Production-Now.com Media Production Mentoring

Online film school designed with beginning filmmakers in mind.

4.30.2008

Content Trumps Presentation

...most of the time.

Norman Hollyn in a recent post said,
[T]he fact is that content will always outweigh quality of presentation. No one is going to watch a local kids’ AYSO soccer game on television, even if it is in HD (unless their kid is playing). But they’ll watch the Super Bowl, even if it’s on their 15″ ancient television (if that’s all they have). In the equation, compelling content beats out compelling presentation — though I’m going to have to get back to you about how 300 fits into that.

Excellent point. He is absolutely correct, and quickly becoming one of my favorite bloggers to read on the subject of media.

But he asks a question about movies like "300", where watching it at low resolution doesn't seem to make sense. It is certainly a very important question to consider because in the case of eye candy movies there is something about presentation that is important.

And this is where we must keep in mind that content beats presentation every time, unless the presentation makes it nearly impossible to access the content. This is why watching movies like "Transformers" online doesn't work. The content of special effect movies is the special effects. Cut those down with bad compression, and the movie is gone.

So even here content trumps presentation, but the presentation must carry the content. This also bleeds into the problem with Dogme 95 films: They try to completely abandon presentation for the sake of content and so no longer make the content accessible.

Just some mind wanderings. Once again, excellent post, Mr. Hollyn.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor

4.29.2008

Contrast

I was looking at some footage recently, and while I liked the color, I felt it could be better. So I tried color correcting it, but I wasn't very impressed with the result. Then I tried adjusting the contrast and I was blown away.


Contrast Difference

(I didn't realize that my computer took two different frames when I exported until I got home to write... sorry.)

The effect works better in moving video with the full frame, but this is just to give you an idea of the "pop" difference I achieved just by increasing the Contrast a little bit.

Note that I also reduced the amount of Red in the image at the same time. Often when you bump contrast you'll get too much of a color, so you'll want to bring that back down a bit.

When I see raw film footage, I'm usually very unimpressed, but then after it's been corrected it looks really nice. Perhaps the reason video footage doesn't pop as much as film is because we don't take our video tapes to a professional colorist to tweak it. The fact that my footage became something completely different just by tweaking a couple little values blows me away.

I've got a lot to learn and experiment with in this area of filmmaking, but seeing such an incredible impact from this is inspiring.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor

4.28.2008

Bad Films and Dogma95

I saw a terrible movie this weekend. The movie is so bad that I'm not even going to post a link to it. In other words: I'd rather this movie not exist, and there is nothing good to be learned from watching it. However, since I did watch it (mostly in fast forward to waste the minimum amount of time), there are a few lessons I can apply to the experience. Well, there's one lesson that comes out of the "style" the film was shot in: Dogme 95.

"Dogma 95" (for us American folk) is a "style" of filmmaking that is all about getting back to the "purity" of filmmaking. They follow such rules as: No props or sets; No added sound; It must be hand-held; Must be in color; No filters/optical work; No murders; The film must take place here and now; No "genre" movies; It must end up on Academy 35mm (but should be shot on a home camcorder); The Director must not be credited... oh, and the "goal is to force the truth out ... at the cost of any good taste and any aesthetic considerations."

In other words: Dogme 95 films are pieces of non-artsy artsy trash. To swear to be devoid of any "taste" or "aesthetic considerations" for the sake of "truth" is a philosophical minefield that mistakes ingenuity and talent as selling out, and praises home movies as pure filmmaking.

To make matters worse, it seems these filmmakers consider lesbians making out and people saying "f-you" for a few hours to be "truth". That's right up there with the claim that Ellen Paige is now "one of the most exciting young actresses on screen today" because of her "tour-de-force performance" in "The Tracey Fragments" where she plays the same character she did in many of her other films: A smart-mouthed, bitter, jaded, under-aged sex object capable of turning the tables on older men.

Truth.

Uh-huh.

Lesson #1: If you can't make movies well, just create a "style" for yourself and become a self-proclaimed genius. ...Okay, that's not the lesson, although the truism still holds: There is an audience for everything (someone gave the horrible film at the start of this post a 6.8/10 on IMDB). It is important to note that restricting yourself to what you have at your disposal for filmmaking can lead to great learning opportunities and fantastic moments in films. But what the Dogme 95 crowd forgets is that this ingenuity is practiced on virtually every film set out there, including Hollywood.

As Stu Maschwitz noted in his Keynote at NAB'08, "Filmmaking is all about showing less." He also gives some fun examples of things he's done (including helicopter stunts) in a basement.

(NB: I think there's some swearing in the video, if that's going to bother you.)

So, Lesson #1 is this: Filmmaking is about using the tools you have to get the medium of film to do what you need for your piece to convey your message, no matter your budget. If you forget that, like the Dogme guys, you'll produce lame strings of moving pictures.

There are certainly more lessons to be gleaned from filmmaking from a theoretical standpoint to inform your shooting style, but we'll leave it at that for now.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor

4.25.2008

Fixing Scripts

I've only written a handful of scripts and screenplays, so I've still got a ton to learn. I'm currently trying to resolve some issues with the short we plan to shoot in a couple of months. It's a very cute piece that I'm excited about (I wrote it and am directing, so I'd better be), but there are certainly still some problems.

So, that's what I'm up to. That, and trying to work out some kinks of a beta test that I got into. That's way cool. Beta testing is awesome. I love helping others find problems with things so they can fix them.

Speaking of which, if you need help with anything, don't forget about the Production-Now.com Forums, where you can post questions and get advice.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor

4.24.2008

Gigabytes, Math, and Hard Drives

So, you go to the store and pickup and brand new 500GB hard drive. Says so right on the box: 500. You stick it into your computer and... magically, tragically, your beautiful half-terabyte drive has shrunk to around 465Gigs. What?

I was rather bummed out the first time I noticed this oddity, and by my second drive I decided to figure out what was happening. I'll spare you the trip to Wikipedia if you haven't already looked this up yourself.

Turns out there are two ways of defining a Gigabyte: Either, as the name would seem to suggest, as 1 Billion Bytes (1,000,000,000), or as 1,073,741,824 bytes (2^30, or 1024^3).


Gigabyte

What?

The first definition makes sense. Giga = 10^9 or a billion, so a Gigabyte would be a billion bytes. Where does this other number come from?

Well, a byte is made up of 8 bits (either a 1 or a 0... binary). So computers start out dealing with things in 2s (1 or 0), and by extension, powers of 2: 16, 32, 64, 128, 256, 512, 1024... wait, we just saw this number. Someone somewhere realized that 1024 was fairly close to 1,000, so why not label the Megabyte (literally "one thousand bytes") as equal to 1024 bytes. Makes sense. Well, to geeks, and people like me who have grown up with geeky numbers like that.

But hard drive manufacturers didn't care that computers deal in powers of 2, and so built drives based on precise numbers of bytes. So, your hard drive has one billion bytes (1GB). But your computer thinks of a GB as 2^30. If you take your calculator and divide 10^9 by 2^30, you will end up with 0.93132257. Multiply that by the number of Gigabytes the box says, and you'll find out how many Gigs your computer will think it is.

I was playing with these numbers earlier today for a math video, so they're on my mind.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor

4.23.2008

Visual Story Telling

As I've noted in a recent post, you can learn a lot from watching movies.

One of the very common problems with student films is that they are "preachy", they say too much and show to little. Contrast that with a scene in "Invincible", where Vince is feeling down and considering dropping out. But then he sees a kid wearing his number on his back playing football.

Boom. Instant inspiration without a single line of dialog.


Show, Don't Tell - "Invincible"

So, keep in mind that movies are about moving pictures and using those moving pictures to move the audience. By the by, DJTV has a great video on this subject as well (if you haven't realized it yet, DJTV is a great resource).

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor

4.22.2008

Fixing Lighting in Post

I know there are some pretty awesome programs out there that allow you to do some intense image manipulation with video. But I don't have the money to shell out for those programs. So, what happens when you have a shot that doesn't look good because of a lighting problem? Can you do anything about it?

Absolutely. And you can do it for free.

In a recent interview, I lit for the the close up, but when I pulled out my shot looked like this:


Poor Lighting

The glare off the bookcase completely overpowers my beautiful actress. I can't have people looking at the woodgrain instead of the girl. That just won't do.

So, I fired up GIMP and got busy.

After a few failed attempts, I got an image that worked. First, I created a duplicate layer of the blown out bookcase side and tweaked with the contrast until it was through the roof.


High Contrast Layer

Second, I created a transparent feathered color layer that would bring the color closer to the rest of the wood.


Color Layer

When I put them all together I got a very nice image.


Final Fixed Image

"But hang on," some of you may say, "I can totally tell that was tweaked."

You're right. When I look at the image it looks forced, faked, unnatural. However, we both know that we're looking at an adjusted image. If I hadn't told you, you would just look at the person on screen and not even notice.

It's often hard to separate what "works" from what doesn't. So, to test my work, I show someone around me the clip and ask if anything bothers them about it. Sometimes they will say, "Well, the blue book is a little distracting."

Perfect. It's working. "Thanks."

However, someone may point out that the bookcase takes up too much of the frame. They're probably right, but I could help fix that problem by reducing the amount of color in my fixed bit and making it a bit darker. That may help.


Slightly Darker

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor

4.21.2008

Distrupting the Equilibrium

If you like action flicks and have yet to see "Equilibrium", it's fun flick (Rated R for mostly bloodless violence).


A Sweet Shot from "Equilibrium"

While watching it again this weekend I noticed a very important use of framing. In film, normal conversations put the actors on the opposite side of the screen looking toward the empty space between them. This creates comfortable distance between the characters, but keeps them close.

However, in one scene of "Equilibrium", the filmmakers wanted to emphasize the disconnect between the main character and his son. Toward this end, they placed the two characters on opposite sides of the screen, looking off the near edge. This is not only a little discomforting to the audience, it also places a huge gap between the characters.


Two Framing Options for Conversations

Beyond the interesting lesson in framing, it is important to note another vital tip: You can learn a lot about filmmaking from paying attention while you watch TV and movies. If you keep your eyes open, and your brain engaged, you will find many lessons taught in film school exemplified right before your eyes. DJTV has a good episode on this topic as well.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor

4.18.2008

Wise Supervise

I recently had the opportunity to attend a seminar by Ed Kramer. Ed is a special effects guru, who started working with computer aided effects when they first came out. If you take a look at his IMDB portfolio, you've likely seen some of his work.

It's always interesting to hear the perspective of people who have been in the "industry" for a long time (almost 30 years, in this case), and have seen the technology progress from wiring circuits as a control for a CRT monitor, to the free 3D software of today. Fascinating stuff.

At the end, during Q&A, I asked Ed if he had written the algorithms for the early special effects programs, or if he had merely used them. He smiled and said, "Ah, there's a techie in the room."

Turns out he did a little of both, and, when he couldn't figure it out, he got someone who was better than he was to work out the kinks. He said, "That's the trick to being a good supervisor: You have to know who is better at what and let them do it."

Bingo.

I say this often, but it bears repeating: Media production is a group effort. Use the strengths of other to improve your projects and make yourself look better. This is no place for "ego tripping".

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor

4.17.2008

OIS and Tripods

My camera has an awesome feature called "Optical Image Stabilization" (OIS). It works by physically moving the lenses to compensate for rough camera motion, such as when I'm shooting something handheld. It works amazingly well.

However, as with most things, if you use it outside of the proper context--handheld, or for a difficult camera move on a tripod--it can cause problems. I've read over and over again about how it's important to turn off Image Stabilization when you have your camera on a tripod, but I hadn't ever really thought about it too much on my shoots.

Well, this morning, while filming an interview, I set up my framing and started the take. A few seconds in the image moved and my framing was totally thrown off.


Image Stabilization on a Tripod Issue

So, for the most consistent results from your motionless shots: Turn off your Image Stabilization. In fact, it is recommended that you turn off image stabilization any time your camera is on a tripod, because it can cause problems if you try to do any smooth motion. Check out DJTV's "Steady As She Goes" for much more information about this subject.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor

4.16.2008

Endearing Ignorance

It was awhile ago when I was talking with a couple people about how inexpensive RAM was getting. One of the others said, "Oh yes, and Memory is getting cheap too."

I looked over at the other person and he smile at me. He admitted later that he couldn't bring himself to straighten out the fact that Memory is RAM. I couldn't either. It was too great.

And so, a few days ago, when I asked a young lady how big her JumpDrive was, she looked at me blankly and said, "About this big."


"About This Big"

Jason and I burst into laughter. He said, "That is ignorance that is endearing."

Absolutely.

I love that girl even more now.

Granted, my question was vague. I could have asked, "What is the capacity in Gigabytes of your Flash drive?" However, had I done that, I wouldn't have had this blog to write about. And that would be sad.


The point to take away from this is that we are all ignorant about a great many things. If you find yourself outside "the loop" about something, ask. Or, if you're among friends, do your best to join in. You just may endear yourself to them more. Do not be one of those know-it-alls who pushes people away. It won't score you any points with those with whom you work.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Ps. Jason also took a stab at Photoshopping the image, so I felt I needed to post it. His taste has more color. So, for your viewing pleasure:


Jason's Work

4.15.2008

Lighting a Film Set

I got a call at about 7:30pm last night from a guy desperately in need of some help on his film (yes, real film) set. Much of his small crew couldn't make it, and they had to get some shots. Plus, he needed some of my equipment.

So, I told him I could give him a couple of hours, and gathered up the stuff he needed. This brings up tip #1: Keep your equipment organized. You'll never know when you'll need to grab something and run. I know it's hard to keep your stuff organized and neat, but it makes for much happier movie making.

When we arrived (I took a friend along to help), they needed us to light the set. So we did. Then we lit another. And another. And made it easy for them to move the lights into the fourth lighting setup.


Setting Up Lights

It took us about an hour and half.

They still hadn't rolled the camera once.

We could have stayed, but it would have been many hours before they would have been ready for us to do anything else, so we said our farewells, and left.

It was nice to be that needed and helpful.


There is one more thing that really stood out to me on this particular set: It was "ego free". The director, producer, and my friend (the DP), focused on the look and feel of the film rather than about doing things "their way". As I was walking past the monitor, the producer asked me what I thought about the framing they were setting up. I told him I thought the actor was too high in the frame. He agreed, and that's probably how they shot it (I wouldn't know, I was in bed by then).

Tip #2: Check your ego at the door. Film (including video) is a collaborative process. Use the talents of others to make your film, and ultimately yourself, look better.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor

4.14.2008

Free Digital Products

...and the "Democratization of Media", among other things.

So while waiting for a meeting this afternoon, I picked up a copy of PC Magazine and read the article: "DRM-Free Music Spells Trouble". (As an aside, I thought it was interesting that both the author and the guy I was waiting for were named Lance.) Some interesting points that he brings up, but, as you probably know by now, I am quite against DRM. I'm fine with people requiring others to pay for things if they want to be paid, but DRM is not the way to go.

One of things that I think Lance overlooks in his article, is that media production is becoming less cost-intensive. This is what is called the "Democratization of Media". So now it's easy to create and rip-off digital media. But how does one get buyers even interested in paying for the right to listen to/watch one's media? This is one of the major problems facing this next generation. With so much content out there, the issue may be just as much people over-looking your media as downloading it illegally.

What does all that have to do with us?

I'm not sure. I'm much more of a "hobbyist" when it comes to media production. Sure, I create client projects that are very serious business, but the other stuff I do is for fun, to hone my skills, and to keep me "in the know". Most youth make media for the joy/challenge of it. It's not so much a big business for us. But, someday it will have to be if we want to do it for a living (or a partial living).

