Media Production Mentoring

Free online film school designed with beginning filmmakers in mind.



the cake is a lie.

<end of line>

Aperture Laboratories

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Who Are Filmmakers?

What do you have to do to be a filmmaker?

When I started my career I had a Hi8 camera, a few action figures and some fishing line. I "shot for keeps" because editing wasn't an option. My first major film was 104 minutes of stop motion and puppeteering. At one point during our long shooting schedule--we only filmed Sundays after church, so it was a long process--we discovered we had lost our main character, so we had to do some clever "script" rewrites and substitute another action figure; we did this long before the Wachowski Brothers had to use the same idea.

Contrast that with today where I have cameras, lights, sound equipment, an edit bay, and years of experience behind me. Am I more of a filmmaker now?

What of the students I know who swear that film is the only true medium? What of the latest in HD technology?

Contrast that with the filmmakers who have to use cell phones as their only tool.

There are different levels of filmmaking; perhaps "levels" is the wrong word. While there is a quality difference, that's not really the point. It's more that there are different styles of filmmaker. Much like the varying genres, each production method produces a different type of film. Sure, your "one take wonders" and latest cell phone flicks aren't going to bring people into the theatre, but that's not the point. And in many ways, the days before all this equipment and responsibility were nicer because it was only about the joy of making media.

So remember: You can be a filmmaker no matter what equipment you have.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Twitter is...

"...just randomly bragging about your unexceptional life."

video removed

[NB: The above video contains mild profanity and cartoon violence]

There you have it: If you're lost in Twitter, you may not have any friends. In which case, it may be time to start commenting on blogs again and connecting with real people...


 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


WoW a Documentary

So my best friend was interviewed for a documentary about World of Warcraft this evening. The two filmmakers showed up at our house with a very nice camera... and nothing else.

That just won't do! So I set up some lights and a microphone because this footage needs to look the best; can't have my friend not looking awesome on tape <smile>.

The Setup

What will come of this effort?

Only time will tell. But I'll be sure to link you to anything that I'm given.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Tutorial: Photoshop Batch Actions

So, you've got this incredible image:

Incredible Image

Actually, you've got a ton of incredible images that you want to resize so they will fit perfectly on your blog. But how do you take hundreds of images and quickly change them all?

Enter Photoshop's great Batch Actions. The Actions live next to your History tab, and you can create a new Action by simply clicking the "make new" icon at the bottom of the dialog box (much like you'd make a new layer in the layer tab).

Make New Action

Give your new Action a meaningful name, and then click "Record"

Name Your Action

Photoshop is now Recording your actions. At this point you can do just about anything and the program will keep track of what you are changing. In this case, I am resizing the image:

Recording a Resize

When you have finished all the things you want done--you can do as many as you like: e.g. resize, rotate, flip, desaturate, etc--press the "Stop" button to end the recording.

Stop Recording

Now if you ever want to use one of your Actions on an image, simple press the "Play" button. This works on an image by image basis, which is fine in some instances, but not exactly awesome. So how do we use the power of Actions and do something awesome?

Well, hop on over to File->Automate->Batch...

Batch Actions

If you just created an Action, this is likely going to be selected in the drop down menu (not shown in the image below). You can easily switch to a different action if you like.

Then simply pick the folder that has all of the images you want to change in it, choose the folder you want your fixed images to be saved in, and then tell Photoshop how you want the images to be named. You can tell it to use the current name + "-new" + the file extension, so your new images will be called something like "Effects Tutorial-new.gif" can also have Photoshop count up for you (Image01, Image02...), and a number of other cool things, so be sure to check it out.

Setting Up Save

Click "Ok" and watch Photoshop do its magic.

It's a beautiful thing.

...there is one very annoying problem: If you utilize the "Save for Web" export option, Batch Actions can't figure out how to save that way. There is a workaround that works fairly well, but still not great. I'll be happy to share that with you in a future post. Just ask if you need it!

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Below 50%

In the past when I've looked up reviews for movies they center around 50%. This is not surprising because there's an audience for just about everything, and somebody likes the movie... even if it's horrible--perhaps even because it is horrible. And someone always dislikes a movie that everyone else loves.

But the recent past hasn't been so good for movies. And, sadly, it seems that Camilla has ended up in yet another lame flick:

21% Push Back

But 21% isn't really all that bad considering a couple flicks are down at 4%. And one that is even down at zero. Zero percent. No one liked it at all.


And that's not even mentioning the movies with real star power that are barely liked by one out of every ten who see it.

And it turns out that preachy movies don't fly at all among the wider film going populace, considering Lions for Lambs is consistently berated for being far to preachy on the subject of the "war on terror." Yep, even the "Liberal Media" can get bashed if they fail to tell a good story and instead beat the audience over the head with their message.

And if a film with Robert Redford, Meryl Streep, and Tom Cruise can cause people to turn away in disgust because the movie is a sermon to the choir, know that no one is safe and story--story--is what makes a movie work.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor



I like vibrant images with lots of depth. This look is achieved by variation in contrast between light and shadow. The epitome of this high contrast look is often found in the graphic novel genre that is so popular these days.

Here is a "typical" image with nice contrast:

Michelle Shadows

These images denote good lighting, evoke strong emotion, and allow you to really see what the actress is thinking.

It's a good image with a very nice "film look."

And I try to recreate a similar look and feel when I edit photos and light sets.

But today I saw an example of the opposite used in the same film that the still above was taken from:

Michelle Window

In the context of the movie, I actually like this second image better. It conveyed the emotion of the scene very well. And what struck me was that I would not have been happy with it on set. I would have asked to move the actress, or shut the blinds a little, or something... anything to keep from having such a "flat" image.

I guess the lesson that I need to learn from today is this: Don't let your preference for a particular way of doing something--or even what you have been taught is the "right way" to do something--blind you to other, better possibilities.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Keep a Copy of Your Code

If you stopped by this blog earlier today, you may have encountered a rather... broken site.

Broken Blog

I was copying some code from this blog to another, and, after hitting the save button so I could preview my changes, I realized I had just destroyed the header image code for this blog... and I didn't have a backup anywhere.

The Code I Toasted

To make matters worse, I couldn't remember the image URL... so I went to look it up on my server... and the internet tanked.

Leaving my blog a mess and me powerless to fix it.

Once the net came back I still had to wrestle with the code to figure out what I had broken and how to fix it. At this point, I think it's back where it was. Which is nice.

But today I learned a lesson, and put into practice, something I had heard before but never done: Keep a copy of your code on your computer just in case, in the off chance, somehow something happens to mess up your website and you need to fix it.

I now have a copy of the code.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


"A Really Neat Sheep Video"

Extreme Sheepherding

Shane Ross

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Media and Ideas

I don't know how much blogging I'm going to be doing here this week.

I have come to realize that someone needs to write several articles dealing with some of today's hot topics, and since no one else is doing it yet, I need to start it. Thus, I will be devoting my time to writing elsewhere this week instead of talking about media here.

Good media presents ideas in new or different ways such that people are affected and hopefully changed for the better. And since we all have limited time, may we choose wisely how we use that time.

And may the media you produce--written, auditory, visual, or otherwise--present ideas that impact and move your audience toward good.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Real World Typo: Inot

We try to be perfect with what we produce.

But sometimes things just slip through. For example, one of the first DVDs I ever produced ended up with a glaring error on the front cover that everyone had missed until after we had had it reproduced... several thousand times.

So, it is comforting to find that I'm not the only one who makes mistakes.

I purchased a new specialty light bulb for our kitchen fixture and was looking at the back of the box this evening. As I glanced over the instructions--which weren't exactly required, since my wife had already installed the bulb and was cooking under it's warm glow--I noticed the following:


It's good to work to make your project "perfect"... but don't stress if it isn't. You aren't alone.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor



So you fire up Firefox do use Firefox, right?

And you go to one of your favorite video sites to watch mostly legal content. And the video won't load because you've got scripts blocked by NoScript do use NoScript, right?

So, you right-click and see what scripts are there. And this "Akamai" one keeps showing up.


I've always allowed it in the past because, well, videos don't play without it. But I had no idea why.

I guess if I was really concerned I would have Googled it a long time ago...

It turns out that Akamai is "The Leader in Web Application Acceleration and Performance." These are the guys who make video streaming flow.

So, next time you're on your Adblock Plus enabled Firefox browser with NoScript, gladly allow Akamai, and thank them for making your mostly legal web media experience just that much better.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


I Can Has Language?

It's been a long time since I've dabbled in code.

I started out my programing life in C, and eventually migrated to Visual Basic when a 16,000 line program I had written failed to work because I was missing a "}" somewhere and my compiler refused to tell me where.

I haven't been back.

But when I learned that I can has code in LOL speak... well, that's funny.

So, check it out*: LOLCODE. It's pretty funny, and if you have any history in C--like me--you'll probably find the i am in ur c bit amusing as well.

If not, sorry.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor

* NB: This is college-level humor, so there is quite a bit of language associated with this.



I've started watching Ergo Proxy with Jason.

Ergo Proxy

It's pretty slow and suffers from what many anime series have: A loss in translation (both in the words and in the culturally defined meanings). It certainly isn't on the same plane as Fruits Basket, Cowboy Bebop, or Miyazaki's work, but thus far it's been enjoyable.

But the open title song is... well... hard to understand. Here, give it a little listen and try to figure out what he's saying:

Kiri - Monoral

Got that?

Yeah. Didn't think so.

Okay, if you want, go back and listen to the song again, but this time with the lyrics.

Enunciation seems to be a problem for many singers. In fact, there is an intertube movement built off the propensity to mishear lyrics (though, in many cases, I think people are trying to get it wrong).

But, still: If you hope to communicate, please enunciate (see especially 1:20-1:40).

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


The Physics of Awesomeness

Thus far, I've really enjoyed the graphic novel movies I've seen.

...of course, I still haven't seen The Spirit because, well, I wasn't excited by a movie about a city that is "my lover, my sister, my mother..." ...just didn't work for me.

But I have liked 300 and Sin City.

Graphic Novel Flicks

But now that Watchmen is out, I'm hearing very mixed reviews. So, we'll see.

There is something about this style of filmmaking--the hyper intensity/super-human nature of the genre--that is way cool. So, the following are two screen grabs from 300 that demonstrate, as well as any freeze frame can do for a moving picture, the physics of awesomeness:

Leonidas' Jump

Spear Throw

What is the future of this genre?

I don't know. And I don't really care how fake the physics of these movies are: As long as they're awesome, I'll be a happy boy.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor



I like playing with new tools... especially when they are free.

So, I've started playing with to see what it has to offer. Thus far, I'm not really sure what Sites offers that Pages does not... besides a potentially slightly more integrated hierarchy.

Are they planning on abandoning Pages in favor of this new endeavor?

It's hard to say.

But, then again, I've just started.

I'll be sure to let you know if anything comes of this.

Actually, I'm surprised that Google hasn't started a Wiki thingy yet. But they are working on other crazy things that sound potentially awesome.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


The Sampler

In an effort to clean off my desk, I noticed a VariCam Sampler DVD. I put in "That was shot with the VariCam?" DVD, and was reminded of my initial impressions: 'That was shot with the VariCam?'

See, this is supposed to be a DVD that shows off how awesome this HD camera really is. But then they give me images like these:

VariCam Sample Shot

Not VariCam Footage

So, I'm supposed to "ooh" and "aah" about this camera and the best you can give me is a lame stock footage shot and really poorly compressed SD text?

That is not good marketing.

The Lesson: A sweet camera does you little good if you don't take the effort to present it in high quality.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Microsoft More than Google?

I love Gmail, but I've kept my Hotmail account.

It must be a nostalgia thing, since it was my first email address and all.

In fact, that was back in the days of "pay by the hour" dialup internet, and I couldn't believe that anyone would give away free email space. Preposterous! And with a name like "hotmail," who wouldn't be suspicious?

Google now offers over 7 gigs of space for our email. And that's sweet.


But then I looked at my Picasa account: A measly 1GB... for all of my blogs and other photo hosting needs.


That's it? Come on!

So I log into my Hotmail and check out my SkyDrive... and I've got 25 gigs of space to use as I wish.


Hotmail (Microsoft) is beating Google by offering me more space?

Hardly seems possible.

Granted, .Live isn't running my blog and integrating with everything else in my online life, so I'm sticking with Google for now. But if Google doesn't start offering me more space soon... I may have to find another image solution.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor

Ps. In other news, I asked someone to explain 4:4:4 to me, and here's his answer. I followed some of it, but I'm still lost! This is not an easy thing to wrap your mind around...


Celtx 2

I really like Celtx. It is a pre-production program that allows for everything from keeping track of storyboards and call times, to letting you write and format your script. It even includes an option for organizing your script via note cards.

Oh, and it's free.

In other words: If you've been thinking about purchasing Final Draft, download Celtx for free first.

And now that Celtx 2.0 is out, things look to be even better than ever.

Celtx 2.0

So, go ahead: Check it out.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Media on Money

Every once in a while someone produces a really good and timely show.

This is one of them: The Collapse of the US Banking System Explained in Just 39 Minutes.

Give it a little listen. The whole show is about an hour long. Here is a great example of good--albeit simple--production values meeting with very practical, applicable, and beneficial content.


 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Copyright and Fair Use

A friend emailed me and asked:

There is a debate going on with a couple of friends, one who believes copying CDs is perfectly legal if he's not making a profit on them. He says, "Seems to me that what I am doing falls under the Fair Use provision. The makers of the music I copy invariably DO make more money because the copies expose the receivers to the music and they buy other music later." Any help?

Here is my response:

Because copyright law is so controversial, I've never actually looked at what is out there on the internet <smile>. Thankfully, a quick Google search gave me a link to a very clear and concise explanation: Copyright and Public Domain Music. It has links to other sites, but their language is really technical and full of "legal-eeze" and therefore, completely unhelpful <smile>.

Another site worth reading debunks several myths about copyright. Also, short, sweet, to the point.

Here's Standford University on Fair Use.

With even a quick glance at "Fair Use" we can see that burning copies of a CD for others is clearly not part of this. Fair Use is there so people can talk about something--such as the lyrics to a song--without having to get permission every time. It is there to make it possible to discuss media, not distribute it.

The argument of "they make more money if I give away copies" is flawed for two reasons: 1. There is no reason to buy a CD if someone has given you a copy of it either digitally or physically. It does not happen. And, 2. Even if it did, that doesn't make it legal. The law says that you are not allowed to give away music you do not own the copyright to. And they can do that because when you purchase a CD or an MP3 you are buying the right to listen to the song. You are not buying a the song itself. You are not buying the right to share the song with others... you can't even legally play the song in public or share it with a large group. The same is true for movies.

"But," someone may object, "Churches do this all the time! Every Sunday we play copyrighted music; sometimes we watch movies clips. So, churches are breaking the law?"

No. They shouldn't be. Every church should be registered with the CCLI. Churches pay royalties they owe through this group. You've likely seen a CCLI account number on the first or last slide of the song's lyrics you're singing. CCLI, I think, also pays out the proper fees to cover other media displays as well (such as those movies you watch for church movie nights and youth group lock-ins).

So, that's the law: It is illegal to give away, share, or even play music in public or for large groups, even if you "own" it.

On the other hand, I firmly believe that copyright law needs some adjustment. And I'm not alone. That's why there has been a rather large movement toward Creative Commons licensing. This is perfect for the next generation of digital content creators, but will likely never be fully embraced by the corporations trying to make money off media production. You can listen to a great talk by Larry Lessig about this movement and why it is so needed.

Other issues I point to all the time:

  • YouTube-since everything is out there on the internet already, and no one will take down Google, why should we be held to a different standard?
  • Free as Business Model (my wife calls it: people pay for what they like) and Red vs. Blue (not a clean show) are perfect examples of this in action.
  • Educational/for fun projects-current law makes any "derivative work" a crime, but I think there is much to be gained from working with other's media while learning.
  • Real buying patterns-there is some truth to "if they like it they'll buy it, and I'm just getting them to like it." I watched the first season of Chuck completely illegally online, then the second season legally, and I just purchased Season 1 on DVD.

So, there it is: A brief overview of the landscape as I see it currently.

Hope that helps!

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor