Wednesday, May 11, 2011

How to Make a Movie: Tech Stuff

I'll be honest - if you're coming to me for tech advice, you're already in trouble.

When it comes to technical stuff, my thoughts are pretty brood, but they relate to how I feel about actors:

Hire good people, and this will take care of itself.

Or do it yourself, and expect to screw up a lot. Sometimes, you can work around your screw-ups. Sometimes, you can't.

If you're going to tackle making a movie yourself, try shooting a short film, or a scene, and then edit it and look at it and see what mistakes you made and then correct them in future projects.

In my case, I had my students shoot the same movie twice, once with a really cheap, off-the-shelf camera, and once with a prosumer camera. They made a ton of mistakes the first time.

And you know what? They learned a ton.

So, yeah. If DIY, then try. On the cheap. In a way that no one can see your mistakes. So you can do better next time.

I spent the better part of four months reading up on equipment, secure in the knowledge that I would have to work as cheaply as possible. It makes sense. I teach a high school class.

But! I think our movies came out looking pretty good, and most importantly, you can hear what everyone is saying.

If you're making an indie movie, that's the most important stuff right there: You should be able to see and hear everyone clearly.

So, if you're going to tackle shooting on your own, here's what worked for me:

Go here and check out their video on the $25 light kit. Also, buy a copy of El Mariachi on DVD or Blu-Ray and watch the 10 Minute Film School on there. 95% of my lighting tricks came from those two videos.

The information you find might seem aggressively simple, but... One of my students used it to light a for-pay industrial video right after taking my class. Trust me, check those out.

One key thing - if you're shooting on video, chances are you need to worry a lot less about your lighting, and more about how your camera reacts to it. Check out your white balance options, and make sure that you're white-balanced for the light you're in.

Next, sound. This video covers most of the things you need to know. (Please be warned, there is some spicy language in it. But it tells you what you need to know.)

My only real thought here is, use a microphone, and make sure it's a good one. My students used a shotgun mic because that's what we had to use. It was great, and 98% of the time only picked up what we were pointing it at.

Imperfect solutions, yes, but we could hear and see everyone. And that's a win, in my book.

And that's everything I know, more or less. Tomorrow: Directing!

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