Production-Now.com Media Production Mentoring

Online film school designed with beginning filmmakers in mind.

1.29.2009

Tip: F5 and Command Link Control

If you use Powerpoint or other presentation software, you've probably bumped into the F5 key before:


F5

I don't use Powerpoint, so this post has nothing to do with it (though I did just learn that if you press Shift+F5 it will take you to your currently selected slide, in case that helps you somehow).

This post is about a few new web tips I learned today. I'm not involved in any media production at the moment but I'm doing a ton with websites, so I'm learning ways of doing things faster while updating files and navigating a CMS.

After updating a file, sometimes you have to wait for the internet to catch up. I found myself clicking the "Refresh" button over and over again until my new content finally populated. If you get tired of clicking, you can start pressing F5. Yep: In a browser, F5 refreshes your page.


Okay, so you're working on a page and you want to check all your links. So you right click and select "Open in new tab" and then you sometimes have to click back to your tab to repeat that step.

That's lots of bothersome clicking.

Is there a better way?

You be there is!

Hold down the Control key--Command key on a Mac--and then click. Boom: Link opening in a new tab and you're still in your original. It's a beautiful thing.

Oh, and yes: You're welcome <smile>.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor

1.28.2009

Tip: Jump to File

I was working in a folder with over 6,000 files.

I know, I know: Excessive. But it wasn't my folder. I was merely working in it.

Anyway, I needed to get to the file RR50M-l.jpg... which was toward the bottom. I started scrolling and my friend Bo told me to stop. "Check this out," he said. "Click in some white space and then type the name of the file really fast."

I did.

!

That's right: Jumped me to the file.


Jump to File

Even better: It works on both a PC and a Mac (probably Linux boxes too, but I don't have one hooked up right now, so someone tell me if it's true or not). Just click and start typing. If you type too slowly you'll start jumping around files instead of narrowing your search further, but you can get pretty close to your file with just a few letters, even if your folder has thousands of files (unless they all start with something like 004_draftfile-1927...).

There's your super cool tip for moving around folders. It works to jump to both folders and files within a directory, and can really speed things up.

What are you waiting for? Give it a try.

And if you already knew about this trick... good for you. Some of us still have a lot to learn about computers <smile>.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor

1.27.2009

Audio Recording: Equipment

You've got a band and you want to put together a little demo CD for people. You don't have a DAW, or a recording studio, or even an amplifier. You're also missing the fog machine. Somehow, though, you've managed to scrape together $100, and you want to use that money to break into the music industry... or, at least put something together for YouTube.

To record music you need three things:
  • An audio capture device (i.e. microphone)
  • An input into your computer (e.g. audio in) and
  • Editing/mixing software

Microphone:
My favorite microphone to use cost me $25 when a local music shop was having a big sale. It is not a super high quality microphone and I like that because:
1. It only picks up noise right in front of it because it isn't good enough to pick up "room noise"
2. I could afford it
In other words: You don't need to spend a ton on a microphone right off the bat. In fact, the lousy pickup range has been helpful when I've needed to sing and not hear the piano accompaniment.

What you want for starters is a Cardioid microphone. It's named this because of the upside-down heart shape of the signal pickup pattern. This is very versatile and great for vocals. It's also a sturdy mic design, so it won't matter as much if you accidentally drop it. You could get a good one on sale for $25, or a less expensive one for less than that retail.


Cardioid Microphone

The other thing to consider is the type of connector it has. Ideally you want an XLR jack--as that is the most standard--but depending on your audio in options, you may want to think about either a quarter inch or a mini plug...


Audio In:
Most computers come with a "line in/mic in" mini jack. The problems are:
1. Most recording devices don't have a 1/8" mini jack
2. The sound isn't very good because it is built onto the motherboard and will pick up noise from your computer's electronics

So you need to get something that will interface with your computer. You want something that is either Firewire or USB that will take both a quarter inch input and an XLR in. That way you can plug in both guitars and microphones without much of a hassle. If you can find a refurbished one, they will run you about $75... though they retail for $125-250.


Recording Interface

Well, that's your whole budget. Sad times, because you still need software (this is assuming you already have a computer and all the other cables you may need).

Software:
Thankfully, there is a free option for your start into the world of recording. Audacity allows for very simple audio editing, but multiple tracks get tricky and aren't super nice. It's worth getting started with Audacity because other free audio editing programs require a lot more finagling.

I've also used my NLE to cut audio. If your software supports multiple audio channels, it can work really well as an audio mixing tool for early projects.

Other Options:
Before you spend your last few dollars, consider:

1. We recorded our first CD in the basement of our church using the church's equipment. That was pretty cool.
2. See if someone you know has some recording equipment, and if they'll help you put something together.
3. Come out to Colorado and record in my basement. I'd be happy to help you guys put something together if you ever swung by. (Call first, though, for my wife's sake <smile>)

So, that's the basic overview of what you'll need. Want specifics or suggestions based on what I've used? Let me know.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor

1.26.2009

Computers Su... Are Less Than Ideal

The following video takes the Mac vs. PC debate to it's logical conclusion. Very minor "profanity" in the end title card (alluded to in the title above).


Mac vs. PC

So, why is it that one person can plug a camera into his or her computer and it works perfectly, while their neighbor can't get it to work even after reinstalling drivers and performing updates?

Why will a program run flawlessly on one machine and not on another?

Why do some people get all sorts of malware while others never have an issue at all?

I don't know.

Sometimes computers are just lame. Most of the time "the problem is with the person in front of the computer"--as the German proverb goes (or so I'm told). But what happened, what did I do wrong? No one can rightly say.

Granted, some systems run better than others. For example, I'm working with a program at work right now that simply refuses to cooperate. I can't get it to do anything properly, and even if it does do something right, it will work correctly in one instance on my machine and then not work at all three seconds later.

Trust me: I understand the frustration of being held at the mercy of your machine.

It's not pretty.

What should we do when we encounter these problems?

Ask around. Sure, please come talk to me, but for as much as I know, there is way more to know. After that, ask on the product forums and see if people have ideas there. Then ask on more generic forums. Also, call customer/technical support if the company offers it. I find that they aren't that helpful typically, but it's worth a call.

Sometimes it takes a while to get an answer. Other times the answer never comes but the problem just goes away. Sometimes you just have to find another solution or scrap the project altogether.

We rely on computers these days. That's no worse than relying on air to breathe and water to drink. It's only problematic when we can't get water, air, or a program that works correctly.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor

1.24.2009

"Don't Act Like You're Acting"

There is a brilliant scene in The Rocketeer where one of the actresses in a theater production is chastised by the director. I couldn't find the scene on YouTube, and my only copy is on VHS, but he tells her something like, "Act, but don't act like you're acting."


Rocketeer

And, yes, that is very good advice. There is nothing worse than watching actors do nothing more than read their lines from memory. <shudder> It's horrible.

On the other hand, the truly brilliant actors can act so well that you can tell when they are acting. It's those exceptionally subtle changes they can show in their faces that makes you believe that they are lying to the other characters. Not only do you completely believe that they are the character they are playing, but you know that they are playing a part to mislead someone else.

It's absolutely brilliant.

So, yes, please do more than merely state your lines.

And please don't act like you're acting.

...unless your character is supposed to be acting at that moment in your story.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor

1.22.2009

Hair and Makeup

I'm partial to the "young and cute" look on girls.

Not really sure why, but I've always liked "adorable" over "hot." Don't know what I mean? Hmm... let me use a comparison for you visual peoples out there. I like Miranda more than I like Megan because:


Megan: Hot


Miranda: Adorable

And, honestly, much of the difference is in the way the girl carries herself and does her hair and makeup. I mean, if you're over the age of 18, you know a jr. high or high school girl when you see one: Tons of makeup and a certain hair style that just screams, "I'm mature! I am!" I find it amusing.

As filmmakers, we must pay special attention to keep our eyes open when we encounter these kinds of things. You never know when you'll need to take your actress back to her high school days, or bring a girl up a few years. Knowing the differences between how a high schooler, a college girl, and a mom do their hair and makeup could help you take a girl in between these ages and move her up and down in years within a few hours.

I saw a prime example of this in an episode of Lost tonight:


High School Claire


Young Mommy Claire

There is much to learn from the masters. Just another reminder to keep your brain engaged while you watch.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor

1.21.2009

Hobnobbing

If there is one aspect to success in media that I am utterly pathetic in, it is schmoozing. I mean, I'm this guy:


Me: the Dork

Oh, sure, I have improved quite a bit since these days:


Me: the Dweeb

But, come on, you know I'm not the life of the party.

Add to that my inability to keep people interested in what I say unless it is one-on-one, and... well... you've got a recipe for the guy at a party that no one really hangs around. In fact, one assignment for a film class was to get six business cards at an event with a bunch of Hollywood bigwigs. One of my other professors, who knew my predicament, walked by my seat and dropped six of his cards on my plate.

I believe I got an A in that class.

You get the picture.

Painful.

I know--I was there.

Suffice it to say, I really enjoy getting to know people when the opportunity affords itself. And this evening I had the opportunity to meet with James N. Weber. He's a cool guy who has been involved with some pretty impressive--and important--projects. He's also putting together a website full of Final Cut Pro Tutorials from around the web. So if you're looking for some helpful videos, go check it out.

And if you'd like to chat with me and do a little--and I mean: minuscule, since I'm not very important--hobnobbing, feel free to drop me a line and/or add me on Facebook.

On the other hand, if you hope to meet attractive girls and powerful studio executives... I suggest you spend your time elsewhere. I'm just a guy with a green screen I painted on a wall in my basement.


Me: Painting

Oh yeah, you know all the girls want to hang out at my place.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor

1.20.2009

The Sorry State of Sundance

I have, from time to time, bemoaned the rather... poor quality of student films shown in festivals. And I freely admit that mine aren't all that great either. But that's because I tend to try to do things with just a few non-filmmaker friends with a zero budget. And thus far, we've done pretty well for ourselves.

And for all I hear about Sundance, I expect quite a bit.

Well, if you've ever wondered what Sundance films are like, you can watch ten Sundance selections for free on iTunes until the 25th by going here.

NB: These are Sundance films, so please be advised: The content is not acceptable for all audiences. I've only watched a couple of them thus far and have already encountered plenty of f-words, some nudity, a story with homosexual pedophilia, and gratuitous gore. You have been warned.


John August and
Scott Simmons

Granted, I have yet to watch all of them, but I can see why these are free. The ones I've seen aren't worth money to watch. In fact, several movies from the 48 and 24 hour projects I've been involved with have turned out better.

These films suffer from all of the beginner mistakes: Too long, poorly cut, terrible audio, lame direction, and overall bad story telling (if there's a story at all).

I expected more.

If anything, it should give us all hope: If this is what they are accepting into Sundance, anyone... anyone can get in. So get out there and make your movies, friends. You are not far behind the "Official Selections"--and often outstrip them.

~Luke Holzmann
Filmmaker, Writer, Expectant Father

1.19.2009

Previously on...

...pick your show.

How 'bout Lost?

"Previously on Lost..."

Way cool introduction, yeah?

Yeah.

But I have to wonder: How does it feel to be the producer/editor/director who just watched your 45 minute show reduced to a very compelling and rather coherent 45 seconds? Granted, I realize that most of the power in these segments is the memory of everything that happened. But I've seen some pretty short recaps that gave me all the salient points and even conveyed some of the emotion.

That's good editing.

This is also true of great movie trailers.

And the ability to sum up, bring back to mind, and inspire a nostalgia for what has been and a desire for what is to come can even occur in something that isn't... well... so well informed as demonstrated humorously by:


Star Wars: Retold (by someone who hasn't seen it)


Shane Ross

Editing is a very powerful thing. It can make a very compelling hour long show, or take that same show and make a very compelling "catch you up" segment. And if you make something really good, perhaps someday a person will be able to give you some semblance of an outline without ever watching the whole thing.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor

1.16.2009

Tutorial: DVD to Hard Drive

For this tutorial you will need XP or Vista. If I get a request for the Mac version--which is basically the same, just with slightly different tools--I'll add it.

1. Download and install DVD Shrink, MPEG Streamclip, and QuickTime Alternative 1.81.

The installs should be very straight forward, but the QuickTime Alternative will replace your current QuickTime installation (don't worry, everything will still work).

2. Run DVD Shrink and Open your DVD


Open


Choose Your DVD Drive

this will launch an "Analyze" thing which will check the whole DVD


Analyze

3. Once this is done, the top bar will give you the option to rip the Full Disk or to Re-author. You will want to "Re-author" if you have menu pages on your DVD. But it doesn't matter much which you select (the full DVD will naturally take longer and include any "extras" like menus, trailers, or bonus materials).


Full Disk

If you choose to Re-author, you can pick which part of the DVD you want to take. For this tutorial I decided to rip the extras from my DVD.


Re-author

4. Push the Backup! button after you have made your selection from Step 3.


Backup!

5. Wait while it rips your DVD.


Encoding

You now have a Video_TS folder on your desktop (as well as an Audio_TS folder). This is your DVD copied onto your computer.

6. Open the Video_TS folder and then open the VOB file in MPEGStreamclip (something like VTS_01_1.VOB). MPEG Streamclip may ask if you want to open all of the files. Feel free to say yes, but if the video doesn't show up, do the VOB files one at a time.


VOB File

7. For YouTube, go to File->Export to MPEG-4


Export to MPEG-4

8. The settings should all be fine. If something goes wonky and you want help, just ask!


Settings

9. Click "Make MP4" in the bottom right.

After you let the process go, you should end up with a video file that will work for YouTube.

So, that's the basics of ripping one of your own projects off a DVD for YouTube. May it serve you well!

Remember, if you have any questions, please feel free to ask.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor

1.15.2009

Footage Trapped On a DVD?

Maybe someone handed you a copy of a video they put together from your last family get-together.

Perhaps you foolishly purchased a "direct to DVD" video camera.

It's possible your hard drive crashed and all your projects are only backed up on DVDs.

What if someone wanted you to compile clips from a bunch of different projects you've helped out on, but you were never given a hard drive with the footage or project?

There are a bunch of completely legitimate reasons why you may need to get to footage on a DVD so you can edit it later or post it online.

But how?

My next post will be a tutorial on how to do just such a thing.

I typed up step-by-step instructions today in an email, but I need time to gather images and such.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor

1.14.2009

My Life as a Filmmaker

Rather than copy and paste, I'm just going to point you to my homeschooling blog today.

I've written a brief post about one of the projects I have done and a rather obvious realization that hit me today.

I guess I've been thinking about contentment and my place in media for a few days now, and I think this post is the start of that answer.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor

1.13.2009

Show Some Show Love

I've been hearing a lot about this latest season of 24.

And that's cool.

But I've been enjoying another show:


Chuck

This show appeals to me on several levels:

1. It's a show about a total geek who gets connected with a super attractive CIA agent girl.

2. I love the relationships. Unlike other dramas that are based on the interpersonal tensions brought up in each episode, every main character truly cares about and loves the others. It is refreshing to see functional relationships overcoming the deception and lies of the undercover world of crime fighting.

3. The humor totally works for me. I gladly claim my nerd/geek status and laugh at all the jokes. It cracks me up.


Nerd Herd

Granted, the show isn't for everyone. While the sexual content isn't anywhere near that of Battlestar, Chuck and Sarah have sexual tension between them, and Chuck lives with his sister and her boyfriend (who are working on getting hitched). There are other sexual scenarios throughout with plenty of girls prancing about in their panties. There's also some rather mild violence and profanities.

This is a great show for just about any college aged--or older--nerd.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor

1.12.2009

Blind and Bored

The following video was produced when the creator was "pretty bored and decided to do something creative in my spare time."

...I try to do creative stuff in my spare time--like run a media mentoring blog--but it's nothing like this:
NB: The music is a tad cheesy... roll with it. I don't speak Japanese so I'm not sure exactly what she's saying, but it's mostly an R&B song about getting your groove on to get a girl--I think. Also, this is a movie that involves killing. There is some animated blood.


The Craft of War: BLIND from Percula

Crazy. Incredible. In a word:

WoW.

<smile>

People are so talented.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor

1.09.2009

3 Terabytes

For twelve dollars.

I mentioned that drives were getting inexpensive and after hearing yet another warning about lost data, I decided I would spring for another drive.

...or two.

So we went to Micro Center and got two 1.5 TB drives: An internal for my RAID system and an external for my wife as a secondary backup.

After using $300 in Christmas money, I ended up shelling out $12.37 for three terabytes of storage space.


$12.37

Not too bad of a deal... though I was hoping there'd be a worthwhile Netbook I could use the Christmas cash for instead.

Ah well.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor

1.08.2009

Legal Logo Laws?

When I was in film school we were hammered with the message: Do not include any logos from anything in your videos! Do not allow any brand name to appear on screen. Don't do it, or you could be sued.

On the major shoots we did, we even had insurance to cover "errors and omissions" for those pesky trademarks that would sneak into a bag of chips on top of a refrigerator in the background of a shot. We taped over car logos. We turned cans of carbonated beverages around. We made sure our actors didn't wear any t-shirts with brand names.

This is a practice I continue to this day.

And that's why it shocks me when I see student filmmakers get away with magazines on screen. I'm appalled that professors allow brand names in film festivals.

And then today, while "tooling around" the internet, I came across a video, produced by professionals, that contained two (2) major brand names. One of the brands was pivotal to the script.


Pringles & Wii

Did they have permission?

No.

Granted, this was a "spec shoot," so, to my understanding, it was okay... but there's something odd about this: It's okay to use restricted logos as long as you're trying to sell yourself/your idea, but if you're making a video as a project (even for the educational benefit of it) that is not legit?

I'm no lawyer, so things may be slightly different than that--and it's been a long while since I was in "mass media law." Even so...

The world is odd.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor

1.07.2009

Less than 10 cents a gig?

Okay, I remember running my first computer off an actually floppy floppy. No hard drive. (Sorry, no picture tonight; my computer has been commandeered for an important WoW Raid. And I can't seem to locate the disk.)

Twenty years later? Well, this week you can purchase 1.5 terabytes for less than 10 cents a gig*?

Crazy.

I just may get me one of them for backup purposes, since my other internal media drive tanked. I don't really want to lose my data. It's just odd to remember when 120gigs was huge and terabytes didn't exist yet.

Cheaper/better technology? Super cool in my book. Even if it does make me feel "old"...

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor

*...sort of.

1.06.2009

MacWorld Intuition

MacWorld was today (in case you missed that).

There wasn't much new to rave about, but thankfully we have an inside look into Apple's latest intuitive design that we can all get hyped about:


MacBook Wheel

What struck me in the video--beyond the hilariously accurate jabs at Apple and its fanboys--is the use of the word "intuitive."

I've been told by people over and over again that Macs are more "intuitive" than PCs, and so, naturally, better. And while Apple does a great job with design, tends to have very friendly and usable interfaces, and generally keeps things simple and uncluttered... nothing about a Mac is "intuitive" because nothing about a computer is truly "intuitive."

Granted, things can be designed to be more easily "read" or used than other bits of technology, but every designer relies on clues and subtle cues to direct us to take the right action. When we don't have to think because it is obvious on its face what we must do, that's good design.

Granted, if I'd never used a computer before in my life, I may find myself more quickly at home in the Apple environment. I may enjoy the more "drag and drop" nature of the interface. I may find the bouncy icons fun and entertaining.

But at a certain point, we get lost. The iPod isn't intuitive, but we figure it out pretty quickly because there's only so much we can do. But I must admit, I was stumped as to how to turn the thing off until someone showed me. The iPhone? Got lost trying to zoom out on a page. Changing icon on the desktop? Had to look it up.

In fact, any time someone sits down in front of any computer system for the first time there is fumbling and confusion: We are learning something new. Testing the reactions. And, yes, good design can help our learning be quicker and more "intuitive," but we have to learn.

But within this whole "make it easier for the user" is the issue of usability. As the above video points out so well: Just because it's more "intuitive" does not mean that it is better, faster, or more effective. There will always be a learning curve, and the trick is making that slope just right.

~Luke Holzmann
Filmmaker, Writer, Expectant Father

1.05.2009

Hypocrite Trolls

Remember last week?

It turns out that Roger Ebert was not a meanie.

Instead, someone was even more low and left a comment in Mr. Ebert's name that was trollish, thereby casting Mr. Ebert in a bad light. And that's something else that I didn't include in my post on Friday about various possibilities of Trolldom.

And this scenario shouldn't have slipped my mind. In fact, it was only a few weeks ago that one of my friends left his Facebook account open at school and later discovered that his classmates had used his account to post "indecent content" and change his sexual orientation (among other things).

That is all moderately legitimate fun with little lasting damage (overall). It's a prank, but it's not exactly malicious.

But using someone else's name/identity as a cover for your bile is just plain nasty.

That's the worse application of hypocrisy out there. That is purposefully lying about who you are so you can damage others under the name of someone else.


Hypocrite

That's disgusting and very destructive in this online world where reputation is one of the only things we have available to us. We are again far too removed from those with whom we interact to be able to contact them and get at the truth.

It's almost like we're back to an age when transportation was miserably slow and people stayed within their little areas. Today we stay in our houses and cubicles and only catch rumors of those around the globe with whom we interact and work.

There is little chance of face time with many of these people.

And so, much like The Crucible, we have little more than our good names.

Don't be a hypocrite.

~Luke Holzmann
Filmmaker, Writer, Expectant Father

P.S. ...and perhaps this is another reason Anonymous comments can be so bothersome: We can't gauge where the person is coming from, and we can't tell how honest they are being with us.

1.02.2009

Three Goats and a Troll

Under the bridge of the Three Billy Goats Gruff lived a mean troll. And thus far in my online life, I've been very fortunate to be the smallest of the bunch so the trolls have let me slip by. I have yet to have a nasty troll swing by any of my blogs and try to eat me alive or even raise a major stink.

And I'm thankful for that.

Please feel no pressure to come troll me <smile>. I'm quite content having only friends and the occasional skeptic swing through and decide to stop and chat.

But others are not so fortunate.

One of my homeschooling mom friends has actually banned Mr. Ebert from her blog after he "post[ed inflammatory] comments of an attacking, personal nature" on her and her friend's blogs. Now, that's according to her. For full disclosure: I could find no such comments on her blog. So, if Mr. Ebert actually posted some less than kind things, I haven't found them and either I'm blind (very plausible since I merely glanced around), she read his intent wrong (easy to do when we feel attacked), or the comments have been removed for the sake of her readers (also completely reasonable).

But herein lies a problem: If you're truly a troll your real nature may be hidden from others if your nasty comments are deleted. If you're a goat you may incorrectly call someone a troll just for hanging out under your bridge. People can be really touchy sometimes, and if another person seems to get too close to your buttons, name calling can start.

We must be very careful about how we handle online content, especially with the propensity for it to be misunderstood and its rather eternal nature.

I've already recorded my thoughts on Mr. Ebert and this issue, and I tried to be fair and insightful.

This post isn't about any particular incident, and I mean neither Karen nor Mr. Ebert any ill-will: Their exchange is merely illustrative of and the catalyst for the topic of this post. I would welcome any further insights either of them have to offer as I'm always interested in the truth of the matter and would like people to come to an understanding and treat each other with love.

May you do so in all of your encounters around this world wide web of interconnected tubes.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor

1.01.2009

Happy New Year!


Switchfoot singing in the new year

It is interesting to me how many videos made from stills there are. In fact, I've seen quite a few commercials employ stills, and I can see why: Stills give you higher resolution right off the bat, you have cool tools like Photoshop for your manipulation, and it has a very interesting look that, due to its choppy nature, can cover less than stellar special effects.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor