory, and it is one awesome location. Following the movie stuff, Dave walks around and gives us some pretty good footage. I could see doing any number of scenes in some of those spots. Very cinematic.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Suction Cup Camera Mount



If you've ever needed a shot of your actors actually driving a car, you'll need a special rig to do it. These tend to be very expensive, but here is a DIY method that works pretty well. It involves a dual suction cup lifter (the kind they use to move large panes of glass) being attached to your car and then attaching something to it that can hold your camera. While this has been done before, I employed a former piece of FF gear in a way you may not of thought of.

One interesting thing I learned from making this video was not so much how to mount the rig, but where to mount it. I had a challenging problem to overcome, but as you'll see, the solution was right in front of me.

Dual Suction Cup Lifter

Frugal Clamp (C-Clamp Mount)

Sima Quickonnect

1" x 15' Ratchet Strap tie-down (I found a single version for $5, but this is the basic idea)

58mm Circular Polarizing Lens

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

What Does an Internet Film Look Like? (Part 2)

Since the last time I posted about this topic, I’ve been having some thoughts about altering some basic rules of filmmaking based on how our content is consumed. No longer do we simply need to consider television as delivery medium (whether it be broadcast or DVD), or if we are extremely lucky, a theater screen.

Our venue is the web. Most likely we are releasing content on a video sharing service such as YouTube, Blip or Vimeo. This means that the majority of our audience is probably viewing our stuff on 1) a computer screen, 2) a smartphone/iPod, 3) a tablet, 4) a “smart” TV (or a “regular” one connected to a streaming device), or combinations of all of the above.

I find it interesting that as we progress into the future, the size of the most common viewing surface is decreasing, not increasing. The “average” laptop sized screen seems to float between 13-17”, with the average probably coming in at 15” (or 15.6”).

All this leads me to the well-known formula that answers the age-old question, “What size TV should I buy?” If you don’t know it already, you simply cut the viewing distance in half, subtract a few inches, and you have the diagonal measurement of television you should own. Sitting 8’ away from your TV wall? Buy a 46” set. Ten feet? Get a 56” one.

This also works for smaller screens. Currently I’m typing this post out on my laptop. My face is approximately two feet from the screen. My computer has a 15.6” screen, but according to the formula, it could be 12” or the size of a netbook. And that distance is only when typing. If watching something, I’m pretty sure that distance increases, especially when then video stays in a playback window and isn’t expanded to fill the screen.

Smartphone screens are even smaller at 3-5” across, which means you’d need to be 6-10” from the screen to absorb all the detail properly. What about the iPod Nano? How big is that tiny screen? My son and daughter regularly watch movies on that postage stamp-sized gizmo. Maybe a cyberpunk-style headband mount would be in order.

All this thought about the constantly shrinking viewing surface has made me wonder if we should alter some basic filmmaking techniques to compensate for the fact that the viewer is farther away and could potentially miss something we are trying to get across. What can we possibly do to better “reach” the viewer?

Shoot tighter. If the viewer isn’t as close and the imagery (shot traditionally) is smaller, why not make it bigger? Take all of your shots in one notch. Instead of that full shot, shoot medium shots. Instead of that medium shot, shoot a close up. Instead of that close up, shoot an extreme close up, and so on. When the viewer doesn’t want to get within normal range, get closer to them—close the gap. Imagine the difference this would make on videos watched on a smartphone or the above-mentioned Nano. It could be huge.

Be louder. In audio land, the common train of thought is that, in the digital world, you mix to –12db. That gives you some basic overhead so you don’t accidentally pass digital zero and clip, or distort, your audio. I propose we try mixing to -6db or exactly digital zero. Normalize your sound and use a limiter (it’s called Wave Hammer in Sony Vegas Pro) set to zero and your audio will never distort and at the same time reach maximum level.

Why do this? Most laptop speakers are quiet and tinny sounding and a smart phone speaker is even worse. I don’t like using headphones if I don’t have to, and boosting your sound would make the best of an already poor scenario. Those who do have decent speakers or headphones can easily turn the sound down. Those without might now be able to hear all that carefully written dialogue.

Wben I worked in TV news, I noticed a small, cheap speaker sitting on top of the massive mixing board in the audio booth. When I asked the operator what it was for, he informed me it was to check the output on something similar to the crummiest mono TV speaker out there (as well as to check for phasing problems). This was to make sure that even a poor schlub with a crappy TV could still hear the broadcast properly.

I believe we should keep the same thing in mind with internet video. We want everyone watching our product to enjoy and benefit from it. A little extra effort such as these methods could really make the difference.

You might argue that these techniques are fine for the web, but what about when we want to release that DVD version? I retort that we need to think of the web as the final delivery, not a first step to something else. If we really are “internet filmmakers”, then we need to think of the internet as our movie theater.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Tip: Airsoft Gun Props



In this episode of The Frugal Filmmaker Tip of the Month I take a brief look at Airsoft props and some ways to add firearm authenticity to your movie. I've used them on a few projects (you may recognize the rifle from Temp Insanity) and just having them makes me want to use them more and more! The beauty of props like these are how real they can look and how cheap they are to obtain. Just make sure everyone around your location knows your guns are fake. Nothing ruins a movie shoot faster than a SWAT team.

Middle of Nowhere

G36 (M41GL) Replica Magazines for $1