Media Production Mentoring

Free online film school designed with beginning filmmakers in mind.


Ten Hours (Day 2)

Movies take a lot of time to make. If you consider the amount of time "Lord of the Rings: Two Towers" shot for the battle of Helm's Deep, our schedule seems like nothing. And maybe that's the point: We have eleven shooting days to complete what is likely to be a three hour DVD (it could easily be much longer, but I haven't had a chance to come up with an accurate guesstimate yet). The sequence of Helm's Deep is certainly lengthy, but the whole movie is not even three hours (unless you're watching the Extended Edition, which is really the way to go, but hardly the point here), so we are attempting quite the feat.

During lunch we talked about how the shoot was going. We all agreed that if we had not had the time we did to prepare as well as we have this project would not be happening. However, despite all of the time we put into pre-production, we under-estimated the significance of rehearsals. For the last short film we did for a festival we practiced three to four hours twice a week for three weeks. That film ended up under 15 minutes in length. How many rehearsal did we have for MathTacular4?


Well, we practice the lines on set before we roll the camera, but that's not a rehearsal; that's a necessity of working with a script. Most of our other educational projects have been almost completely ad lib, which is a major testament to our actors. If we were to do this again in a perfect world, we would have rehearsals.

The stress level on set is rather high because we all feel the crunch. I'm forced to make decisions that could severely diminish the video quality while the actors frantically try to memorize their next four lines. It's insane. It's the great and terrible thing that is film making. Taking breaks is very helpful, but the later it gets the higher the stress becomes as we all slowly wear out. I guess ten hours will do that to you.

Tomorrow we get up to do this all again. However, for the next week we will be working on finishing up MathTacular2 and 3. There are a lot of little pieces that need to be put together before those will be done. So it will be a while again before we hit MathTacular4.

The two points of all this are:

1. Rehearsal/memorization time is an important part of filmmaking.

2. No matter how prepared you are, making a movie is hard, time intensive work.

Keep that in mind as you think about projects you may want to pursue. Videos are not things you can "just do a minute" as my mom is fond of saying. We're doing remarkably well with our tight schedule, but I am all too aware of my shortcomings.

And that's another good reminder (lesson): There is always room for improvement and there will always be more to learn.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


One Light and 56 Degrees

Filming for MathTacular4 started this morning. The temperature outside was 9 degrees when I left my house, so it was chilly. We shot in a warehouse and had to turn off the heat because the heating units were far too loud. This meant that I got to watch the temperature slowly drift down from 68 to 56. The equipment worked just fine in these conditions, but the actors were getting cold. I made sure I stayed in my t-shirt to keep moral up. People tend to lose motivation if the film guy is bundled up while the actors are in costume freezing.

This reminds me of a story I heard about the set of MASH. In one of the episodes a girl is taking a shower when suddenly the curtain falls leading to embarrassment and, I assume, comedy. I've never watched the show, but the actress reportedly complained that she was the only person wandering around exposed on set. The director then had the crew strip down (he did too, supposedly) so that she wouldn't feel uncomfortable. Whether that story is true or not, and I don't see how being in a room with naked men would make a naked women feel better, the point we can take away from this story is that it is important to do what you can to keep your cast and crew as comfortable as possible. Nine to eighteen hours on set is grueling enough, don't make it worse.

Food is a very important part of retarding mutiny. At 1:15 it was essential that we take a break for lunch because none of us were doing well at that point in time. We did not have snacks on set today and that was not good. We plan to remedy that situation shortly.

Last, despite the many technical aspects of our shoot, we only used one light today. A single Bar Door was the only thing I used to modify the light. That's it. And it wasn't because I didn't have more lights. I did, but I didn't need to use them. That's an important thing: Don't use more than you need to get the look and feel you want. Again, film is bad enough, don't make it worse.

The one light setup:

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Christmas Vacation 2007

I haven't posted much recently because I've been getting ready for vacation, which means I've been working more. Ironic.

MathTacular 4 is in the works right now, and the day after Christmas we start shooting. So I packed the morning we flew out to California because the rest of my time was running around setting up for the shoot the day after we get back in town.

The biggest news at the moment is the issue of insurance for one of our locations. Since I am an independent contractor working on MathTacular, it seems that their insurance can't cover me on their set (maybe because it is technically "my" set). It's rather odd, and something I've never had to deal with before. It's exciting as well because I'm learning more about film insurance for the first time since college. I'll let you know anything interesting that I learn from this experience once the cloud of paperwork has cleared.

So for now, I'm away from my camera and my computer, so all I can do is relax and write from time to time.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Production-Now Promo: Myst-style

I built a quick video yesterday to test TrafficGeyser's claims and found that they were mostly true. Now, if you Google for "media mentoring" or "media mentorship", you'll find my video. Unfortunately, I was unable to break into the "media mentor" top 10.

I made the video with only four layers of media:

Me (my pretty mug and the mic):

Some Static (taking straight off the TV):

A Photo of an Old Book I had (notice how I left a very low opacity over the section where my video was going to go so that there would be a slight hue to the video):

and finally some Title Cards (keep 'em simple):

When I put it all together I got a pretty cool image:

I only used a couple little "tricks" to make this video. First, cut out my book photo and deleted a rectangle in the same proportion as my video. Then I added a layer of the page with very low opacity (15%) over the rectangle where my video would show through to give it a slight hue.

Second, I didn't add the Title Cards to my first Timeline. I got all my video tracks (me, static, and the book) lined up how I wanted and then I rendered a full quality video file. Since I Green Screened myself and had other Compositing going on, my video would not play back in real time. By rendering out my timeline, I could play my composited video in a new timeline and know exactly where I wanted my Titles to go.

Third, I couldn't get my TV to make the static noise, so I had Audacity generate it for me. Cake.

Now, if you've got 2:02 minutes, check out my Myst-esque Production-Now Media Mentoring promo video:

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor