Media Production Mentoring

Free online film school designed with beginning filmmakers in mind.


Prohibition and Piracy

My wife had me listen to a short section of the "Re-Mix Culture" show from In this section, Lawrence Lessig, the founder of Creative Commons licensing, talks about the absurdity of copyright law as it currently stands.

He makes some excellent points. I'll point out just a couple, but you'll get more out of the talk if you download the file and listen to his section (near the middle).

1. By claiming that digital content sharing/creation is "piracy" we make ourselves (youth) criminals. This causes huge problems because we buy into that claim and gain a disregard for all law ...much like the days of prohibition.

2. We crush creativity when we tell not only children but also educators that they must not use pre-generated content for learning purposes.

He has a lot more to say, but I'll let him say it.

So, go grab the audio here, and pop forward to about the middle of the show.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


"Those Things Are Bad for You"

Title link here.

So I just finished watching "A Scanner Darkly". Interesting flick, but you might as well watch the trailer for the style and then read the synopsis on Wikipedia.

Unless you're a whole lot more intuitive than me, you'll be doing that after the film anyway.

Very interesting style. Seems like they could have saved themselves a lot of trouble and time in post if they had simply used Illustrator, but... they didn't ask me.

The thing to take away from this little excursion into the world of media production is this: If you make a piece about a subculture or experience, it is really hard to have people follow you. Great filmmakers can take us there, but anything less than a near perfect story, and the audience will be left wondering, 'Did I get that movie?'

Story over style, my friends ...especially if you're trying to break new ground stylistically.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Making Web Pages By Hand

I code everything by hand. I've never liked WYSIWYGs. I like the "tactile" nature of hand coding. I like to be able to control everything, to get my hands dirty and really get into the guts of my web pages.

Odd to be talking like that about a completely digital experience.

"Yes, Doctor."

But even in the digital age there are various levels of involvement. Sure, the computer can try to do things for you, but knowing what is going on in the background is essential... especially if you want to work quickly on a complicated project.

Not that you need to know everything (I sure don't). But you do need to know where you can go to ask questions if you run into an issue. That's what I do all the time.

Especially with web stuff.

The web guys I know are probably getting sick of me coming to them, HTML guts oozing from my fingers, asking if they could tell me how to resuscitate my CSS.

Ah well. We can't all be surgeons. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't try to cut the thing open.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Wednesday Is the New Thursday

I've been leading a team in preparation for an upcoming web event. Unfortunately, I was sure the event started on Thursday. Today, I opened up the schedule, and saw that the event started on Wednesday.


So, we have 24 hours less to prepare than we had thought. In other words: I have tomorrow to get it all together. And, unfortunately, I'm waiting on elements from a bunch of other people. Which is a little scary.

Real life--work life--is little different from school group projects. But hopefully you have good employees to work with, and not just unmotivated classmates.


So far so good, but I am a little nervous. Especially since everyone is prone to problems... like me: Wednesday is the new Thursday.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Chat Help

I recently got support for one of our Dell's via online chat.

Dell Chat

Except for the wait time, I really like chat as a form of technical support. I don't have to try to figure out what the guy is saying to me in a thick Indian accent. I don't have to try and find links while they sound it out for me. It's instant, allows for feedback, and gives me direct connection to links.

Pretty cool.

Found out we needed to purchase a SATA data cable, so we went to Mircocenter and got that, some cans of air ($19 for cans of air? <sheesh>), and all four Age of Empire games for $10. Pretty cool.

And now Brittany's computer has twice the hard drive space.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Yet Another Blog

...of course, this new one isn't mine. But I'm helping run it behind the scenes: Doing the graphics, and stuff like that. So that's what I spent some time on today... though the DNS hasn't updated so it isn't linked to the final URL.

And if you followed that: You know stuff about the web.

If not: Don't worry. You don't need to know it unless you're doing the technical side of a website.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


How TV Has Changed

Just watched another episode of Battlestar Galactica. I'm really enjoying the show. And the difference between it and, say, Babylon 5 is astronomical.

Many shows on television today look and feel like a major motion picture. They didn't when I was a kid. The writing, production values, stories, acting, and overall style has shifted from a three camera setup and walking to marks to deliver pat lines under news room like lights, to the gritty "reality" we see in movies. The difference is stark and amazing.

I used to say that television was the illegitimate sister of motion pictures. Now they are truly sisters. Not twins, as of yet, seeing how movies have changed as well, but sisters.

How this fits in with web content is a post for another time. I have yet to form an opinion about that, especially since movies and TV are available in ever increasing amounts online.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


2 Minutes and Nothing

I was copying files from one hard drive system to another last night. It had been chugging away from about an hour when suddenly the drive I was copying to suddenly went offline.

My computer popped up a message telling me that I shouldn't have disconnected the drive.

I calmly (ha!) told my computer that I had done no such thing.

Figuring that it may have been due to the system overheating (it has been hot here of late), I turned off the drives and let them sit for a couple of hours. Then I tried again.

Everything was going smoothly. Files were copying.

The time said I had only about 2 minutes left.

So Close

It did it again (that's how I got the above image).


The joys of working with technology.

So, yes, problems happen to everyone. Are you prepared for what will happen if your system takes a nose dive?

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


To Get a Pretty Picture

...just pick up a camera.

I have no idea how apocryphal the story is, but I've heard that Ansel Adams was once confronted by someone who accused him of only getting good pictures because of his camera equipment. Mr. Adams then went out with a disposable and took some of his best pictures just to show it wasn't the hardware.

Well, Ayz Waraich has gone out and done a similar thing. Using nothing much more than a Canon HV20, Ayz has pulled off this:

White Red Panic - SHORT FILM (HD)

from Ayz Waraich on Vimeo (go to the site to download the HD version to see the quality from the little camera).

[NB: This film involves cussing and guns. If you don't want to deal with a few f-words and some blood: Don't watch. The following link includes a few profanities as well.]

Stu Maschwitz has a great post about the video as well. He really says it best: "The point is that [Ayz got off his butt] and made a film at a scale he knew he could slam dunk, with the gear he had available."

And that is the point here at Use what you have to create great media. And, as I've said time and time again: Story is what's important.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Um And I'll Be'le

While editing an audio clip today, I ran across this:

Um And I'll Be'le

I listened to it again. (It's better looping, so I took the liberty to do that for you.)


In context, I'm pretty sure he was saying, "Umm... and I will be able to" but, in typical speaking fashion, truncated it.

Just thought it was so cool, I had to post it.

Oh, and a lesson? You want a lesson from me too?


Okay, fine. The lesson is this: If you're working in audio, you may come across something that is unintelligible. If you can cut around it--great. If not, however, chances are your audience will be able to figure it out. Language has a lot to do with context.

Which brings up the second lesson (yup, you're getting two): Having a visual that helps explain what your character is talking about can make something that was once too garbled suddenly make sense. Lips are often the best for this.

In a way, we have all become good lip readers over our years of talking with people.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


What I Learned in Photoshop Today


I was working on an image for another blog post today and I started to draw a stick figure. He looked wrong. Kinda blurry.

'What?' I thought to myself. 'Why is it doing that?'

I was on a computer I hadn't done any quick sketches on before, so I really wasn't sure what setting it was. I finally found it by clicking on the Brush Tool's Size drop-down menu thingy (technically the "Brush Preset Picker").

After dragging the Hardness from 0% up to 100%, I got a much less blurry looking dude.

Much better.

So, that's what I learned in Photoshop today. I know I've played with that setting before, but now it's cemented in my brain.

...and if not, I can always come back to this post for a quick reminder. <smile>

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Posting Media

A very sobering and technically cleaver movie.

Think Before You Post

This brings up the caution about what you post where. And this is something that we, as media producers, need to be very keenly aware of. We need to make sure we get permission to post information or images of others, and we should be careful about what we post about ourselves.

But this video works for a few simple reasons:

1. They got a pretty girl.

If the girl hadn't been cute, no one would have cared. This demonstrates the truth that your actors must fit their roles. If they don't look or sound right, your film won't fly.

2. They use a simple but powerful image/sound combination.

The picture reappearing is more than just a cool special effect. It is part of the "story" of the piece. We recognize the mouse click. We see the image "duplicate" and understand that it is a visual representation of copying a digital file. It works.

What's more, the effect was really easy to pull off.

My one critique is that they fade to black... a lot. It's not annoying the first time through, but it starts to feel more and more unnecessary.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


I Had an Edit Bay

...but I don't anymore.

In preparation for the kids, we have moved the upstairs office to the basement. Well, truth be told, we're still moving.

But for the past few years I've had the basement mostly to myself. I have my own little sanctuary where I can disappear for hours and not be bothered. I can edit, or write, or photoshop, or watch movies.

But I can't anymore.

My edit bay has become the new computer room. I am no longer alone. I am no longer able to just start watching a DVD or editing a movie. I first have to make sure I'm not going to disturb anyone (e.g. my wife).

And for someone who likes time alone, time to just "be", this is likely going to be a difficult transition. And it will be difficult to get things done, me thinks.

Of course, with kids, I doubt I will ever find time to be alone.

They'd better be cute.

That's all I'm saying.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


The New Face of Conventions

I have been given the opportunity to predict the future.

I have been asked to come up with a "Virtual Booth" that will replace the ever diminishing attendance at conventions. But that means that it needs to fulfill whatever needs were being met by walking the convention floor. And to do that, I must figure out what those needs are, and how to fulfill them in a virtual world... if such a thing is possible.

If I can figure this out it will be awesome, and start the wave of the next online presentation of information and product demonstrations.

That certainly sounds cool and important.

But who started online video? Who developed the first GUI on a website? Who developed the hated pop-ups and banner ads?

We don't know. They are not major parts of history, and so I have no delusions of grandeur or thoughts of fame or fortune. No, I would merely be a seer who predicts the coming rain and then punctures the clouds with a spear from the gods.

So... yes. My mind is slowly turning, considering the desires of mortal man, the forces of electrons striking phosphors, and how we're going to code, capture, and then relay information from a non-existent world to someone staring a glowing sheet of plastic and give them the answers for which they are looking.

A small task.

An impossible task.

I hope to be able to announce proudly that I just had an apostrophe.

No, seriously, "lighting just struck my brain".

Here's hoping.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


How to Outline Your Script

Thursday night one of my mentees called me up. He was having problems with his script. He asked if I would be willing to write the next draft and get it to him by Friday morning.

I agreed to do so.

I had already read a version of the script, and had talked with him about his story before. I asked a few more clarifying questions about what he wanted from this version, and I set to work.

This is what I did:

It really doesn't matter what tools you use to accomplish these steps, but Celtx is an incredibly powerful (and free) one. So, I'll be working through it in here.

First: Figure out your story.

Don't worry about details of how the story works, how you're going to make it "original", or what funny one-liners you're going to include. Just answer the question: What is your story about?

Let's write a story about a man who loses his favorite golf ball.

Second: Figure out the major plot points.

Again, nothing about the script, just the story. What happens?

  • A man loves his yellow golf ball, so he never uses it on the range.
  • He goes to play golf, but realizes he doesn't have normal balls so takes his yellow one.
  • Lightly taps it, but it goes flying into the lake.
  • Tries to get it back.
  • A dog brings it to him at the end.
  • Takes the dog home.

Third: Write up the cards.

Now you begin to tell the tale, scene by scene.

Again, this isn't about the story itself, you're just telling how one moment moves to the next. This is where you bust out your notecards.

Include where the scene will take place, and what happens. Nothing more.

Celtx Cards

At this point, I've realized that the dog needs to be a much bigger character. And so the story has changed. This is the story of a man and a dog who get reconciled through a yellow golf ball.

Not a problem, I can now go back, easily add in the plot points involving the dog, and add a few more cards to the story.

And then, and only then, when I am convinced I've figured out the story I want to tell do I actually sit down to write the script.

When I first started writing scripts, I would just sit down and write. I really liked the scripts, but there were always huge problems with the story.

So, get the story right first and save yourself the frustration.

Using this method, I had written a new script for my mentee in about an hour. But I could only do that because I knew the story I was telling.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Fake Wings

It's my anniversary. And even though my wife and I still haven't make it through .Hack//Sign yet, I do like the music:

Fake Wings

I spent some time today recording and cutting a 40 minute reading of an article. It's difficult to read articles well. I think I need more practice.

...especially if I'm going to record audio books sometime in the future (which is something I want to do).

Well, off to dinner.


~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Our Work Looks the Same

I was sifting through footage shot by another person today. A rather surreal experience.

I mean, I've cut footage from other people's projects before, but you have no connection to their footage because it's all new.

But this was footage that covered some of the same material I've worked with in the past. And so, it was rather odd to see someone else shooting the same shots I've taken at another time.

And it took me back to that day in the edit bay where we were watching our various cuts of the same show in college. There were some shots that ended up in every single cut, demonstrating that there really is the "best" shot in something as subjective as editing.

But here it was on the other side of production: It seems that there are some shots that cameramen are just going to take. They are just the best shot possible for the subject matter.

It was odd, but reassuring in another sense: I guess I'm getting good footage if another professional out there is shooting the same thing.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


I'm Behind in My Reading

Good grief! Losing half your day to more work kills the ability to keep up in this mad world.

That, and then coming home and having more projects to do.

So, yes, 50 blog posts to wade through, a wedding to cut, a short to put together (and still grab a few shots for), and a busted GL2.

Oh, I haven't mentioned that yet.

Yeah, I think Celes died at the wedding reception. I don't know when I'll have the opportunity to get her fixed. I haven't really tested her yet, mostly because I don't want to find out that her heads are really toast. ...and partly because I haven't had time to do anything about it even if she is dead.



~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Stills: The Moments in Movement

I recently talked about how Photography is all about catching the moments of an event.

While I was editing today, my camera passed over the following.


A single gorgeous frame.

It's a little grainy because of the low light, people passing by the camera, and the fact that I wasn't trying to frame her, but even so the image just sings.

And so, while I love motion pictures, movies, film, video, and all that, there is something about stills that captures a moment in a completely different way. With the movement of a video you can see an aspect of people that makes them come alive, but the frozen moments of photos captures something else.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Dumping Footage...

Nothing big going on today... just dumping footage.

I really should get some editing done this weekend, but that's not likely to happen.

But we plan to go see Wall-E with the family, so that should be cool.

Happy 4th!

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Which Came First?

The Chicken, the Egg, or the Child?

I wrote up a quick script idea for a commercial comparing the client and the competition to eggs.

Overall, I've had pretty good feedback about the idea of the little commercial, but people keep getting confused.

See, it's a simile and a metaphor. And combining two things like that is rather difficult to do, especially if you want your audience to keep up with you. So people kept asking me: Wait, so are the kids the chicken or the egg?

"Neither," I would reply. "The kid is the one who's going to eat the egg."

"Oohhh..." Total blank look. 'This man is insane!'

Two lessons:

1. Keep your ideas simple. Mixing similes with metaphors is like a straw lion leading your army.



2. Even if you totally get your idea, that doesn't mean other people will. Thus, it is important to pass your script around to people and get feedback about what is and isn't working, and what people think you movie is going to be about.

"Wait, what if the video is about how the kid is the chicken who's trying to produce a good egg..."

I have my work cut out for me.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Make It Right

I did a shoot for a guy a few weeks back. He was in need of a cameraman to help him shoot an event that he couldn't cover himself. So I offered to help.

Now that he has had a chance to review the footage, he sent me feedback on how he felt I did.

Turns out he felt I did a really shoddy job.

Looking over his comments, I can see why he says what he does, but I carefully responded to each of his issues by explaining my thought process and conscious choices that lead to those results. I am more than willing to admit I didn't get what he wanted, but I explained why that was the case. It wasn't because I had overlooked something, I just assumed I should be doing one thing while I was supposed to be doing the other.

Ah well, live and learn.

Still Learning

But I'm a professional. And he went as far as to say that he didn't get his "money's worth" from me.

So, what should you do in this situation?

Give him all the money back. Which is what I'm doing.

In fact, if I had received his email just a few days prior, I wouldn't have even cashed the check. I would have shredded it and that would have been that.

Because even if you can justify your output and explain why you did what you did, the fact of the matter is that the product he now has to give his client isn't up to his standards. So that reflects poorly on him.

I can't exactly go back and do things differently, so I must do everything else in my power to make it right. And, yes, this is a lesson we will be faced with over and over in life because we're imperfect (even if we are professionals). What distinguishes us from the layman is that we own up to what we did wrong and do what we can to make it right.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor