Saturday, July 9, 2016

Script Breakdown: Making a Frugal Short Film, Part 5

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

Tip: How to Edit Faster

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

Frugal Boom Tripod Clamp

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.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Sony A7II inside the Frugal Cage

The Frugal Cage is an inexpensive camera cage made of flash brackets that can adjust to small or large interchangeable lens cameras. I really liked using it on my older camera (the Sony NEX 5n), and I was excited to try it out with my new cam, the Sony A7II.

As I had predicted, it works pretty well. The adjustable nature of the Frugal Cage means it can expand to handle the larger size of the camera, but not be so huge that it dwarfs it. One complaint I've had about cheap camera cages is that one size does not fit all. Aesthetics are still important, even in DIY builds.

As shown in the video, everything fits together pretty well with only one real issue. With the NEX 5n, the SD card was located in the battery bay and accessed the same way (by dropping out). The A7II has a little door that must be opened to get to the card, and this door is blocked by the side of the cage. I'm resolved to just leaving a large capacity card in the rig all day, but in the future, a better solution needs to be found.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Screenplay: How to make a frugal short film, part 4

The quality of your screenplay can really make or break your film. Not only does this apply to the final product, but also in attracting people to work on the project in the first place. One thing I've always appreciated about Pixar's films (and one reason they constantly produce hits) is that they obviously spend time on the script. It's that important.

So much has been written about screenwriting, that I'd be crazy to try to teach any kind of formal lesson in such as small space. What I can do is share some tips that have helped me bring a short outline to finished script.

While I go into more detail in the video, here's the gist of it:

Stick to format - use software that makes formatting easy and remember to show the audience what is happening instead of having characters tell the audience what is happening.

Keep it brief - use good, efficient writing instead of bloated prose. You're writing a screenplay, not a novel. Action blocks should be no longer than three or four sentences, and descriptions of any kind should only be one sentence. When something new happens, start a new block of action.

Write solid dialogue - your characters need to be realized enough so they say things those people would say. Get to know them so they can speak through you. Everything they do say should reveal character traits, move the story forward, or both.

Avoid camera angles - your script is not a literal shot list. Disguise camera angles in your writing so there is only one way to interpret the script visually. This will make for a better read, and make whomever directs your script think they came up with all the stellar imagery.

Keep it interesting - no one likes a dull story with dull people. Keep things lively and make your script a page turner. While you're not writing a novel, your screenplay should be just as engaging as one.

The film script is so important. It's the foundation upon which all aspects of your eventual movie is constructed upon, and needs to be given the time and respect that this responsibility commands. Nothing can save a bad screenplay, So go write a good one!

P.S. Screenplay archives are a great place to download the real thing and see how its done by professionals. Remember to get the real thing and avoid "transcripts" which are just summaries and not the writer's real work. Here are a few to get you started:

Simply Scripts
Drew's Script-O-Rama
Internet Movie Script Database

The How to Make a Frugal Short Film Series
Part 0: Cultivate an audience
Part 1: What is it?
Part 2: Reviewing resources
Part 3: Coming up with a story


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