Media Production Mentoring

Free online film school designed with beginning filmmakers in mind.


Editing Blind

I just finished editing a photo montage. The problem was that due to the image sizes and the format I was using, I spent the entire editing process looking at this:


Sure, there would have been ways to render it out and then edit, but none of them elegant enough for my tastes, so, instead, I edited the piece "blind" and am rendering out a rough cut now.

In about three minutes I'll see how I did.

And then I'll tweak it more tomorrow. Being able to adapt to different conditions is important as a filmmaker... even if that means you can't see things while editing.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Lay Off Ken Burns

Ken Burns has made quite a few documentaries, and within these motion picture reminiscences he has made famous a part of cinematic grammar: The image move... be it a push in, a pull out, a pan across, or otherwise.

In fact, Apple has named a particular tool the Ken Burns Effect.

And Sunday, I watched a movie where someone had clicked the button "Apply Ken Burns Effect" to their photo montage.


Please do not do that.

Just because you can do something, does not mean that you should.

Please avoid the "Ken Burns Effect" and stick to moving a picture when you should move a picture. This is right up there with avoiding the wide variety of "transitions" available to you. Guess what? The Cube Effect Transition was only cool because it was possible to do it, not because it looks good.

Please avoid.


The Lesson? Actually think while making your movies. If your brain is not engaged in the choice, you probably shouldn't make it.

Hey, that's good advice for most of life.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Nuns with Guns

...and other Netflix things.

I was browsing through Netflix, trying to figure out which movies I should add to my queue. There are some really crazy movies out there, so we started talking about movie titles in the spirit of "Ghandi II" [NB: This is from UHF, so it may not be entirely appropriate].

Then I came up with the greatest title for a movie ever: "Nuns with Guns".

It'd be smash hit.

You a free to use it if you like.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Happy Birthday, Myst!

The greatest game ever turned 15 today.


Wired even ran a tribute to Myst. But Google, sadly, did not.

Sad times.

We all love Myst so much that we even linked onto Myst Island once. Here's a photo we snapped while there.

Luke, Jason, Andy

Once again: Happy Birthday, Myst!

Myst Intro

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Little Costs

The part of production that tends to bother me to the most is the amount of resources that you need. Even way back in film school I didn't like spending the $5 on a tape and the 4 hours on set that I needed for a single shot... not to mention the five people I needed to help me.

College Shoot

I was reminded of how quickly costs can add up today while adding postage to a bunch of envelopes. Each large envelope cost $2.87 to ship. I was sent to print off some more postage labels and started pumping them out 80 at a time. The machine could spit out a label every second, so in a minute and a half I had spent almost $230.

That added up quickly.

And that was just for the postage.

So something to keep in mind as you work on productions: Costs can rise really quickly, even if you're not paying anyone. There is a tendency for some media producers to abuse their volunteers because they gladly donated their time. But don't forget: If you have ten people on set and you spend four hours getting your shots, that's an entire work week of man hours down the tubes.

Keep things in perspective. And be kind to the people who agree to help you out.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Audio Books

I didn't learn to read until very late in the game.

How late?

Well, let's just say that I have improved significantly since college. And with this difficulty--not to mention the physical drain because my eyes "fight" each other--it's little wonder that I don't read a ton. It's too much work and takes too much time.

But I do love me some audio books. I can listen to them in the car during my commute each day, and then traffic isn't as annoying because I'm gainfully employed while waiting for people to get out of my way.

The problem is that audio books cost money. And not an insignificant amount either. Audible sounds awesome, but it costs almost as much as a print copy. Ugh.

Of course, my local library now offers the ability to "check out" audio books. But it doesn't sound like they're going to let me burn that onto CD without some work on my end... and since I would want to listen to these in my car, well, I kinda need it in CD format as my car doesn't have an audio in, and I don't have an .mp3 player.

So, yes, more research is needed. I've done a little reading recording, and it isn't easy to do. I want to get better at it because I really do love the audio format for books, but that's going to take some more time.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Making a Good Ad


I'm happy to say that I'm very happy with their new advertisements. Very happy, because the one with Jerry was horrible. Horrible.

How bad was it?

Let me show you:

Microsoft: Ad Circus

That was many lessons in how to not make an ad.

  • 1. Keep it short. A minute thirty is too long, especially if you have nothing to say.
  • 2. Keep it relevant. A minute thirty is too long if your not going to talk about anything.
  • 3. Know your audience. Microsoft at this point does not know to whom they are trying to sell.

But then they started this new set of commercials (after quickly realizing their error... only cost them $300 million). They are much, much better.

Microsoft: I'm a PC

Much better.

Still, they could use a little help. Microsoft figured out their market, and how to talk to them in a way they care. They also kept it short(er). But they drifted a little in the middle there. Everything was going great, and they brought in Mr. Psychobabble and left his lame "I'm a human-being" bit in. Ugh. Off topic, rather lame, and ultimately pointless.

Editor says: Cut it.

So, other than that, Microsoft, great! I really love the beard editing joke and the "I sell fish." But the "...not a human doing" was lame.

"Stay on target." Good advice, Gold Five.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Helping Others with Code

Let me just say that I love helping others with code.

I hate the fact that every blogging option has a completely different way of getting you to that code and how much control they offer. It makes my job of helping others that much more difficult.

...especially when one such blogging option does not allow you to log in after you create an account to see what is going on.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Make Firefox Faster

Use Firefox?

Wish it were faster?

Well, here's a way to get it to be a little more snappier (theoretically). I've tried it on my machines, and I think it is noticeably faster, though it's hard to say. But it doesn't seem to hurt anything, so give it a go.

First, in a new window/tab type "about:config" into the address bar, like so:


It may tell you this will void your warranty. I didn't know they had a warranty, so... sure! I'll try to be careful.

Now, in the Filter line, type "network.http"

Find the "network.http.pipelining" and the "network.http.proxy.pipelining" lines and double click where they say "false" so they say "true."


Then find the "network.http.pipelining.maxrequests" and change it from "4" to "40."


Restart Firefox.

To my knowledge, this allows Firefox to allow more processes to happen at the same time, rather than just few at a time... thereby speeding the whole thing up.

Hope that helps. Let me know if you notice a markedly faster browsing experience.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Promos: Music, Shots, or Script?

There are three basic starting points when you are asked to put together a promotional piece. You could start with the music, the shots, or the script. Each starting point is valid depending on what you are putting together.

1. Music: If you have a great piece of music already, or you don't have one yet and need to make it still, this can be a great place to start with a promotional piece. Music is a very powerful tool for helping people feel a particular way, and can also help you decided how to cut your piece.

2. Shots: If you know you're going to be putting together a quick montage from a larger project, it can be helpful to start by narrowing down your footage. This will allow you to simply throw away anything that isn't super interesting to you, and can help you decide what kind of music may best serve the shots you've kept.

3. Script: If you know there are very specific things that need to be said or conveyed in your piece, it is a good idea to start with the script. Even if the script doesn't dictate each shot for you, it will allow you to look through the footage and music selections with a clearer picture of what you want to use.

Each of these starting points is just that: A starting point. Each of the three is perfectly viable depending on the type of promotional piece you're producing. I've used all three at one point or another. It all depends on the project and what I know I have to work with.

And that's important to keep in mind as well as you work on projects: Start with what you have, and work from there. If you have a script, start there and assemble the pieces you need. If you already have a selection of music, start there. And if you've just got a pile of footage, start by cutting that down to the few gems you love.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Cutting Trailers/Promos

I was asked to cut a trailer this afternoon for a DVD that was recently produced. Familiar with the footage, I sat down and made a fun little fifty second trailer in about 90 minutes.

Then I submitted it for review.

I was told that the trailer was "adorable"--and it was--but that it lacked any kind of communication as to what the DVD actually contained. Well, since this was not the first DVD in the series, and I was under the impression this video was part of an email campaign, this didn't surprise me. I hadn't counted on actually telling people much about the DVD. This was a: Look, this is a sweet-awesome DVD... buy it! kind of thing. But the client is worried that someone may stumble across the video on the internet and not be moved to purchase the product since there wasn't anything descriptive in the video.

So, I wasn't able to release it. I'll work on it some more tomorrow, writing an actual script for a voice over that may help.

Of course, I'm a little worried that a voice over may actually hinder the trailer.

And at the moment, I'm a little torn. I may have different feelings about this tomorrow after I have written a few great lines, but right now I'm not convinced I should be worrying about descriptions.

Isn't the point of a video to whet people's curiosity so they will go find out more?

That's what happens with me.

Of course, a video has to make me interested enough to think that the product might be something I want.... So, I guess tomorrow may tell. I'll see about getting both versions up side by side so you can get a look at them and see which one you like better.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Gold Mine or Chipmunk

We took the afternoon off to go up to Idaho Springs and tour a mine that is still in use.

Our guide was a genuine miner who has worked as a miner since he was a child and his father "put cigarettes in [his] ears" when the machinery was too loud. Like I said: Genuine. After the tour he showed us how to pan for gold. In a few minutes he had pulled out of the murky water a couple of small pieces of gold.

Panning for Gold

Naturally, we excitedly set off to do it ourselves in the nearby stream.

Mountain Me

This proved to be rather difficult. Instead of the practiced hand of years of experience, we swished dirt and water in our pans and managed to find some shiny, but worthless rocks. So, we weren't gold miners.

All around the main "office" area, chipmunks were running amok. They were zealously looking for sunflower seeds which the miners provided just for grins. I snapped a shot of one of these little critters:


It struck me that we were much more like the chipmunk: spastically going through the steps with a single goal in mind--to find gold!

But our guide had told us at the beginning of the tour that they, since they were such a great mine, were producing two ounces of gold on average for every ton of rock they processed.

2 oz per ton.

Similarly, with media production, you have to put in a ton of time learning and doing the craft before you will come up with a few ounces of pure "gold." Two tips with this: Keep practicing and getting help when you need it, and don't kill yourself on your early work. It won't be worth it.

If we had spent a week panning for gold, we would have come up with virtually nothing. Similarly, you should not tackle a feature length film right off the bat.

This is not to say that you shouldn't work hard at producing quality work. You should. But you should also know that you are still learning, and you don't need to take things so seriously.

Relax. We're all a little chipmunk-y at the start, but that isn't helping us.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Batch Actions

I was working on a photo montage today. The photos were huge--especially for DVD quality video--so I decided to shrink them all down so my NLE could handle them easier.

But with 500 images, is it really worth going through and resizing every one of the images just to save a little time zipping around the timeline?

Well, it depends on the project, but in this case, probably not.

But that doesn't mean I couldn't resize them all really easily. Photoshop has a really awesome feature called "Batch" processes. You can "record" yourself performing an action (or twenty) and then have the computer do exactly the same thing to every image in a folder and save the edited images in a new folder.

What's even better for an editor is that you can have Photoshop save the images with the same name in the new folder. That way, if you have already trimmed or arranged your photos in a timeline, it is a simple process to relink them to the new, smaller files.


Want a brief introduction to the idea? There's a decent one here.

If you want more information or have any questions, just ask!

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor



I'm writing this post from within a new browser I just heard about this afternoon. It's called


What do I think about it? Well, Flock is a build of Mozilla, so it's very much like Firefox, but it's supposed to be good for "Social Media" and such. So, I'm giving it a shot.

So far, I've only installed it and written this post. And checked Facebook.

Without researching anything about how this browser can help me, I have found nothing that is helpful. I'll be watching videos and looking into this more over the coming weeks, and there is potential here. But with this initial glance... I'm not seeing it.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Talk It Out - Preproducing a Promotional Clip

I spent an hour chatting with a client today about a short promotional video script they had put together. We looked over the ideas they had, the shots, the script, and chatted about the ultimate goal of the piece, the audience, and the delivery method.

After this hour meeting we had a pretty good, almost completely re-written, 40 second script, a new delivery method that required a new promotional tool, and a much more confident client. We then discussed possible tie-ins to get people to even watch the piece, wardrobe and actress concerns, the location, and scheduled the shoot.

All in all, a very successful hour long meeting just to talk about an end product that will be less than a minute and a half.

And you know what? That's time well spent.


Do it!

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


SLRs as Videocameras?

I have not had a lot of time to keep up on the media production blogs in my RSS reader, but the topic that has several of them buzzing is the possibility of shooting movies on SLR cameras.

That's right: Still cameras are starting to break into the filmmaker's world in a totally new way.

How odd would be it to pick up a Nikon still camera for a high definition shoot instead of, say, the Scarlet?

Perhaps not all that odd. At least, not in a few years.

"Strange things are afoot at the Circle K," my friends. Strange things.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Web Tutorial HTML

I've been working on another tutorial. This one is on HTML coding.

Check it out on the Wiki: HTML Layout Tutorial.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


I've Seen Ashes...

I like Switchfoot.

Chrome isn't available for the Mac yet, but I put it on our Vista machine, and...

I don't like it.

Not that I dislike it, just that there isn't anything interesting about it at all. I've read a little about the things it does, but as far as just browsing power, it isn't anything special. At all.

However, it felt like the images load differently. Perhaps I'd just never noticed the switch from a slowly adding pixels to a loading image to a slowly building from the top down of an image... but the slow reveal from the top down is, well, feeling odd.

Web 1.0 vs Chrome: Image Load

I just checked, and the reason it feels so odd is that FireFox seems to load images in the background and then show them to you only after they have loaded... which is why it feels so odd to actually watch an image slowly load on the screen. It feels slower, even if it is the same speed.

So, there you have it: My first impression of Google's Chrome.

But to give you some good tunes to make up for it, here's the music to Switchfoot's "Home"... wish they had produced a video.

Home ~ Switchfoot

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Scripts and Stories

I just watched a very disappointing film that was very much geared toward the female audience. I'm not against "chick-flicks," per se, and I even like a few, but this was not a chick-flick. This wasn't a romantic comedy. This was a "guys are jerks, girls just suffer, everyone's totally messed up, and in the end it is all about you and how much fun you have so forget everyone else if you've got what you want from them unless they are your BFFs, whom you must stay close by at all times and accept everything they do because you love them" kind of movie.


It was basically Cyndi's music video, only not quite as well shot and edited... and not as to the point.

It bothered me so much that the writer, director and co-star gave the ultimate cop-out ending after laying waste to everything and everyone around her three female protagonists--if you can call them that--that I have started writing a script for a film that actually deals with the central themes that this girl has completely overlooked.

Sometimes watching a bad movie can inspire you to try to create a better one.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


The Red Dot Game Tutorial

Someone asked how the "Big Red Button" game was made.

Sadly, they used Flash, which I've only dabbled in and isn't free.

So, is it possible to make a Red Dot Game for free?

Yep. Here's how:

Step 1: Get free hosting. In this example I used Geocities.

Step2: Create a new page and call it Reddot_Home.html.

Step3: Add the following code:

<!DOCTYPE HTML PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN">
     <title>Reddot HTML Tutorial</title>

<style type="text/css" media="all">
body {
   position: absolute;
   top: 50px;
   left: 100px;
   height: 340px;
   width: 800px;
div {
   text-align: center;


<p>Click the Red Dot.

<a href=""><img src="" border="0"></a>


Let's look at each line of this code and talk about it.

The top line of code is read by the computer. It basically tells the computer which language it needs to use to read the code.

The next the bit that defines the area of the code. It starts at the top with <html> and then ends the code by "closing" it with </html>.

Next up is the "head" area, which defines what the page is going to do:
Start with
End with

Inside the "head" area, we name the website with the <title> tag (which we also close).

Then we get into the <style> section. A <div> is basically just a part of the webpage that is all by itself so you change things inside it but not change the rest of the page.

Now we get into the <body> of the page, which is what people see when they come to your site. The <p> tag "prints" the text after it for people to see. We told the computer to make the text inside the <div> centered in the <style> section. And since the p is inside the div, the text is centered.

Then we have the garbled code for the image. There are two parts for this. The <a href="..."> which defines where the image links to, and the <img src="..."> which is inside the linking text. The "img src" stands for Image Source and includes the URL for the image itself. The "a href" tells the computer where you want it to go if the click the image.

Step 4: Now make another page (this is the page that you will include in the "a href" part of the image).

Step 5: Repeat.

I have made a very, very short sample of this in action on my Geocities page. Give it a try, and then be sure to "View Page Source" if you need to see the other page's code.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor