Media Production Mentoring

Free online film school designed with beginning filmmakers in mind.


Aside: The Whole Truth

A guy--dude #1--really wants to get back together with this girl who happens to be an attorney. Unfortunately, she used to be with his best friend who didn't know that Dude 1 and the ex had a thing. But the girl let it slip and now Dude #2 knows about it. Given his blessing, Dude 1 says...

Now that the whole truth, and nothing but, is out there a chance now for you and me?

I enjoyed the word play on "swearing in" in court (made even better by the fact that he is picking her up after work at the courthouse).

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Save Time Shooting Where Possible

VGHS Season 2 during one of the many car action scenes, I notice something:

A GoPro taped the hood of the car

Why is it there? They needed a Point of View (POV) shot for the video game's driver perspective. To save time and resources, they got both shots they needed in one take. At least, that's my guess. And how many people noticed the GoPro?

No idea.

But, like the cameraman in the frame of 24, it doesn't matter. I only noticed the camera because I'd had a similar rig for one of my projects and I rewound to make sure I was seeing it right. The rest of the world? They shouldn't care. In fact, FreddieW himself said much the same thing after watching OK Go's This Too Shall Pass.

There are many, many times where it's far better to save time on set than to do something twice if you don't have to.

Shoot fast. Save time, money, sanity. And if someone notices the video camera stuck to the front of your car, if they're having fun with your show, it's not going to bother them in the least.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor

P.S. Right after publishing this post, I noticed there's another camera taped to the back. ...and the side.


Aside: Regrets

Regrets suck.

Sometimes the most effective way to push an idea is to juxtapose the delivery with the character. Here a powerful, intelligent, driven young woman needs to convince her boss not to miss out on a personal opportunity. So she tells a story from her own life and ends it with the line above. To punctuate the tale with that line works because the person hearing it is a billion dollar business owner. The casual language strikes at the heart of the individual and slips past the professional barriers.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Short Film: Brent's Back

This is an adaptation of a 2,000 year old story from the middle east. It is the first short I've produced purely for practice/art and not for a class, festival, or my free film school. Brent's Back has similarities to Applejack and the scene Needle Pulling Thread in that I am working to bring ancient stories into modern contexts. All three were shot very quickly without lighting equipment or--apart of Applejack--microphones. These are examples of what I have been able to do with zero-budget film making. [NB: Always get your cast and crew food.] Most of the actors have never formally performed or been trained.

Behind the Scenes

The idea for Brent's Back started one Sunday morning when everyone else was singing in church and I felt like I was an outsider. But I got an image in my head of being at a party where the host has left a space for me next to him but I don't feel like joining in.

Outsider at a Party

I realized that the story fit well with the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11 and following). I felt exactly like the older brother would have felt. I quickly got a draft written and sought out a bit of feedback. Hearing my idea, several people--including my dad--mentioned that my story lacked the historical context (Luke 15:1-3). The story lacked impact because it was missing its catalyst for meaning.

That's when I realized I needed to end my film with a title card:

Terrorists and pedophiles where hanging around him...

I got some push back from this idea because people felt like this was too strong. They recommended that I use something a bit less aggressive, like, "homosexuals and abortionists" or something. Similar thoughts had crossed my mind, but in today's culture, abortion and homosexuality are not culturally sins. It would work for a conservative Christian audience, but I'm publishing this to YouTube. I had to push further to find groups whom the majority of the audience would agree it'd be unwise to spend time with "those people."

Accessible to Culture

The story suffered from another cultural barrier: None of the original "shock value" elements evoked any kind of response. Pigs? Refusing to come inside? Even the idea of disrespecting your parent has lost impact. So I needed a way to bring these uncomfortable themes into a day and age when few things make people uncomfortable. The solution I uncovered was to make the father figure into a knocked up teenage girl. This left her character vulnerable, open to cultural pejoratives, and in an awkward space stuck between two competing ideals: grace and healthy boundaries. The older brother could come in and--legitimately--blast her for being inappropriate and foolish.


Having the older brother take care of the girl also allowed me to hint at a few other themes and ideas easily missed in the original story. For example, the fact that the money blown on the party was technically the older brother's. I originally spelled it out in the script, but cut that segment of dialog because it wasn't super clear and didn't help push the story forward; you can see me act out the moment to the cast and crew at 2:14 in the BTS video above.

For all the thought and agony put into the script, I did almost no pre-production. The film suffers for it. I couldn't get a cast or crew together. My friends are all very busy and a few of them had to bow out. This made planning almost impossible. I eventually just had to choose a day and hope people showed up. The day before we filmed, I still wasn't sure who was going to play a few key roles. It was terrifying.


That stress, unfortunately, discouraged me from actually doing the work of pre-producing my film. When we got on set, no one knew the script, what--exactly--we were filming, or what I needed them to do. I was hoping to shoot from 8pm until, perhaps, 11, but that was overly ambitious. The script was seven pages long and I think we had a total of 22 people on set. We got our first shot at 8:30 and wrapped the last shot at midnight. Not too bad, all things considered, but I was over-the-top stressed the whole time.

This was not helped by the fact that I couldn't get my microphone to send a signal to my camera right before we started filming. So after 30 minutes of fiddling with it, and getting behind on our shoot schedule, I decided to just record audio straight off the camera. This was incredibly frustrating, so much so that I didn't even bother to turn off the refrigerator, further compromising the audio.

I added the party music in post, and used an EQ filter to pull out most of the highs to give it the bass-y "outside" sound, and then removed the filter when I cut inside. When the music starts up again at the end, I had trouble deciding where the sound was "coming from"--was it outside or playing inside? Realistically, it should have been coming from outside, but the sound before had been inside. So, I played with it a bit and covered up the problem by starting a new song when Cal goes to the window.

There is, of course, much more to talk about with any production, but I'll stop there. If you have any questions, let me know!

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor

P.S. See more short films by Luke Holzmann here:


Aside: Living It Up

Why didn't I die?

The movie-turned-morality-play may be incredibly disjointed at the end--and far too on the nose for my taste--but this sequence is jarringly sober. The lighting (stark and unhappy), set design (nasty motel), costume (it's still unzipped), hair (violently tussled), and the scene in the hospital that follows are spot on from a story-telling standpoint. This line of dialog is killer: "I lived it up. Why didn't I die?"

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Royalty Free Sounds from Production-Now is a wonderful place for young/poor filmmakers like me. You can find so many amazing audio files available for free download. It's fantastic. If you're looking for foley, ambient sounds, specific sound effects, or other bleeps, boops, or booms this is a great source for free sounds.

download free sound effects
Free Audio Clips for Download

But a few days ago I went looking for some sound effects and the ones I found were all Creative Commons Attribution. I firmly believe people should be given credit--and payment--for their work if they want it. But it can be a pain to attribute tiny media files you use in your productions. I don't like the hassle. I far prefer public domain/royalty-free media. And since I've long wanted to provide more royalty-free media for you to use in your productions, I've started uploading audio clips I've recorded as public domain. In a nutshell: You can use the sound effects uploaded to the freesound account for whatever you want. The files are there for you to use. [Granted, I do appreciate a shout-out if you do use them. Tell your friends about freesound too!]

I'm certainly no audio expert, but as I create sounds for my productions I'll share them with you.

If you have any sounds you need, let me know and I'll see what I can do. I'd love to have a huge collection of free, public domain sound effects for you to use.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Image Inspiration: Eyes

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


The Empty, Confusing World of Atlas Shrugged Part 2

I mentioned a few of the things that bothered me about Atlas Shrugged: Part 1. But let's see what happened to Part 2.

The movie opens with a plane chase...

...involving a woman I don't know who's as emotionally invested as Kristen Stewart.

The dramatic music didn't mesh at all with this woman's vacant, mildly disinterested flying. The audience has no idea who she is, who she's chasing, or why. And the filmmakers give us no hints as to why we should care. Starting a film with a meaningless sequence like this doesn't help us want to watch your film. We can hope that you'll let us know what's going on at some point, but the bad acting/directing and mismatched editing/music does not invite us to sit back and relax.

A few more confusing scenes limp by before I realized that this sequel has a completely new cast. I had to stop the movie to verify that...

...this couple was supposed to be...

...this couple. I can't imagine how confusing this film was for people seeing it in a theater. Did they all pull out their smart phones to figure out what was going on?

If you're going to change cast members on your audience, at least let them laugh at you, a la The Matrix:

I'm the Oracle

As the film continued to forcefully drag me through the muck of bad film making, I tried to figure out just what was so painful about this experience. The sound quality was fine. The shots were okay. The acting was flat, but not horrible (overall). Even the editing--while a little laggy--wasn't outright bad. The feeling had been breathing down my neck for a few moments before it spun me around and poked me in the eye. The main characters wander through the lobby of a building while people generally mill around. One of the extras walks into frame and stops to watch the screen.

Plot Points Delivered via the News

She was the problem. Not her personally. But what she embodied. The film was full of extras milling around to "fill the frame" and give the picture "life." But there was no life there. They never had anywhere to go, or a reason to be there. They were just taking up space. It reminded me of the painful scene in The Musketeer where the guys with torches just ran in circles in the background.

Musketeer Torch Loop (it's even worse if you watch the whole scene)

The problem is that this kind of stuff is filler. It happens when the director makes the poor decision to use background actors as part of the visual element of the film. Your extras should be part of your world, not part of the scenery. Again and again throughout Atlas: Part 2, background characters were told to walk through the frame at this moment. Why? We don't know. They don't know. And the director, most assuredly, didn't know.

Do not use extras as props.

If you want your film to have a larger world, you need to work with the people on set to fill it out. So, ultimately, due to poor directing, Atlas Shrugged continues to be a tiny world about global economic issues, where extras are conspicuously tossed in the background to try to fill this gaping hole. Like the producers and looters of the Ayn Rand world, the director has forgotten that extras are not moochers... they are the necessary cogs in the machine of film to make the fictitious world go around.

Perhaps it's time to pick up a copy of Brave New World or Metropolis again.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


System Low on Memory Fix

You're running a program--like Sony Vegas. Your computer has plenty of RAM (Random Access Memory). But for some reason you keep getting an error that says "system low on memory" and it fails to do something like render your video.

Even more strange, when you look at your memory usage, your system has more than enough:

Plenty of Memory Available

If you google "system low on memory" or "system is low on memory sony vegas" you will likely find several videos that suggest things like changing the number of render threads or the maximum dynamic RAM preview. But these solutions don't help. Why? Because you aren't actually low on memory. You have plenty of RAM.

The problem is that many programs are coded for older systems that couldn't have more than 2GB of RAM. So, even if you have eight (or 32) gigs of the fastest RAM on the market, your program can't use more than a tiny fraction of that. Is all hope lost?

Not at all.

The good people over at NTCore have a nifty little program that will enable your video editing software to use more than 2 gigs of RAM while rendering. This is an incredibly simple fix that takes a couple of seconds. In fact, I'm surprised Sony hasn't just implemented this kind of change in a patch. (Any programmers know why they haven't patched this fix in?)

How to Fix the System Low on Memory Error

1. Download and Run 4GB Patch
2. It will open a window where you can select the program that is "low on memory"

Select the Program Low on Memory
3. You're done. Close 4GB Patch and launch your program.

You shouldn't run into the "system low on memory" error message again. Unless, of course, you actually do run low on memory or that program needs more than four gigs to render your video.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Grandfather's Axe and Shorts

I saw one of the best shorts I've seen in a long time last night. It's two minutes of brilliant--if gross--humor and philosophy. Unfortunately, this short was the opening scene to a full length film that failed to deliver on the start. Sad times. Though, this happens often.

For horror fans, there really isn't a better option for discussing Theseus's paradox. So, if you're inclined, check out the embedded video. Not sure how long it will stay up as it is copyrighted material.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Stubborn Love

This video is brilliantly cut. The shots fit the tone of the piece, The acting/editing pulls you along in both the song and story. I really wish there was a behind the scenes for this because I think we could learn a lot from how they got the performances that they did and how they enhanced them with the editing. This video exemplifies really well the idea that you can have your actor just sit there with a neutral face and change the mood of the piece by cutting to various things.

Editing is powerful. But you need good material to begin with too.

My wife went a huge Lumineers kick after seeing them live at Coachella on YouTube.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Aside: Overtime

I have a ridiculous amount of sick days!

The new Aside category here will bring you snippets from scripts that catch my ear. It could be anything from a clever line to a powerful insight to a well-communicated moment. In this case, it's communication. This character is afraid of forever being sucked into a world where he only does what others expect of him. This simple line communicates that idea perfectly without coming out and saying it.


 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Creative Action Scenes

My favorite part of action scenes is the creativity employed by the choreographer. That's why I enjoy Jason Statham and Bourne flicks so much. It doesn't matter if it's a fire hose (Transporter 2), a well-kicked table (The Bourne Legacy), or a horribly shot but inventive use of a magazine (The Bourne Supremacy). These kinds of things make me catch my breath with exhilaration.

I had to clap my hand over my mouth when I watched a recent Statham scene where--to get away from the bad guys--he backs into a guy, sending him flipping over the car. Statham calmly buckles in the girl in the passenger seat and proceeds to run into the guy again as he stands up, sending him flying over the vehicle once more.

Statham Car Shot in Safe

Not only is this a creative scene, but the fact that it's a single shot makes the moment more awesome. Also, we get a bit of character development in that he takes time to buckle in his passenger while dodging bullets and taking out the enemy.

Keep your eyes and brain alert to opportunities to do something unique and fun in your productions.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


You Have Killer Taste

Feeling like the stuff you're making isn't very good? I thought so. It's time for another reminder:

How do you get good at creating stuff? You make a ton of it. You produce something now. You try and try and try again. And as you practice, you'll improve. Don't give up just because what you are making isn't any good right now. That comes with practice. Quitting would be the exact opposite of what you need to be doing.

Don't feel Ira Glass has enough clout? Fine. Here's what FreddieW and Brandon--two of the hottest guys on YouTube--have to say:

Go make something. Now.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Image Inspiration: Weary

Continuum Conundrum

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


How to Make a Dolly

The following tutorial will show you how to create an incredibly easy, inexpensive, portable dolly for your video camera and tripod. This dolly is designed for the following needs:

Easy I needed something that did not require fancy tools. I did not want to drill through metal, solder, or do anything else that required specialized stuff.

Inexpensive I wanted parts I could find off the shelf at a hardware store. Materials are always pricey, but I needed a DIY that did not break the bank.

Portable All the plans for DIY skateboard dollies I found online were solid structures that would be impossible to transport without a truck... and would certainly take up too much space in my basement. I needed something I could collapse and toss in a backpack if needed.

Armed with those criteria, I spent two days scouring the internet for ideas and another six hours wandering the aisles of my local hardware store. I have been using this dolly for over five years. It works well. I have never seen anything else like it [though, I've since discovered a PVC Dolly that would probably work well for light cameras and would be even cheaper]. Here's how to build one yourself.

Stuff you need

Parts for your DIY dolly

  • 8 x skateboard wheels with bearings (got two cheap skateboards at a big box store)
  • 8 x 2" long 1/4" bolts
  • 8 x 1/4" hex nuts
  • 16 x 1/4" washers
  • 2 x 3/4" T-joints of galvanized steel
  • 2 x 3/4" elbow joints of galvanized steel
  • A two foot long 3/4" galvanized steel pipe
  • A 12.5" steel slotted angle [long wall-mounting L-bracket with holes it in]
  • A 3' steel slotted angle [1.25" x 1" angle]
  • 2 x 1" PCV pipe (10 feet long)

You will also need:
  • Metal binding glue
  • Socket wrench
  • Crescent wrench

Putting it together

Step 1: Thread a wheel onto a hex bolt and then add two washers. Slide this through the outermost round hole in the steel angle and secure with a hex nut. Repeat 7 more times. Put two wheels on each end of the steel bar. Thankfully, the holes are offset so they won't bump into each other.

Step 2: Glue a T-joint to the middle-ish of both slotted angles. Try to keep it pointed straight up so when you attach the elbow they point straight across toward each other. Do not attach the elbows until the glue is set!

Step 3: Screw the elbows into the top of the Ts and connect the two tracks with the connecting steel pipe. Place each track on one of the PVC tubes, and you're good to go.

Using your dolly

You can quickly take this apart by unscrewing the center bar. Then, the largest pieces are the lengths of PVC. If you need to travel to a location, buy two more PVC pipes there. It's well worth the $5 to make it more logistically feasible.

The PCV can move around as you slide over it. This flexibility is great if your dolly isn't perfectly assembled.

I've found that the bolt placement is almost perfect for my tripod feet.

If you need a low shot, you can swap out the pipe for a board with notches cut out for the T-joints.

Questions? Let me know in the comments and I'll try to address them or improve this tutorial so you can more easily build your own dolly.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Why House of Cards Is Unsatisfying

I took a couple of weeks to "binge" my way through House of Cards season one. The show is well produced and mostly engaging. But it is, in my view, ultimately remarkable only in how unsatisfying it turns out to be. And I believe there are important lessons in storytelling as we uncover the lurking lackadaisical nature of the tale.

1. Revenge is only satisfying if we see it unfold. Think of The Princess Bride. What if instead of fighting the six-fingered man, Inigo Montoya discovered that the man who had killed his father had died after a long and painful bout with cancer? Lame. That may have been more terrible than a relatively quick death at the hands of a master swordsman. But cancer doesn't have the sense of retribution that we want in a story. We want to see evil suffer, but we don't want to feel sorry for the perpetrators of extreme evil. In House of Cards, we don't get the sense that our antagonistic protagonist is actually dishing out retribution. He's merely slashing and burning his way to his objective, hurting everyone except the people who betrayed him first. And if he ends up ruining the lives of those who lied to him, it comes more as a surprise than a plot. We don't see revenge. We only see a politician throwing a tantrum like a spoiled 4-year-old and if his objectives are reached, we feel it's because of the failures of others not his successes.

2. We don't care about the lead. There is absolutely no reason to care about any of the main characters in Cards. Our "hero" is a selfish, despicable man who is willing to stop at nothing to get to his petty and meaningless goals. Why does he want that political position again? He's already well connected and can do pretty much whatever he wants. Why does he feel so cheated? What are all the "things" he hopes to accomplish once in more power? He has no true direction and no need that compels him there. So, while we can empathize with not getting what was promised, I can't bring myself to care if he were to fail. Which makes the long episodes that show him struggling to reach his goal hallow and unsatisfying. I want to see him mete judgment, not whine at me about how he doesn't like what's happening around him.

3. Everything is meaningless. And I'm not just talking in the existential way. This show underscores again and again how everything in their world matters not one iota. Okay, there are a few scenes where one sympathetic character feels sad about her significant other being knocked off, but that's it. Nothing else in the plot has any real impact on anyone. A few people destroy their lives, but that's not actually part of the narrative, its just who they are. Worse, when we get down to the existential problems near the end of the season, we discover that "praying to myself, for myself" is not only laughable and lame, it's downright pathetic. And the question is asked, but then ignored, "Why are we doing this?" ...because, really, everything is meaningless.

4. The characters aren't pawns on a chessboard, they are filler or convenience. The wife and her world? Pointless to the main plot, there merely to create possible tension. The reporter? The epitome of poor eye candy and dues ex machina. Even the three characters I liked... don't do much for the plot. And perhaps that's because there was so little true plot.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


When Cinematography and Sets Don't Matter

I'm watching a film right now that has gorgeous locations, fantastic camera work (full of smooth crane and dolly shots), and a cast of hundreds. It also has some passable CG, which further underscores that there is some money behind this production. They are shooting in the middle of the jungle somewhere--Indonesia(?)--and have wonderful aerial establishing shots. The movie looks great.

Filming on Location

But it's a terrible flick. All the technical production values in the world aren't saving this movie because of two things:

1. The acting is terrible. This frequently happens when you travel to a remote location and pick up locals to play in your picture. As people with zero dollar budgets, that's often what we have to do. But if you can find people who can act, it helps a ton. Of course, bad acting is very common in films with barbarians. I think the biggest reason is that people are told to act "not so modernly" or something. Don't do that. People are people whether they are in a ritzy hotel in London or the ferocious wilds of the planet Garbatron. Let your actors be normal people in extraordinary situations, and the acting should instantly improve.

2. The story doesn't resonate. The fault for this is mostly the bad acting. A character's wife is carried away by dragons. A moment before he jumps to his feet and calls after her. Uh... okay. These missteps in pacing remind us that we are watching a production instead of experiencing a story. The other problem is that the camera work never really tells us anything about what's going on. The shots cover the action just fine, but nothing in how things unfold visually adds anything to the tale. Be sure to change your shooting style, angles, and tempo to keep the audience engaged in the action.

Having a nice camera and exotic locations is great. But remember: those things don't matter if your audience isn't gripped by your tale. Focus on your story, and use technology and film techniques to enhance that. Don't fall into the trap of thinking that good looking shots are what are most important. At best, they elevate your tale. But they don't make a movie.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


I Love Google Reader

I use Google Reader 2-4 hours every day. And now, Google is shutting Reader down. Sad, sad times. It's going to be difficult to do much of my work now.

Google, if you're tracking this, please don't shut Reader down. <cry>

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Image Inspiration: Collapse

The House of Cards Falls

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Find Your Audience and Ignore Complainers

My wife's new favorite movie is Fighterman Singam:

It's in Tamil. There are no subtitles. She used Wikipedia to learn the plot. She thinks Suriya is attractive and super cool.

The movie is ridiculously over-the-top in a distinctly Indian kind of way. The violence is predominantly hand-to-hand where a slap to the face sends grown men flying through the air. Rather than cutting through some scenes, they simply speed up the shot to get to the next important line of dialog; it's almost as if you're fast forwarding through sections of the film. I wouldn't be surprised if they did this because they didn't have enough "coverage" of the scene to edit. They simply used what they had.

There is an important lesson here: This is not my kind of movie. I could write several blog posts about all the things they do wrong and that don't work. But my wife enjoys the flick. She's part of the "audience" for this movie. And me? Why try to cater to me? I'm not the demographic. Ignore my complaints and keep making movies that others find awesome.

I, personally, had a ton of fun watching Sucker Punch (though, apart from the first five minutes, the film is already showing its age). One of my friends didn't enjoy it at all. And there are many more examples where I disagree with others about a movie. And that's okay.

As you develop your skills, it's okay if you make a movie that only your mom likes. I often critique Christian films for their horrible execution, but there is an audience for these preachy, lame excuses for a story. And while growing in our ability is important--and I think Christian filmmakers should strive for excellence--it's probably best to ignore complainers like me.

Keep making movies for your audience because the best way to improve is to practice.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Movies and Our Existential Plight

The Time Robot xkcd strip makes an excellent point about movie plots:

we impose narratives on life's random chaos to distract us from our existential plight

Philosophically, it seems, Randall and I are on opposite sides of the spectrum. The comic above, for example, focuses squarely on the inevitability of death (though, paradoxically, in comedic form). Seen this way, entertaining movies--like Terminator--are mere diversions to help us ignore our ultimate, meaningless end.

I see stories, film or otherwise, as more a reminder of the continuity of life. Indeed, as C.S. Lewis points out again and again, we discover in myth the thing that endures in the constantly changing realm of philosophy. Thus, stories are not dissipations of our momentary existence, but the very thing that gives our fleeting lives meaning. As filmmakers, our movies answer our existential plight by hinting--in one way or another--at the eternal life to come. When seen this way, Terminator becomes a movie that touches on the value of a human life, the importance of human dominion, the sorry state of the world, and the new world to come where suffering is removed in a restored relationship with God. There are important themes like the need for a savior yet a requirement that we act as well (James 2:26).

Thinking, as Randall does, about movies and our existential plight, leads him to the conclusion that we are merely coming up with stories to make us feel better about our lives. I would argue that movies remind us--in subtle, yet powerful ways--that there is more to existence than "crude matter." No, as Yoda says: "Luminous beings are we."

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor

NB: xkcd often contains inappropriate content.


Image Inspiration: Russian Firing Squad

A Fly on the Wall

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Piracy, Remix, and the Law

There is an amazing documentary about The Pirate Bay trial. If you're interested in media production--and think about piracy and pay--it's a well-made chance to get a taste of what's out there:

I also highly recommend watching all four parts of Everything Is a Remix if you haven't yet.

I, naturally, have my own opinions about all this. I think it's important for us, as content producers, to understand where the law currently stands, how popular culture currently responds, and the ramifications of both attempting to stop piracy and allowing it free-reign.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor

P.S. It should go without saying, but downloading torrents is potentially dangerous to your machine.


Mac or PC for Beginning Filmmakers? Early 2013

Mac or PC

Five years ago, there was no question: If you were an aspiring filmmaker, you got yourself a Mac. Final Cut Pro was awesome and much smoother to use than Adobe's Premiere Pro. And if you were just getting started, iMovie HD with iLife gave you most of the tools you'd need... and even normal iMovie was light-years ahead of Windows Movie Maker. You could, of course, do video on a PC, but you'd be fighting your machine the whole time. Sometimes the huge price difference made it worth it go with Windows, but not often.

What does the video editing landscape look like today, here in early 2013?

Free options: Mac
There still isn't a truly solid free Windows-based editor. Windows Movie Maker is more of a joke than ever. So, if you're only going to make cat-videos, iMovie offers many more options. But Apple has also dumbed-down their tool, so it's not nearly enough for someone seeking to progress as an editor. Apple is the clear winner, but if you're editing at this level, you could make either system work. In fact, you may be better off using YouTube's editor or one of the many other web-based video editing options emerging. So, Apple wins this round, with growing web-based browsers coming in a close second. I hope that, within the year, we'll see online tools that far outpace the current offering, making this part of the discussion obsolete.

Inexpensive options: Windows
Apple does not have an intermediate level editor. Sony's latest Vegas Movie Studio editing suite costs less than $50 right now, and it gives you almost everything you could want in an editor. The major drawbacks: No customizable hotkeys and no great keying/masking options. Other than that, it gets the job done. Vegas, and others like it, are only available for the PC. So, if you're serious about making movies but don't have a ton of money to drop on a setup, you can purchase a killer machine and fantastic software for well under $900... that's simply not possible if you go Apple.

Professional options: Windows
Five years ago, Apple had FCP7... and it was fantastic. I used it regularly and created lots of professional DVDs and web videos. Then Apple killed--and then quietly brought back--their flagship editing program. In it's place, they offered a $300 app that, while slick, removed key professional features. Now dubbed "iMovie Pro" by professional editors, this tool does not yet "cut it" when you need to cut, and deliver, content. Adobe stepped up to fill this gap while Apple fumbled, and their suite is better than ever. Avid also continues to compete in this space.

Other thoughts:
  • Both Adobe and Avid can work on a Mac, but for the price, you get far more horsepower with a custom PC.
  • OSX continues to be a fantastic operating system, but Windows 8--building off the solid 7--is now a real challenger.
  • Final Cut Pro X will continue to improve. It takes a refreshingly open approach to the timeline, which is fantastic. In years to come, I believe Apple could again make it a staple for prosumer editors--like myself. Will they? That remains to be seen, but there is some interesting discussion on this front. For now, Apple is still on the high end of the price point, pushing out aspiring low-budget filmmakers.

The good news? While Windows is more a contender than ever, if you have a Mac, you can still make movies. So, it remains true in early 2013: As a beginning filmmaker, start with the tools you have and only upgrade when what you have limits your ability to tell your stories.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Shorter Superbowl Ads 2013

My favorite ad was:

GoPro: Dubstep Baby

Actually, only the second half of the commercial is worth much of anything... but those last few moments--especially around second 22--are fantastic. It shows off the slow-mo with hilarious ease. Love it.

And I would have liked Audi's commercial, had it been half as long. Watch it, and take note of where you're bored:

Audi: Prom

How should this spot have been cut? Start around :13 with "Hey, son, have fun tonight." The bit about him going alone has nothing to do with the story. Then cut out the needless limo and parking space shots (:22-:29). Get through the crowd a tad faster, and put the primal yell over the end screen. This thing could have easily been 30 seconds and so much better for it.

I make this point over and over again, but it bears repeating: Do not make your story a moment longer than it needs to be. Your audience can get bored in less than a minute. Need to see an example? Check out the two commercials in the "What to Watch" section of Assignment 11 from the Filmmaking 101 Free Film School course.

Then go cut your film in half.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Use Common Things for Unique Visuals

She moves through the frame, her face suddenly going dark because the person watching her is inside a car with a UV tinted band on the windshield:

Tinted Windshield

Unique Shot

There are many opportunities to use the everyday things around us to get really cool shots for our films. Keep your eyes open.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Image Inspiration: Steins' Panic

Great cutting isn't only reserved for the world of live action. In this anime, a character has just raised suspicion about another character. A moment, and then we cut to this:

Steins' Suspicion

The edit was perfect. But it's not just the cut. The framing--placing him a little lower in the shot, pressed against the wall, watching from the shadows--just screams suspicion. It's perfect.

Later in the episode, our hero realizes that his friends could be in danger. He drops everything and runs back to the lab. The animators switched to a scribbled, hurried, high-contrast style while he tore through the city in a mad panic.

Steins' Panic

There are so many tools at our disposal as filmmakers. Keep in mind things like framing and shot style as you work on your next project.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor