Media Production Mentoring

Free online film school designed with beginning filmmakers in mind.


The New Follower

Google is constantly trying to make things "better" out here on the blogosphere, but that means we're guinea pigs while they run tests. I don't mind being a beta tester, but some of the changes "just happen" and we're left with the consequences. And that has the potential to lead to real problems.

Right now Google seems to be trying to improve their Followers gadget, and is perhaps incorporating the services of other developers as well. I can't really tell what they're doing with it. But I'll give you my first impressions:

  • I really like that they are trying to open Following up to more than just Blogger bloggers.
  • I like how much easier it is to flip through your Followers.
  • I hate that you can't right-click on a Follower's image and open their information in a new tab.
  • I can't tell what kind of organizational structure they are using (is it still latest additions at the top?).
  • I dislike the vague and, as far as I can tell, useless links they added to the box.
  • After reading their material and skimming the TOS of Friend Connect, I still don't know what else they are trying to add/do... and some of the releases are a little scary to me.

So, we'll see. I still like Google, but I think connecting Followers to Friend Connect may be a little premature, and I'm wary of where they're trying to take it.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Make Friends and Help Move People

Nothing media related today... unless moving a ginormous TV is media related.

No. Instead of working on a media related project, I went and helped a couple girls move their stuff into a new apartment. In the process, I got two new friends--which is pretty awesome.

And I've said this before, but I'll say it again: Being good at media production means little if you aren't also a good person.

So, if you need to put down your "tools of the trade" for an evening to go help out some people move stuff around... do it.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Give Me a Tutorial!

Is that too much to ask for?

It seems so.

I just got a camera. Putting in the battery was pretty easy. Setting it up was fairly straightforward. Shooting my first video was a breeze.

First Exilim Test Shot

But after that: Forget it.

All those features they sold me on? Yeah, they don't actually tell you how to accomplish any of those. The Quick Start Guide? Covers all the topics that happen naturally. The "Basic Reference" book? Basically worthless. And the User Manual? It's on the CD, which would be fine if I felt like opening that up and potentially voiding my return options. Is it on their own site for download? Of course not!

The learning curve of new technology is usually pretty steep. I get that (but it doesn't change the fact that it frustrates me to no end). But it feels like those who make the technology don't actually care about us end users.

So, here's what I want: With every camera, DVD recorder, or bit of software, give us an online tutorial that walks us step-by-step through every major "selling point" that is advertised. Every single one in colorful, fully descriptive steps.

I know. I ask for a lot.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Keep It Simple

Ever get confused by the overly technical jargon of Wikipedia? You know, things like this.

Consider the introduction to the topic of Calculus as another--truncated--example:

Calculus ... is a branch of mathematics that includes the study of limits, derivatives, integrals, and infinite series.... Historically, it has been referred to as "the calculus of infinitesimals", or "infinitesimal calculus". Most basically, calculus is the study of change, in the same way that geometry is the study of space. ... Calculus builds on algebra, trigonometry, and analytic geometry and includes two major branches, differential calculus and integral calculus, that are related by the fundamental theorem of calculus. In more advanced mathematics, calculus is usually called analysis and is defined as the study of functions.

Wouldn't it be nice if that made just a little more sense to us normal folk?

Well, there's hope! Introducing Simple Wikipedia. Here is the introduction to its entry on Calculus:

Calculus is the part of mathematics which looks at things that change over time. It tries to say what type of change it is and how big it is using functions at the exact moment at which the change is taking place. There are two different types of calculus. Differential calculus divides things into small pieces and tells us how they change from one moment to the next, while integral calculus joins the small pieces together and tells us how much of something is made by a change.

Ah... a bit better!

So, next time you're feeling overwhelmed trying to get your head around something new, check out the Simple Wikipedia entry.


 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Buying New Technology

I love new technology.

I hate buying it.

There are so many variables to consider, and I never know who to trust or what information is the most important. Even if I could do multiple tests, I'm still not sure I could come to a good conclusion.

Ah well.

The life of a techie.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Wii Music Videos

We're out in California this weekend visiting my Alma Mater and my wife's folks. Which is why I'll likely miss a post this week. Sorry friends!

Last night we gathered around the Wii to play Wii Music.

One of the features of the game is a music video generator. You play through the song--a couple times if you want to layer more of you in--and then you can watch the video of your performance. These videos come complete with flyover shots of the crowd, fog, and multiple camera angles of your performance. I would have liked to be able to choose some "random" footage to intercut into the video as well, but I'm not part of the development crew.

Wii Music Video

As it stands, the videos look much like many other great performance videos.

How can a computer cut together a music video (something that is normally done by a professional editor)?

Because editing music performances is all about following the music, and as we have seen in the swirling "visualizations" that come with most computer-based music players, a computer can do just that very well.

And, as Microsoft is trying to cash in on, computers can help us make music. ...granted, Microsoft still isn't quite with the modern world with Songsmith, but they're trying. They really are. They just haven't been able to wrap their heads around the idea that this is more like an online gimmicky game than a tool, and so should be marketed differently and with a different income stream model... but they didn't ask me.

They should have.

But if you're looking for another game/teaching aid for music that is a better use of your $30, Wii Music would be something to consider.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Tutorial: Blogger Nav Bar

Many Blogger blogs look the same, since Google only offers a few standard templates to choose from. Blogger does point out that you can find many templates for free online. And that is a great option. But sometimes you just need to take matters into your own hands...

Today I'm going to walk you through adding a simple navigation bar to your blog that links to some of your most common subjects. For instance, this blog has a few tutorials, and I could add a Nav section with a button that links to those (and, in the future, I just may <smile>).

This tutorial is inspired by Thoughts of THAT Mom, and her really slick looking Nav:

Blogger Nav

Step 1: Add Labels to your posts that correspond to the Nav options you want to include. For example, I have added a "Tutorials" label to this post.

Tutorial Label

Step 2: Somewhere in the <head> area of your blog's html, paste the following code:

a.navigation {
background: #673f20;
color: #ffffff;
margin: 1px;
padding: 5px 30px 5px 30px;
border-width: 0;
text-transform: lowercase;
text-decoration: none;
font-weight: normal;
a.navigation:hover {
background: #5faab7;
text-decoration: none;

I included it with the other anchor style elements. Quick reminder: "background" dictates the color of the button, and "color" defines the color of the text.

Step 3: In the actual <body> section of the html--probably between the "header-wrapper" and the "content-wrapper" div--paste:

<a class="navigation" href="">Home</a>
<a class="navigation" href="/search/label/Tutorials">Tutorials</a>
<a class="navigation" href="/search/label/Other%20Stuff">Other Stuff</a>

Each "a class" you include will be another button. If you want a Home option, you will need to include your entire url. But for all of your labels you can truncate the code to just the sub-directories as I have done here: /search/label/....

Note: If you have labels with spaces, you must include the %20 instead of a space in the url, as in the case of the Other Stuff button.

So there's the introduction. This will work, but it may not look good. You will likely need to style your navigation <div> so it fits more within your blog's layout. But you've gotten this far, so you're well on your way to having a sweet looking blog that is unique to you, and you alone.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Instanet Films

Today was the first time that I realized video technology may actually be changing since I started college.

Granted, when I was a Freshmen, DVDs were still coming onto the scene, HDV didn't exist, RealPlayer had the best video compression for web, and no one was talking about 4K. So, as I've said before: things have changed. But for all the format talk, for all the hype around h.264 and P2, for all the new cameras, I have been very convinced that for the young filmmaker who is thinking about making movies, MiniDV is where you want to start.

MiniDV is superior to the other options out there for several reasons: Backup, quality, ease of editing, and fairly ubiquitous equipment. It is absolutely the format to start with. I realize there are arguments against all of these points, especially in more expensive/newer cameras, but I still hold that for all of these to be true you need to use MiniDV.

But after telling another kid today to get himself a MiniDV camera, I started thinking: Is that really the best advice?

Yes... for now. But times, they are a-changing. And that feels odd because, for all the talk of technological advances, the actually viable and accepted technology changes very slowly. Blu-ray's rather pathetic advance is good evidence of this. But two things are converging to make me wonder if the best introductory format is shifting to a flash/hard drive format.

Something like the...


Because of YouTube.

Well, more accurately, web delivery.

See, for the past decade, the question for filmmakers has been, "How will I make my video available? How will I keep copies of it?" Over these years the answer has been DVD with backups on tape. But now, with digital delivery really taking off, that answer--at least for amateur/student filmmakers--is quickly becoming: YouTube/Vimeo/Your-Video-Site-Of-Choice. Now we have an instant mechanism for people to see our videos, a backup system like none other (Google servers, anyone?), and even redundancy across multiple sites. And there is no longer a need, or even a desire, to go back and re-edit something in the future... so a system for backing up footage is also slipping into the past.

This hit me personally this evening as I considered shooting a quick vlog post of me eating toast: How should I do it?

Well, with my current MiniDV system, I need to get my camera set up, find a tape, shoot the video, capture the footage into an NLE, add fade in and out, export and then upload.

If I had a "YouTube enabled" camera, like the one above, I would pull it out, shoot, copy and post.

Thankfully, my wife is supportive of me and suggested we go out and get just such a camera. I will let you know if/when I do... probably via a vlog post.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


The Key to the Internet City

Okay, so I'm really behind the times here.

In fact, I'm almost embarrassed to post about it now because it shows how "out of it" I truly am.

The Internet Overdose Song


What cracks me up about this song is, I think, that it reminds me so much of what I do as a "Media Relations Specialist." This song is about my job. And it cracks me up.

The lesson you can take away from all this: With a ton of creativity, you don't need lots of equipment. In fact, that may just end up hurting you in the long run. These guys know their few tools really well, have a bunch of creativity and talent, and combine those to create extremely successful videos.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


The Tangled Webs

When I first heard about GodTube, I groaned. 'Not another pathetic Christian knock-off.'

I signed up for an account--hey, it's part of what I do to be involved, even in places that rub me the wrong way--but I never spent any time there. In fact, I've never gone there to watch a movie unless someone linked me to one and asked me to watch it.

Then, about a month ago, I got an email saying that GodTube was going to change its name. The email made a huge deal about this name change thing, and I felt like I was missing something because I couldn't, for the life of me, find any indication as to what the new name was going to be.

Looking back on it, I think it was supposed to generate hype.

For me, it was just confusing.

But today I got another email, this time announcing that GodTube had officially changed its name to tangle. So I clicked over and have been encouraged. The new look is slick and clean. I really like it.

Unfortunately, they don't have a large format version of their logo for me to post, so, I used my rather pathetic Illustrator skills to vectorize their logo to blow it up, brought it into Photoshop, played with it a bit, and came up with something that is moderately similar:


So, here's to the next generation of Christian video sharing: May it become a place that helps connect Christians interested in media, allow us to share our ideas in such a way that we all ultimately grow into the people we should be.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


South by Southwest

Sorry, friends. I was busy with other things tonight--like my latest post on my personal blog.

So, I've got nothing for you here.

...but if you want to learn about how a company can really destroy it's image, I do have a post you may find interesting.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Visible Love

[NB: Not all the videos are appropriate for all ages.]

Can you feel the love tonight?

Better yet: What is love?

I mean, we can write all the love stories we want, but maybe we should think twice before we make any more films about this crazy little thing called love.

We know love is a verb, but how do we show that in the visual medium of film?

One of the... sexiest films I've ever seen is Before Sunrise, a tale of a guy and girl meeting and then parting ways before they can embark on a long term relationship. The movie hits on all of the things that are exciting about meeting an attractive member of the opposite sex; all the highs of discovery; all those moments of first connection. It is a brilliant portrayal of a falling in love.

On the other end, we have countless movies about marriages on the rocks--people who have lost their passion, their connection, their love. They look for it elsewhere, seeking--or accidentally finding--that experience of falling in love again.

Very rarely do we see a film where a couple is in love and has been for quite some time.

And I think the reason is simple: We don't know how to show it.

What are the visible manifestations of a mature love? It is no longer impassioned sex. It is not the thrill that comes with a first kiss. It isn't the wedding day. And so filmmakers are left with a bunch of quick by tender kisses, a constant refrain of "we are still so in love," and snapshots of the shared memories these two souls have.

In fact, we have many examples of old couples still in love--their age and consistency the symbol of their love. ...but even these films are filled with flashbacks to their first days of fledgling love.

And now, two music videos with raw confused emotion and heartbreaking encouragement that have little to do with the topic of this post, but they are very interesting explorations of love on a more familial level.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Registered Logos

So, you've all seen it: The Registered Trademark® symbol.


Well, you're not supposed to use any image with that symbol next to it without permission. Like, anywhere.

Technically, MTV could get mad at me for ripping off their logo yesterday. In fact, they should come tell me to take it down "...or else...".

Why is this such a big deal?

Well, let's say that someone at MTV felt that this was a rather pathetic site and they didn't want associated with them. The fact that I have their logo on my site may make a curious person--browsing the net for information about MTV--happen across my site. Since I have their logo on my site, I would, in that case, be using their logo to get more traffic. Since they hypothetically don't like me much, they wouldn't want my logo anywhere near my site.

But if their logo was all over the internet and used by millions without their consent, a judge would say, "Well, why didn't you protect your trademark from all those sites? Why are you picking on this Luke guy? You're discriminating against him, and he can leave that image on his site."

Then MTV could come give me a bunch of money in exchange for me taking down the logo and hope I never pull a stunt like that again.

That example is a little far-fetched and you may still be wondering: So what? Who cares?

Let's say that you registered a trademark for Legos, a toy that millions of children--and adults like me--enjoy. People start raving about how much they love their Legos and so start posting pictures of your logo on their blogs all linking back to you.

Nothing could be cooler, right?


Until a site dedicated to selling illegal substances to children decides to put Legos' logo on their site, attract billions of children in the hopes of getting them all hooked on highly addictive and destructive chemicals.

Wait, you don't want that! So you take this site to court, but the judge says that you didn't protect your trademark, and you can't stop this site from using it.

Oh noes!

Oh, yes.

And, yes, I can follow that logic.

What I don't understand is how much that logic really holds up since when people search for things, they google the name and not the logo. ...and there's little you can do if someone typed out the name Lego on their site.

Thus, I still maintain: This world is mad.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Licensing, Owning, and MTV

Someone wanted to know how to rip their music video DVD onto their iPod because they didn't want to have to purchase the song again just to watch it on their iPod since they already owned the DVD. Another forum frequenter responded with a reminder that it was illegal to rip the DVD onto the iPod because they didn't actually own the song.

The original poster was incredulous: But I bought the DVD, I own the song!

Not true. You own the right to play the song on your DVD. Nothing more.

I chimed in and confirmed this truth: Technically, when you purchase a DVD, CD, or .mp3, you are only buying a license of the song/video... you have paid for the right to listen to/watch it whenever you like (on that particular medium and perhaps a few others). You have paid for the privilege of partaking. You do not own the song or the video. You are not allowed to change it. You are not allowed to do anything except listen to/watch it on your own or with a very limited group of friends.

That's technically the current law: Licensing.

Being the big rebel that I am, I quickly went on to say that I personally do not have a moral objection to ripping a CD I own onto my computer. I don't have a problem with burning another copy to keep in my car. I don't mind ripping DVDs onto my computer to grab a still image to put on this blog.


Because, while I recognize the distinction between purchasing a license and owning the rights to a bit of media, I think the current laws are far too restrictive without a legitimate reason. And while I completely believe that people should be paid for the work they do, I see no reason to pay them twice.

There are also some pretty odd inconsistencies in this whole "digital media" world which make most cases surrounding "piracy" odd at best. One of those major points of copyright law is that you are not allowed to make any "derivative works" from copyrighted material. The clearest example of this would be using a song from your favorite band in as the soundtrack to your movie. ...totally illegal.

But then enter places like MTV:


At least at some points with some songs, they allow for Remixing of their artists. In other words: They let you create a derivative work.

Sure, you could argue that because they are letting you do it, there must be a special license in place--which is likely true--but it still feels odd to be "remixing" songs that I'm technically not supposed to duplicate to put in my car.

...though, I think I've heard of some clause somewhere that says that you can keep a copy on your computer...

This world is mad.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


24P, 4K, and Pixels

If you're interested in HD video production, the latest in camera technology, and love all things RED, 4K, 24P, P2, or otherwise... you need to read an article in the latest Creavite Cow Magazine: The truth about 2K, 4K & the Future of Pixels (it starts on page 5 of the .pdf).

For as much as I like geeking-out to media technology, I'll admit that I was completely lost in a couple places. For instance, I still don't understand how pixel technology works (specifically how RGB and YUV exist in the same sensor space, no matter if it uses a 4:4:4 sampling or a Bayer pattern):

RGB, Bayer, 4:4:4 and YUV

But I'm going to put that aside for a while until someone can finally present it in a way I understand. (In the meantime, if you want to know more about HDV and how it works, check out DJTV's segment on High Definition Acquisition).

Some of the things that John Galt talked about in the Creative Cow article made a ton of sense to me, and I'll try to give a couple examples so you can get excited about reading it.

1. 4K isn't 4K and not even IMAX is 4K

Some of the IMAX tech guys did a demonstration in which they used something very much like the following image:

Resolution Test

What do you see?

A gray box.

It's actually a grid of black and white squares. What the IMAX guys demonstrated was that even before you hit 4,000 of these pixels on the screen, it looks like the image above, meaning, "There was no longer any difference between black and white, which is what allows you to see sharpness. [Even if it was 4K,] everyone would have to be sitting in the first 6 rows. Otherwise [their] eyes wouldn't let them see [the extra detail]."

2. 24P should be replaced by more frames

I've been saying this for a long time: I really dislike the look of movement in 24P, especially in pans. It is impossible to focus on a single frame. The instance this really bothered me was watching Matrix: Reloaded during the Smith fight.

Matrix 2: Smith Fight sorry for the low-rez web grab

Mr. Galt notes that 24 frames per second was used because of the limitations of sound recording, not because of some visual aesthetic. And to prove one of his points, I took pictures at 1/25th of a second shutter speed while panning my camera. [After posting this, I think I misunderstood what was going on here, but now I'm afraid I'm even more confused <smile>]

Blurry Tree

There's more to the article, but for all the tech-speak and comparisons and marketing statements, the important thing for us to remember is:

Good media production has to do with how you use your tools to tell a good story. The rest is just details.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Tutorial: Cutting Out In Photoshop

So, I've got this nice picture of my brother and me.

Justin and Me

But no matter how good we look, the background just isn't up to par. But how to cut us out so people can focus on the important part of the image: us. Well, I could use the Lasso tool, or even the Magnetic Lasso, but I want something more; something with more control, more precision, and more awesomeness.

Magnetic Lasso

The tool I need is the Pen Tool.

Pen Tool

Zoom in and click next to my arm. Then click and drag (while still holding down the button) farther up my arm. This gives you your first "Bezier curve" which you can then modify.

Bezier Curve

Always, always click and drag when you put down a new anchor point so you can modify the curve. If you don't drag, you won't have the two handles to move. You can move the anchor point with your cursor if you hold down Control (Command on a Mac). You can adjust the handles by holding down Alt (Option). Play with those to get a feel for what happens.

Move Anchor Point

Adjust Handles

Now just start placing anchor points around your object (in this case, my arm and shirt). Remember to click and drag a little with each new point. You can adjust both of the handles on your new anchor point, and also go back and play with one of the handles from your previous point.


Hair is often the hardest part of cutting out a human. Since I know I'm ultimately going for a black background, I'm not being too careful.


After you have made it all the way around your object, right click and select:

Make Selection

You can now choose to add a feather to your selection, but I do not at this step. I want to leave a copy of my cutout layer intact in case I ever want to go back to it again.

Selection Feather

Always copy your layers at every step.

Copy your selected layer, turn off all the other layers by clicking the little eye icon next to them, and paste your cutout into a new empty layer. Then, create another empty layer behind it and flood fill black.

Empty Cutout

Hmm... that doesn't look so good, so make a copy of your cutout layer and use the Magic Wand tool to select the empty space around your object.

Magic Wand

Then go to Select->Feather


And depending on how big your image is, choose an amount:

50 Pixels

Hit the Delete key once or twice, and you have a nicely blended image:

Beautifully Blended

That's the basic idea of cutting out objects with the Pen Tool. This tutorial assumes you already know about layers and the general operation of Photoshop. If you want more introductory tutorials, click on the Tutorial label on the right.

As always, if you have questions, please ask away and if I can't can answer it in the comments, I'll create anther tutorial addressing your issue.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Computers the Size of a Room?

I've been watching the Netbook market with interest for some time now. I love the idea of a less than ten inch computer with almost full sized keyboard, especially as I look forward to potentially 40 hour trips this year. But that's my biggest problem with the current build of netbooks: They have a battery life of 2-4 hours.

What's the point of having a super portable computer that can't be without an outlet for more than a couple of hours? That doesn't make sense at all.

But in case you are afraid that the world of technology will continue to get smaller and smaller, don't worry: IBM is building a computer that takes up a room.

The Sequoia is slated to be able to hit 20 petaflops. How fast is that?

Well, according to one site:

If each of the 6.7 billion people on earth had a hand calculator and worked together on a calculation 24 hours per day, 365 days a year, it would take 320 years to do what Sequoia will do in one hour.

How does it go so fast?

Well, it has 1.6 million processor cores.

Those really expensive Apple computers that cost more than a really nice car?

8 cores.

The Sequoia has 200,000 times that many.

I think rendering would be a tad faster with such a machine.

But, no, they're not going to be sic-ing this powerhouse on media production. No, they are going to use it to simulate nuclear blasts and the weather.

That's not nearly as cool.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Super Bowl Transitions

Anyone else watching the Super Bowl notice the quality shift right after one of those fancy NBC transitions?

I did.

And it confused me more than it bugged me. Why, after a nicely rendered transition, would the system play what appeared to be poorly compressed SD footage for a second before jumping back up to high quality video? Was it a bandwidth problem? A system limitation? Graphic RAM? Bit rate? ...anyone have any ideas or know what was up with that?

Or was I the only one who noticed?

I mean, I'm okay with being the only one more interested in the technical side of things instead of the game.

And I just stumbled across an explanation of how they draw the first down line, something I've been wondering about for a while now.

Football is fascinating.

No, not the game--though the defense man who ran a 100 yard touchdown was super impressive--the technology behind the video coverage we see of the game. That's fascinating.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


One Second Spot

Before I even knew who was playing in the Superbowl yesterday, I had heard a rumor that Miller had opted to purchase 30 one second ads for $100,000 a piece rather than pay three million bucks for a single thirty second spot.

...and yes, that is indicative of my priorities: Media over sports.

After a few hours has passed and I still hadn't seen one, I was losing hope. And then...

Miller 1 Second Spot

It's a thing of beauty.

It was so fast that I couldn't even tell what he was saying. A blink and it was gone. But what a glorious second it was. Why? Because it did what a commercial is supposed to do: Get you talking.

Will this stunt have the longevity of Honda's ad?

Probably not. But it took a lot less to make this one.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


I Have a Sexy Camera

I hear a lot of talk about P2 and Red cameras... and whatever is cool and new and next.

But I still contend that HDV is the format for today--if you want to go beyond MiniDV and you don't have money for a different tape-based HD option. In the future something else will come along and replace it. But for at least the next two minutes, HDV is the way to go. And I like Canon. So I really like the XLH1. And it really is a sexy camera.

In fact, it amuses me when the XLH1 crops up in films as the "cool camera" for people to use because it looks so good.

The Condemned

So, yeah, I've got a sexy camera that looks good.

Me and Sonyia

And I still content that it's the way to go if you're moving beyond MiniDV.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor