David's Blog

Category: Filmmaking

My Alternatives to Adobe

Being a modern corporate “filmmaker” now means not just being able to Shoot and edit to a high standard but being able to use After Effects, colour grade, create 3D creations with cinema 4D, animate vectors in after effects or flash (some still use this I hear), take photographs, draw basic vectors ill Illustrator, use photoshop AND I have been to meetings where the client also wants me to use “in-design.”

People who are regulars on this blog (thank you) will know that I am a lover of all things “cheap.” Cheap is great in amateur photography where I can use reversed lenses, tubes, old lenses and second hand cameras to get the results I need and in filmmaking too with now everyone turning to DSLR shooting i can use the same techniques on a shoot. Post production is a different matter.

Many of us are still tied down with Final Cut or Adobe. Within moving image I cannot see a worthwhile competitor coming anytime soon to take over from the (slowly improving) FCX or the (pretty brilliant but pricey) Premiere CC. However in the world of pre-production, image manipulation and now Vector drawings there are several alternatives. I thought I would take this blog to go through some that I use on a daily bases.

 

Scripting:

 

CeltX: Yes I know Avatar was written with Final Draft but do you really want to pay £200 for what basically is a weirdly formatted word processor? CeltX does the job more than adequately. You are able to write a correctly formatted script and incorporate it with your storyboards.

Scrivener: While every other word processor I can think of (Word, Open Office, Pages) forces you by design to start at the beginning and work you way through Scrivener takes a much more intuitive approach of letting you start wherever the hell you like. Being able to import reference material into separate sections and earlier drafts that neither destroy nor district from your main airflow is an intelligent approach. At £30 it is more expensive than the free CeltX but can save you a lot of time.

MindNode Pro: At £13.99 this is neither the cheapest (there is the lesser Mind Node Beta for free) or the most expensive (ConceptDraw is £250!) it is however a very user friendly app that lets you organise your ideas into wonderful mind maps. Great for working on structure and ideas for your script!

 

My Workflow: MindNode Pro then CeltX.

 

Image Manipulation:

Gimp: I used to be in the church of Gimp, perhaps much like non-practising Jews I am a non-practising Gimp user. I first came across Gimp way back in 2003 aged 13. It taught me much about image manipulation, colour correction and layers. For that I say thank you.  It is open-source and constantly expanding, give it a go.

Pixelmator: A mac only app’ at £9,99 it is more reliable than Gimp and significantly cheaper than Adobe’s PhotoShop. Of course it doesn’t have nearly as many features as PS but for the price it is very reasonable and all the basics can be performed here.

Aperture: I moved to Aperture when my subscription to Adobe CC ran out and my previous Photoshop (SC4) failed to open my camera’s RAW. Aperture is a powerful image manipulation and storage system that’s great a tweaking your RAW files. While if you want real-out there style image manipulation you will have to use in conjunction with other applications (Pixelmatr or PS). At £70 it is the most expensive of all my cheaper options so far but well worth the price. WARNING: This application is being taken off the app store early 2015 to be replaced with a “Dumbed down” version- an apple trend that was started with there downgrade from FC7 to X.

 

My Work flow: Aperture and final retouches in Pixelmatr.

 

Graphic Design

Affinity Designer: Costs the same as “renting” Adobe illustrator for two weeks and yet seems to be just as good. Now, I am not a graphic designer nor am I a good drawer but for a few animated projects I have had to either draw or work in collaboration with graphic designers and Illustrator is the program to use. Perhaps not any more. This is a real gem of a program that I have been playing around with for 10 days now. Well worth a look.

 

 

Mammal Hands

Awhile back I created a video for Jazz band Mammal Hands. I am pleased to announce that their album is now out and you can Spotify it or buy it from (among other places) their record-label.  Animalia has been very well reviewed and they are now on a UK tour with the sublime GoGo Penguin.

Go Mammals! (& their hands)!

In an ideal world we would have time in advance to discuss ideas with the client, storyboard, work out a costs, find a crew and then set up shoot. Alas this video (above) illustrates the standard practise. Called up the day before as a friend flunked out I and one other filmmaker turned up with minimal (borrowed) kit to try and film a live performance. I had no idea who these guys were and they none of us – just calling me up on a recommendation of a friend.

So guys (if your reading this) now you are all big time musicians we should work again with ideal conditions, what do you say? Perhaps you could sign my album too?

Allergy to Originality

Perhaps this blog should be renamed to “Remixes and Plagiarism” but not to sound to much like a broken record I found a rather Lynchian video exploring the ideas of originality in Pop’ Culture. In it the characters quote Mark Twain leading me to find a wonderful letter by him on this very subject. Do check out the video below and if you liked that letter do follow Letters of Note on twitter. Enjoy!

 

How to Win at Kickstarter

Picking From The Money Tree

 

I know you have always wanted to own a nintendo-themed italian restaurant called ‘Mario & Linguini’ and you may of heard of an awesome site called Kickstarter where charitable people go and fund your extravagant desires.

Alas this blog is here to you that this might not actually be the case, especially in my line of work (filmmaking). For every Iron Sky there are hundred of film failures, mostly featuring Zombies or topless women (and probably both). Previous success stories will not help you either. Mario Tapio Kines is a filmmaker who has feature length films to his resume, both funded through online crowdsourcing, the first from way back in the previous century before it was easy and cool. His third feature never even got to the half way point on Kickstarter, Luckily for us he has written an article on his failures here.

I will deviate from my usual filmmaking/photography interests and talk about all form of creativity. So here it is, the 5 ways to win at kickstarter:

1. TELL US WHY IT’S WORTH IT: Unless you have a cure for all types of cancer, or a non pyramid scheme than can make all your backers uber-rich it is likely you will have to Sell your idea. This means a fun, informative and memorable video, not just you mumbling into your webcam. This may take time and effort but get it wrong and deal breaker. Pitching skills can be found here:

2. WORTHWHILE REWARDS: Some where outraged when that rich guy off of that medical comedy on TV asked us poor people to fund his film. I was not, what I was outraged by was the complete lack of worthwhile rewards (eg. $10 would get you a  link to the Vlog!). Zack Braff made his money even with his stinking rewards but you will not. People want to feel special, what there getting is something actually worthwhile. Don’t charge £30 for a crappy DVD, ask for £30 and in return the sponsored will get a picnic on the set (travel costs not included). For £100 why not offer an advert for there business/band/wedding whatever. If your a graphic designer why not do some nice “limited posters.” There is a reason table top games and figurines do so well, people want to treat kickstarter not as a charity but as a shop of unique oddities. You have to do the same.

3. ADVERTISE YOUR PROJECT. Simples.

4. ADVERTISE YOUR PROJECT….WELL. Dear @twitterfollower please would you back my project”  or “hey @Facebookbuddy back my project, yoy” will piss people off. Sure use social media but don’t whine and bitch to people, be selective. My friends will be bribed by a pint, and once they have put money down get them to share it to their friends using the same tactics. The Mario Kines article linked above gives more information. No one created a meme by shouting, just be nice.

5.  DON’T SET YOUR SIGHTS TOO HIGH. We all want to be millionaires but unless you want to re-create the Oculus Rift (and a tardis so you can go back and take it) you won’t get it. Budget as cheaply as possible. Your photography book will cost £50,000 will it? Or your dream short film will cost no less than £15,000. Give up. Start a little at a time, you won’t get the money unless you reach the targets. Ak for smaller funds. so £500 and then work with what you got. As a large stripy supermarket says “every little helps.”

So now you have the information, go and conquer kickstarter!

Everything is a Remix

 

My last post (directly below) has had a bit of interest via twitter, so I think several mini blogs will follow addressing and adding to these points. Above is a fantastic film talking more about theft and inspiration in the arts.

Below a very dedicated person has mashed up Star Wars with all it’s filmic influences.

 

And one more for luck here’s a guide on the (many, many, many) films that influenced the career of Quentin Tarintino

 

Happy Watching!

Making Sleeping Beauty

With the rather underwhelming Maleficent in cinemas it’s a perfect time to go back to Disney’s classic original, Sleeping beauty. Below is a great making of featurette that showcases the fantastic creative team that made it look so fantastic. As much as a love letter to the film it is a love letter to lead designer Eyving Earle, who’s work you should check out here.

 

Also take a look at the Sleeping Beauty Disney Sketch Book, with it’s fantastic designs and sketches. Today we take for granted the greatness of the Disney golden era but also the tweeness of them. Both the sketchbook and the short documentary show how much of a risk the film was and how much of an artistic achievement it was.

 

Image

Slow Motion on the Cheap (ish)

Above is a video I helped shoot and edit for a Lisbon fashion designer. She came to us (Memory Box) with an idea and it was our job to turn it into a reality. One of her requirements was that a large percentage of the video had to be slow motion. I was unsure about this, but never one to turn down any money I said it was fine and spent the next three days prior to the shoot obsessively looking up every single tutorial possible.

What I found was with the right equipment and an awful lot of luck a Slow Motion effect is a surprisingly easy thing to do, although will take a lot of rendering time, if like me you have a macbook that’s a few years too old. However you do need the right stuff:

1. A camera that can shoot higher than 25fps, I shoot on a 600D and 70D both with 50fps.

2. After Effects (I used CS6, but have since experimented and got the same results with CS4)*.

3. A lot of luck.

But what about Twixter?” I hear you ask.  “This is a program everyone from Philip Bloom to a youtube stoner tells me I need to use. Who are you to go against the grain?” Well my dears, I am someone who will happily save you $500. I experimented with Twixter and while I found a improvements, I didn’t find anything that blew me away.  However I leave it up to you, here is perhaps one of the best examples of Twixtor use I saw, watch and be amazed:

 

 

DAVID’S  SHOOTING INSTRUCTIONS 

1. Shoot at a fast shutter: anything 1/2000 – 1/4000s. [so your lighting needs to be good]

2. Shoot against a plain/solid colored background – sky/wall etc etc.

3. When you shoot really close/tight, slow the action down manually ie – move slower and fake slow motion. Its easier to get good results when the action is shot from a distance

4. and perhaps most importantly TRIPOD THAT BITCH.

 

DAVID’S EDITING INSTRUCTIONS 

1. Import Footage into a new AE composition

2.Right click, enable time remapping.

3. Give composition more time so you can stretch out the footage

4. Find where you want to slow down and back to normal speed and add keyframes.

5. Move the keyframes to “stretch out” the time

6. Movement will be choppy, to overcome this go to Frame Motion> Pixel Blending.

7. And perhaps most importantly YOUR FOOTAGE WILL PROBABLY SUCK, DO NOT DESPAIR JUST TRY AGAIN.

 

I have since done another, perhaps even more slowed down film, which will be uploaded shortly. Until then, go out into the wild my young Zack Snyders and  see what you can create. But before you go, one more thing, see if you can of what i cannot: create a slow motion film that has a narratively driven reason for being in slow motion!

Enjoy.

 

DIY 3D: 3D we can all be impressed with?

A feeling I am sure most people can relate to is my antipathy towards 3D, the light-loss glasses, the cost, the complete lack of any narrative point. I am a regular cinema goer and given the choice I will always go for the traditional 2D screening. However these quite fantastic Gifs (one above one below and the rest here) give me a new-found love.

Who would of thought that defocussing the background and two white lines could give such an impressive effect?  I feel a week of 3D experimentation is ahead of me…

A word from Hitch.

No need to go to film school, learn everything you need to know about getting a scene right, from the great Alfred Hitchcock…