Media Production Mentoring

Free online film school designed with beginning filmmakers in mind.


Camera Shake: Simple, Effective, Invisible

While working on my latest machinima project, I didn't feel the fall was interesting enough. It was bland and unemotional. So, I added a tiny something to make it better:

Fall Comparison

Giving the camera just a tiny bounce/shake when he hit the ground vastly improved the moment.

What little tweaks can you add to your projects to make them better?

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Editing Practice: I Prefer Techno

While catching up on VGHS this morning, one ad actually got me to stop and watch it:

Gymnastics In Slow Motion

The video, partly because of the dubstep, reminded me of The Apple Tree Feat. The Glitch Mob. [NB: This video is definitely not suitable for children! It has f-bombs in the lyrics and disturbing/sexually-oriented shots from many R-rated movies. But the editing is superb!] There's something moving about cutting to strong music... especially if you have footage that can be slowed way down via time remapping.

If you've been interested in improving your editing skills, I highly recommend grabbing a ton of footage you've shot and cutting it together to an awesome rhythmic song. Dubstep is great, but I prefer techno.

Not sure where to get good techno for your edit? I like OverClocked ReMix. What's really cool about ocremix (besides providing free techno) is that the songs there are fan-made. So while there are a lot of less-than-stellar tracks on the site, you can also find some amazing gems created by creative people who love sharing their work.

Normally I caution about letting the length of a song drive your edit, but since the purpose of this exercise is to, well, let the song drive your edit... don't let that hold you back this time.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor

P.S. Notice how the ad above has a story. The part where she falls, and the moments after that, are wonderfully executed. We are visual storytellers, so tell your story with pictures.


How to get started in film: Silly and serious advice

I had the opportunity to sit in on a film panel at the CHEC Super Conference. The panelists noted--correctly--that homeschoolers are increasingly interested in making movies. But how do you get started? Where do you go for help? And what equipment do you need?

First, what kind of equipment do you need and how do you learn how to use it? The panelists all agreed that you should just get the highest quality equipment you have access to and begin using it. I totally concur. We learn how to make movies by practicing. And quality comes from mostly how you use what you have... not what kind of camera or computer you own.

This is the focus of the Filmmaking 101 course. Imagine you have a camera and someone tells you to "just go practice and you'll get better." The advice, while true, is ultimately rather unhelpful. The question is: How do you practice? What kinds of things should I be practicing? Hearing that you should "get better at lighting and camera angles" is pointless. How do you get better at practicing lighting?

You'll do that in Assignment 3: The Shadows Prove the Light.

What the film panel at CHEC completely missed was the opportunity to offer the 70 aspiring movie makers in the room tangible, practical steps to get started. And that made me sad. They should offer more.

The panel did suggest you attend the Christian Filmmakers Academy, but that has a steep cost in dollars, time, travel, and even ideology.

Second, what should you do as you get started? One of the speakers said that some of the worst advice he ever got was to "just go out and make a bunch of silly projects." He said, "Why not take the time to make something meaningful instead?" So he took a year to create a documentary, and now sits on a film panel at CHEC. Success.

Sadly, I think he missed the point of the advice entirely. In fact, the 10 minutes of Pro Tips from Freddie Wong offer better advice than the panel in a sixth the time. FeddieW gives much the same "silly" advice when he says you don't improve if you're not practicing. Brandon follows up with an excellent point that too often people get discouraged because they believe they have one idea and after months of working on it, it's not as good as they had hoped. Better to just use what you have to make something, finish it, and move on to the next thing.

That's the point of making "silly" shorts at the start. Too often Christian filmmakers fail because they are focused on producing something "meaningful" with a message and forget to make a movie. This was exactly my point when I contrasted Kinsey and Facing the Giants. Spend some time learning how to tell a story, then try to convey a message. Do not get hung up on some unbiblical pressure to always be producing something meaningful to the Kingdom. Spend your time preparing before stepping out into ministry. Christ certainly did. And He's the Son of God.

Third, I want to return to the ideology of the San Antonio Independent Christian Filmmakers. This bad theology drives much of the terrible advice they dole out. They believe several things:

  1. Hollywood is evil.
  2. We must be separate from evil.
  3. Therefore we should pray for and pursue a world without Hollywood.

They use the story of David and Goliath. They also reference the Babylon of Revelation. And they miss the point.

Granted, we are not all called to be Daniel, a follower of God who became chief magician in the heart of literal Babylon. I'm certainly no Daniel. I moved to Colorado because I didn't like the way Hollywood went about producing things. I didn't like the lying. The waste. The tone. I was also such a small and insignificant person, I wouldn't matter there. So I went online to try to help those I could: People just starting out on their film making journey. So I'm not against leaving Hollywood. But we should do it for the right reasons.

Leaving the "hive of scum and villainy" to pursue a Christian bubble of filmmakers misses the point of the Gospel. Those in Hollywood, like the Hollywood Prayer Network and Mastermedia, are being far more biblically minded by praying for redemption and being salt and light in this dark world.

The point? Whether you find yourself in Hollywood or San Antonio or YouTube, may your focus be on creating media that tells redemptive stories. But for now, while you're still getting started in film, please be free of the burden to change the world. It's okay to practice.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Image Inspiration: Fading Beach

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Better Left Unsaid

As I watched Division of Gravity, one thought kept going through my mind: 'This would be so much better without any dialog or voice over.'

If you can handle some f-bombs, check it out:

This is a beautifully shot visual story. And, because of that, it's far better left as just that: A visual story. The words--especially the swearing--heavily detract from the events. Worse, the lame voice over communicates nothing of value. In fact, ending with "We learn..." further emphasizes just how little we've learned from the words crammed into the background of this short.

I'd recommend watching this piece with the audio muted, but the music is integral to the pacing and emotion. I would have been happier if the words were in gibberish or a foreign language. Again: What is said, specifically, doesn't matter. It's the tone and rhythm that carry the mood.

The raw emotion and the pain and difficulty of maintaining a relationship is beautifully (and tragically) portrayed in the images. The words cheapen the experience. Better to have left the words unsaid so the message could be better heard.

What words should you cut from your next piece?

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Editing Tips from Drive

I noticed a couple things while watching Drive.

[Aside: The film has not received good marks, and I think the biggest reason is that it simply wasn't fun. As an audience we expect more of a Transporter kind of experience when watching a driving movie... not a film where people get their faces kicked in and a love story with an ambiguous ending. We can handle a violent movie if that's what we expect. And I, for one, did not expect that when I fired up this flick.]

1. If you're making a movie about a guy who drives for a living, try to include takes where he demonstrates an ability to park. I realize you, as an editor, can't create takes the crew doesn't shoot. So, if you're directing a movie about a guy who drives for a living, try to get shots that demonstrate he can park.

This Driver Can't Park

2. I really loved one edit in the film. It cut from a shot inside the car to another, very similar shot at a different angle. The edit worked because the scene through the windshield changed dramatically, from trees to a street. But the other major contributing factor to the effective nature of the cut was that your eye tracked with the watch on the actor's wrist.

Effective Edit: Give the Audience Something to Track

This edit could easily have been a jump cut. But by giving the audience something to follow through the edit, the cut was beautiful.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor