Media Production Mentoring

Free online film school designed with beginning filmmakers in mind.


Movie Marathons - LotR

What should you do the night before an important shoot?

Get some rest. Get lots of rest.

What are we doing the night before our 24 hour video production marathon?

We're starting a different movie marathon: Lord of the Rings. Granted, we're only watching the first one tonight, the second one tomorrow night after shooting wraps, and the last one Sunday evening. I'm already tired.

So, the fiasco begins shortly, and then it ramps up at 5am tomorrow.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


The Day Draws Nigh

It's getting close to 24 hours till the 24 Hour Video Contest. Today I met our actress, ordered our flowers, recorded a music piece, and secured our last location (my parent's house). So, yes, the shop location that I said was probably only a 25% chance let us in! Awesome! (I think the fact that I offered insurance coverage helped.)

Our actress who is totally new to acting, asked why we hadn't produced more films that were longer than 10 minutes. What held us back? Was it time, money, people?

Yes, to all three.

For example, while this is a 24 hour project, we've probably spent at least 24 hours prepping for it already. Movies, even shorts, take time. A lot of time. The final video has to be 3 minutes or less. We will also be shooting for around 10 hours with 8 people or more people on set. Feeding people costs money, props (like flowers) cost money, and there are a dozen little things (like tapes and tape) that cost money too. All that without paying anyone for their time or their stuff.

Media is awesome. It can also eat up your life.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor

Want a Better Way to Read?

Do you read blogs (like this one), or check websites for updates frequently?

I do. And it used to be rather annoying, looking back. I had a Bookmarks folder that I would click through every few days just to make sure I wasn't missing anything.

My friend kept pressing me to try out Google Reader, but I was reluctant. I didn't want something that was going to send me tons of information that I didn't want and I would forget about. But finally, I relented.

And Google Reader (and RSS technology in general) is awesome!

If you already have a Google Account (or Yahoo, or AOL), you can simply add an RSS reader to it. It will become one of the options you see when you sign in to your account. Then you can, from one location, see the latest posts and updates from your favorite sites (like

Yesterday I added cool little buttons to the side of the blog to make it even easier for you to add to your RSS reader of choice.

So, please, if you're resisting like I was, come to the easier side of frequent web reading and "Subscribe" to's awesome blog. Then start adding other blogs that interest you. You will then have access to tons of information where you can easily see if you want to read the posts or not.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Don't Reuse Tapes

I've told people to not reuse tapes. I've implored them not to reuse tapes. I've cautioned people about the dangers of reusing tapes.

People still reuse their tapes.

In fact, a couple weeks back I was asked to shoot a live event at my church. Nothing fancy; just show up and shoot. They asked if I needed anything, like tapes. I told them that would be nice (save me a few bucks) and gave them the specifications.

If this had been an important shoot I would have brought my own tapes. It wasn't, so I didn't. I was handed two used tapes. In fact, it seemed to me that these tapes had probably been reused a few times before.

And this is the result:


Tapes are hearty, sure, but they are still prone to problems. After all, it's just little particles affixed to a flexible piece of plastic. Just like the audio cassette tapes of old, as you play/record/re-record the quality deteriorates.

So, again: Don't reuse tapes.

Granted, you may get artifacts from other sources even on brand new tapes, but reusing your tape media greatly increases your chances of lost or corrupted data.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor

The Shot List

So we've been gearing up for our big 24 hour Film Festival shoot and when looking through our shots we noticed a problem. We have alot of outside shots. This isn't a bad thing nessicarily, however, we only have 24 hours and well that only gives us aproximatetly 12 hours of day light to shoot our shots!

How do we intend on getting all the shots we need in the time we have to shoot ? The anwser lies in the shot list. The shot list is the list of shots that you intend to shoot for your movie in the order that you intend to shoot them in. Now why could you not just shoot them in the order that they go? The anwser is because it is usually not the most time efficient way to shoot it. Example : You have to shoot a scene where two people are sitting at a table discussing what they want to order at a resturaunt. The script may look something like this.

Marty and his wife sit at the table looking over the menu desiding what to order.

I don't know Sue,
Should I get the

Order what you want dear.


But you must
remember your Diet.

The waiter comes and puts glasses of water on the table.

O.k. so for this shot we know that we want a master shot that plays through the entire scene, close ups on each character, an over the shoulder, some cut aways, and maybe a shot of the waiter to make sure the whole scene is covered. We write up the shots.

Master Shot
OTS-Sue (showing Marty's reaction)
Cu-Menu (cutaway)
Mid shot-Waiter putting classes on table

Now we have to deside what order we want to shoot them in that will be easiest and most time efficient. Alot of time it is recomended that you shoot the master shot first. This is because it is generally the most time consuming to set up and after it is set, it is easier to get the following shots in the scene. So for this shot list we could start with the master. Now do we just move to Close ups? We could but, Jerry, the guy playing the waiter, only has 40 minutes that day!

Thats alright we know hes only in two of our shots. Master and his Mid shot. Looks like our Mid shot will have a differnt lighting set up. We love this shot and can't live without it so we will have to shoot it first because we don't want to light for the master, move all the lights for the midshot, and then relight for the Master. Cool, now lets hit those close ups. The close ups will have the same light set up as the master we just might have to bring them a little closer to the subjects, makes sence to shoot those next. Now the OTS? You might have to change some lighting for the OTS because you may see some light stands in the shot otherwise. Instead lets grab that cutaway first. Finally we will light for the OTS, shoot, and wrap the scene.

Our shot list looks like this.

Mid Shot-waiter
Master Shot
OTS-Sue (showing Marty's reaction)

There is no rule for what order you shoot shots in. It is simply the order that will be most time efficient to shoot. The Shot list is a great tool to help you on set and spending the time to write one up will help you greatly.



Why It's Hard to Tell a Tale

A few days ago I was on the phone with a friend of mine. We were discussing art and films, and he asked me why it was that so many students had trouble with making something that made sense and had a point. There are probably many reasons for this, but I have three for now.

1. Students are often rightly encouraged to learn the technical side of their trade (be it painting, filming, sculpting, writing, or otherwise). There is a certain amount of raw skill and knowledge that must be gathered before one can do something. Since students must learn these things, it is little wonder that student films (and art projects, writing assignments, and such) tend to lack much communicative power and story/meaning. They are still just trying to figure out how to use their medium.

2. Story/meaning can't be taught. For all the books out there on screenwriting, it's still just mechanics. It's not creativity. It's not story. As one of my English teachers once rhetorically asked: Who taught Shakespeare how to write? While the ability to tell stories can be shaped, improved, and grown, it can not be merely imparted to another.

3. It's hard to tell a good story/make something with meaning. For all the professionals out there, and the billions of dollars spent on books, art, game design, movies, and television, there is precious little that is any good. It is little wonder, then, why so few students produce anything really great.

This leads to two observations:

1. You will likely create pieces that people don't understand, or that lack any significance. That's okay. However...

2. Work at story. It's more important than looking good. Sure, you may win awards if you make something pretty, but if it lacks meaning, you really haven't accomplished much more than an exercise. "The New World" is a prime example of that: Pretty pictures, but a story barely held together by the viewer's knowledge of history and horrible voice overs. Even here, however, the other truth about media holds true: There's an audience for anything.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Indie Fever in Need of Editing

There seems to be a lot of "link love" for the Indie Fever PSA, so I'll add my own to it. Feel free to watch it. I gave it about three minutes.

Indie Fever PSA

But it was longer than three minutes.

The important thing to remember about Shorts is that they should be short. Movie Trailers are excellent examples of keeping things short. Many of them aren't very good, but they are short.

Will filmmakers go ga-ga over the PSA? It seems that they already have. But much like a bride's wedding video, it's love because of what it is, not because of the quality. It's a short about shorts made by people who make shorts, and loved by people who make shorts. Fair enough, but it is in need of editing.

The PSA should have been cut down. True, that would have meant that someone's baby had to be killed, but learning how to kill your babies is a very important lesson to learn as a director and editor. Most of the student films I saw at a recent festival suffered from this same problem.

So, in closing, remember: Kill 'em. And keep it short.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Compressing and Compressor

Granted, I don't read Adobe's Forums (to be honest, they are too ugly and completely un-usable from what I can tell) so I don't hear about all the problems that users are certainly facing over there, but I've never really experienced any problems with my Adobe software (to be fair, I haven't edited in Premiere since 6.5 and two days with Pro 1.5 while at Toshiba). But I do read posts from people working in media. And it isn't very Apple supportive. The latest I ran into today was about Compressor over at the Studio Daily Blog.

I love Compressor (though I'm still way back in version 2). It's awesome. But, yes, it's absolutely infuriating when it just doesn't work (as with all software, except this is much more than a web-browser, and if it goes down I can't release my media... which is bad).

I am very thankful that I have not had Compressor give me much trouble in my life. I don't touch it (i.e. update it), so it keeps working merrily away. May that continue.

Compressing is a subject that I've read about a little. It's fascinating and mostly over my head. But thanks to the kindness of others, I have been able to get some pretty good looking results on YouTube.

The follow video that I helped Nathan Riguad make, looks great (he now knows that the titles were a terrible idea). What's more impressive is that this was pulled off an SD DVD and then re-encoded for YouTube.

Life In A Box

All that to say: I hope Compressor keeps working for me, and that Apple gets with the program for everyone else.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


24 Hours and Special Effects

I spent the morning working on figuring out a special effect shot for MathTacular4. If it works, I'll post a bit more about that.

This afternoon was spent doing what pre-production we can for "The Christian Filmmakers 24 Hour Video Contest". On March 1, 2008 at 5am MST (if the website I checked told me the right info), we will be starting our mad rush to getting our really great short out the door before Sunday morning. What kind of pre-production did we do today?

First, we finalized out script idea. We'd been kicking this around for a month now, but we just couldn't get it to work. Well, now we have it. And it's good. Which is great.

Second, we drove around and talked to the owners of a few stores to see if we could film there. We have two shots that require a real store, so we need some place that will let us shoot for an hour. We got a flower shop (thanks so much!), and we're waiting to hear back about the card shop (we've probably got about a 25% chance with them).

So, yeah. That's that.

Now we wait for a few responses, including a "leading lady", and try to keep breathing until then.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Apple Slipping with the Pros

There has been a lot of talk, or so it seems to me, about the severe lack of love that Apple is showing to the Pro group of their clientele. Most recently, Apple dropped their Xserve RAID line. Reading the Update 2 on Final Cut User raises some serious issues about Apple's willingness to drop their product at a moment's notice, to the tune of $40,000.

Now, have I had trouble with Apple's Pro applications? No, but I'm several versions back on a three year old machine (with which I deny all requests to update). It rocks, is mostly solid, and I can get stuff done. I also don't have the really high end servers or Apple Raids, so I'm not affected by this news. The questions is: What do I do when my current systems finally tank?

Granted, many things could change between now and then, but things aren't looking so cut-and-dry.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


ELR and Better Movies

My wife really likes listening to "Extra Life Radio" (ELR), and often goes through what she calls "Scott Johnson Withdrawals" (thankfully she can also catch him on "The Instance"). I really like the show to.

[NB: If you decide to listen to the show, it would have about a PG rating due to mild profanity and crude humor]

The most recent ELR show had an absolutely brilliant observation from about 49:30-51:30 (the most insightful 2 minutes of the show). In it, Randy says that movies today are better than they were in the past. Scott picks up on this and points out that, while he loves Star Wars today, he'd probably think less of them if he had seen them when he was 40 instead of 8. What about the latest "Star Wars" flicks? He's not impressed (nor am I), but his 7 year-old loves them. This also has to do with a discussion of nostalgia, but it'd be better if you just went and listened to it.

But this an interesting thing to consider as we move forward in movie making: We should be getting better. As Newton has noted: We stand on the shoulders of giants. We should be making better films than before because we can learn from the old masters.

This is not to say that there are no great movies in the past. There are. But we, today, should be surpassing even them. A sobering thing to consider as a filmmaker.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor

The Format War Ends... maybe

So the big news today is that HD-DVD is dead; Blu-Ray won.

While this certainly seems reasonable, I can't help but think of the line in the Zohan Trailer: "They've been fighting for 2000 years; it can't be much longer." I'm thankful that there hasn't been such a battle in the HD world. I'm very happy that, given a little time, even HDV (which is really cool, albeit a pain to work with) is supported by just about everyone.

The quick lesson from this war is that buying new technology is not only expensive, it is also a risk. Think back, if you can, to the days of Lazerdiscs. One of my friends, who seemed to always have the cutting edge of technology, got one. It was wicked cool and very reminiscent of vinyl records, with a need to physically turn them over and everything. No more rewinding, incredible picture, and new and shiny.


...until someone figured out how to do that on a disk the size of a CD. Once DVDs came into being, the Lazerdisc disappeared. A big financial sink for those who jumped on the latest. But, hey, for the few months before DVDs appeared (was it longer than that? Sure didn't feel like it), my friend had the best looking, coolest movies around. That had to have been worth at least a few thousand bucks.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Car Ride Editing Tutorial

I have finished the first draft of the editing "Car Ride Tutorial". I will tweak it as I get feedback from all of you on ways to make it more helpful. Check it out: (you will need to join the Production-Now Google Group)

I'm excited to see what comes of this, and if people really like it, I'll make more.

If there are any other web-based video editors that you use, I'd be happy to make this available there as well. Please let me know.


~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


User Manuals

We've been cleaning around my house, so I've been going through papers. I found the "manual" (it's really nothing more than a single sheet of paper) for the wide angle lens I have for my Canon GL2. As I glanced at it, I noticed the following entry:

"...a soft listless cloth"

Granted, I understand that typos happen, but sometimes they warrant a smile. So, if you ever need to clean your camera's lens, be sure to use a listless cloth.

While on the topic of Manuals, I highly recommend that you at least flip through the manual of any camera you own. I tend to learn a couple things that improve my image or sound quality when I do.

The last lesson we can take away from this little incident is thus: To err is human. Your productions will likely be flawed in some way, shape, or form. It happens to everyone, it's just often harder to see the flaws in others works. Let it go.

It is difficult to find the balance of "good enough", but as I've heard many people say, "You could tweak it forever." But even if you spend forever on something, it still wouldn't be perfect. Back in Film School I had an audio assignment which I spent a few hours on. One of my classmates asked how it was going. I told him that I had spent a couple of hours on it and was satisfied. He was shocked.

"I've spent over 40 hours on it, and I'm still not done!"

I got a B+. I don't know what he got on the assignment. Practice letting things go. Strive for perfection, but stop at "good enough".

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor



Yesterday I shot some footage for a tutorial I'm working on, and it's a good thing too. The weather was great. We got some good shots. But today I looked out my window and saw this:

Snowy day.

In other words: If you're shooting outside, the weather could change your schedule. That's why it is always recommended, even if you don't live in Colorado, that you have alternate shooting options for your exterior shoot days.

More soon.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


"All About Girls", YouTube, and DJTV

For those of you who haven't been to the Forums yet, and so don't know about DJTV (Digital Juice Television), you've been missing out. On the Tech Know "You Too Can YouTube" episode, I learned why I was able to upload video files that were larger than 100MB. I am a "Director", meaning I only upload my own stuff and so YouTube isn't as worried that I'll upload TV shows or Movies.

It also seems, though I haven't tested this enough to say it's a fact, that it is way faster to upload videos at 6am, like I did this morning. This makes sense. If you're not trying to do things at "peak times", servers can devote more attention to you. So I was able to get "All About Girls" up in under and hour, whereas "Little Black Rain Cloud" took several hours at 3pm despite being a smaller file.

If you haven't seen our 48 Hour Film Project from 2006, give it a look:

Eventually I may get around to actually discussing the videos I've made: the good, bad, the ugly, and the lessons I learned, but not now. For the time being, check out DJTV, hop over to the Forums, and get busy making your own little flicks.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


What You Can't Hear May Hurt You

Scott Simmons over at "the Edit Blog" has a great post about the importance of good audio in productions. It's a good read.

I have to agree. I have seen far too many movies made by people (including me) who really know how to make an image look good, but don't win anything at festivals because the audio was poor. Bad audio affects your audience more than a bad image.

So, how do you balance this as an aspiring filmmaker?

1. Focus on story. That is the most important thing. You can have the most beautifully shot, best mixed movie in the world, but if your story is lacking, no one cares... except film geeks who like the look and sound. Much like "Children of Men", which is a technically amazing movie that lacks a story. So, yeah, it's cool, but not a good movie.

2. Practice. If you're still starting out and want to make a cool "DP Reel", go out and shoot good looking shots. But if you're making a movie, put story before image quality. I have heard so many filmmakers freak out because they think the hat might not be perfect for the actor, when their story, not to mention their shot composition, is terrible. Please, get good images, but film is about stories, not pretty pictures. Much like having a good print job may make a book more enjoyable, your images should enhance your tale, but they are not the basis of your movie.

3. Work at audio. Read about it. Practice it. Get help and advice from sound people. Sound is incredibly hard to manipulate well, so you need to work on it. Without great sound, a really good film could easily be passed over for an award.

So, yes, what your audience can't hear (or doesn't want to hear) will hurt your movie.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Vague Feedback

As a client driven media producer I get feedback from my clients. Often it is helpful: Fix this, change that. Sometimes, however, I get a single sentence along the lines of, "I don't like it". One such comment that I recall was, "Could I get more?"

"More of what?" I asked.

"I don't know," he said, "Just more."

Sorry. No. I can't do anything with such direction.

Well, today, I got such feedback. My client said that they were uncertain as to whether their customers would like the video I had made. ...meaning what?

Despite the frustration of someone not liking what I have made, there were several other issues. I can do anything you want, but I have to know what it is you want. If you don't like what I make, I can't fix it without some notion of what you want changed. And my client knows their customers much more than I ever will. Will the end user like what I have made? I hope so, but client has the best guess.

Second, I make projects within the parameters and with the resources I am given. If my client does not like my project because it isn't "enough", that's not my fault. I'd be happy to give them "more" if they only tell me what it is they want more of.

And that's the skill that I must hone. I must learn how to ask the right questions so as to help my clients figure out what it is they want more of. That is an aspect of media production that they don't teach in any program I have encountered. It is something you must learn on your own, on the field.

How will the event end? I'm not sure. Given my client's deadline and how many other issues have already happened with the production of this product it could easily play out like the original example: I asked the guy to look over the project again and tell me specifically what he would like "more" of.

Several months later I got a check and a note thanking me for the great DVD.

Or perhaps I'll go back into pre-production as my client is able to better articulate the end goal of this project now that they have an almost finished version.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


The Fall of NAB

Walter Biscardi over at the Creative COW had a very interesting post about Apple pulling out of NAB. Conventions, it seems, are becoming a thing of the past.

I went to NAB several years ago. It's fun to poke around different booths and see what's out there that I will never be able to afford. I haven't been back. To take several days off work, spend money on travel to walk "the floor" and see the latest and greatest, isn't something I can do.

Would it be informative? Absolutely. In fact, that may be the only place I hear about some really cool things that I may end up using someday. But with a good community, like, I hopefully can get this kind of information without going to Vegas.

The thing that really grabbed my attention is what Walter said about Apple's move towards consumer gadgets and away from the professionals who use their products. That is certainly something that needs to be watched and considered before you plunk out the $3K for a new computer. Perhaps a Dell for one third the price would be worth it.

Technology, for all its awesomeness, still requires that users keep a watchful eye on it at all times. Thanks for pointing that out, Walter!

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor



I heard about, lauded as a way to "build your own MySpace". Intrigued, I have started our own Ning.

Not sure how useful it will be, but it was worth a shot. Check it out and let me know what you think. If I have some people to test it on, I'll try tweaking it some more.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Cutting Testimonials

I've been shooting a few testimonials recently. Testimonials are much like interviews, but are about a specific thing with the intention that the editor (me) can make a compelling piece out of what they tell me.

The difficult part is that these people are not actors. In fact, they hate the camera. They were asked to talk about a subject and so they show up, nervous, and worse, unprepared.

Nerves I can deal with. If you sit someone in front of a camera long enough they get used to it ("mere exposure effect" is the psychology term). So, you make sure that your camera's recording light is turned off and instead of saying "Action!" you tell them "go whenever". After a few times through they are doing okay.

However, no matter how I much I urge people to come prepared with a short piece to say, it almost never happens. People know what they want to talk about, so they think they are prepared. This may be true if they were giving a speech, but this is a video. A short video. And it has to rock.

So we roll tape and let them talk. I listen for interesting points. By the third time through I start to recommend a structure of what they should say based on things they repeat.

I shoot this five or so times from different amounts of zoom, to give myself something to cut to (I start out far and then move closer over takes because signs of nervousness are not as noticeable from farther away).

Even with this lengthy process (it often takes a hour of shooting for someone to tell me 45 seconds worth of material), I don't always have something to edit. It's not like we're on a set doing something so I have something to cut to. No. We're just sitting there, and the person is stumbling through their spiel.

It's very rewarding when everything comes together. It's terribly frustrating when it feels like there is nothing there.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Little Black Rain Cloud

This film was written and directed by one of my mentees: Nathan Rigaud. It stars me (Luke Holzmann) in one of my most phenomenal performances ever.

Give it a little look.

"Little Black Rain Cloud" by Nathan Rigaud

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Sick and Tired

Literally. I'm sick and I'm tired.

That makes it harder to focus on editing, especially when it's more routine cutting.

And when you're just assembling an edit, there isn't much to talk about. ...That's not entirely true. I have been finding many moments where it felt like the sequence just wouldn't come together.

Since much of what we shoot for MathTacular is ad lib, the action and lines aren't consistent between takes. This means that the end of one take would get to, "So that's how I feel about blogging" and the next take would begin with, "My feelings about blogging pretty much amount to that." If it so happens that a cut is required there, some "Jedi" talents are often required.

One such cut loomed before me today. Once I found the footage that I had to use (the other takes had inches instead of centimeters as the units), I had to cut from a wide shot with a sentence one way to a close up of a different sentence. I'm always amazed when, with just the right head position, two completely different sentences can looked synced.

I had to use the audio from the close up on the wide shot. It was out of sync, but worked.

So, the tip of today is this: If you get stuck, try a cut that appears to have no way of working. You make be surprised.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Yai Wanonabälewä

I just got back from a special sneak peek of "Yai Wanonabälewä" (translated: The Enemy God). I'm not going to tell the story or anything--visit the website if you want to learn more--but I will say this: It's good.

Granted, the film suffers from a choppy story, a few unneeded moments, and cross-fades. Despite all that, the movie is enjoyable, the cinematography good, and the acting is great! (Especially if you've recently seen The End of the Spear.)

I know, and have worked with, a couple of the guys over at 10X Productions, which is how I got in on this shindig. They are very talented: They were able to pull off a feature length film using an indigenous cast of amateurs with a huge language barrier.

If you ever get a chance to see the film, give it a "go". It may not be Hollywood, but "Hollywood" doesn't make movies with the purpose of telling the story of a people group. The Yanomamö people have been thrilled that their story is getting out to the world.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor

MathTacular2 "Final" Review

For the MathTacular fans: Big News! MathTacular2 has been submitted for "Final" Review. If everything is perfect (don't worry, it won't be), then I'll tweak a few last details on Monday and send it off for replication.

Replication can take a while, so you won't be able to get your copy until April when the catalog comes out... but it's coming!

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor