Friday, September 16, 2016
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
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
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!
Wednesday, June 29, 2016
When you have to crank out videos on a regular basis (or non-regular, as has been the case lately), you want to get it done as fast as possible, with as few errors as possible. I do have a process, but I've also learned a few tricks that have helped me to streamline my process even further and get finished with my edits, faster.
This video mostly covers the idea of limiting your range of motion while you edit, saving time in the process. The basic concept is similar to that of typing by feel instead of sight. If you can give yourself single-keypress commands and keep your hands in the same spot, you should be able to increase your edit speed.
With typing, you keep both hands on "home row". This system puts your left hand on home row, which gives you 12-25 other keys you can reach (which you can reprogram in your editor), while your right hand stays on your mouse. It will take discipline to keep your hands in place, but with a little practice you should be able to cut down the time it takes to edit so you can spend the rest of your time doing something else.
Friday, June 17, 2016
Ever had a shoot, but no boom operator to record sound? I had this issue recently, which would normally be solved by using a boom mic stand, but alas, mine is long gone. Since I had no time to order a replacement and no resources to by locally, I had to make something from existing parts.
What I came up with actually worked pretty well. Dubbed the "Frugal Boom Clamp", I attached two friction arm clamps (which had 1/4-20" threads) on both ends of a straight, dual flash bracket. This would not only firmly hold a boom pole, but also had a threaded hole for a tripod quick release plate. Presto! Done!
Now I can mount the Frugal Boom Clamp onto a spare tripod, and easily grip the pole in two places. This solves my problem, and also allows my to gently pan and tilt the mic during a shoot if needed. The whole thing took minutes to make and only cost $15 (if parts are bought new). Not bad.