Saturday, January 24, 2015

Tip: Marks for your Actors

As a gear-head filmmaker, it's very easy to get so wrapped up in the technical end of your film that you sometimes forget to go the extra mile for your actors. They want to do the best job possible, and sometimes you can greatly aid them with a little help.

Today's example concerns marks on the ground. These are points where you want your actor to stop or pause in your scene. You've composed the shot in such a way that your character needs to "hit their mark" for the composition to work. This can be a challenge if you are using whatever is lying around for this purpose. Environmental debris can often blend into the location making it tough on your actors, especially if they are depending on their peripheral vision.

One solution for this is to use something that really sticks out and is easy to see. I used field marker disks that I purchased at Wal-Mart. They are bright (easy to see), flimsy (won't cause injury) and cheap. They are also compact and several be easily toted in a small container.

I've provided some links below to some other things you can use, but the idea is the same.
Give your actors a highly visible mark, and the odds go way up that they will hit it in as few takes as possible.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Q&A: How Much Shoud I Charge for Client Work?


External Battery Camera Power 2
"Henchmen" on Indiegogo
Zoom H1 Handy Recorder
Sony F970 Clone Batteries
Anker Astro Pro2 Multi-Voltage (5v, 12v, 16v, 19v) Battery

Special thanks to our guest Connie Critchlow!

External Battery Camera Power 2

I realize that it hasn’t been that long since I created an external battery attachment for the inexpensive Frugal Cage. I even modified to make it work a little better. After using it in the field while shooting Invader, felt like it could be even better.

In the last setup, the battery cradles were stacked vertically, which meant I could only use one of the higher-capacity Sony F970 battery clones, due to space limitations. Increasing the space between cradles helped a little (and made changing the smaller battery easier), but I still wanted to be able to use F970s simultaneously.

This video illustrates this change in design. Now the battery plates are firmly mounted next to each other on two points (up from the more wobbly one point) that attach to the cage. The side-by-side design eliminates the space issue, allowing me to use two F970 batteries at once. Now I can run my camera all day without a battery change and my monitor almost as long.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with the previous version. If you’ve already spent the money and put that one together, you’ll be fine. This one is just the result of testing and improving and my desire to make an external power setup that much better. I look forward to testing this version on the next short film.

2x Sony F970 Battery Plate w/power cable
8x 4-40 machine screws, 1/2" in length
2x 1/4-20" machine screws 3/4" in length
Mounting plate (I used cutting board scrap)

2x Sony F970 Battery Clones

Drill press (for straight pilot holes)
Drill w/various bits
Philips screwdriver
Precision Philips screwdriver

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Props & Squibs: "The Paperboy" and "Locus"

Just because I graduated doesn't mean I'm not working on student films! I'm actually pretty flattered when people ask me to work on their movies and hope I can bring something unique to their interesting projects. Though my commitments are usually short term (I can't be there for the full shoot), I can take a smaller job and make it big.

Both films I've committed to are completely different. Locus is a police detective drama, featuring Mindy Van Kuren from my short film Invader. She's really great to work with and was even game to shoot some B-roll for their Indiegogo video. My job in Locus is to make and operate the squibs that will be needed when certain characters get shot in the story. Squibs are small blood packets rigged with tiny firecracker-sized charges. When the actors get "shot" you detonate the charge and blood explodes through their clothing or prosthetic. It can look very realistic.

The Paperboy is giving me an entirely different challenge: making props. In this military-themed comedy, Our hero encounters weapons of various size and shape that use rolled-up newspapers as ammunition. This includes mortars, a mounted machine gun, a cannon, and a rocket launcher. The good news is they don't have to actually fire a newspaper, only look like they do.

I've had some experience making props for the thesis film Perfect Machine (futuristic stun-sticks and rifles), but making squibs is new for me. I know I have to be careful dealing with any amount of gunpowder, and also have to take into account safety for the actor (like putting a shield between their body and the charge). I don't way anyone getting hurt, including me.

I've embedded the Indiegogo videos from the two films I'm talking about, so you can get a better idea about what I'm getting into. The best news is that I can blog/make videos about what I learn, and hopefully share something that can benefit your movies, if you are attempting something similar.


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