Perhaps such dreams are not to be. My wife told me that Scott Johnson works a job (or two?), but also does multiple podcasts, comics, and such each week. Those are things he does because he enjoys it, but it's obviously not pulling in enough dough to let him quit his day job.

What does all this mean? What am I talking about?

I don't know. I'm just musing at the moment, and considering the very real fact that Production-Now.com will likely never become enough to let me quit working another job for my "bread and butter".

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor

4.11.2008

100th Post (by my count*)

...and going on a Safari.

First, the big news: This is the 100th post since I started posting regularly (semi-regularly at the start there) on my Birthday last year. In the spirit of some art websites I've seen around, here's my celebration image:


Thanks for Reading!

I was going to write about something significant, but then I stumbled across this article while reading Norman Hollyn's blog. Now, whatever it was, has slipped my mind.

So, happy 100, and whatever else would make you feel like this was a worthy read.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor

*This is technically the 103rd post, but the first three were from the remnants of the blog when I started it in '05. So, they don't count as part of the official blog posts because they weren't really blog entries.

4.10.2008

Afternoons

My schedule was flopped today due to the scheduling demands of my actress, so I was working at home this morning instead in the afternoon. I am very much a creature of habit, so it was a little rough.

What made matters even more interesting was that my friend left me to answer people's responses on a rather lively thread. And so, Duty Calls (follow the link, it's awesome).

And so now I'm back, writing a blog (after replying to the thread for the umpteenth time). I guess the point is that I feel much more confined by schedules now that I'm no longer in film school. It was easy back then (aside from wanting to hang out with my girlfriend [now wife]) to just "pick up and go" for a film shoot. It's harder now.

Odd.


...I guess the other thing to keep in mind is that there will always be people who are WRONG on the internet. To modify the saying: 6 billion people can't all be right. Just a little reminder not to be a Troll and be gracious to those with whom you disagree (or are ignorant fools in need of enlightenment). We all could use a little slack from time to time.

Or maybe that's just me.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor

4.09.2008

Cutting Testimonials2

I'm shooting another "testimonial" type video for a client. It's not really a testimonial at all because I wrote a script and the actress is saying her lines... but, I'm shooting it like a testimonial.

I'm running into many of the same problems that I first wrote about, but this post isn't about the problems of shooting a concise "talking heads" piece, as it is about how to make your editing life easier. So, here are two tips:

1. Since your actor will not likely have the lines memorized, don't bother giving them a lot of time to try to memorize the lines. Few people have learned how to really utilize their short-term memory, so this will end up just wasting some time. Instead, have them create bullet points for themselves (help them out if they're not getting it).

So, if the paragraph is supposed to be:
Production-Now.com is a fantastic resource for learning about media, with a consistently updated blog, a growing wiki, and a forum where you can get help. This free resource is here to help you, or anyone you may know. Visit Production-Now.com.

Break it down:

  • Production-Now.com
  • Resource for Media
  • Blog
  • Wiki
  • Forum
  • Free

Often people do better memorizing lists, and will end up knowing the script.


2. Shoot with a J-Cut in mind. A J-Cut starts the audio slightly before the video. This can help the edit be a lot more smooth.


A J-Cut in a Timeline

How does one do that? By making sure that your actor says at least the first few words of the next section of the script, even if they don't have it memorized. That way you can do a J-Cut on either the video or the audio.


Just a few thoughts that came out of this morning's shoot.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor

4.08.2008

Film and Video

Starting last Friday April 4th at 8:30am I was pretty much on set till 5:00pm Monday April 7th. Friday and Saturday was a Super 16mm film shoot for the script "Beautification" . Sunday we had our first shoot day for "An Axe to Grind" which is a HDV Video shoot. And Monday was a Super 16mm Film shoot for the script "The Rock".

I am the Director of Photography on all these shoots. It was very different working with Film and then working with Video. Each has a very different work flow.

Working with film was a very time consuming process. I had to take light meter readings and then fix the lights according to what I wanted at the particular F-stop. I would then see what would be over/underexposed in the frame and adjust as needed.

After the exposure was set, I had my 1st AC measure the distance of the Actor or Object that we wanted in focus and set the camera to that distance. At that point I would refer to my Depth of Field Chart to see how much would be in focus. For this I factored in my F-Stop, Focal Length, and Distance. If I wanted less or more in focus I would have to adjust one or more of the three factors.


A Can Of Exposed Film

Figuring out these settings took time and precision. If one of the factors is set wrong you can have an unusable shot. On the shoot Monday I later learned that I had improperly acounted for the speed of the lens and underexposed the footage by 3 stops which will leave the shot very dark. This is a problem that I may be able to fix in development by "pushing process", which means to leave the film in the developer longer, but this is still a mistake that could of easily been avoided and will be expensive to fix.

When working on a Video shoot it is easier to avoid mistakes like this. I set up the camera, flip open the view finder, and adjust my settings with instant feedback as to what my shot looks like. I can see on the screen and what my exposure will look like and turn Zebra on to see if I'm heavily overexposed in an area.

On Film you can look through the Diopter (eye piece), but you will not see what the film will see. You have to go off of your light meter and depth of field charts to get an idea of what your shots will look like. The only thing the Diopter can tell you is framing.

Film also requires more crew because there are more positions that need to be filled. This was a lesson hard learned on Monday when half the crew decided not to come Each shot took 3 times as long as it should of to set up, we had to shoot without sound, and little details were overlooked or missed. Had we been shooting video we probable would of been o.k. with the lack of crew.

All and all it was a very exhausting yet experience giving weekend.

Signed,
-)_-.

Fake Blood

There are two ways to get blood on a set.

1. Have an actor who, like me, has perpetual nose bleeds.


My Latest Bloody Nose

Or, 2. Mix up some fake blood.


Fake Blood My Wife Mixed Up

Thanks to Digital Juice, we have a good recipe for blood.

  • White corn syrup.
  • Red food coloring.
  • Some condensed milk.
  • A little blue food coloring.

Mix. Add water if it's too thick.

This blood is edible and looks awesome.

Here's a little bit of makeup magic my wife cooked up for our shoot of "Life in a Box".


Fake Blood, Latex, and Gravel

If you're struggling to see how this fake blood mix works, check out DJTV's The Pumpkin King.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor

4.07.2008

Online Video and Peter

I just watched "Spider-Man 3" for the second time. This time it was on DVD, the first time it was streamed from some Asian country. The first time I was ambivalent toward the film, this time I liked it. And it mostly confirmed something I've been thinking for a while now: Video online can give you a skewed view of a film, and I don't just mean because of compression.

I first noticed this when I tried watching "Transformers" online. I couldn't do it. I wasn't into the film, I found it annoying, and the whole thing felt lame. Recently someone lent me a copy of the DVD, and I really enjoyed the flick. What had changed? What's the difference between a high quality and low-quality movie experience?

It's hard to say, especially since I've seen many things online and enjoyed them a lot. Probably most notably was "Heroes", which my brother and I have watched exclusively online. We both really like the show, and have blast watching it together on my computer over his week long breaks from school.


Peter Parker Petrelli

well, they looked similar to me.


Back on topic. One of the main differences is quality. "Heroes" from NBC is a rather nice image, but you miss out on a lot of the special effects when a movie is coming across the globe in a compressed video stream. This, combined with a small video window from Asian, makes it harder to get into the film and stay with it.

Does this mean that it's not a good idea to watch pirated movies online?

It depends. A movie about characters, such as the remake of "Alfie", could easily be as enjoyable in a descent video stream. But special effect pictures need to be at a high resolution, or you miss the point of the movie. If the Mammoths aren't huge so you don't feel them rumble past you, you're not really seeing the movie.

Does this have any application for Blu-Ray and the whole "HD" move? Perhaps, but I don't think so. At least, not yet. DVDs--especially upconverted, I hear--have a great image quality that takes some serious home theater theatre to beat. So, until we're strapped in with an awesome screen, sweet speakers, and some theatre seats (the last of which is the only of those that I have) High Def is going to have to wait.

Don't be too Blu.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor

4.04.2008

Helpless Help and Joomla

I really like forums (as I've said before), but I do not like Help.

Help is typically unhelpful (I've said that before too). When I get a new computer it typically comes with a "quickstart" type guide. This ginormous piece of paper comes glossy and in full color. Unfolding it reveals a schematic of how to attach your keyboard, mouse, and monitor to your computer... it also often has a helpful reminder to plug your system in.


Computer Setup Diagram

Cool. If I were blind and could still see the paper in my hand, it might be helpful. But color coding, distinctions in shape, and nice little coordinated graphics could get me that far. I guess, if I was really worried about breaking my new machine, it would offer comfort that I was doing it right.

The problem is that if something that isn't painfully obvious goes wrong, I'm stuck... and it is far beyond the scope of Help to offer assistance.

And so my first few stumbled steps into Joomla have been. Download? No problem. Install? Cake. Test? Absolutely. Use?

...wait... how do I use this thing?

Nothing.

This is why I am so passionate about mentoring. With a mentor you have someone who sits down next to you (figuratively, in some cases), and walks you through the first steps.

I've been working on a GIMP tutorial that does just that (based off a conversation I had with my dad last week). Tutorials that approach learning from a mentoring standpoint are awesome. They are easy to follow, helpful, and get you going.

I just wish Help was that way sometimes.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor

4.03.2008

Written Data

I was over at a friend's house, and he wanted to show me a DVD that someone had made for him. Unfortunately, he couldn't find the copy that he wanted, so he pulled out another DVD with the same label and stuck it in his player.

Nothing happened.

He then put it in two of his computers and it didn't work on either of them. Frustrated, he looked up at me and asked, "So, what's the issue, Techie?"

Mustering all my technical knowledge, I applied myself to the issue. I flipped the DVD over, looking for the tell-tale marks of a burned disk.


A CD with Data

I didn't see the line where the data had been burned.

I told him I was pretty sure that the technical reason why the DVD wasn't playing was because it was blank. After a few moments he agreed with my assessment.

Keep in mind that you can't really see the data lines on a replicated disk, so this trick doesn't always work. But for home-burned disks, it can be a helpful little trick.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor

4.02.2008

Ahoy, Matey!

I did not intend to write so much about moral issues as I have of late, but things keep arising that prove to be moral tales.

The latest is the news of Sony/BMG's expeditions into these trouble waters of piracy. I can't find any completely reliable news source as of yet, but several people are talking about it (like Wired and Ars Technica). I first ran across this thanks to Tim Wilson.


A Pirate's Life for Me

What does all this mean? It's hard to say, but "hypocrisy" seems to be one of the first things.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor

4.01.2008

The Four One One

It's 4-1 today, so naturally there are a ton of new and exciting announcements. I'll list just a few:



I'm very glad that there wasn't any bad news, like there was a few years back. Anyway...

While chatting with one of my friends, he expressed disgust that Google would create such a morally void tool in Gmail (he had yet to realize what day it was). All foolin' aside, it got me thinking.

Much of the media production world (and the corporate world, not to mention the world at large) has a tendency to let dishonesty slide, and often seems to reward such behavior. I heard story after story while in school about people who flat out lied about their training, knowledge, expertise, or otherwise to land a job or internship in media. Granted, these people typically went home and studied their brains out that night to not get found out, and so were at least willing to work. But dishonesty is not a good rule to follow (just watch "John Tucker Must Die").

I also know many people who use ripped copies of software and have never paid for Photoshop in their life (and plan to keep it that way). I've heard directors and producers make promises they plan to never fulfill, and seen productions rip people off. It often feels like the message is: Do whatever it takes to get it done.

The good news is that people are honest about 89% of the time. That's good. But under pressure, or "following orders", things can get nasty.

So, my no foolin' suggestion for today is this: Be honest, and treat people well. Being good to the people around you may seem to cost more now, but it will tend to make things better for everyone. And, if you become known for your honesty, you'll probably end up in a better place (be it a job, situation, or position) in the end.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor