Media Production Mentoring

Free online film school designed with beginning filmmakers in mind.


Pixeled Pictures

The studios don't want you to be able to take images from their DVDs. They claim that is illegal.

And so, to get images from my DVDs to post on my blog, I have to rip the entire DVD onto my computer and then use another program to export the given frame I want. After I have the image, I delete the DVD from my hard drive. But still... there is something odd about having to completely "steal" a DVD to take a picture from it to point out to others.

With all that as background, I was asked to pull a few stills from a great DVD I own for a student so he could include them in a school paper. But, despite my best efforts, the images came out really pixelated.

Like This


So, besides that, the most media I played with today was watch a couple of flicks and host Movie Night. Now people are playing on the Wii and WoW.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


If I Had A Million Dollars

Media production, if you want to get serious about it, costs a lot.

A lot.

In fact, a $10,000 camera and a $22,000 computer aren't all that much compared to a full-on edit suite currently going for $60,000.

Wow. I do not have that kind of cash.

The lesson? There's always more to buy, but you have to choose what you will spend your hard earned pesos on.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


What Makes a Good Movie?

Is it pretty pictures like these?

What about a cool idea and plot line?

What about a story that really draws people in?

Well, all those things are nice, but if your story is not executed well, you can just stop. I just watched a movie with a cool premise and beautiful pictures, but a story that was ultimately lame and horribly executed.


Mostly, the script had the characters saying things we already know that are unmotivated and give us no new information or insights.

So, please, please work on story and telling that story well. It is far more important than pretty images. If you want to focus on those, become a photographer.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Code Monkey

Spent today mostly working with code.

Which reminds me of a song...

[NB: The following song has one swear word. You've been warned.]

Code Monkey

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Cutting Songs

In one of my first production classes in film school we had to take a song that was at least three minutes in length, grab a section from the beginning, middle and end, and cut it down to exactly one minute.

It's a very interesting exercise. And I have had to do similar things since then in my productions.

Weddings, for example. The bride and groom have an uncle sing a song because they think it would be nice, or they have to, or someone held a gun to their head and made them ask... whatever. The end result is a four minute song sung by an amateur that makes up a tenth of the whole ceremony. Pretty lame.

So, as an editor, my job is take that really long, boring, and, honestly, pointless bit of auditory torture and make it thirty seconds of amusing interlude before the kiss.

Easier said than done.

If you've never tried editing a song down, give it a whirl. It can be really fun, and sometimes funny, to hear the results.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Phi vs. Beta

Okay, I'm a total geek. I was recently researching the Phi Phenomenon because I was discussing animation, which, I believed worked because of Phi. After glancing at Wikipedia, I discovered that Phi was not what made animation work, but rather Beta Movement... both of which lead to "apparent motion"--hence the confusion.


So was I. This led to more research which led me to understand this difference between Phi and Beta:

Phi Phenomenon

Beta Movement

What's the difference?

Well, Phi is movement perceived when our brains fill in the gap with something. In a sense, our brains create an object that covers the dots. This works with any colored background or shape.

Beta, on the other hand, is movement perceived when an object changes location/shape/size/angle/etc... This is where a new dot is shown slightly ahead of the previous dot, and so it seems like the dot is moving across the screen. If I made the dots get larger, the dot would appear to be getting closer to you.

There you have it: The difference between Phi and Beta.

And, no, they aren't dormitories or fraternities at your local college. Of course, if you meet someone from such a place, you can ask them if they know the difference between the two.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Shiny Text Animation

I am not an animator. Never claim to be. But I have done some animation and understand how it works. The problem is that I just don't have the artistic skill nor the patience for animation.

But here is a tutorial for how to do a shiny text animation:

Animation works because of the Phi phenomenon (technically, animation is generated by Beta Movement, but I'm not going there for now). This means that to make anything animated, you just need small enough increments of change at a quick enough flip rate between images to work.

So, I quickly created this image:

Then I went through and on different layers made little slashes of yellow.

Once I had twenty layers with slashes a little ways apart, I saved each one as it's own image.

I dropped all these into and discovered they allowed for a max of 10 images. If they allowed for more, the following animation would have been much smoother.

Shiny Luke

So there you have it: An introduction to very simple shiny text animation.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor



I started reacquainting myself with C++ today. It has been years since I last compiled a program.

I was working on a text-based computer game at the time that followed the format of:

You walk into a room. You see a dog. Do you...
a) Pet the dog.
b) Kick the dog.
c) Talk to the dog.
d) Leave.

If you choose, say, "b" then you read:

The dog, unhappy that you kicked it, bites you and you die.

I learned very early on that the fastest way to end a line of code was to have you die. So in my games you did. Often. And very creatively.

However, on my last C++ compile I ran the program and was informed that I had missed a "}" somewhere in my code. I had thousands of lines of code and after three hours had yet to find it.

So I quit.

I moved on to Visual Basic at the time.

But I'm now getting questions from a kid about programing and it's time to brush up on my "mad skillz." So I pulled up a tutorial website and started browsing the code. But it looked totally different.

'Maybe I've been in the world of HTML and CSS too long,' I thought to myself. But then I came across a warning that TCLite has "nonstandard functions" and therefore is different from ANSI/ISO.

Who knew?

I certainly didn't, considering I'm still trying to figure out exactly what ANSI/ISO is compared to TCLite. But for the record: I was a TCLite boy.

Looks like this old dog is going to have to learn some new tricks.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Tutorial: Color Correct with Levels

In GIMP, drag the image layer to the duplication icon.

Duplicate Layer

Go to: Layer->Colors->Levels...

Then change the Value to Red.

Red Value

Drag the two end sliders in toward the middle and repeat for Blue and Green.

Move to Center

Then click "Ok" and see the difference.

Lion Original

Lion Color Correct

It's not perfect, but it gives you an idea of how much you can fix the whites of an image and make it pop more in just a few moments.

Give it a try!

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


New Forum

I just started a new media mentoring forum today. So excited! But that is going to really eat into my time <smile>.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Mountain Storm

It's been raining here (yay!) so we've had overcast skies. But, as I was driving home from work this morning, I noticed the sun was starting to peek through over the mountains. So I grabbed my camera and snapped a few pictures.

Mountain Storm

Mountain Storm2

Mountain Storm3

Part of getting good pictures is the availability of great things to shoot. That is why famous photographers often stay in a location for long periods of time waiting for the lighting to get "just right" for their photo.

And we see, once again, that quality media takes time to produce.

On the other hand, there is an aspect of "luck" to pictures too. I grabbed this shot walking back.


~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Limits of DVDs

I'm having DVD Menu woes.

Cut Off Text

Unfortunately, this problem has nothing to do with my image. DVDs only have so many pixels to deal with, and, to make matters worse, half the pixels are potentially problematic due to interlacing issues.

Ugh. I hate running into problems that are caused by the limitations of the media I use. I feel powerless because this is a fundamental problem with DVDs, and the only way to "fix" the problem is to avoid it.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor



I really like "Fruits Basket." If you've never watched any anime, you should start there.


Love that girl.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


City of God

I finally signed up for my free Netflix from last Christmas. So far, it seems cool (I've only received one DVD thus far). We'll see. I do like watching movies.

So, the first flick I got was "City of God."

City of God

I've been excited about seeing this movie for a long time. The trailer made it look like a very stylized flick with crazy camera moves. There weren't many, so it didn't feel like the movie I wanted to watch.

Drugs, violence, sex... all involving kids. Life can be very, very twisted.

The film is based on a true story, and that begs the question: What should be done about this?

It goes back to something I strongly believe: We need to be good people, not just good at what we do. Nothing will fix the problems like the ones portrayed in the film if there is not a change in who the people are.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


I didn't post yesterday because I was working on one of these:


Why is that you're always missing only one piece?

Missing Piece

I was also watching these:

Olympic Cuffs

I mean, these:

Olympic Rings

And while watching gymnastics we got a few frames of a really garbled image. Here it was: HD, hundreds of cameras, a major news station, and something just went haywire. The camera was too hot, the connection poor, the image processor just hiccuped... who knows.

The point is this: Murphy's Law is always in effect, even in China during the Olympics.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor



We went to the Zoo yesterday. I hadn't been there in a long while, and it was fun to see the animals and have images slightly jog my brain--things I knew I had seen before but now looked different in the context of being older and taller.

My wife typically carries the camera because she likes to and has a good eye. Plus, she knows what happens when I get my hands on the camera.

But I was able to abscond with the camera and take a few pictures before she caught me and took it back. Here are just a couple.

Apocalypse Luke

Sunglass Self-Portrait

All in all, a very successful trip to the zoo. I proved, once again, that if you snap enough pictures of yourself, you'll end up with one or two that are pretty good.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


The In-Laws Are In I don't know if I'll be able to pull away to blog for a week.

I'll do what I can.

We watched a couple episodes of "Pushing Daisies" which is a fun, quirky show. [Would have linked if ABC's website didn't totally break if you try to protect your computer from malware.]

Pushing Daisies

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


The Price of Technology

We were looking at .mp3 players today.

We may be going on a trip soon and need to entertain three kids.

So what are our options?

Turns out there are many. And it got me thinking back to my first JumpDrive all those 3 years ago...


Today you can purchase a JumpDrive that's 32GB.

Not bad for a few short years.

And while on the subject of storage space, let me show you two things I own that each hold 2 gigs:

My, What Small Devices You Have

We live in an exciting time.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Face Time

Sometimes, like this evening, you get interrupted by people. These are what certain "gurus" call "Time Vampires". But... people are more important than my projects.

Granted, there are times when you need to just hunker down and do your work, but don't get so caught up in what you are doing that you ignore others. I know it sounds "successful" to be able to tune others out, but quality of life takes a hit. Friendships. Marriages. The good stuff.

So, don't ever let "success" detract from your life. It ain't worth it.

How do you help yourself practice this?

Take a day off every week.

This is what the Hebrews call Shabbat. Am I endorsing that you try to follow the rules of Michnah?

Not at all (though you certainly can try if you want).

I'm merely saying that in my experience taking a day off every week is fantastic... and I still get all my work done, be it homework, work work, or yard work.

Of course, the yard work only gets done if I actually decide to do it. Don't come over to look at my yard, I'm planning to start paying attention to it when I retire. For now, I have other things to do.

And that's the other big lesson here: There are only so many hours in a day, so pick what is important and do that.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Strength and Vulnerability

I finally got to see "Vantage Point".

I was really excited about the film, but let me assure you: The trailer is better. There were some good action type sequences. Unfortunately they suffered from the stereotypical action errors: My handgun has a billion bullets; I can get hit by a car (twice!) and still run; Getting shot and falling down is for wimps; Cars don't stop driving when they get totaled; Everyone in a chase sequence has Jedi reflexes.

But the biggest disappointment for me was that this movie promised me something and didn't give me that at all. I was promised a film where various perspectives must be pieced together to arrive at the truth of an event. Instead, I was given a compilation piece where, as they show me different people and what they do, they tell me the tale.


I've seen various bits of the tale keep spinning me in a movie done masterfully before, and this was a cheap knock-off in comparison.

So: Sad times.

But Alicia Zapien was really cute.

Or Maybe I Just Want Kids

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor

Ps. The title comes from the BTS where the director says over and over again that what he liked about this or that particular actor was his or her "strength and vulnerability". It got to be pretty funny the fifth time he said it.


The Iron/Bat Debate

I went and saw "The Dark Knight" this morning ($5 before noon... which is more within the budget than $9.75). Unfortunately, due to some technical problems, I had to watch it on film instead of digital projection. Very sad times.

I somehow managed. But going back to the grain and jitter of film after the beauty of digital... it was painful and pulled me out of the experience at least once.

There has been quite a bit of discussion going around over which film was better: Batman or "Iron Man"--the first film I saw via digital projection.

For me, even accounting for the discrepancy in viewing experience, "Iron Man" is far superior as a film. Granted, there were things that bugged me about "Iron Man": 1. Any time they cut to kids (oh, the poor screaming family in the car! I'm supposed to care about them! Cheap/lame filmmaking); 2. The fact that we never see "Iron Man" really fight; 3. Jeff Bridges' lack of motivation; and 4. Some of the comedy is a little too over the top (let's fly him into a wall again).

But "The Dark Knight" suffers from many, many problems at a core level. I will briefly recount a few of them.

1. Christian Bale talking like Batman: "I'm Batman. I have a utility belt." [From 1:20 and following.] That really bugged me this time.

2. We don't have time to really care about Two-Face. Compared to the Joker (who was fantastic, by the by), Two-Face feels like a cheap bad guy with a grudge. We just don't care.

3. Speaking of Two-Face, his CG face lacks emotion. We don't know what he's feeling, so we don't really feel for him (see point 2). This leads to...

4. Despite the film's attempt to be emotionally compelling, it isn't. At all.

5. The Joker is the only character who fits within the world. This movie is driven by reaction. Not a single character takes a proactive step the entire movie. This is perfect for the Joker who just does whatever pops into his head, but strips the film of meaning for any of the other characters.

6. The biggest problem I have with "The Dark Knight", however, is the inconsistency in plot. The film opens with a subplot revolving around the general populace's attempt to do the good that Batman is doing. When we finally get to where this theme resurfaces (with the two ferries, which is a great scene) we have forgotten about the copycat guys at the start and don't see the connection. But the movie is about the propensity for good to be corrupted but also the tendency for people to want to do good. So to end the film as they do, they essentially throw out the theme of the movie and give us a lame, and a philosophically inane conclusion.

So. Yeah. "Iron Man" is fun. "The Dark Knight" is a movie about the Joker... and I wish no one else was in it.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor