Friday, December 23, 2011

Knoptop Finds a Cool Location



Quick FX returns! Yay! This time Knoptop reports on some BTS (Behind the Scenes) footage of a local movie shoot. They shot in an abandoned factory, and it is one awesome location. Following the movie stuff, Dave walks around and gives us some pretty good footage. I could see doing any number of scenes in some of those spots. Very cinematic.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Suction Cup Camera Mount



If you've ever needed a shot of your actors actually driving a car, you'll need a special rig to do it. These tend to be very expensive, but here is a DIY method that works pretty well. It involves a dual suction cup lifter (the kind they use to move large panes of glass) being attached to your car and then attaching something to it that can hold your camera. While this has been done before, I employed a former piece of FF gear in a way you may not of thought of.

One interesting thing I learned from making this video was not so much how to mount the rig, but where to mount it. I had a challenging problem to overcome, but as you'll see, the solution was right in front of me.

Dual Suction Cup Lifter

Frugal Clamp (C-Clamp Mount)

Sima Quickonnect

1" x 15' Ratchet Strap tie-down (I found a single version for $5, but this is the basic idea)

58mm Circular Polarizing Lens

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

What Does an Internet Film Look Like? (Part 2)

Since the last time I posted about this topic, I’ve been having some thoughts about altering some basic rules of filmmaking based on how our content is consumed. No longer do we simply need to consider television as delivery medium (whether it be broadcast or DVD), or if we are extremely lucky, a theater screen.

Our venue is the web. Most likely we are releasing content on a video sharing service such as YouTube, Blip or Vimeo. This means that the majority of our audience is probably viewing our stuff on 1) a computer screen, 2) a smartphone/iPod, 3) a tablet, 4) a “smart” TV (or a “regular” one connected to a streaming device), or combinations of all of the above.

I find it interesting that as we progress into the future, the size of the most common viewing surface is decreasing, not increasing. The “average” laptop sized screen seems to float between 13-17”, with the average probably coming in at 15” (or 15.6”).

All this leads me to the well-known formula that answers the age-old question, “What size TV should I buy?” If you don’t know it already, you simply cut the viewing distance in half, subtract a few inches, and you have the diagonal measurement of television you should own. Sitting 8’ away from your TV wall? Buy a 46” set. Ten feet? Get a 56” one.

This also works for smaller screens. Currently I’m typing this post out on my laptop. My face is approximately two feet from the screen. My computer has a 15.6” screen, but according to the formula, it could be 12” or the size of a netbook. And that distance is only when typing. If watching something, I’m pretty sure that distance increases, especially when then video stays in a playback window and isn’t expanded to fill the screen.

Smartphone screens are even smaller at 3-5” across, which means you’d need to be 6-10” from the screen to absorb all the detail properly. What about the iPod Nano? How big is that tiny screen? My son and daughter regularly watch movies on that postage stamp-sized gizmo. Maybe a cyberpunk-style headband mount would be in order.

All this thought about the constantly shrinking viewing surface has made me wonder if we should alter some basic filmmaking techniques to compensate for the fact that the viewer is farther away and could potentially miss something we are trying to get across. What can we possibly do to better “reach” the viewer?

Shoot tighter. If the viewer isn’t as close and the imagery (shot traditionally) is smaller, why not make it bigger? Take all of your shots in one notch. Instead of that full shot, shoot medium shots. Instead of that medium shot, shoot a close up. Instead of that close up, shoot an extreme close up, and so on. When the viewer doesn’t want to get within normal range, get closer to them—close the gap. Imagine the difference this would make on videos watched on a smartphone or the above-mentioned Nano. It could be huge.

Be louder. In audio land, the common train of thought is that, in the digital world, you mix to –12db. That gives you some basic overhead so you don’t accidentally pass digital zero and clip, or distort, your audio. I propose we try mixing to -6db or exactly digital zero. Normalize your sound and use a limiter (it’s called Wave Hammer in Sony Vegas Pro) set to zero and your audio will never distort and at the same time reach maximum level.

Why do this? Most laptop speakers are quiet and tinny sounding and a smart phone speaker is even worse. I don’t like using headphones if I don’t have to, and boosting your sound would make the best of an already poor scenario. Those who do have decent speakers or headphones can easily turn the sound down. Those without might now be able to hear all that carefully written dialogue.

Wben I worked in TV news, I noticed a small, cheap speaker sitting on top of the massive mixing board in the audio booth. When I asked the operator what it was for, he informed me it was to check the output on something similar to the crummiest mono TV speaker out there (as well as to check for phasing problems). This was to make sure that even a poor schlub with a crappy TV could still hear the broadcast properly.

I believe we should keep the same thing in mind with internet video. We want everyone watching our product to enjoy and benefit from it. A little extra effort such as these methods could really make the difference.

You might argue that these techniques are fine for the web, but what about when we want to release that DVD version? I retort that we need to think of the web as the final delivery, not a first step to something else. If we really are “internet filmmakers”, then we need to think of the internet as our movie theater.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Tip: Airsoft Gun Props



In this episode of The Frugal Filmmaker Tip of the Month I take a brief look at Airsoft props and some ways to add firearm authenticity to your movie. I've used them on a few projects (you may recognize the rifle from Temp Insanity) and just having them makes me want to use them more and more! The beauty of props like these are how real they can look and how cheap they are to obtain. Just make sure everyone around your location knows your guns are fake. Nothing ruins a movie shoot faster than a SWAT team.

Middle of Nowhere

G36 (M41GL) Replica Magazines for $1

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Short Film and a New Schedule



Sometimes I feel more like a reporter than a filmmaker. I really enjoy everything involved with The Frugal Filmmaker, but I miss making movies. Going back to grad school was a forceful move to remedy this, to not only get a MFA degree, but to force myself back into the trenches to learn the things I thought I already knew. This short is the first real product from my first semester.

It also marks the end of the first month of a new release schedule that I am attempting. The first Wednesday of the month will be an episode of The Frugal Filmmaker that everyone is used to. These are the more involved episodes that involved DIY builds and technique overviews. They will now only hit once a month (unlike my previous sometimes-reached goal of every three weeks), but that break should prevent the two-month gap that plagued me with The Frugal Floater and other episodes.

The third Wednesday will see a Frugal Filmmaker Tip of the Month. These episodes are more rapidly produced, take less editing and will cover a smaller topic. They should still have lots of good info, but won't be the production behemoth of the regular show.

Finally, if there is a fifth Wednesday (which seems to hit every other month), you'll get a new short film. This is the most exciting addition for me, as a filmmaker should always be making films (not just instructional videos). These will include films made at school, as well as others that I make independently. The above video is the first in what I hope is a long line.

If that isn't enough content for everyone, next year I'll be starting a new show that will be a weekly companion video to the Weekly Recap Link List. I get so many good comments and emails on top of the links featured on the Facebook Group, that there needs to be a place to feature them all. A weekly "quick & dirty" highlight and mailbag show should fit the bill and also include the YouTube audience which has been left out thus far.

With all that blah, blah, blah out of the way--enjoy the movie!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Alan Lach's DIY FrugalPod

Not sure if you remember this question from back in July, but I finally made and have tested my version of the Hi-pod. I borrowed heavily from your jib crane and other videos to create a FrugalPod.

I used your pulley system from the jib and mounted it vertically on a extension pole used for painting. I then inserted that pole into a piece of PVC pipe connected to a dolly for stability and mobility. For the bottom "bearing" I rested the pole on a furniture slider that rotates on a felt furniture pad that is stuck to the bottom of the dolly. I used a 7" portable TV for my monitor and connected a LANC remote control for the camera control.

Although I'm not using this for filmmaking, I thought your audience might be interested. I've attached a few pictures.

Thanks for creating and updating your site. The information is very helpful.

Scott sez: Whether or not the FrugalPod has filmmaking applications (the retail version is used for covering football games), I admire Alan's ingenuity for creating his own version. I know how much time and money goes into one of these builds and Alan deserves a lot of credit for making a DIY rig with few (if any) predecessors.

Here's some video footage from this rig: http://vimeo.com/channels/ljtproductions#32648898

Monday, November 28, 2011

Weekly Recap Link List 11-28-11

Fittingly, flash video dies a slow, stuttering death
http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/nofilmschool/~3/UgpWw5XtQ_Q/

Noob shockmount used for DIY Zoom H1 boom pole
http://www.dslrfilmnoob.com/2011/11/22/noob-shock-mount-diy-zoom-h1-boom-pole/

Knoptop tweaks the PVC stabilizer
http://filmflap.blogspot.com/2011/11/knoptop-tweaks-pvc-stabilizer.html

Josh Mars' PVC stabilizer
http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10150464855415135&set=o.334368756043&type=1&theater

Joseph Echavarria's PVC stabilizer--with lights!
http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10150484665194052&set=o.334368756043&type=1&theater

David Stembridge's DIY shoulder rig
http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=2530714941571&set=oa.10150376751016044&type=1&theater

Jon McDonnell's table dolly
http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=294459963922089&set=o.334368756043&type=1&theater

Jon McDonnell's PVC stabilizer
http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=295968610437891&set=o.334368756043&type=1&theater

James DeRuvo's PVC figrig
http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=2572430944073&set=o.334368756043&type=1&theater

Creating a video setup with Home Depot lights
http://www.diyphotography.net/creating-a-video-setup-with-homedepot-lights

25 photography gifts for $25 or under
http://www.diyphotography.net/25-photography-gifts-for-25-or-onder

Poncho Vega's Zoom H1 boom pole
http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=2571081389684&set=o.334368756043&type=1&theater

Donnie Patterson's external monitor battery
http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=2587715365528&set=o.334368756043&type=1&theater

Tascam DR-05 digital audio recorder for $66
http://frugalphotog.blogspot.com/2011/11/b-rebate-on-tascam-dr-05-comes-out-to.html

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Knoptop Tweaks the PVC Stabilizer



On Quick FX this week (okay, last week), Knoptop provides us with an interesting take on the PVC stabilizer rig, this time tweaking it to better work with his DSLR, the Canon t2i. I like the idea of one hand forward (follow focus) and one hand back (pushbutton controls), though I'm not sure if the offset hands would be very comfortable for very long (Aaag! My back!)

The great thing about Dave's idea is he's just putting it out there for all to see and use. One thing I really love about the blogosphere and YouTube is that it's essentially one giant free-flowing exchange of ideas. Like an idea? Use it! Don't? Don't!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Tip: Simple Color Correction



In an effort to post more content (something viewers keep asking me to do), I thought I'd try a monthly tip segment. These are ideas that aren't fully fleshed-out enough for a "real" episode, but could be useful.

Today I'm talking about color correction, something I'm not very good at. Learning a basic truth about the color wheel opened a huge door of understanding for me and I had to share it. Again, I'm far from an expert (even calling me a novice might be a stretch) on this topic and am just passing it on.

Feel free to tell me what you think of the "quick and dirty" format and the more simplistic content. This in no way replaces the official show, but will give those who have wanted more something to chew on between the meatier episodes.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Toying with Convention



Knoptop has a new video out in his series briefly titled Things You Didn't Know You Didn't Know, a sort-of spin-off of his Quick FX series. It's basically a tips and tricks show, but Dave puts his kooky take on it and makes it unique. Which is really what I want to talk about.

What I like about Dave and his shows is how much he does with so little. I mean, the actual content of this episode is pretty sparse, right? He gives a cool discovery about a game built into the YouTube loading screen. It's something you could reveal in one sentence. So how does Dave make an entire watchable, entertaining episode out of this? This is where his genius lies and why I like his shows so much.

First off, Dave is very funny. The first thing he does is make a joke out of a very common filmmaking technique--cutting to a closeup. He then has a funny "reaction" to the finding of the game. Then he has the clever annotations, and so on and so forth. He always finds ways to pepper his shows with a variety of humor, which even in a simple show (like this one), makes it an enjoyable experience.

I also like the bevy of other information we get via links. Here, he plugs two web series he likes, one verbally and one in an on-screen link (look closely at the cell phone). And don't forget to read the description. There is always good stuff there not mentioned in the video.

YouTube has so much more to offer than "just" video content. Knoptop and his vids are a good example of what you can do with a little imagination, a lot of cleverness, and an bobblehead.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Frugal Floater (DIY Steadicam)



Another highly requested episode, my version of the Steadicam Merlin is done! If you really want a floating camera platform, this one might just fit the bill. There are a lot of these on the web and I hope mine works well enough to compete with the others, and payoff for those who build it.

Fortunately, it's not too difficult to put together, but I have to admit that balancing it can be a real trial of faith. This is an issue with all of these types of stabilizers, so please don't put a hit out on me if it's driving you crazy. It's just the nature of the beast.

If you can get past the bumps and are willing to put in the time, you'll have some unique footage that you can't get any other way. Just don't try using this thing in the wind (or even a slight breeze)--it won't work!

PARTS LIST:

12" length of 1/2" PVC pipe
7 1/4" length of 1/2" PVC pipe
5" length of 1/2" PVC pipe (shown with optional bicycle grip)
3x 90-degree 1/2" PVC elbows
1x 45-degree 1/2" PVC elbow
3x 1/2" PVC plugs
1x 1/2" PVC end cap
1/2" PVC pipe scrap
1/2" CPVC coupler

Traxxas 5151 universal joint for RC car
Rollerblade bearing
tiny washer
tiny machine screw
tiny lock washer

Sima Quickonnect
Macro slider rail
1 1/2" length of 1/4" threaded rod (or headless machine screw)
hockey tape

2x 1/4-20 machine screws (1 1/4" long)
1x 1/4-20 machine screw (2" long)
1x 1/4-20 machine screw (1 1/2" long)
4x 1/4" hex nuts
2x 1/4" wing nuts
2x 1/4" washers
3x 1/4" lock washers

at least 10x 1/4" fender washers (2" in diameter)
2x 1/4" fender washers (1" in diameter)

electrical tape

For the origin of the gimbal design and some amazing DIY floaters:
http://diycamera.com/stabiliser/index5.html

Monday, October 31, 2011

Quickonnect Drops Back Under $9 on Amazon

If you build a lot of DIY gear, you want a quick way to move your camera between rigs. I had come across the Sima Quickonnect awhile ago (and created an episode about it), but Amazon quickly sold out of them. When they were back in stock, the prices were no longer a great deal.

Well, take courage Frugal Filmmakers! The Sima Quickonnect is still in stock at Amazon and the price has returned to an all-time low of $8.59. Get three and you qualify for free shipping. I love these little connectors and they have a home in every one of my rigs. Very handy.

Weekly Recap Link List 10-31-11

Happy Halloween!

Just add water (to props) for squishy realism
http://filmflap.blogspot.com/2011/10/just-add-water-for-squishy-realism.html

GoPro 2 is here!
http://cheesycam.com/goprohd-camera-hero-2-new-version/

DIY $5 fog machine
http://filmmakeriq.com/2011/10/diy-5-fog-machine/

Almost there (new FF episode teaser)
http://filmflap.blogspot.com/2011/10/almost-there.html

Simple but bloody spraying zombie bite effect (ewww!)
http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=2503294338522&set=oa.10150315822856044&type=1

Film High School, episode 1
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aKJlJNE9JWM

15 essential (and inexpensive) tools for wardrobe, hair & makeup
http://www.selfreliantfilm.com/2011/10/15-essential-and-inexpensive-tools-for-wardrobe-hair-make-up/

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Almost There

I know it's been awhile since my last Frugal Filmmaker episode and for that, I apologize. I've been trying to get the bugs worked out of my latest build (can you guess what it is?) and after a few weeks of testing, lots of swearing and four redesigns later, I finally had a breakthrough. It's not perfect, but it does work well enough to reveal. I'm getting the feeling this gizmo will have an update to make it work better, but I can see revisiting many Frugal Filmmaker devices with improved versions.

Stay tuned!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Just Add Water for Squishy Realism



It's Halloween week and Knoptop gives a great (and cheap) tip to make your on-screen props look more disgusting! Simply spray water on the item to give it a realistic sheen of grossness. Dave's video shows us how a dinosaur puppet can look more lizardy, and how a body-part sandwich can literally turn your stomach.

Yes, I did say "body-part sandwich".

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

DIY Gearlust is Still Gearlust

I am really grateful and glad that so many people seem to be enjoying some of the filmmaking contraptions that I have been putting together for the last year or so. I've had lots of great comments and support and am still amazed when people make requests for items that have been made many times over. I'm flattered that you constantly want to see "my take" on any given piece of homemade gear.

I has made me think, however, about how easy it is to get caught up in obtaining that gee-whiz item that will finally let us make our film, even if that item is a cheap, DIY knock-off of the retail version. It's a trap, really, that keeps us from flexing our creative muscles when we feel we "need" some piece of kit that will make our shoot possible.

From a completely minimalist perspective, the only gear required to make a film is a camera. You don't need a dolly or stabilizer or jib. None of these will make your film "better". It's all about technique and what you do with what you have (a good story doesn't hurt, either).

Granted, some of this stuff costs nothing to make (The $5 PVC Stabilizer is still the most popular video I've made), but if you don't have it, so what? Soon you'll be telling yourself you need the next item on the list and soon you're in a downward spiral of need, need, need instead of write, shoot, edit.

Of course, there is an opposite side to this coin. While I admit all you need is a camera, I cringe when I hear things like, "I don't need lights!" and "the on-camera mic is just fine!". You DO need lights and you SHOULD use an external mic. People watching your film deserve to see and hear what is on screen, even in microbudget-land.

Does this make me sound crazy? After all, most of my show episodes are built around the very thing I seem to be criticizing. Gear is great, but the desire to create and express shouldn't be tied to it.

All I'm saying is that the most important thing about being a filmmaker is you need to make films. Waiting to obtain the latest bell or whistle is just plain silly. Did Dumbo need the magic feather that he thought made him fly? Nope.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Cheap Shoulder Rig Gets a Look



If you're in need of a shoulder rig for your DSLR (or video camera if you roll that way), the DSLR Film Noob has one he's been testing for awhile. Found under many names (Spider Rig, X-Rig, Movie Rig), this articulating creature can form into just about about any configuration you can come up with. Not only that, but it folds up into a small package that you can fit into your camera bag. For all the details, watch Deejay's video. He covers everything and more.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

What Does a Feature Film for the Web Look Like?



Here's a question: what is Film 2.0?

With my goal of making and releasing a "web feature" looming in the near future, I am beginning to question even the very nature of what that means. We all know what a traditional feature film looks like, and we can still see them in the theater, on TV, on DVD and streamed to our computer or smartphone. They are still viable forms of entertainment and creative satisfaction (with the potential for profit) for the filmmaker. So why am I worried?

I've had this nagging at the back of my brain that, for the microbudget creator, we need to do something different that hasn't really been done yet. It seems that while we acknowledge that the internet is still the Wild West with all kinds of possibilities, we still want to shoehorn old models into it. I strongly believe in a free web release of whatever project I end up making, but why should that project come from the same box that I'm trying to escape with an unorthodox release model?

In other words, if I want to try new and unusual distribution methods, shouldn't the project itself be new and unusual?

This idea makes me question everything about what I already know about filmmaking. Narrative structure. Character development. Presentation. Running time. I'm not saying I should throw everything out and reinvent the wheel. Not at all. It would not only be stupid and arrogant (who am I to say that over a hundred years of filmmaking history is wrong for the web?) but crazy. We should learn and adapt what we already know, taking the best things about story, character, training and experience and letting them inspire us to take chances and be adventurous.

Take YouTube for example. Right now, it's the best place to host content. Sure, Vimeo may look slightly better, but YouTube offers the chance to make a little money from what we are doing. You make partner and the doors of time open wide open and the profit window cracks a bit. No other service can claim this. Not only that, but the annotation feature is a creative embryo that practically dares us to do something really cool. Linking to other videos and director's commentaries is just scratching the surface. We need to scratch harder.

This begs another issue--interactivity. Give the user (again, within YouTube so you can make a little bit of money) something else to do other than watch and they won't click away (or to another point in the timeline). Keep them involved. Become a partner with them in the story. Make them part of the story. Make them the story.

Video games. Alternate Reality Gaming. Role Playing Games. Choose Your Own Adventure books. It's all interactive storytelling. What can we learn (read: "steal") from these sources?

Another important component in all this is still cost. I don't want to trash frugality. Having some grandiose idea that takes years to fund and implement is a giant step backward. Use the inexpensive tools we have at our disposal to create. We can't compete with Hollywood and big corporations, but we aren't bound by their rules and formulas, either. Make something they won't in a way they wouldn't touch and begin carving a place for yourself.

Obviously, I don't have all the answers. This is more of a rant to get us all thinking. I want to hear your ideas.

For a continued discussion on this topic, click here for part 2.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Weekly Recap Link List 9-19-11










DIY Steadicam - ladder bracket
http://cheesycam.com/diy-steadicam-ladder-bracket/

Selling Your Film Without Selling Your Soul
http://www.sellingyourfilm.com/store/

Director's commentary using YouTube annotations
http://mikevogel.com/?p=1561

Unpaid crew vs. under-paid crew
http://www.filmmakermagazine.com/news/2011/09/the-microbudget-conversation-unpaid-crew-vs-under-paid-crew/

DIY LED ring light
http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=1766867751901&set=o.334368756043&type=1&ref=nf

Can you hang a lav mic?
http://filmflap.blogspot.com/2011/09/can-you-hang-lav-mic.html

DIY shoulder rig
http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=2303511420607&set=o.334368756043&type=1&ref=nf

Small DIY camera rig
http://blog.sundayschildsnapshots.com/wp/2011/09/diy/small-camera-rig-diy/

Movie of the Web: "The Waiting List"
http://filmflap.blogspot.com/2011/09/movie-of-web-waiting-list.html

DIY sound "pop" filter
http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=2279057050281&set=o.334368756043&type=1&ref=nf

External monitor you already have
http://youtu.be/Nkq2BSuvyF4

Sheri Candler on "Selling Your Film Without Selling Your Soul"
http://fastcheapmoviethoughts.blogspot.com/2011/09/sheri-candler-on-selling-your-film.html

In the Cut, part 2: A Dash of Salt
http://vimeo.com/28957441

Edit your videos with YouTube
http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/youtube/PKJx/~3/U0L-_97o0TU/edit-your-videos-with-youtube.html

Friday, September 16, 2011

Movie of the Web: "The Waiting List"



Released by Front Ave. Productions. Comedy-drama written and directed by Mike Vogel. Featuring Teresa Decher, Amanda Englund, Bryce Flynt-Sommerville, Jayme S. Hall, Audrey Walker and Mercedes Rose. Would be rated "R" for language and adult situations. Available for free on YouTube.

A motley group of parents must spend the night in a highly-regarded preschool to insure their child's attendance. A waiting list is dictates the pecking order of who will get in and who won't. The catch: if anyone leaves, they lose their spot in line.

The Waiting List is an above-average ensemble piece that puts together an interesting mix of characters and then stirs the pot for some nice chemistry. There's the teenager Ella (Decher), who's holding a spot for her sister and may be pregnant herself. Sexy Kathryn (Englund) is the no-nonsense divorced mother who will do anything to get her daughter into the school. Ben (Flynt-Sommerville) is Kathryn's college boyfriend whose own marriage is on the rocks. Chris (Hall) is the punk of the group, who apparently has no filter between his brain and his mouth. Very pregnant Audrey (Walker) is the most experienced parent, with two kids and one one the way.

Confining all your characters in one place with nothing to do except talk could spell disaster to a lesser project, but Vogel and company are up to the challenge. An intelligent script has some great observations about parenting and human nature (what Disney characters are you attracted to?) and demonstrate a mature talent at work. The actors also do a fine job bringing their various characters to life and they are all strong enough to make me forget I was watching a movie and connect to them emotionally. When they all separate at the conclusion of the film, I was a bit sad to see them go.

While the subject matter does deal with kids, this is not a kids movie. There is profanity (I always cringe when I hear the F-bomb in the first line of dialogue) and some pretty frank adult-speak, so don't say I didn't warn you. If you find even the idea of this offensive, steer clear. To be totally honest, I felt a couple scenes did go too far, but not enough to dissuade me from a recommendation.

The film is technically strong. Vogel and his cinematographer, Brian Mohr, do a great job visually. Shots are composed well and lit properly. The editing works well. The sound is clear. Nice appropriate transition graphics help bridge scenes together. If I had any complaints, it's that some scenes remain on a wide shots too long. I really wanted to see the actor's faces better. In Vogel's commentary (see below) he explains why he did this (and one time he wish he didn't), but I cared enough to want to look them in the eye more often.

There are several traditional microbudget elements at work in The Waiting List, all of which serve the plot and save the filmmakers some money. There is one main location (an actual preschool, so production design was built in). The time frame is short (one 24 hour period) which means only one costume per character. The running time is a tight 80 minutes and doesn't overstay its welcome. These "limits" work well together and demonstrate the potential of our medium.

Vogel has also put some things into place that take advantage of web delivery. The first is releasing on YouTube. Anyone with a computer or smartphone screen can watch The Waiting List. Nothing frustrates me more than reading about an interesting film, then learning that I can't see it anywhere because it's playing in an obscure festival somewhere waiting for a distribution deal. Vogel made the film very accessible and I applaud him for that.

The other thing he's done is taken advantage of YouTube annotations and created a text-based director's commentary. I've seen these on DVDs that utilize a subtitle track, but Mike's film is the first I've seen to do the same on YouTube. It's entertaining, educational and fun. It makes the movie that much better and adds a nice level of re-playability.

So, if you're looking for an entertaining movie this weekend and don't mind the more adult-oriented content, check out The Waiting List. It's a solid film that transcends it's microbudget roots and involves you in the story and characters, especially if you have kids of your own. It's well worth your viewing time that you "can never get back".

If you like this film, be sure to check out Mike Vogel's blog and his YouTube channel. There is a lot more that he has done (and is working on) that should please anyone satisfied with this movie. Especially good is a web series called Did You Cast Anyone? which was used to crowdfund his latest project, Did You Kiss Anyone? Very funny stuff, especially if you are an actor or director.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Can You Hang a Lav Mic?



I'm a little late on this one (Dave posted it last week), but it's still a good video and worth noting. This time Knoptop takes Quick FX in an audio direction, testing the theory that you can hang an inexpensive lav mic and get better sound than the normal position on clothing. He gets this from the stage, where actors typically get the ol' "mic on the forehead" trick which Dave sort of replicates here.

It's an interesting experiment, but I think this proves that below the mouth is still the best position for a lav. Actually, I think it sounds better mostly because it's closer to the mouth than the hung version. Even when hidden under the hairline, the mic has less distance to the mouth then when suspended just above the frame. That's one "secret" of good audio. Get the mic as close to the speaker's mouth as possible, no matter where the mic may be.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

What is a Scissor Clamp?



Knoptop has a new segment! Departing slightly from his Quick FX format, Dave shares with us things we didn't know, we didn't know. In this first episode, he shows us what a scissor clamp does and how we can hang lights from it. Okay, you have to have "real" lights for this to work (my hacked work lights won't cut it here), but if you didn't know you could hang lights from a drop ceiling, now you do.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Episode Workflow



After a barrage of emails asking me all kinds of different questions about various tidbits concerning the show, I get proactive. Today's episode is about my episode process and what goes into it. If you can't find anything you want to emulate here, consider it a lesson in things you don't want to do.

Camstudio screen capture software

Exporting with Vegas for Vimeo HD

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Variable ND Filter Comparison



The DSLR Film Noob returns with a valuable side-by-side of two variable ND filters in different price ranges. A basic ND filter will restrict the amount of light entering your camera, relieving your aperture to do other things (like adjust depth of field). These come in different levels of light restriction, which means you have to unscrew and screw them on to adjust the amount of light you want coming in.

A variable ND filter lets you make these changes on the fly. One variable filter handles the same job as three normal ones. You pay for this convenience, but it it is handy. Deejay gives us the skinny on how well the cheap version holds up to the more expensive one.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Frugal Filmmaker Retail Resources

I've recently moved to a new town and the first thing I did was check for the stores that I use to help me build my DIY gear. In making this move I was worried that I would lose some of the brick-and-mortar supply houses that I've come to rely on. Sure, there's always the internet, but sometimes you need a quick part and it's nice to know you can just go down the street to pick it up.

Here are the top six stores that I've come to rely on. They are all pretty common (in the U.S.) and pricing is universal:

Home Depot. If you build a lot of DIY stuff, a good hardware store is a must. The Depot is a large chain that you can find everywhere and they have the best prices. They carry just about everything you'll need from light dimmers to PVC pipe--even gaffer's tape! Lowe's is the only place I could find PVC snap tees and I prefer the PVC plugs found at ACE (their octagonal shape makes for easy hole-centering), but Home Depot is king.

Harbor Freight Tools. This China importer has a lot of great deals on tools as well as a host of weird stuff you will find creeping it's way into your DIY curriculum. The most important tool found here is PVC ratcheting cutters, the simplest, cleanest and fastest way to slice through PVC pipe (and only $5!). I've also found countersink bits, cable ties, clamps, multimeters, and a host of other stuff at prices no one else can beat. Frequent sales drop the prices even lower.

Dollar Tree. Having any dollar store nearby is very important and The Tree is the most common. The Mini Camera Stabilizer was born here, but you'll find all kinds of useful cases, camera mounts and props that won't set you back more than a buck.

Best Buy. This place won me over when they dispensed with their rebate policy and instead passed the savings immediately on to the consumer (a probable reason Circuit City folded). I make all my computer-related purchases there (laptops, hard drives, mice). Just skip the extended warranties if you feel like you can.

Wal-Mart. While I haven't found Wally World to be indispensible, it's nice to have around just in case. Their prices are still some of the best and you'll find stuff there you can't find anywhere else, such as sandbag alternatives or counterweights for your Frugal Crane. Recently, Vincent Vasquez has been using a $15 Targus monopod found here for all kinds of things.

Radio Shack. While Rat Shack has moved away from it's DIY roots, it's still the only chain electronic parts store. They are everywhere and sell those much needed bits as well useful electronics. I'm still using the cheap lav mic on my web show that I purchased there. Watch for clearance sales to snag some really good deals.

Those are my top picks. Do you have any others?

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