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2012, Vol. 7, No. 4 The #1 Educational Resource for Film and Video Makers
It Ain’t
Rocket Science
3D Filming Wild Horses in the Gobi Desert
Spider-Man is Amazing Again
It's a Great Time to Write for Television
Canon EOS C300 on the Run
Publisher’s Desk
The summer continues to be filled
with exciting back-to-back industry
tradeshows and conferences,
workshops and seminars, and other
great educational, networking
and inspirational opportunities.
Students, Teachers & Faculty, and
Schools, are you ready for Back to
School? The Back to School section
in this issue gives you a preview
of new film and video making
Check out the article, “NightLights,” by William Donaruma
and John Klein. The feature was shot using RED MX,
Panasonic AF100, and DSLR cameras. In “Filming Wild
Horses in the Gobi Desert,” Al Caudullo shares his
experience shooting a 3D documentary with Panasonic
AG-3DA1 cameras. While filming around the globe with his
new C300, Carl Filoreto goes more in-depth about his first
impressions of the C300 in the article, “Canon EOS C300 on
the Run.” and StudentFilmmakers Magazine
returns to Hollywood, California, to exhibit at WEVA 2012,
the Expo for Wedding & Event Film/Video Professionals. You
might be browsing and visiting exhibits at WEVA with this
very edition in your hands as we speak! Check out the article
in this issue, “Solo Shoots,” by Patrick Moreau. Don’t forget
to stop by the Booth #104 at WEVA,
where you can pick up complimentary print editions and free
DIGI subscriptions.
I hope that all of the articles in this wonderful edition will
help you get warmed up, excited, and inspired for Back
to School. We invite all of you to attend our continuing
education workshops held at StudentFilmmakers Magazine
headquarters in Manhattan, New York City. New Yorkers,
come meet other New York filmmakers and videographers at
the workshops. If you’re not from New York, well, it’s one of
the many perfect reasons to come visit the Big Apple.
Enjoy the magazine!
Kim E. Welch
studentfilmmakers 2012, Vol. 7, No. 4
The # 1 Educational Resource for Film and Video Makers
Publisher / Editor-in-Chief Kim Edward Welch
Senior Editor Jody Michelle Solis
Contributing Writers
Thomas Ackerman, ASC, Jack Anderson, Anthony Q. Artis,
John Badham, Charlie Balch, Christopher Ball, CSC, Karl Bardosh,
Adam Biddle, Joe Brewster, Terence Brody, Kevin Burke,
Julia Camenisch, John Carrico, Steve Carlson, Al Caudullo,
Chris Cavallari, Pete Chatmon, Nash Choudhury, Vicky Collins,
Michael Corbett, Sky Crompton, Vanessa Daniels, Carsten Dau,
Todd Debreceni, Jeff Deel, Christina DeHaven, Zachary Steven
Houp, William Donaruma, Dana Dorrity, Pamela Douglas,
Scott Eggleston, David E. Elkins, SOC, Scott Essman, Bryant
Falk, Carl Filoreto, Jon Firestone, Jacqueline B. Frost, Sean D.
Gaston, Daniel Gaucher, Fred Ginsburg, CAS, Ph.D., MBKS,
Dean Goldberg, Todd Grossman, Leonard Guercio, John Hart,
David K. Irving, Larry Jaffee, Ian Johnson, Catherine Ann Jones,
David Kaminski, Michael Karp, SOC, Sam Kauffmann, Peter Kiwitt,
Christopher Keane, John Klein, Tamar Kummel, Naomi Laeuchli,
Richard La Motte, John Manchester, Dave Lent, Adam Matalon,
Matthew Marshall, Thomas McKenney, Jonathan Moore,
Patrick Moreau, M. David Mullen, ASC, Stacey Parks,
Elizabeth Raymond, Mark Sawicki, Myrl A. Schreibman,
Dr. Linda Seger, Sherri Sheridan, Mary Ann Skweres, Pamela Jaye
Smith, Tim Smith, Scott Spears, Michele Stephenson, Ira Tiffen,
Jeff Turboff, Melissa Ulto, Mike Valentine, BSC, Saro Varjabedian,
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Table of Contents
2012, Vol. 7, No. 4
4 L aw # 1: It Ain’t Rocket Science
Composition is Brain Surgery
by David Lent
3D Documentary
10Filming Wild Horses in the Gobi Desert
by Al Caudullo
14 A
fter Casting by Peter Kiwitt
16 VRRR-Zoom! The Sound and the Fury of Next-Gen Cars
in Hollywood Film
by William F. Vartorella, Ph.D., C.B.C.
20 N
ightLights - Feature Film Shot Using RED MX,
Panasonic AF100, and DSLR Cameras
22 It’s a Great Time to Write for Television by Pamela Douglas
24 The Lure of the Dark Side by Pamela Jaye Smith
26 S pider-Man is Amazing Again
Editors Alan Edward Bell, Michael McCusker, and Pietro Scalia.
by Scott Essman
30 Canon
EOS C300 on the Run: First Impressions
by Carl Filoreto
Film Business
34 Reaching the Audience Event Horizon by Sky Crompton
36 Filmmaking Back in the Day... by David Worth
Event Video
38 S olo Shoots: Push yourself to be a better storyteller.
by Patrick Moreau
42 Open Calls
44 Back to School
48 Filmmakers Networking
On the Cover:
Carl Filoreto (center) shoots on location in Accra, Ghana.
2012, Vol. 7, No. 4 studentfilmmakers
Law # 1:
It Ain’t Rocket Science
Composition is Brain Surgery
by David Lent
How to think about a camera is as important as knowing how
to use it. Mastering camerawork begins with understanding the
medium and the relationship between a camera and the viewer.
(1.) Th ink of the video camera as a microphone for your brain,
transmitting what’s on your mind to other minds. Every
shot becomes a statement about who you are, what you have
to say and how well you can say it.
(2.) Th ink of the camera not only as your ‘microphone’, but as
the viewer’s brain. Cradled in your hands, this brain wants
camerawork and brainwork are new perceptions, new emotions,
new thoughts.
Rules of thumb.
The business end of a camera is the lens. The skill with which
you use it to shape an image can set your work apart from the
crowd. Get the best glass you can afford, find its strengths and
weaknesses then use it to do what it does best.
Put the viewer on solid ground. Painters and photographers call
order, clarity and meaning in an image. Composition - an
it the Figure/Ground theory. The figure is the essential subject
much a form of brain surgery, and no less invasive, as the
what is behind or in front of the subject that allows perspective
operating procedure performed on the viewer’s mind – is as
kind performed with a scalpel.
According to Marshall McLuhan, “All media are extensions
of some human faculty - psychic or physical.” In this sense, the
video camera is an extension of the brain, enhancing all of our
senses. Think of it as a tactile medium rather than a visual one.
Not “tactile” as in touching an object with your fingers, but the
feeling we have when the senses are working in harmony—being
in touch. By manipulating a video image, you are rearranging the
order of another person’s perceptions. Viewers may be thousands
or object of the frame, such as a person’s face. The ground is
- the illusion of a third dimension. Suppose, for example, you’re
shooting an interview with someone in the crowd at a political
rally. If you place the subject - the figure - to the side of the frame,
revealing the stage and part of the crowd - the ground, you give
the viewer a sense of where they are and how it feels to be there.
When interviewing someone on the street - the figure - you can
provide the ground by revealing all or part of the person asking
the questions.
Make some space. In an interview, the subject’s face is the center
of miles away and exist in the present or far into the future, but
of interest - the “star” of the frame. Unless speaking directly to
the frame. Add logic (ground) to the frame by creating negative
your work takes place as much in their brain as it does in your
Beams of light are translated by the lens and camera and
displayed as video images. These images are received by the
eye and focused on the retina. There, millions of rods and
cones translate these beams into neural impulses. Using dozens
of processors, the brain interprets these impulses, allowing
it to understand what it is seeing. The result of this blend of
studentfilmmakers 2012, Vol. 7, No. 4
the camera, a human subject should rarely be in the center of
space - the side of the frame where the interviewer is positioned
(if the interviewer is on your left side, frame the subject on the
right) - or an object of interest that adds meaning to the content
of their comments. Eliminate distractions at the edges and make
sure nothing appears to be sprouting from the subject’s head.
“This camera surprised us.
The image quality in every
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out in the field, in low light –
rivals anything I’ve seen, even
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In edits, clients marvel at how
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really shines for us in rigorous
shooting conditions.”
Paul Grosso
Vice President, Media Production
Harrisburg, PA
In a business where image is everything, the AG-HPX370
amazes wherever it goes. This P2 HD shoulder camcorder
features 10-bit, 4:2:2, full 1920 x 1080 resolution with
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signal-to-noise ratios of larger imagers. Delivering highquality images and a faster P2 workflow is just another
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© 2012 Panasonic Corporation of North America. All rights reserved.
Experiment. Look at a wide, medium and close shot of a
subject. What is unobtrusive or appealing in the wide shot may
be distracting or confusing in the medium or close shot.
Use the lens as a telescope. Objects or people unremarkable at
first glance can be captivating in close-up, or in composition
with something else. The telephoto end of a lens allows you to
privately explore your surroundings without pressure to shoot.
The rules for effective writing are as relevant to the video image
as they are to a sentence, paragraph, drawing or machine. Omit needless information. Composition is as much an
eliminative process as a creative one. The less unnecessary work
for the viewer’s brain, the more accessible is the image. What
is essential in the frame? Emphasize or exaggerate it. What is
obvious or irrelevant? Leave it out or make it vague.
Eliminate excess headroom. Unless the space above a subject’s
head is essential, eliminate it. On a wide shot, consider including
a grounding object in the foreground to create perspective and
When in doubt, pull out. I usually stay wide when I’m handheld
but I will zoom to various compositions - especially to shoot
groups of people and faces without being noticed. Often I’ll walk
in with the camera for close compositions or move away for wide
ones. I’m steadier and more versatile this way and don’t have to
think so much about focus or steadiness.
Include body language. When shooting the performance of an
athlete or dancer, include the entire body, so the viewer won’t
miss something that you might not have anticipated. Check out
interview moments when the shooter zooms in to a tight shot
of a weeping face. I turn away - not because I feel the subject’s
personal space is violated, but because mine is.
When the destination of your video is a computer monitor,
frame an object or interview subject more tightly than you would
for a large screen.
Add tension to the frame by including something the viewer can
identify but not see entirely. Suppose you’ve composed a 2-shot
in which one person is doing most of the talking. Frame off part
of the silent one. This composition will help focus the viewer’s
attention on the person doing the talking and also provide visual
context (ground). Conversely, widen out to reveal things in the
environment that are relevant to the scene or the story.
Be opportunistic. Often, you’ll find yourself in an environment
where people are hypersensitive or even spooked to the presence
of a camera. Set up the camera and compose a shot - not from
a tripod, which will draw unwanted attention, but cradled in a
ShotSpot or another unobtrusive camera support. Press record,
then, walk a short distance away from the camera for a few
minutes - never letting it out of your sight. Because it appears to
the subjects that no one is shooting, they ignore the camera and
resume behaving naturally.
Trust yourself. Unless you are being directed, you are the
ultimate authority on how you shoot. So if you don’t like the
shot, chances are nobody else will either. Are you bored with the
image? Try something different. Do you sense that this person
is not concentrating on what he or she is saying? Stop recording
and talk about it.
Ginger Rogers/Fred Astaire dance scenes. Astaire understood
this concept and insisted that no part of his body, during a dance
scene, be excluded from the frame.
Apply the golden triangle. During an interview, a viewer’s eyes
move between the subject’s eyes and lips. On a close shot, the
triangle formed by the eyes and lips should be the horizontal center
of the frame. It may sometimes be necessary and appropriate to
cut off the top of the subject’s head.
Camera Movement
Advanced biology. Viewing an image from a black and white
viewfinder involves only the peripheral vision, the part of the
eye that processes changes in movement. Black and white vision
wants movement or it gets bored. This helps explain why so many
shooters, looking at a black and white viewfinder, zoom, pan and
Frame the master shot - the one you’ll stay with during most
tilt excessively. The viewer, however, is looking at a color image.
close that the viewer feels forced into intimacy. We’ve all seen
with changes in hue and texture. Color vision prefers gentle
of the interview - no wider than head and shoulders, but not so
studentfilmmakers 2012, Vol. 7, No. 4
Color vision is processed by the macula, which is concerned
movement or, better yet, no movement at all; it has enough on
its plate already.
When the camera moves, shakes, tilts, pans or zooms the
down and up. Snap zooms and swish pans can be helpful to the
editor as intervals between shots that don’t cut well together.
A graceful camera move is like a good speech. It has an
brain engages in a lot of rapid-fire computing to process a
attention-getting open and memorable close. Before you pan,
overloads the brain as it struggles to process not only
composition, then practice until you get it right. Camera moves
constantly changing image. Excessive camera movement
movement, but changing hue and texture. Steady, graceful
moves are easy on the brain, allowing the mind to be fully
present as the story unfolds. Visualize the outcome. Make camera moves with intention.
What do you intend to say with the shot? What kind of camera
move will help you say it clearly or dramatically?
Help the editor. Make camera moves of editable length.
Meandering pans and endless zooms are needless interruptions
to the viewer and a waste of the editor’s time. Offer choices; do
the moves in and out, right to left, left to right, up and down,
tilt, dolly or zoom, decide on a beginning and an ending
should be concise and at a pace that allows the viewer’s brain to
process a compact, changing mosaic.
Experiment with your lenses so you’ll know what each can
and cannot do, allowing you to see a composition with your
mind’s eye. You’ll often see fleeting opportunities that depend
on you getting to the composition fast, so set your zoom control
on its highest speed so you can zoom in quickly, focus, and then
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2012, Vol. 7, No. 4 studentfilmmakers
Leave no fingerprints. The best camerawork draws no
attention to itself. Zooming emphasizes movement and, when
used too often or with a heavy hand, pollutes the viewing
experience. The viewer is distracted but may be unable to
articulate why.
Respect the listener. Zooming while an interview subject is
speaking diverts the listener’s attention in order for the brain
to process the changing image. During a zoom, little of what is
said is retained. Use a purposeful zoom – at a speed consistent
with the style of the program – only to change the composition.
Drive carefully. Zooming takes the viewer for a ride, so make
it bold and graceful. If you’re happy with the composition
of a shot, a zoom is unnecessary - except to get to the next
walking into the building and taking her post behind a security
desk in the lobby. Before shooting, I took a few minutes to study her
routine, which consisted of sitting at her guard desk, looking through
the glass doors at passersby on the sidewalk, and keeping an eye on
the security monitors beside her. Ignoring my client’s instructions,
I shot a couple of minutes of this woman staring out the glass doors,
a terminal sadness etched on her face. The image spoke volumes
about her sorrow - far more poignantly, I felt, than an impersonal
- however serviceable - walking shot. My correspondent was
annoyed and didn’t use the shot. Once again, the call of my instincts
had drowned out the voice of my professional good sense. Still, the
satisfaction I get from being loyal to them is almost always greater
than the price to be paid. —DL
The shooters I know who are at the top of their game
approach camerawork more intuitively than technically or
intellectually. Like an old master on a tennis court, they don’t
Hold the shot. You’re shooting not only for yourself, but also
for a producer, reporter and/or editor. When shooting B-roll,
need to run fast because they know where to be. Through long
experience the best shooters are attentive listeners, with highly
evolved instincts for creating meaningful images and stories.
With steady hands they set the stage and, with composition,
draw the crowd.
hold shots for at least 8-12 seconds. If action is developing in
the frame, keep rolling. Create a sense of place. Storytelling involves creating visual
and audio context for the viewer. Suppose you’re shooting an
interview in a small town in the rural Midwest. Shoot scenes of
the town, the neighborhood and the home of the subject. You
might get lucky and see a tractor rolling along a country road
- a shot that says ‘farm country’. Maybe there’s a diner where
locals hang out. Shots of people sitting at the counter, a dog
sleeping on the porch or snarling behind a fence. A decorated
or neglected mailbox, a piece of loose aluminum siding rattling
in the wind or a rusted car on the front lawn. These images help
complete the picture, in the mind’s eye and among the senses,
so the viewer knows where s/he is, how the place looks, how it
sounds and feels.
While wrapping up a short documentary about gun violence in
Washington DC, I was asked by the client to get b-roll of a security
guard at a downtown office building. The guard’s son had recently
been murdered and we’d shot an interview at her home. As a setup
shot for the interview, my reporter wanted a sequence of the subject
studentfilmmakers 2012, Vol. 7, No. 4
David Lent’s career in television spans thirty-five years. David
co-produced and shot the critically acclaimed PBS special, “Life
Without...Inside San Quentin.” With Susan Burgess-Lent, he co-
produced the documentary feature, “Staying Alive,” based on Studs
Terkel’s bestseller, “Working.” David currently works as a news and
documentary cameraman for numerous domestic and international
clients including BBC, CNBC, BRAVO, FOX News, MTV,
GRANADA, TV ASAHI, YLE, ARD, and ORF. David is the
author of “The Laws of Camerawork” and soon to be released book,
“Video Rules.”
3D Documentary
Filming Wild Horses in the Gobi Desert
Shooting an effective 3D documentary
in a place filled with sand.
by Al Caudullo
I am jolted awake by the sound of rain hitting the tent. At first
I think, wow, it’s my first night in the Gobi desert and a light
rain will keep it cool for sleeping. I nestle back down next to my
sound-asleep wife, Bee. Then I remember that that our pack is
outside and the thought of wet clothes in the morning is not so
appealing. I get up and sleepily unzip the tent, to be greeted by
a blast of sand in my face. It’s my first sandstorm. Welcome to
the Gobi, Al.
Quickly recovering from the jolt, I wrestle with the pack and
drag it under the flap of the tent. I plop back down inside and
think about the recent course of events from a short time ago
that brought me around the world on what must be one the most
unusual 3D documentaries ever to be produced.
The Origins of the Project
Just about two months ago, I met Dr. Siraya Chunekamrai and
first heard of the Lampang Pony Welfare Foundation. I had been
to Chiangmai in Northern Thailand before and seen the cute
ponies pulling carts of tourists but had little thought of what had
brought them to the land of elephants.
Cross breeding and improper care have drastically reduced
Curiosity arose about the Thai Pony DNA. Dr. Siraya and her
team started collecting DNA and blood samples to test for 13
important infectious diseases in horses to see if they were present
in Thailand, as these were truly ‘native’ ponies. The amazing find
was that they showed evidence of being exposed to many deadly
diseases such as Japanese encephalitis and West Nile virus, but
none showed clinical signs, which was remarkable. The Maxwell
Gluck Center, University of Kentucky, commented on this, and
suggested we find out more about their genetic makeup. The UC
Davis analysis that showed them to be a natural breed means
that they have evolved naturally to fight hardships of the climate
and terrain and resist diseases. Incidentally, this opens the door
to more study to find out how such resistance could apply to
their numbers. During the course of treating these horses, Dr.
Creature Comforts in the Desert
and stature between the Thai Ponies and Mongolian wild horses
Morning comes and the sandstorm is long gone. My
Siraya discovered striking similarities in the unique markings
(also referred to as Przewalski’s Horse), the last of the legitimate
wild horses that still survive.
Thai Pony DNA
international 3D crew is rising and we ready the gear for another
day of 3D filming. Thanks to my wife, I get to have a fresh cup of
Starbucks coffee from the French coffee press and ground coffee
that she has brought along and surprised me with. We may not
have running water or standing toilets or showers, but we have
Starbucks coffee! I may survive this after all.
studentfilmmakers 2012, Vol. 7, No. 4
The 3D Kit and Crew
Our video gear consists of two Panasonic AG-3DA1 cameras
with Convergent Design’s nano3D, recording raw .mxf at
180Mb/s, 10-bit 4:2:2, powered by Anton Bauer Dionic 90
batteries. We have also been using the GoPro Hero 3D system
to get some amazing point of view ‘HorseCam’ shots. A one
kilowatt generator acts as our recharging station. No frills here.
Besides me and my wife Bee, my crew consists of veteran Thai
director and cinematographer, Dorn Ratanathatsanee and an
intern from Pace University, Sierra Chandler.
The First Stop
The project offered some very unique challenges in trying to
shoot an effective 3D documentary in a place filled with sand,
with no electricity and only dirt trails that we are making along
the way, since the paved roads ended 50km outside the capital
city of Ulaan Baatar. Even though it’s a desert, the Gobi is only
4% sand; the rest is an amazingly varied mix of fertile plains and
mountains with fields of wildflowers that stretch as far as the eye
can see.
Our caravan of adventurers occupies two four-wheel-drive
vans loaded with a curious combination of 3D video equipment
and scientists. Luckily, our guide, Gans, is a seasoned veteran,
working with National Geographic most recently. But he hasn’t
encountered the demands of a 3D documentary crew.
Our first stop will be the summer camp of Dr. Baatsu. He meets
us there, having come from Ulaan Baatar several days earlier. His
family consists primarily of nomadic herdsmen and he returns
from his duties in the city as often as he can. He seems equally at
home on horseback as in a four-wheel-drive truck. His 90-yearold father and mother have joined us at the camp of his brother
and his family. His father is still a horse trainer and is strong and
During our ceremonial greeting inside the Ger, a felt-lined
tent, Dr Baatsu is the first to introduce me to the ritual of the
snuff bottle. He reaches into his Mongolian boot and retrieves
an ornate pouch containing his most important family heirloom.
There is a very exact procedure for receiving the bottle in your
right hand and, if you have one, exchange your family snuff bottle
2012, Vol. 7, No. 4 studentfilmmakers
3D Documentary
Horses spook easily and these ancient cousins are no exception.
They are truly wild and cannot be domesticated. One wrong
sudden move will see them galloping away. Luck and patience
prevail, and Bee and I creep slowly ever closer to get within 15
feet of them. Occasionally a head will pop up in curiosity, but
they stay in place. Dorn and Sierra don’t manage to get as close,
but still get great shots.
Reviewing the Dailies
Ecstatic, we head back to our Ger Camp to watch footage on
our LG 24” Cinema 3D monitor connected to the AJA Hi-5 3D
HDSDI to HDMI converter. This passive system is lightweight
with his. You then open the bottle, using the spoon built into
the cap, take out some snuff, take a pinch and sample the aroma.
This is all handed down from generation to generation as part of
the proud history of these people.
Of course this comes after the offering of mare’s milk, a sour-
tasting naturally-fermented yogurt brew that is the national
drink of Mongolia. There are many offerings presented to
visitors. For example, there is a curd, made from the mare’s milk
along with thick cookies and some hard candies. But there are
no words I can think of to adequately describe mare’s milk. It is
unlike anything that I have ever tasted. The Mongolians even
make a Mongolian version of vodka from it.
and well-built for our rugged shoot conditions. With our Polaroid
3D glasses, we have been able to review dailies with no problems.
Next morning the shoot yields equally stunning results and we
are treated to a foal frolicking with his mother and a herd of
around 12 horses. There is hope in these shots. Hope for a future
where this unique breed of ancient horse will see its numbers
Mission Accomplished
Our mission is complete. We head out, and a few hours later
arrive in Ulaan Baatar to the relief of warm showers and soft
beds. At our crew dinner that night we toast our success with,
appropriately, Chinggis Khan Vodka. Our equipment and crew
In the days that follow, we get some amazing 3D footage,
have proven themselves, and our hard work has been rewarded
with four hard drives full of great 3D footage!
all while travelling by both camel, horseback and motor van.
Meanwhile, Dr. Siraya collects her samples from the Mongolian
horses. After days of travelling, our final stop brings us to the
Khutsai National Park. This is home to the Przewalski’s Horse,
and we hope to shoot the first ever 3D footage of this breed
brought back from near extinction.
Al Caudullo is Chief Cook and Bottle Washer, 3D Evangelist,
Producer, 3D Stereographer and Editor for 3DGuy Productions. Al
has won the Association of Virtual Worlds award for 3D Excellence,
and has used his thirty plus years of video production experience as
a foundation for stereoscopic image capture. As principal of 3DGuy
Gans consults with the biologists at the research station and
Productions, Al served as 3D Stereographer and 3D Editor many on
herds. Almost an hour later, we succeed in spotting the first herd:
Panasonic, Hitachi, Imagimax Studios, 3DeeCentral, Polaroid,
together they go over the maps and chart the sightings of the
projects including film, TV and corporate production. Clients include
a group of one stallion and five mares. The late afternoon sun
Spatial View, Toyota and many others.
is setting and the herds have come down from their mountain
grazing, but our light is fading quickly.
studentfilmmakers 2012, Vol. 7, No. 4
2012, Vol. 7, No. 4 studentfilmmakers
After Casting
Pre-Production Rehearsals: Here and at every stage, try to lead
How to be effective, and
or shape a performance with the lightest touch possible. Rarely,
build trust and respect.
possible, rather than try to resolve interpretation or personality
by Peter Kiwitt
While it has been said that 80% of performance is casting, the
last 20% is still crucial. Although you should always be open to
change, with relatively little rehearsal time, working with actors
should generally be a time of exploration for them, not you. To
be effective, and build trust and respect, you should ideally have
a full understanding of the script and each character before the
first read-through.
Script Read-Through: Don’t ask or push for acting,
especially during a read-through, because that’s what you
it may be better to recast a role during pre-production, when
conflicts. The purpose of early rehearsals is not to get a perfect take
(i.e., a full and final performance), but to map out the “sound
of the symphony”— to give the actors an understanding of
the parameters and structure of the scene you are trying
to conduct. What is the subtext? What and where are the
moments? What is the rhythm?
Even when rehearsals are possible it is unlikely there will
be time to rehearse every scene. Focus on those that form the
spines of your character arcs and plot lines (which include the
relationships between characters).
Set Rehearsals: Whatever the chaos and tension of
might get. “Acting” not behavior. In terms of performance, the
production, when the actors step onto the set you must work to
opportunity to infect your cast with your broad vision of what
their best work. The time for heady, long-winded discussion has
read-through is a time for listening. More broadly, use it as an
the story is about and, perhaps, how it will feel or look. Talk
about what excites you and what they can expect working with
you instead of trying to give direction.
create a relaxed but focused environment that allows them to do
past. Now is the time for shaping the foundation you have built
up with them. Regardless of the visual concepts you may be working toward,
Actor Prep: This includes physical and/or skill training, if
you need to ensure that the narrative concepts you should have
but, if initiated by director, must be mutual because it cannot
choices made by and for the actors. If you start with an engaging,
needed, and research. This can be initiated by actor or director
be required of the actor unless paid for. Research — everything
from reading books to riding on patrol with police or going
through boot camp — can help ground the actor in reality.
Discussions: Different actors respond to different things. Some
may benefit from deep discussions of character and theme, some
worked hard to hone in the script are properly dramatized in the
well-crafted script, cast appropriately, and make performances
a priority, even the most basic design and cinematography can
still lead to a successful production. Conversely, the greatest
design and cinematography without a strong narrative and
performances will always fall short.
might respond better to general comments. Besides getting a
sense of how to best communicate with an actor, discussions
during pre-production potentially allow you to shape an actor’s
Peter Kiwitt has a M.F.A. from the American Film Institute and
performance more generally and deeply, and to build trust
years of professional experience in “Hollywood” as a writer, producer,
opportunity to internalize an understanding of their character
movies and series, and features in the academic, independent, and
away from the pressures of production. It also gives actors an
director, editor, and executive. He has worked in shorts, television
so when it is time to shoot they can just “be.”
studio worlds. He is a member of the Directors Guild of America
and, as a cinema professor, developed original theories about cinema.
studentfilmmakers 2012, Vol. 7, No. 4
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VRRR-Zoom! The Sound and the Fury
of Next-Gen Cars in Hollywood Film
by William F. Vartorella, Ph.D., C.B.C.
To paraphrase Sir Jackie Stewart, a car
is the closest machine there is to being
If we explore the traditional seven
characteristics of life, cars nearly qualify:
discrete systems (cells) working together,
consumption, environmental response,
growth and reproduction, adaptation to
their environments. We, humans have
an estimated 3,000 thoughts/day. The
modern automobile has 125 million
And in “I, Robot,” the line of
with the Audi RSQ concept car not
merely “injected” into the film as product
placement, but purpose- built for the
movie. This wasn’t a passive “stunt
double,” but a design-studio, futuristic,
next-gen vehicle with butterfly-action
doors, spherical wheels, a chameleon
luminescent paint job, and all the bell-
and-whistles associated with a young, hip
car culture in 2035.
Cars are iconic in their own right. “The
Beast” in “The Fast and the Furious.”
“Eleanor” in “Gone in 60 Seconds. “
Or “The General Lee” in “Dukes of
Hazzard.” They are a tool of the anti-
hero: Popeye Doyle in “The French
Connection.” We are a car culture. We
are a film culture. It’s all Zen and the Art of
studentfilmmakers 2012, Vol. 7, No. 4
Motorcycle Maintenance, with Italian cars
be rad. Chrysler figured this out with
cars, the classical view—art vs. science.
Detroit” commercial that had a hip, dark
the romantic world view and German
But the love affair with cars, film, and the
global automakers mirrors our own lives.
We go to film to embrace the mistress;
to the dealership to fondle the sports car
its recent Super Bowl, “Imported from
underbelly vibe, film noire lighting, and
And automakers recognize that the old
and buy the micro-van. The parallels are
motorsports model of “Win on Sunday,
just to get you into the showroom to lust
and that they need film, social media,
$500 for that fling behind-the-wheel that
the showroom. We’re “Back to the
have you believe that the love affair with
Future ain’t what it used to be.” This is
slow, clunky, design nightmares. And
Golden Age was likely the late `60s,
Combustion Engine (ICE), availability
high-octane cocktail of freeway mayhem,
screams of tires and engines in full song
penchant for mechanized “death.” Lest
We agree. But cars and car culture are
“Bullitt” (1968) to produce “The French
there. And the cost to the automaker
Sell on Monday” is more complex now
after the true fem fatale is estimated at
and a viral buzz to get new buyers into
might lead to a sale. Hollywood would
Future” but, as Yogi Berra quipped, “The
the electric car is over; that hybrids are
especially true for “car chases,” whose
that the very nature of the Internal
early `70s when the “wow factor” was a
of relatively cheap fuel, and ear-seizing
stunts at the edge of adhesion, and a
are the essence of filmmaking. They are.
we forget, Philip D’Antoni went from
Connection” (1971), which puts him on
Here’s the reality. Hollywood needs the
youth market—Y Generation—which
personifies cool, next-gen vehicles that
evoke individuality and lifestyle. Studies
by Deloitte (U.S., France, Germany, U.K.,
China) demonstrated that tech-savvy
“Ys” want fuel-conserving or alternative
power cars. Some 57% preferred hybrids
capable of using both electricity and
petroleum, plus touchscreen control
(73%). They may wear a pork-pie hat
like Popeye Doyle, but the ride has to
the set of unquestionably two of the Top
10 white-knuckle car chases on anyone’s
list. Then, there was former amateur
racing driver John Frankenheimer, whose
1996 “Grand Prix” is still the racing movie
standard. And his “Ronin,” whose last car
chase was through the streets and tunnels
of Paris employing some 300 or so stunt
drivers. What makes “Ronin” especially
poignant in the current context is the
marques used (Audi, BMW, MercedesBenz) are all next-gen “green” car players,
primed for the next big action-adventure.
Director Ron Howard has been tweeting
is over? Bull. F1 Champion Sir Jackie
adverse insurance rates have nearly killed
to the 1976 Formula One season, “Rush,”
bringing a woman to climax.” As Steve
for example, in April, 2009, took several
triumphant, re: his upcoming F1 paean
which he described at Monaco in May
as an alternative to a five-year television
series. But to set the record straight, “The
Blues Brothers” (1980) has allegedly the
Stewart said it best: “Cornering is like
McQueen once quipped, “Life takes on
meaning at 160 mph.”
And that’s what Hollywood film and
most expensive car chase ever, although
next-gen cars are about: it’s pushing the
talking. The days of the sports car going
passion back into the car chase without
magic, your Dad’s ancient Impala, minus
environment. It’s about attracting a
bursts into flame are long gone.
aficionados who are lean, green, brash,
Jake and Elwood apparently aren’t
love affair to the boundaries, bringing
over the cliff and becoming, almost by
gas-guzzling dinosaurs polluting the
the engine, when it hits the rocks and
whole new generation of filmmakers and
In March, the author participated in an
unprecedented global automotive event
in which 600 of the best-and-brightest
executives, and green gearheads met for
five days to thrash out next-gen electric
vehicles, as well as the continuum/
was a “ride-along” mystery event at an
abandoned airstrip with plenty of run-off
space for a casual introduction to new,
early-adopters who can find the cars
the traditional car chase. “Date Night,”
days to shoot a nine-minute sequence
with an Audi R8 and a Ford Crown
“Vic” taxi in short, multi-second bursts
to achieve a three-and-a-half minute
hair-raiser. Cost: insiders say $1-$2
million. Actor-racers like the late Steve
McQueen (“Bullitt”) or Paul Newman
(“Winning”), and James Garner (“Grand
Prix”) actually had the skill-sets back in
the day.
Inside the Mind of the Grand Prix Driver
in their garages mirrored on the Big
by Christopher Hilton makes the case
Hollywood would have us believe that
have psychological speed barriers that
Screen (or as close as their cell phone).
aesthetic boundary from the bedroom to
the “distance anxiety” of electrics looking
for a charge or the ego-boost of raw,
visceral, sound-surround beating against
your chest.
Time for a reality check: second-
disruptive automobiles. The Hollywood
unit pros use every trick of the trade to
mags weren’t there. What was there were
not, playing “whup-ass” with a car with
Grandma’s “pretty-in-pink” Prius. To get
attain, with skills we don’t possess, and
black, bad-ass Tesla. Then you strapped
super-heroes inherit. It’s rarely about
Reporter, Variety, and other tony film
“convince” us that we’re somewhere we’re
“the Beasts.”
We aren’t talking about
a $100K drive train, at speeds we can’t
to the sign-in tent you had slink past a
with testosterone or estrogen levels only
into, say, a hybrid BMW with a test driver
stuntmen anymore: CGI and risk-
in livery who, after the safety credo, asked
that drivers of all stripes and persuasions
determine their skills and tolerances. 148
mph, for example, is very close to one of
those barriers and is the limit the present
author is prepared to tolerate. OK, so
for the Hollywood film buff, like the
NASCAR fan, it isn’t about “death”, but
There are two famous
instances of high-speed octane shot on
open city streets, without the requisite
“permits.” The elevated train scene/car
chase in “French Connection” and the
mind-numbing, nine-minute adrenalin-
junky escape flat-out across Paris—
“C’était un Rendezvous.” Get a legal copy
of this short, rack it up before you read the
back story of how Claude Lelouch made
if you had “a need for speed.” After a
mind-numbing skid-pad demonstration,
high “g-force” cornering with the scream
of tires and acrid whiffs of burning
rubber, the car accelerated to 148 mph.
Pressed against the luxuriant leather, a
voice said, “We can go to say, 160, but
the braking will pin you to the belts
Whether you want
to observe reality,
create your own,
join the community of filmmakers at THE UNIVERSITY OF MEMPHIS.
more quickly than you may appreciate.”
Discretion being the better part of valor,
148 seemed a nice compromise. And the
Department of Communication
B.A. and M.A. concentrations
in Film and Video Production
vehicles are boring, that the love affair
film trades pontificate that the next-gen
2012, Vol. 7, No. 4 studentfilmmakers
this classic—and his arrest. The point
demonstrated easily, when I saw you last.
was getting fewer miles to the gallon
in one take with the driver pedal to the
filmmakers, especially considering that
it was introduced. During the same
here is it was shot on open city streets,
metal (average speed 78 km/h) in a 6.9
litre Mercedes. In post, a throaty Ferrari
275 GTB soundtrack was superimposed
What specific advice would you give to
EVs are “quiet, stealthy”?
CR: Modern electric vehicles are the
to give the short its primal scream and
opposite of boring. They are powerful
max?). Why this example? We asked
acceleration reminds me of those roller
Electric Vehicle Magazine, who also was at
Instantaneous silent acceleration, without
illusion of much higher speeds (85 mph,
and unbelievably fun to drive. The
Christian Ruoff, publisher of CHARGED
coasters that are suspended on magnets.
the ride-along event described earlier.
the gear-shifting. It’s hard to understand
WFV: Next-gen vehicles, especially the
electrics, are perceived as boring, clunky,
until you’ve driven one.
“Rendezvous,” switched from a Mercedes
film, what would you suggest?
get the ear-splitting, visceral effect of a
CR: The Tesla Model S and Fisker
Karma are obvious choices. Both are
stunning, really fast and ooze elegance.
WFV: Fine, but these are hardly tuners
with some hot rod DNA.
to a Ferrari “soundtrack” in full song to
monster machine driven by a madman
rushing headlong to meet his mistress at
dawn in Paris. The sound is important.
CR: I suppose silent doesn’t work well
in [modern] film.
WFV: Well, Charlie Chaplin might
CR: I think it’s important to choose
not agree. Also, with respect to hybrid
watching the FOX TV show “Fringe,”
Porsche 918 Spyder -- Hollywood could
the right car for the plot. I was recently
driving a Nissan LEAF. In one scene
they mentioned that they had 40 miles
of range left, and I thought to myself
“FBI agents would never drive that car.”
The 80-100 mile range makes the LEAF
a great car for the majority of us who
drive to work, the store, and our friend’s
house every week. It wouldn’t work very
well for chasing murder suspects all over
the tri-state area. A better choice would
have been the Chevy Volt, about 40 miles
of all-electric driving before the gaspowered range extender turns on.
WFV: I apparently didn’t get the “memo”
that the Volt was wickedly quick and
responsive, which the professional driver
studentfilmmakers 2012, Vol. 7, No. 4
time-frame, BMW was working to
H2R Hydrogen racecar
using a non-boosted 282 hp, 6.0L V-12
to rocket to speeds above 186 mph.
That gives Hollywood electric vehicles,
maybe a cameo appearance with a
high-speed hydrogen, plus the growing
fleet of hybrid “tuners,” where a kid
with a wrench, time, imagination, and
Mommy-dearest’s credit card can build
hardly emoting edgy style and street cred.
If you were advising the helmer of a new
than Henry Ford’s Model T got when
supercars—the Jaguar C-X75 or the
a rat-rod that is higher tech than the
engineering of the U.S.-Soviet Space
Race. We’ve come a long way, baby,
since The Keystone Kops “invented “the
genre or multiple generations of “Bond.
James Bond” haulin’ ass with the bad
guys. And once gasoline prices stabilize
at $4/gallon, a paradigm shift occurs in
the automotive industry, as while not
everyone believes in “Peak Oil” (because
of advances in extracting and producing
petroleum products), “carbon neutral” is
the new mantra, the “new black.”
So, if we were casting next-gen cars for
easily add exhaust notes timed to engine
a sequel to “Miami Vice,” “Tron,” or the
been debating quietly for some time about
what would we choose, in addition to the
to “enhance” the driving experience
up your racing belts and think way, way
film are part of the arc of the character—
Seven Rides.”
speed and acceleration. Carmakers have
next “Fast and Furious” franchise film
the need for interior and exterior speakers
Tesla Model S and Fisker Karma? Cinch
(“dynamics”) for the car nut. Decibels in
outside-the-box for these “Magnificent
especially when a car is the star, like
in “Bullitt” (1968 Mustang GT 390
Fastback) or “Smokey and the Bandit II”
(Pontiac Trans Am).
CR: I suggest the burst of wind sound
effect used when Superman leaves the
room in hurry.
Lest we forget, as few as five years
ago, the average new car in America
stunner, penned by a group now called
“Minddrive”: Developed by seven high
school students + adult mentors in
Kansas City, MO, this high-tech, stylish
roller is based on an old Lola Indycar chassis, looks like a LeMans racer
and can achieve 42 mph—which gets it
into the bottom range of “The French
Connection” (the speed of the elevated
train was roughly 55 mph). When tested
at Bridgestone’s Texas Proving Grounds,
it posted an equivalent of 300 mpg.
The Italdesign Quaranta from 2008.
This four-year-old hybrid concept is a
single design line from nose-to-tail,
coming close to achieving a slight
curve over a straight line. This car, as
unveiled “B-MAX” was the first car to
In this classic children’s novel, Tom Swift
This “micro-van” celebrates interior space
battery with half the recharge time-
launch at the Mobile World Congress.
and functionality. Great for the next
European “heist” movie, where the archvillain needs plenty of room for his Buck
Rogers “ray gun.”
Grow-a-Car: for all the sod-busters
noted by the critics, departed from the
out there, revisit Henry Ford and his
Giugiaro also designed and shares the
news in the European trades, when he
Lamborghini Gallardo that Fabrizio
DNA philosophy with Toyota’s Prius. It
will do 120 mph and is roomy enough for
a tight camera setup in the three-across
cabin. 0-60 in less than six seconds. Great
choice for any film depicting hedge-fund
pirates, starring Don Johnson, or feckless
Internet raiders.
lowly boxfish, for example. MercedesBenz engineers examined the shape of
the boxfish in wind tunnels and water
channels, exploring the traditional “water
drop” shape which aerodynamicists gush
over. With a “cd” of 0.06, experiments
soy bean car creations. Bill Ford made
indicated that the car as we know it will
change and become highly-configurable.
The rise of the machine and “personal-
mobility,” “car-sharing” activities, and
“The Internet of Things.” Bill Ford,
Jr. embraces the view that all objects
ultimately could be connected to the
between objects and subjects. Ford’s
vision is an exploration of vehicles
on the road in the same way we look
at tablets and smartphones—as part
of a target-rich, globally connected
creating chameleon cars in real-time to
take on the galactic gunslingers. And
the cars will be recyclable. Great for that
“coming-of-age” film, where the hero
goes from the hot rod to the personal
mobility vehicle all “wrenched” in her
garage using the skate-board chassis.
Transportation credits as next-gen
humans on Planet Earth, there are
70% in urban settings—four billion cars
will be the norm. The result: congestion,
regardless of wired solutions. This author
projects the rise of a new unit of currency,
“transportation credits” that will be
traded internationally as a form of access
to whatever passes for modernity in 40
years. CGI take note. Virtual Vehicles
financial “missions” become the futuristic
vision of “Around the World in 80 Nanoseconds.” This is “Tron” on steroids.
With homage to Edward Bellamy’s
rushing to achieve Sir Jackie’s vision of
update of the 1910 Tom Swift and His
the car as alter-ego “human.” Ford’s just-
of 400 miles on a single charge. Tom’s
aerodynamic convertible was painted
a glossy, in-your-face purple. This was
the vision for EVs 100+ years ago and
deserves revisiting.
In a prescient essay, Arthur B. Evans
of Jules Verne” (1999). In it, he articulates
called the next-gen vehicles. Film, an
illusion as bold as any utopia, would not
have ruffled Verne. And his next-gen
Hollywood vehicle?
“­­­I believe that water will one day be
employed as fuel, that hydrogen and
oxygen which constitute it used singly
or together, will furnish an inexhaustible
source of heat and light, of an intensity of
which coal is not capable.” The Mysterious
Island (1874).
projected nine billion residents by 2050—
telecommunications and transportation
network. These will be intuitive cars,
performance—100 mph and a range
Verne’s penchant for what we here have
High Noon,” with some dystopian hero
an estimated one billion cars. With a
fuel consumption of 70 mpg.
His EV was designed for speed and
zones. The concept vehicle had a top
less than eight seconds, plus approximate
battery-powered race cars at the track.
has written about “The Vehicular Utopias
and Hollywood creativity, there’s the
currency. With some seven billion
speed of nearly 120 mph, with a 0-60 in
-enabling Tom to vanquish the other
In short, using a skate-board chassis
showed tiny vortices formed to stabilize
the structure even in high turbulence
invents a disruptive, new rechargeable
Looking Backward 2000-1887,
the final next-gen vehicle for film is an
Electric Runabout by “Victor Appleton”.
In addition to film interests, Bill Vartorella
writes on automotive technology trends,
carbon offsets, and next-gen motorsports.
Recently, he served on an electric vehicles
(EV) start-ups panel at the IEEE first
international EV conference. Bill’s activities
include the Electric Vehicular Technology
Society, American Auto Racing Writers
and Broadcasters Association, and the
“Chowder Society.” He has had stints doing
“pace notes” for an amateur rally driver and
as corporate associate sponsor of an electric,
open-wheel race car. Bill is a past presenter
at Grand Prix Business’s global sponsorship
symposium. He is the co-author of Funding
Exploration, the standard reference for nongovernmental financial support for science
and engineering projects.
2012, Vol. 7, No. 4 studentfilmmakers
Feature Film Shot Using RED MX,
Panasonic AF100, and DSLR Cameras
NightLights is an independent, Chicago-based film production,
of Jacob, to reflect how an individual with autism such as Jacob
Logan (Shawna Waldron), as she strives to care for her twin
the filmmakers to use the lightweight camera in a variety of
which depicts the poigniant story of a young woman, Erin
brother, Jacob (Stephen Louis Grush), who is severely affected
by autism. When the possibilities of love and friendship open up
in her life, she must deal with how to create a home for herself
and her brother at the same time.
Executive producer and director David Midell brought this
story to the screen through his company Play On Productions,
might see light and color in a distinctive way. It also allowed
positions that were not possible with the RED. A Canon 7D
DSLR was also used to capture a few night and sunset exteriors
after the production officially wrapped. Despite the color and
resolution differences, the mixture of formats proved to be both
technically compatible and artistically beneficial for NightLights.
Klein’s longtime friend and collaborator on past productions,
which dedicates itself to presenting inspiring stories about
William Donaruma, was then brought in as camera operator
process, John Klein, also a Chicago-based cinematographer, was
together on a long-term project was a blessing. “John and I have a
individuals with special needs and their families. Early on in the
brought on to help create a visual aesthetic in bringing this story
to life. “During our initial discussions,” Klein said, “Dave and
I, along with production designer Megan McDonough, agreed
that the camera should function like an ‘unobtrusive observer,’
with only a few stylized elements. This film lives and thrives
because of its characters and performances, and we all wanted to
highlight that first and foremost.”
They had to weigh that aesthetic with producers Adam Dick
and Keaton Wooden’s requests to capture the best possible image
quality for their low budget, and considered a variety of camera
options to lens the movie before finally gravitating to the RED
MX. “4K resolution was a must for us, and given our locations
and lighting limitations, the RED’s latitude in bringing back
color information in post-production would be essential,” Klein
said. “We loved the look and feel the camera and the Red Pro
Primes gave us, and we were eternally grateful for the flexibility
it gave us later in color correction.”
To add a little spice, Klein also opted to use his Panasonic
AF100 along with a LensBaby Composer to acquire POV shots
studentfilmmakers 2012, Vol. 7, No. 4
along with his RED camera package. The opportunity to work
very cooperative relationship when it comes to vision, no matter
who is calling the shots. It was such a joy for both of us to be able
to concentrate on one job at hand while making the film. We’re
used to wearing multiple hats, so this was a very efficient and
dynamic way of working for us, which kept the days on track.”
With multiple slider and handheld shots, the camera crew of
Donaruma, 1st AC Justin Cameron and 2nd AC Mitchell Tyrer
were able to set up quickly, have monitors up for preview and
rehearse for final adjustments while Klein could concentrate
solely on lighting the scene and the actors. “The operator often
gets overlooked as a separate position, especially on lower
budget productions where the DP will fill that role,” comments
Donaruma, “but I believe this way of working really allowed us
to move quickly and efficiently to maximize our set ups each day.
1st AD Michael Chandler was pretty happy with our pace.”
Klein agreed, saying, “Beyond the creative freedom afforded
me by having a camera operator, I don’t know if I could have
physically handled the rig as well as Bill!” With the fully loaded
RED MX rig coming in at 38lbs for handheld work, Donaruma
was getting a work out. Compounding that was the 100-plus
degree days during a freak Chicago heat wave last summer.
given moment,” Klein reflects, “allowing for more saturation in
hydrated throughout the day. Inside the apartment set, it was
look in moments of anger or pain.” In keeping with the visual
Production was tasked with making sure everyone was welldetermined that the temperature was reaching in excess of 110
degrees at times, because the air conditioning could not run for
sound recording. “We would come outside for a breather and it
felt really nice in the evenings. Later we realized it was still in the
moments of extreme happiness or more of a skip-bleach, cool
methodology, this was meant to enhance the performances ever
so subtly, rather than trying to over-process for the sake of style.
As of now, the film is currently in the final stages of sound
90’s outside and that was cool to us,” Donaruma recalls. While
mixing, and the camera crew is eager to see their finished work on
the camera crew didn’t have any problems with the gear under
Klein said, “and to be a part of a story that means so much to so
there always seems to be concern about the RED overheating,
the big screen. “I think NightLights has turned out beautifully,”
those conditions.
many people is an honor.”
The production shot primarily with RED drives, swapping
them out at the lunch break for off-loading and switching to CF
cards towards the end of the day to speed up the transfer process
when everyone wrapped. Editor Kat Thomas would then take
one of the two drives and begin transcoding to ProRes LT files
for off-line editing and dailies during the production days. “We
tried to treat the RED as much like film as possible, making
sure we had what we affectionately referred to as a BFN – a
big fat negative,” Klein said with a smile. “That extended to a
workflow of dailies via a kind of ‘one-light’ processing through
Kat’s transcodes. It was immensely helpful to see our work even
in an uncorrected format, just to make sure we weren’t missing
When production wrapped the 17-day shoot and Thomas
completed a cut of the film, associate editor Mike Molenda
took over for some fine tuning and post-workflow. Some color
testing was done with the RED Raw files in Apple Color, but
the final color correction was done by colorist Bob Sliga with
DaVinci Resolve, and the results were luminous. “Dave wanted
the color scheme to reflect the emotions of the characters at any
William Donaruma has years of production experience having
worked for Universal Studios as well as a variety of production
companies and major television networks in film and video production.
Returning to Notre Dame to teach production courses, he has won the
Kaneb Teaching Award and was granted a fellowship at the Academy
of Television Arts and Sciences.
John Klein is a freelance director of photography based in Chicago. He
has traveled around the world and back for his craft and has shot
dozens of projects, ranging from award-winning short and feature
films to music videos, web series, and documentaries, but considers
NightLights one of his crowning achievements. When not shooting,
John also serves as producer of Glass City Films, through which he
has overseen as producer and lensed the short films Rendezvous,
Hangers, The Sleepover, Under The Table, and Honeybees. He has
also produced a trio of feature films in Glass City, Happily After (his
directorial debut) and Separation Anxiety, in addition to several
music videos and side projects. For more information, check out and
2012, Vol. 7, No. 4 studentfilmmakers
It’s a Great Time to Write for Television
by Pamela Douglas
Opportunity is spelled TELEVISION
because today’s TV series are:
largest story-telling arena in history.
Successful shows may have 100 hours of
characterization and plot development
6. I = Internet-savvy
All current shows have applications
1. T = Timely
and some shows have gone on for more
online. These may include webisodes,
TV is fast. If you’re on top of your
Greek plays that lasted for several days
than a decade. Compared to TV, ancient
mobisodes, interactive games, blogs,
writing craft and can deliver a script
are what we’d call mini-series.
networking presence and anything else
happening in the world and on your
4. E = Entertaining
of staying in touch with viewers and
hopes, fears, and pressing issues – reach
The audience for television shows keeps
online presence creates potential jobs:
new media would wipe it out. That’s
line between TV and computer screens
their homes by fare they can relate to. At
Internet delivery systems cross-pollinate,
quickly, you’ll be able to deal with what’s
mind right now. Current subjects – our
you can imagine. Beyond the advantage
promoting their series, the expanding
your viewers with immediacy. You’ll also
growing despite doomsayers who thought
someone has to write all that. As the
on screen mere weeks after writing “The
because people want to be entertained in
continues to dissolve, and both TV and
the end of a hard day or in hard times,
both will continue to grow.
have the satisfaction of seeing your work
2. E = Energized
people want to kick back and watch
Excitement and a sense of exploration
effective stories told with casts they care
infuses much of TV. Long gone are the
7. S = Salable
The market for theatrical feature
days when TV was limited to 3 networks
5. V = Vigorous
scripts has shrunk and many former
shows. Of course they’re still around,
The amount of writing and production
from independent films. But excellent
with their predictable and imitative
financial sources have backed away
as are some mind-numbing series and
needed each television season is difficult
TV pilots that are professionally crafted
sense of the word. But anyone entering
basic cable, premium cable, internet,
occasionally being bought for new series.
shows, as well as local and international
as a personal art form, or who have
on screens are armies supporting each
career writing TV series may not seem
3. L = Long
and writers who are creating pilots for
place to work.
Never mind the half hour or hour
have to work hard to keep up, and that’s a
reality shows that are “cheap” in every
TV today can find new outlets on cable
and new media, and a hunger for fresh
material. Despite the dross that also fills
the airwaves, a sense of growth abounds.
length of episodes. TV series offer the
studentfilmmakers 2012, Vol. 7, No. 4
to grasp if you include all the venues –
mobile, web and other off-broadcast
For those who approach filmmaking
projects. And behind what is visible
the funds to make their own movies, a
venture including multiple staff writers
appealing. For everyone else, TV is the
new series. People who work in television
sign of the potency of the medium.
8. I = Innovative
characterization. Though the re-hashed
simultaneously in 120 countries in
Any genre that has ever existed in
big movies do still appear in places like
Middle East, carried in 35 languages.
any time or place can be found among
the plethora of choices, creative reinterpretation is challenging prototypes
medical, legal and family dramas are
new again in attitude, narrative style and
action-hero tropes that are familiar in
the Syfy channel and on some network
shows, the general trend is towards
extending and bending old franchises.
Meanwhile Americans viewed the show
across all platforms including on-air,
online, on demand and mobile. That
doesn’t even count subsequent DVDs
or web streaming. And that’s just one
9. O = Omnipresent
Europe, Latin America, Asia and the
show, and only on basic cable. Around
series The Walking Dead was seen
the globe, the most-watched show is
House. Law and Order is being made in
many languages throughout Europe.
Currently, China is re-making Little
"In this ever changing
environment, sound mixers
need the latest gear with
the latest knowledge on the
way to best run that gear."
- Rich Topham Jr. Owner,
Professional Sound Services
House on the Prairie into Little Yurt on the
Prairie. No kidding. So if you as a writer
really want to reach people, TV (with its
internet apps) is the way.
10. N = Now
literature, the most innovative stories
and characters, the largest reach, and the
bravest content in shows like The Wire,
this is the time to write for TV. More
opportunities exist than ever before
because of the multiple outlets and the
need for product. First, polish your craft.
Then if you have contemporary stories to
Long Distance Shotgun
Pickup with a Rich,
Natural Tone. Suitable
for Camera Mounting.
tell, the time to go for it is now.
Pamela Douglas is the author of “Writing
the TV Drama Series,” now in its Third
Edition. She has numerous screenwriting
awards and nominations including The
Humanitas Prize, the Writers Guild of
America, American Women in Radio and
Television, and Emmys. She has been a
member of the Board of Directors of the
Writers Guild of America, and is a tenured
professor in the USC School of Cinematic
2012, Vol. 7, No. 4 studentfilmmakers
The Lure of the Dark Side
Ways to Send Your Characters Down the Left-Hand Path
by Pamela Jaye Smith
Your audience wants to find out how people and things go bad.
Here are some ways to send your characters down the left-hand
The Slippery Slope
From the little white lie to Hitler, from the Prince of Dimness
to Darth Vader, once you set foot on the Left Hand Path, it’s a
Sleeping with the Enemy
slippery slope with little hope of return. Most cautionary tales
Since Adam took a bite from the apple Eve offered, humans
a bad idea but the protagonist either doesn’t know, thinks it’s
have done all sorts of bad things because of love, lust, and sex.
People break society’s rules, leave jobs, abandon families, betray
countries, lie, steal, and kill for love, or some version of it. Some
relationships are so torrid-and-troubling, so love-hate it can feel
like the Stockholm Syndrome where hostages actually bond
with their captors.
It’s not unusual to hate the person you passionately desire —
begin with the single mis-step; usually the audience knows it’s
inconsequential, or is in a state of denial.
This downhill ride can be quite hypnotic. It begins with the
initial bite, then the denial, the larger crime, the cover-up, the
grip of guilt, giving up any remaining inclination to do good,
hardening the heart, and embracing evil. You can create effective
drama by focusing on three or more of these steps.
they make you feel weak and addicted. Abuse and stalking can
Power Corrupts
Fatal Attraction, and Dangerous Liaisons revolve around desire
Julius Caesar, today’s news, your big brother, your bitchy boss
result, as well as torture and death. Double Indemnity, Body Heat,
gone bad.
Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time
The road to hell is paved with good intentions. It’s the Law
of Unintended Consequences, when one seemingly good thing
causes something else to happen, and that leads to another, and
to another, and the eventual outcome stinks.
In Finding Nemo, the well-meaning dentist crowed that he had
found Nemo struggling for life and saved him, but the little fish
was effectively kidnapped, and both he and his dad had to brave
many dangers to get him back home.
— we’ve all seen lots of examples of power getting out of hand
when in the wrong hands. Sometimes the corruption is petty,
like security guards with badges and guns. Sometimes it’s deadly,
like tribal warlords.
There’s a little something in all of us that wants to be right, to
be in charge, to be in the spotlight. The more we feel wronged or
ignored, the more desirous we are of power to balance that out,
and the more dangerous we are if we actually get that power and
there’s no one around who can or will stop us.
Show a character flaw that isn’t so awful, mostly because they
don’t have the opportunity to pursue it, e.g. fine food, kinky
sex, fast cars. Once they gain power the character swells with
explosive self-importance and the flaw goes wild, like plugging
studentfilmmakers 2012, Vol. 7, No. 4
On Campus
a toaster directly into a power pole, the overload bursts
through those weak spots and wreaks havoc.
Abuse breaks something in the human soul which
once broken, can seldom be repaired. The Dark Side
uses those sharp fragments to create more pain by
harming others, passing on the pattern to one’s
children, or turning on one’s self with disgust, shame,
or the desire to escape at any cost.
Sometimes instinctual blood-lust kicks in like in
Bloodsport or Fight Club (or self-defense like in Carrie),
but often it’s a cold-blooded fixation. Different from
the Slippery Slope paradigm, this is more a hunger-
for-more. Talk to anyone who’ll admit having done
something bad while knowing it was bad but keeping
on with it, and you’ll pick up a fascination for the
lure of power and pain. Investigate China’s Cultural
Revolution, The Killing Fields, Kiss of the Spider Woman,
and the TV series 24 for more details.
The Dark Side has many devices to lure people onto the
Left Hand Path. When you consciously select and develop
one of these Lure processes you can add even greater depth
to your villains, pathos to your heroes, and danger to your
story situations.
Pamela Jaye Smith wrote “The Power of the Dark Side,”
“Inner Drives,” “Symbols-Images-Codes,” and “Beyond
the Hero’s Journey.” She is a writer, international speaker/
consultant, and award-winning producer/director. Credits
include Paramount, Universal, Disney, Microsoft, RAITV Rome, and many others. Pamela attended film school
at the University of Texas Austin, recently taught at the
Minneapolis MCTC film program, and will teach at the
National Film School of Denmark this fall. She consults
with media-makers to help bring the power of myth to their
stories. [email protected] 323-874-6042
The Department of
Communication at The
University of Memphis
Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts
Degree Programs in Communication
With a Concentration in Film and
Video Production
The Department of Communication at The University of Memphis
offers both a Bachelor of Arts and a Master of Arts Degree
in Communication with a concentration in Film and Video
Production. These concentrations combine technical instruction
with courses in motion picture studies to provide students with
the skills necessary to function in the multifaceted world of
audiovisual production. The school’s approach to media practice
is broad enough to address the needs of the independent artist
as well as those who wish to enter the industry, and the program
is small enough to ensure that each student receives personal
attention from the faculty.
The Department provides production equipment and facilities for
beginning to advanced students. These include: high definition
digital video and 16mm motion picture cameras, professional
lighting and sound packages, non-linear video editing stations
(Final Cut Pro), audio labs equipped with Pro-tools digital
workstations, film editing rooms, a fully equipped television
studio, and a 25,000-watt FM radio station. The College of
Communication and Fine Arts also houses a 24-track digital
recording studio and a computer graphics lab.
The faculty is comprised of experienced, academically and
professionally trained filmmakers and scholars whose work
has been broadcast nationally on ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, the
A&E Network and Court TV, and has won numerous awards,
including; three Peabody Awards; two duPont Awards; five
national Emmys; seven regional Emmys; the Erik Barnouw Award;
eight CINE Golden Eagles; a Writers Guild Award; an Edward R.
Murrow Award; an NAACP Image Award nomination; and many
festival awards and screenings.
2012, Vol. 7, No. 4 studentfilmmakers
Spider-Man is Amazing Again
Editors Alan Edward Bell, Michael McCusker, and Pietro Scalia.
by Scott Essman
Though the three Spider-Man films helmed by Sam Raimi
Due to the heavy amount of visual effects in the film, Scalia was
are all less than a decade old, Sony Pictures is reinventing the
given detailed previsualizations. “The reels were built with scenes
which features and entirely new cast and crew, plus a fresh
stages of editing. “There were different scenes with really early
franchise with an all new 2012 film, The Amazing Spider-Man
approach to the comic book legend. Given its massive scale, the
production required the services of three top-flight editors to
realize its many scenes and action aspects.
Pietro Scalia was involved as an editor on The Amazing Spider-
that were cut, but it wasn’t a completed film,” he said of the early
previz that would be revised and changed. We were shooting
with the Red Epic camera in 3D, new cameras that haven’t been
used before.”
Of note, the 3D process necessitated a learning curve of sorts
Man from the beginning of production through principal
for Scalia in terms of how the cutting room was going to be set
location shooting. At that point, he left Spider-Man to move
Pictures, and getting the data via dailies which he would view
photography up until the main unit went to New York for
onto Prometheus which he edited for longtime collaborating
director Ridley Scott. Of note, when Scalia came onto Spider-
Man, Prometheus had not yet been green lit. Since that time,
Scalia has been involved in Spider-Man on and off, seeing cuts
and screenings, consulting and assisting. “It’s really exciting at
the beginning of a film such as Spider-Man with its franchise,”
he said. “For me, it was the approach in looking at the film and
discovering these characters for the first time. That was my main
up, organizing the digital workflow shooting on the lot at Sony
in 3D with polarized glasses on. “Knowing that there were new
cameras, there were technical problems, but with the new digital
data management, we made it work,” Scalia described. “My
assistant Bob Mead assisted in making a full digital cutting room
going. Having had that experience, going onto Prometheus, it was
an evolution of the format. By the time we set up Prometheus in
London, [cinematographer] Dariusz Wolski had already done 3D
shooting with the Epic on Pirates of the Caribbean. I took what we
priority, and to have young new actors Andrew Garfield and
learned on Spider-Man and how we ran the cutting room, and
For Scalia, especially with his being involved at the outset
Cutting in 3D was beneficial to Scalia in a creative as well
Emma Stone [involved].”
implemented it on Prometheus.”
of footage coming into the editing room, Spider-Man was a
as technical sense. “3D affects your emotions of the shot, so it
scenes is a very exciting part,” he explained. “I loved being able
“What I noticed early on was that some of these scenes, because
discovery on many levels. “As the material comes in, building the
to discover the characters for myself and shape them. That was
my guiding principle at the beginning – deciding who this new
Spider-Man was going to be. The character is an awkward kid,
but there was a mischievous rascal in Andrew that I really liked.”
With Scalia involved as key editor at first, all of the incoming
scenes were cut as they were shot during his tenure. “Two-thirds
of the film was in an assembly form,” he stated. “A lot of the big
scenes still needed to be shot including the finale and there were
still exterior New York shots — still a lot of material needing to
be picked up.”
studentfilmmakers 2012, Vol. 7, No. 4
determines the selections and how you build the scene,” he said.
your eye needs adjusting, it was cut at a slower pace. I was very
aware of not cutting and straining the eye, but the eye settles in
from one shot to the next. Looking back at certain scenes with
the glasses off, you would feel that a scene should move slightly
quicker. Some people will shoot by pulling convergence on the set
but it very time consuming. With a somewhat fixed convergence,
the subject is fixed in a temporary way, but that could later be
adjusted in post-production.”
Scalia further elaborated on the 3D process as a tool which
filmmakers can manipulate. “When I experienced the first 3D
with these cameras, it has the same effect as color timing or
people are happy with,” McCusker detailed. “I started getting
a storytelling device. It only hurts if the 3D is off — I would send
The original intention was two-to-three months, but it grew
camera movement,” he commented. “It was important to use it as
it back and try to get it fixed.“
When Prometheus finally got its green light, Scalia made the
scenes to rework, all in an effort to get the movie to a good place.
from there.”
Just how does a two-three month job expand into one that lasts
hard decision to leave Spider-Man and join the prequel to 1979’s
seven months? McCusker explained it democratically. “Editing
was very hard for me [to leave],” he said. “You have to let it go,
work,” he said. “When I was showing my work to Marc and
Alien. “When you work on something and build characters, it
but it was in good hands. I was a whole year on Prometheus, but
they [Webb and Bell] have been great with me, keeping me in
the loop and inviting me to screenings and hearing my feedback.”
Though his time on The Amazing Spider-Man was cut short,
is a funny gig – I love it, but everybody gets possessive of their
Alan, they were happy with what they were seeing and liked the
progression, and started giving me more stuff to do. I realized it
would be a bigger, longer job.”
As such, McCusker worked naturally and fluidly with both bell
Scalia relished the experience. “I went into it fresh and learned
and director Webb. “They both liked the situation because I was
piece – a teenage kid who has suffered a huge loss and how does
McCusker stated. “It was decided for me what sequences I was
about the myth of Spider-Man and looked at it as a character
he mature?” Scalia remarked. “That is what appealed to me —
that transformation. At the same time, you make sure that the
film is going to be special — looking at a new hero.”
Editor Michael McCusker came onto the film midway through
able to go into my room, work stuff out, and present it to them,”
going to edit. They had an initial mandate for me to work on
certain sections. From there, it ballooned out into other scenes.
As we screened stuff, we would start talking about stuff that
needed work. I would rework stuff and show it to them.”
the process. “I heard about it when it was announced,” he said.
“I knew that Alan Bell would probably be involved in some way
because he had worked with the director. I came on during the
first week of June in 2011. Alan had been on a couple of months
before me when Pietro left to do Prometheus. At that point, they
had finished shooting and had a movie that they needed to get
prepared for the studio.”
Joining the team came naturally to McCusker. “Alan asked me
to help out for a couple of months, and I agreed to do that,” he
said. “We had been trying to work together for years. We both
respect each other’s work — it was a great situation.”
McCusker worked longer than anticipated as he remained with
The Amazing Spider-Man until January of 2012, and he was glad
to do so. “Alan is not only a great editor but a gracious guy,” said
McCusker. “He treated me like an equal partner. My role on any
movie of that size when you get into trying to get to the end,
there are always sequences that are up for grabs, trying to figure
out how it was going to fit together. I brought some cohesion to
Explaining the division of work, McCusker noted that it came
naturally to the two editors on the show during his time with the
film. “Alan was perfectly capable, but there are so many other
mandates for his time, I do the exploration job working out these
complicated sections, hacking at it until you get something that
2012, Vol. 7, No. 4 studentfilmmakers
Though the film represented McCusker’s first experience with
Webb, it worked well for the film. “I like Marc a lot – he is a
gracious guy and smart,” McCusker described of the relationship.
“Nobody’s ego came into play. There was a free flow of critiques
and ideas. I felt very lucky to be involved in that. I think it was a
really great way to work.”
When McCusker got into the work and more was given to
him to edit in summer and fall of 2011, new mandates came
to fruition. “They felt like there was a chunk of the movie that
stuck and painted into a scene, think of the character. Try to cut
from that place. “
With Scalia leaving in February of 2011 to work on Prometheus,
Alan Bell came in as the key editor on The Amazing Spider-Man,
including a short overlap with Scalia. Though the picture was
two-thirds assembled, Bell described the remaining job ahead as
a “huge undertaking – an awful lot of work to be done.”
Of his work on Spider-Man, which will total some 16 months,
was sagging a bit in terms of pacing,” he stated. “They wanted a
Bell described the reimagining of the franchise as “definitely
getting other scenes in shape for visual effects. They had a lot to
That’s the thing that I think people will take out of this.”
sharper focus and more efficient edit. They had to concentrate on
do with CG and action- related scenes. They would have fallen
behind on other scenes.”
Regarding an effects-laded film such as Spider-Man, McCusker
different than the previous style. It is more character driven.
Significantly, Bell had edited 500 Days of Summer for director
Marc Webb who has hired to direct The Amazing Spider-Man.
Naturally, he brought in Bell when the editor’s schedule made
explained his position logically. “I have worked on some large
him available. “Marc comes from a solid grounded way that his
with the footage you have. A lot of the process is developing story
a strong rapport between Peter Parker and the love interest. I
is doing these actions bits, previz plays a big role. You have to
level more than in the previous Spider-Man.”
movies with a lot of previz,” he said. “You make the movie work
and visuals as you go along. For a character like Spider-Man who
reset yourself for having a whole lot of tools at your disposal.”
actors connect,” Bell said. “In The Amazing Spider-Man, there is
personally think that a lot of the scenes resonate on an emotional
In addition to the emotional ties among the actors, this Spider-
He further denoted how an editor works with both
Man has no lack of action beats. “We have huge sweeping action
some previz to fill in an idea to see if it works and progress from
Spider-Man,” said Bell. “He can’t spin his own webs — he has
imagination can go. There are many ways to solve problems with
set of rules than if he can spin webs on his own.”
previsualization and computer-generated imagery. “You can get
scenes that are definitely things that you haven’t seen before in
there,” McCusker said. “It’s only challenging to see how far your
mechanical web-shooters; it’s more realistic. You have a different
the resources to do so. You might pitch an idea and go to the
director. Marc would come in and like it or not and he makes
the call. I might pitch an idea, but it might become a brainstorm
session with me and Marc or Marc, myself and Alan. Somebody
initiates an idea and comes up with a concept. It happens several
times over the seven months I was there. Alan encouraged it —
he was very gracious in allowing me to be part of that team in
that communications circle.”
In the end, though Spider-Man is a huge project, McCusker
stated that his job is essentially the same as one on a smaller film.
”When I’m an editor, whatever the size of the film is, I always
maintain the position of the audience,” he said. “When you view
moviemaking in those terms, it becomes very simple. I try not to
overcomplicate it. I try to keep to the basics: how do I support
the main character and the story through the main character —
I make creative decisions that way. When you feel like you are
studentfilmmakers 2012, Vol. 7, No. 4
Of course, the film is entitled Spider-Man, so, as such, the
story is focused on the title character. “Very much like Batman
as a human, Spider-Man is everyman’s hero,” Bell claimed. “The
thing that resonates with me is the idea that that could be me.
What would I do in that situation? How would I behave? We try
pretty hard to say what would happen if you put a kid into these
extraordinary circumstances.”
To actuate a film that has been on screen thrice within the past
ten years, the filmmakers were aware that certain aspects of the
legend must remain intact, while others needed to be wholly apart
from the previous films. “Everybody is cognizant of the fact that
we are taking a story that people are familiar with,” Bell stated.
“That story has been told already. There are certain things that
have to happen in a Spider-Man story. Those things you have to
find a fresh new way to tell them hopefully. I think that we have
all been very aware that we have to attempt to do it differently
stunt guy,” Bell explained. “There may be eight elements in one
in the previous ones.”
biggest challenge.”
and update the story and characterization of the various themes
Bell continued that as an editor, the film constantly went back
shot. You are layering that together to make it work. That’s the
On a March day, Bell is getting very close to locking picture
to his focusing on the main character as its center. “It makes it
and finalizing visual effects. “Significant numbers of visual
character more,” he stated. “You take the movie home with you.
tweaks that need to be made, and there is mixing, color timing,
a lot easier and more poignant as an editor to identify with the
Some of my best work is done at night when I’m sleeping!”
With the widely disparate projects of 500 Days of Summer
and The Amazing Spider-Man behind them, Bell spoke
reverentially about his collaboration with Webb. “He allows me
effects shots are done. As visual effects need to be cut in, there are
3D conversions, and deciding where we want things placed in
frame. Also, since the movie was shot in 3D, you have to smooth
out the inter-ocular and convergence. They are very good at SPI
knowing how much we need and what we are going to get.”
a level of creativity that I really appreciate,” Bell said. “I am an
accomplished compositor, so that when I look at scenes, and need
to fix something, I tend to look at footage differently than others.
I don’t have to wait to send a shot out to a VFX company. I can do
Since the mid-1980s, Scott Essman has been writing and producing
projects about motion picture craftsmanship. He has published over
it right in the Avid or in a compositing app on another desktop.”
350 articles as a freelancer and has produced over twenty publicity
With his compositing background, Bell had input into every
video documentaries and wrote publicity materials. He published his
one of the 250 visual effects shots in the film, including opticals
such as split screens. “There were many performance-enhancing
elements,” he elaborated. “Face replacement and arm additions
projects for Universal Studios Home Entertainment where he made
first book, “Freelance Writing for Hollywood,” for Michael Wiese in
2000, and has a new book about Tim Burton.
using Combustion and Nuke. Now I am using Fusion which is
basically like Nuke. On a movie like this, I am doing shots that
progress the story. If I have an idea and put it in the movie and
it plays, Marc can see it, approve it, and it gets done. I’ll have
the idea and be working on a scene and I’ll do it all at home. I
simply do the temp and pass it down the chain and it gets done
by a whole host of other people. I have been collaborating quite a
bit with the visual effects supervisor on the show. He appreciates
the give-and-take. Sony Pictures Imageworks is doing all of the
critical character animation and the lion’s share of the VFX.
On a project as huge as Spider-Man, the post-production team,
especially including SPI and other effects vendors, is substantial.
“There is a whole team of people constantly following the cut,”
said Bell. “Somebody has to go behind me and redo [my temp
effects]. You do it and these people are scrambling to figure out
what you did, and it is submitted and changed. There is a constant
treadmill of shots coming and going. It’s such a big machine,
there is an army of people doing things all around you.”
One memorable scene set in a New York subway was shot on a
stage with a green screen background and involves a wide array
of elements. “With this type of filmmaking there are so many
layers, and you get the lot – one element shot against blue, one
element shot against green, the clean pass, the CG character, the
2012, Vol. 7, No. 4 studentfilmmakers
Canon EOS C300
on the Run
First Impressions
by Carl Filoreto
It’s not how I pictured it. When I decided to take the leap and
EOS C300 in the field under often tough conditions. In a future
camera sitting elegantly on a tripod, adorned with the latest tech
other users about the camera. But for now, I’ll provide you with
get out in front of the Canon EOS C300 hype, I imagined the
wizardry. Its home would be mostly in well-crafted interview
settings complemented by sculpted light and clever backgrounds.
Nice thought. Reality, though, can change your vision as quickly
as the annoyingly penetrating bark of an oh-dark-thirty wake up
article, I’ll take the time to talk to the folks at Canon and to
initial impressions. And by the way, I bought the EF version of
the camera and used five Canon L series lenses on the shoot, as
well as a Canon 2x tele-extender.
To rig or not to rig. The C300 invites the same basic questions
call. So say goodbye to all those lovely chimeras, ellipsoidals and
that crop up with almost any smaller format camera. These
pace while working in a seemingly endless stream of often gritty
I get the accessories I need on it and still keep it workable and
matte boxes and embrace the idea of creating video at a rapid
food markets and perpetually hot, steamy kitchens around the
Let’s set the scene. Shortly after taking ownership of one of
the first C300’s that made it to the open market, I received the
plum assignment of working on two international food based
always center on what’s the best way to configure it. How do
functional, and how do I use it in hand held situations? In this
case the essential, no compromise additions included a high end
shotgun microphone, in this case a trusty Sennheiser MKH416, as well as a Lectrosonics SR two channel wireless receiver.
Since I was ahead of the curve in getting the camera into the
shows that would air on the Travel Channel. One program takes
field, I quickly realized that while some manufacturers had a
would examine the nuances of fast food in different countries.
certainly going to be many more entrants in the field in the
a look at street food served across the globe, while the second
Material for each show would be gathered in six cities in six
different countries. Every fourth day the traveling production
team would pick up stakes and move to a new city. Besides
me, the production team for this trip consisted of producer
extraordinaire Patrick Weiland, DP Mike Simon, and audio
engineer Lance Lundstrom. Fixers, productions assistants and
security folks were hired in each country.
Instead of enjoying a graceful introduction to this new piece
of photographic wonderment, I was plunged into an acid test
immersion course with the C300. This article is an unvarnished,
unendorsed and in regard to some techy fine points, an
uneducated first look at the pros and cons of using the Canon
studentfilmmakers 2012, Vol. 7, No. 4
smattering of base plate, rod based rigs on the market, there’s
coming months. I was hesitant to spend a sizable amount of cash
on a rig or a cage, and then find something superior for my needs
three months from now. Complicating the decision was time –
and the lack of it. I didn’t have a great deal of time to figure
things out before I hit the road.
A piece of advice from a good friend and excellent DP, Ben
McCoy, resonated with me. Keep it simple. Ben works as a DP
for many Frontline docs, and he too had already taken possession
of a C300 and had a couple of shoots under his belt. The more
I thought about it, the more it made sense. So I mimicked his
setup. The primary problem is the wireless receiver… Where do
you put it, and how do you power it? Normally, on my larger
cameras, I run power to my wireless receiver off an hirose tap.
That’s not an option with the C300. Hmmmmm.
The configuration I modeled from Ben puts the wireless receiver
on the cold shoe at the back of the handle. The monitor unit then
mounts on another cold shoe at the front of the handle. To power
the Lectrosonics SR, I purchased their battery sled kit, which
allows the receiver to be powered with a small rechargeable
NP-F series battery. I used their mounting sleeve to adapt it to
the cold shoe.
Is this ideal? No. It’s another item on the checklist… Must
remember to power up, and power down. I should add that
the receiver will operate almost all day off a single battery. The
receiver partially blocks me from cleanly grabbing the handle,
and it sometimes bangs into my forehead when I press my eye to
the viewfinder. It’s a bit unwieldy, but it works. Since I’m using
the camera on food shows, one of the keys is to get candid shots
of people eating food. Simple concept, but not always easy to
execute. By maintaining a small camera footprint, I was often
able to work in a crowd virtually unnoticed, which can be a trick
as I’m well over six feet tall. I discovered I could capture some
great up close images of people happily powering down the local
Going forward, I think I’ll adopt a ‘rig it the way you need it’
philosophy. At times I’d like to be able to mount a matte box, a
longer heavier lens, and also have a place to put a wireless receiver.
An additional source of power would be helpful, a means of
mounting another EVF, and a comfortable shoulder mount are
also on the “things I’d like to have” list. So far I haven’t been
blown away by anything I’ve seen in the aftermarket for these
products. Hopefully that’ll change soon.
Electronic viewfinder. So why do I think another external
viewfinder is a near necessity? Well I’m sure Canon has its
reasons, but placing the viewfinder dead center in the middle of
the camera creates some inherent problems. First, if you already
own a shoulder rig of some type, you’ll need to offset it, as the
viewfinder isn’t in the customary position. Take one step to the
left please. And the viewfinder doesn’t tilt down. That’s not a
problem until you set the tripod at six and a half feet and realize
you need a step ladder to see the viewfinder. I found myself
balancing on empty cases, nearby pallets, and boxes just to get
to the viewfinder. Sure you can try to operate off the LCD, but
critical focus is tough and in bright daylight it’s impossible. So
I’m going to be on the hunt for a way to conveniently mount a
more versatile EVF.
The viewfinder generally earns good grades. It’s better than
most on camera EVF’s that I’ve used to date. Its magnification
factor is very good, and the ability to detect and keep focus gets
high marks. A viewfinder is a very personal affair, but for me,
I’d like to be able to get better blacks in it which would improve
the image a great deal. Perhaps there is a way to do just that, but
I haven’t discovered it yet. The LCD screen is excellent, but it’s
virtually worthless outside in the daytime. I’m old school and
my preference is to get up close to a viewfinder when composing
my shots. If you’re a shoot from the screen type, then a word of
warning… you’re not going to maintain critical focus outside on
a blue sky day with the LCD screen. It’s like any other camera
with an LCD screen. It’s a nice aid, but if you want to be sure of
your shot, then you need to use the viewfinder.
I spent a lot of time trying to get the viewfinder, the LCD
screen and a trusted monitor to all display basically the same
2012, Vol. 7, No. 4 studentfilmmakers
colors in an image. I’d encourage you to go through the same
process when using the camera. They can get reasonably close,
but I wouldn’t entirely trust the viewfinder in an extremely
critical situation. If in doubt, get a monitor. If time isn’t an ally,
go with your gut.
Crop factor and lenses. When choosing lenses for the C300,
you must be aware of its crop factor. The issue of crop factor can
comprise an entire article, but suffice it to say it concerns the
relationship of the camera’s sensor size, the lenses placed in front
of that sensor and the distance between the lens and the sensor.
The C300 has a basic crop factor of 1.6. This means that the cool
16-35 mm zoom lens you’re using on your Canon 5D Mark III is
now essentially a 26-56 mm lens, and your 35 mm prime lens is
now effectively operating as a 56 mm prime lens.
Crop factor isn’t so much of an issue with the C300 as it is a
realization of what type of lens you need at any particular moment
in order to accomplish your objectives. On the food shows, the
C300 has been anointed the primary interview camera. This is
due to the spectacular depth of field flexibility the camera can
provide with the right lens. I’ve settled into using a Canon 50mm
f1.2 L series lens for interviews on these shows. Regardless of
the location specifics, I tweak the settings so that I can move the
lens as close to that lovely wide open f1.2 aperture as I can get it.
The resulting bokeh it produces is mesmerizing. Due to the crop
factor, I’m now considering buying a Zeiss Distagon 35mm f1.4
prime lens and using it together with the Canon 50mm f1.2 as
my primary interview lenses in one camera settings.
One of the primary strengths of this camera is the ability to
produce a shallow depth of field in almost any lighting condition
imaginable. I’ve been able to use the longer Canon 70-200 mm
f2.8 to create stunning images where the subject is in perfect
focus, but the foreground and background both fade into a lovely
blur. It creates sort of a visual exclamation point in pushing the
actions of the subject in the frame into prominence. Amazingly,
I can also stand an interview subject directly in front of their
store, or food cart, or whatever, use a Canon 16-35mm f.2.8 lens
and still pleasantly push the background into a soft depth of
field. Incredible. It’s worth the price of admission.
You’re probably not going to want to shoot every last frame
with a shallow depth of field, but when you make that choice,
quickness matters. A lens rated at f2.8 can create images that a
lens rated at f4 simply can’t. And a lens rated at f1.2 or 1.4 moves
studentfilmmakers 2012, Vol. 7, No. 4
you into a league where you’re now driving a Ferrari – it can be
a little twitchy but it can take you places in a way that nothing
else can.
So that quickly covers the big topics. Here are some random
observations listed in no particular order of importance:
The ways to move between white balance settings is clever, but
can sometimes be confusing. I love that you can easily dial in
a white balance, but in my pure subjective experience, it often
seems the image looks better when white balanced.
The ability to quickly move between white balance, ISO and
shutter settings is easy and appreciated.
The BNC covers are not designed to be in this world for a long
time. My first set of twin BNC caps ripped off by the second city.
They’re not particularly necessary but they do help create a more
pleasing aesthetic. Maybe Canon can simply make a strip that
would cover all the caps. When using the BNCs, you would take
it off and stow it somewhere. At the end of the day you could put
it back on the camera.
The external mic holder seems a bit flimsy. I bought a new
lighter, smaller Sennheiser 8060 shotgun mic for my next trip.
Maybe the mic holder will stand the test of time, but I’m not sure
it was designed to accommodate workhorse higher end shotgun
The longer shotgun mic also got into my shots when using the
Canon 8-15mm fisheye lens. Every time I used the lens I had to
dismount the mic. That’s cumbersome. Maybe it’s already out
there, but a quick release type mic holder would be very handy.
Canon specifically warns you to never change a lens while the
camera is powered up. I was good with it the first one hundred
times, but on the one hundred and first, I forgot to turn the
power off. Nothing happened. But you never know.
I’m wondering if the iris thumbwheel is going to wear out over
time. I’ve set the thumbwheel on the trigger as my primary iris
control, and it gets a workout. I’m also hopeful that a firmware
update can solve visual effects of the nagging, visible click
through iris control. Even on the fine setting, you move the iris
control one click and the result is obvious and jarring. If Canon
And finally, for now, the creation of an affordable, non-ramping
servo driven lens would be invaluable.
The overview. This camera is a powerful tool, and it’s one that
I hope to use for a long time. I’m very happy I bought one. Its
shallow depth of field capabilities, the ability to record a 4:2:2
image at 50 mbps natively onto a CF card mounted in the camera,
and the ability to choose between a wide variety of lenses that
will work effectively with it, make it a winner in my book. Oh,
and it weighs less than five pounds. Nice!
can get a seamless iris control, then the camera will take a giant
step forward.
I’d really like to see a relatively small cage or rig developed
for the camera that will solve the riddle of the camera’s
quirky ergonomics. One pet peeve I have is aimed squarely at
aftermarket solutions comprised of a rig/cage with two handles.
I’m sorry. I don’t get it. I use my left hand to focus and operate
a zoom if it’s available, and the right hand for iris control. What
am I supposed to do with two handles? I’ve seen a rig or two that
puts the trigger on the right handle, which makes a great deal
of sense. I’m wondering, though, how those rigs accommodate
a move off the shoulder where you hold the camera on your hip
or the ground.
I’ve seen a lot of negativity concerning the C300’s inability to
record 4:4:4 and that it’s an 8 bit platform. To me, it’s groundless.
I work on a lot of national shows, and they are all very happy
with video recorded at 4:2:2, 50 mbps. I don’t have to look for
ways to mount an external up conversion drive somewhere, and
the workflow is quick and painless. Of course, the release of the
C500 directly addresses all those issues.
The possibilities the C300 unleashes in the art of image creation
are amazing. Sometimes I look in the viewfinder and just smile,
because it’s something I truly haven’t seen in the viewfinder of a
video camera before owning the C300.
Carl Filoreto is an award-winning DP, and his company is Elk
Run Productions, Inc. (, which has a roster of
clients that spans corporations, production houses, crewing agencies,
and broadcast and cable networks, including Dateline NBC, The Food
Network, and The Travel Channel. Prior to starting his business,
Carl won seven regional Emmy awards, numerous national and
regional National Press Photographers awards, and multiple awards
from Colorado Ski Country and the National Snowsports Journalists
Association, while working at KMGH-TV in Denver, WTNH in
New Haven, and WGGB in Spring field, Massachusetts.
2012, Vol. 7, No. 4 studentfilmmakers
Film Business
Reaching the Audience Event Horizon
Do’s and Don’ts for the Start-Up Filmmaker
by Sky Crompton
So you are back from the summer break,
Don’t make a film about anything
and back to school [or back to work], and
you know nothing about, i.e., the mafia,
friends who wave you over and the first
children, etc. I put two caveats on this
you see your similarly crazed filmmaking
thing you say is, ‘I’ve got this great idea for
a script’.
Stop. We have all done it, and will do it
again. Sometimes it will be a good idea;
many times it will prove to be one of the
worst ideas of your life. I have seen top
producers and directors produce such
misshapen ideas and have a number in
my own achieves; it is human nature to
be excited by your own ideas. But the key
question is, ‘Are they exciting to others?’
Filmmaking, like no other discipline,
has a critical mass of logistics and
expenditure to use up before ever reaching
an audience. So before you go ahead and
audience that awaits us in the future.
I’m going to start with the ‘don’ts’.
Don’t make films for your peers. Okay,
you want their respect? Get it with an
Oscar. Your peers are a limited audience
and are not who you want to be impressing
because, believe it or not, most of them
are so narcissistic that most will, if you
extensive research to get you across the
believability line that experienced writers,
directors and producers regularly achieve
ask yourself the following questions: Who
is my audience? What do they expect from a
film? What do they need in a film that I need
to give them?
Let’s start with the first questions, who
for a comedy, for example, if you are
succeed. But, be warned time after time.
such as the Red Balloon, which played
who have no idea of the subject matter,
the filmmaker. Short films were not only
see in films and TV series, so it is a copy
realised that if they cut the shorts, they
or imitation of reality. Very rarely does
more revenue.
lampooning something, you could well
I’m so old that I can remember short films
I have seen short films made by people
around the world and made a return for
and they are creating beyond what they
a valid form but payed. Then cinemas
of something that is already a caricature
could run another feature and thus make
the underlying story information from
these reference-films crossover in the
subsequent imitating short film.
So guess what? Unless you are one of
the very fortunate few to get picked up for
screening on the in-flight viewing of your
Now some do’s. Do make a film you
favourite airline, or one of the few niche
that informs and entertains with its
are going, and there are a lot of them in
know something about. Do make a film
shorts distributors, festivals are where you
themes and characters.
fact. I would go to say that there are more
After, ‘I’ve got this great idea for a script,’
comes, ‘It’s amazing and universal; everyone
will want to see it.’ Stop again. Okay, yes,
types of festivals than there are genres of
Once you have come to terms with this
universal themes are in a number of films
fact, do some research and make a list of
will everyone really want to see it?
want to make, and then see what films
regularly and are highly sought after. But
This brings us to the realisation that
to be successful in getting an audience
you need to know who they are. Before
shooting your masterpiece, stop. Stop and
and where is my audience? I, personally,
make a good film, hate you till they make
a good one.
one. If you are experienced enough to do
expend time and effort on your great
idea, let’s clear the fog that obscures our
you get too far down the path towards
studentfilmmakers 2012, Vol. 7, No. 4
festivals that screen the types of films you
got in, take a look at the films’ production
values, and see what the stories were like.
Then you can tackle the question
of ‘What does the audience expect?’
Most festivals give you their mission
statement [read addenda, festivals
can be big money and very political].
Then look at the films that got into
the festivals you have chosen, and
make a list of the key attributes that
they demonstrate in the following
areas: Genre/Style, Characterisation,
Production Values. Also take note of
how long the films are and put yourself
in the middle of that scale, so if the
films ranged from 7 to 13 minutes,
you’re making an 8- to 9-minute film.
Now you have cleared some of the
fog and can see a potential end point in
sight. Finally you have some foundation
to reach the event horizon of your
audience, and you can start to write a
story that is still unique but now has the
audience in sight.
Sky Crompton is a Producer/
Director/Writer and film scholar with
over a decade of experience teaching
film, TV, Animation and interactive
media. His feature film, “Citizen
Jia Li,” has screened internationally.
Academically his research includes
Asian Screen and transmedia. He has
given papers at media conferences in
Australia, Europe and Asia. Having
developed animation and film courses
his students have won numerous short
film awards internationally. He can
be contacted via twitter at:!/gunghoscreen
2012, Vol. 7, No. 4 studentfilmmakers
Film Business
Filmmaking Back in the Day...
…And What’s Possible with Today’s Technology
by David Worth
Hopefully you will never take the amazing technology that
you have at your fingertips today for granted. The reason that
you, today’s filmmakers can capture on the RED or the ALEXA
or DSLRs and routinely shoot at ASA 800, 2000 or 6400 and
beyond, is because of all of the outstanding advances made by the
visionary directors and cinematographers of the film industry for
the past 100 years!
The groundbreaking films by cinematic giants like D.W.
Griffith, Abel Gance, and Orson Welles, as well as Vittorio
De Sica and the Italian New Realists, Jean-Luc Godard and
the French New Wave, John Cassavetes and the American
Independents and especially the New Paradigm that began
to take hold in the late 1990’s, all made it possible for today’s
filmmaking to be totally democratized and for today’s filmmakers
to be able to make their films anytime, anyplace and anywhere.
Just as an example, let me take you for a trip down “memory
lane…” and graphically demonstrate the difference between
Find enough friends or young hopefuls to work as your cast
and crew.
Make sure that you had all the camera, sound, lighting and
grip equipment.
Only shoot on weekends so that you could rent the equipment
on Friday afternoon, shoot Friday night, all day Saturday and
Sunday, then return the equipment on Monday morning and
only be charged for one day’s rental.
Shoot your 35mm film negative and ¼ in sound tape to capture
your film and be sure to print everything.
Send the film to the lab to be processed and make a one light
work print.
Transfer the ¼ inch sound tape to 35mm mag stripe.
Place the 35mm work print and 35mm mag stripe in your
creating a “Demo Reel” back in the day and doing one with
upright Moviola and mark all of the picture and sound slated
Back in the day, long before any thought of digital capture
Place the 35mm work print and 36mm mag stripe on split
today’s technology.
sync marks.
or non-linear editing, films were always and only shot on film,
reels on the editing table and run them through a synchronizer
knockoff” 16mm film.
can be viewed and projected in sync.
preferably 35mm film and not that “low budget, underground
If you wanted to make a “Demo Reel” or a 15 or 20-minute
short film, here are the steps that you had to go through:
Buy short ends of 35mm film and ¼ inch sound tape.
studentfilmmakers 2012, Vol. 7, No. 4
cutting out any excess sound so that now you have dailies that
Place each 1000 foot roll of sync dailies onto a coding machine
and print a number on every foot of picture and sound so that you
can maintain sync while you are doing the editing.
Now you can screen your dailies. Select your best take or takes,
break down the 1000-foot reels into separate shots and begin
Do your rough cut, fine cut and final cut make any necessary
changed then lock the picture.
Screen your final locked cut for the people doing your music,
sound effects, loop lines, as well as the special effects house, title
house, etc.
Make black and white dupes of your locked final cut and
give these dupes to your composer, sound effects, loop lines
department, special effects house, title house, etc.
Send the color work print to the negative cutter to have the
scenes pulled for special effects or main and end titles and to
conform the negative to your work print.
Have the lab take the cut negative and begin to do silent color
corrected prints.
Prepare your 35mm mag stripe dialogue track for the final mix
by placing each actor’s lines on a separate 1000 foot roll with fill
leader between their lines.
Have your finished main and end titles and special effects cut
into the negative at the lab and color corrected.
Do a pre-mix and a final mix of dialogue, sound effects, and
Music using your color corrected silent first trial print.
By the way all of these steps, all of this work took anywhere
from three to six months or longer to complete and at a cost of
tens of thousands of dollars…
Today you are able to do it like this:
In 2008, a professional New York photographer, Vincent
Laforet, managed to get his hands on the new Canon 5D in
order to “test” it on the weekend. He and his wife put together
a small crew, hired two models, rented a car, some car mounts
and a helicopter.
They shot, edited and completed this short film, Reverie,
on natural locations and with mostly available light over the
weekend and posted this “demo reel” online. Before the end
of the first week, Mr. Laforet had a new $50,000 commercial
account, because the client was impressed by the creativity and
versatility of his short demo reel!
To view the “demo” video, go to:
That is the difference between filmmaking “back in the day”
and what’s possible with today’s technology. Remember, Reverie
was done with one of the first 5Ds nearly five years ago and
as of 2012, Canon introduced the new C300, a professional
filmmaking tool that was introduced to Hollywood by no less
of a directing icon than Martin Scorsese, that happens to shoot
at ASA 20,000!
Get your friends together and make movies!
Make a 35mm sound print master (and do “pull ups” for the
head and tail of each 2000 foot reel, if necessary).
Make an optical sound negative.
Make a first trial sound and color timed print from your color
David Worth’s credits include being the Director of Photography
on two Clint Eastwood films, “Bronco Billy” and “Any Which Way
You Can.” He was also the DP of the original, “Bloodsport” and
timed negative and optical sound negative.
the Director of the original, “Kickboxer” starring Jean-Claude Van
Make any additional color corrections…
and “The Prophet’s Game” with Dennis Hopper and his most recent
Have a screening at a 35mm screening room and hope that
enough of the producers that you invited will show up to offer
you a job…
If not, then you have to continue to have more and more
Damme. He directed the thrillers, “Time Lapse” with Roy Scheider
production is the horror/thriller, “Hardhat.” David’s book, “The
Citizen Kane Crash Course in Cinematography,” can be ordered
from Read it and feel free to contact David if
you have any questions at [email protected]
screenings in screening rooms…
2012, Vol. 7, No. 4 studentfilmmakers
Event Video
Solo Shoots
very manageable setup that allowed me
Push yourself to be a better storyteller.
to carry everything in one trip. It also
meant less decisions every step of the way
allowing me to be much more present
by Patrick Moreau
while things were happening.
Four lenses are a great number as three
Shooting solo is definitely a daunting
task, but it is far from impossible. It takes
a special sort of person and outlook to
One of the best examples of a wedding
try and tackle a shoot often needing 2-3
that was shot solo by us would be JC and
that makes it is a bad idea, it means you
over 200k views on Vimeo it became
Some of our best work has come from
With most of our weddings shot with
on “A Game of Honor” where only one
a lot in approaching a story with one
little luck, but shooting solo will really
things. The first thing to go was…
a scene and will push you to be a better
…The gear, just so it could become more
people with only one. That doesn’t mean
Esther ( At
need to be prepared to put in a little more.
our most viewed wedding film to date.
weddings shot with one person or shoots
2-3 people and dozens of lenses, I learned
person was there. Sometimes it takes a
person and needing to really simplify
push you to know what you want out of
manageable for one person. I brought two
bodies, 4 lenses, a tripod, a monopod
and a slider (plus audio gear). It was a
fit into a shootsac plus one on your camera
body. I would choose the lenses you do
bring based on the story you are trying to
tell. The more you know your characters,
the better you can pick effective focal
lengths and really be okay at leaving others
behind. Our lens selector tool in SMAPP
was built around the idea of picking
effective focal lengths and we believe it
will really make this process easier. We
would then recommend picking a couple
camera tools that best fit the story. For
this wedding we left the steadicam at
home as it didn’t really fit JC and Esther,
but for others it may make more sense to
bring a handheld stabilizer and skip the
slider. The key is to make more decisions
up front to really lighten your load, keep
your speed up, and allow you to get more
with the time you have.
Trim the Fat
Look at how you normally cover an
event and see if there is anything you don’t
really use, don’t really need, or perhaps has
a high time input for a low return. This is
a great exercise for any shoot you do, but
especially when you only have yourself to
get things done, you want to make sure
everything is essential. A third angle at
the ceremony is a great example. We used
to setup a tripod with a super wide as a
studentfilmmakers 2012, Vol. 7, No. 4
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Event Video
safe angle. It required setting up another
lens chosen and the position picked out. I
happen in a similar way, you just don’t
composition, and exposure all set. The
it needed to be, I had the quick release on
once). Look for reaction and moments
tripod, camera, lens, getting the angle,
return was often less than a dozen seconds
in the final piece. By cutting it, it meant
that we lost our safety net, but maybe that
is not such a bad thing anyways. You’re
less likely to fall if you know you have no
net to catch you.
When you are looking at trimming the
fat, think about shots or angles you might
not need to get, things during the event
you might not need to shoot, and gear
you may not need. Cut out everything not
essential and focus on the essence of what
left the slider in the ground exactly where
the tripod head loose, and even had the
slider in the right position. When the
processional came around, I slipped the
camera in and without even tightening
the plate down, slid the camera once
across the length of the slider, pulled it
off and was already on my way up to the
front with my monopod. I was able to
beat Esther there and get a completely
different perspective a few seconds later.
All of this was possible only because I
knew exactly what I needed and had it
planned so precisely that it left so little
room for anything to get in the way.
Scout, Plan, Cheat
The value of scouting your locations
and really storyboarding your ideas is so
so important on a commercial shoot yet
When you are shooting an event, things
only happen once. If you’re like us, you
need to make the most of that as there are
no re-dos, slowing down, or pausing. But
that doesn’t mean you can’t cheat.
it is often overlooked on a wedding. Our
have the ability to cover everything at
before and after your big events to give
you more of an ability to cheat those
shots in during the big moments. For JC
and Esther’s first meeting, everything
happened in real time. However, JC had
a good couple minutes while he waited
for Esther. Every second counts, so I
took that time to get some tights of him
standing there as well as a slider from
behind as he stood there waiting. If you
look at the final sequence of their first
meeting, several of the shots in the middle
of the sequence were actually from before
anything happened, but with the power of
context it all feels like it happened in the
order shown.
Follow What Excites You
Probably the biggest tip we can suggest
Cheating is a term more often used in
is to really follow the story you want to
manipulating the set or environment for
shoot that leaves less room for the fluff.
another shot but rarely noticed when cut
things at a wedding that are often quite
means getting shots for the same scene
To be an effective shooter all alone, you
put together, the power of context really
and I am okay missing everything else.
at the same time and it means you can get
really planning things out and having an
times. Applying this idea to weddings,
requires the trust in yourself, and the trust
The processional for JC and Esther is a
before or after something happens and
you believe and feel more than anything
shots I wanted, the shots I needed for the
You might get a tight shot of a bridesmaid
have a lot of average coverage with little
and nothing more – happen. I had a slow
but you can cut it in with a funny event
strong story? Put yet another way, if
came down the aisle. I already had the
it happened together (and it often did
Veronica and Dan, dissect it shot by shot
wedding films are so little about the day
a commercial production and refers to
tell. When you only have one person to
one shot in a way that is different than
Hair and make-up are one of those
together in the final scene. Sometimes it
meaningless yet many people still cover.
at a different time or location. When
need to be okay saying this is what I want,
leads the viewer to think it was all done
Like the point above, this comes down to
more coverage for your story at different
idea of what you want to cover. It always
that means always looking for reactions
from your couples/clients, to follow what
great example of this. I knew the exact
then using those during the actual event.
else. Put another way, would you rather
story, and I found a way to make those –
laughing hours after something happened
story, or a much footage that has really
slide at the back of the ceremony as Esther
from much earlier and it will feel like
you look at a film like JC and Esther or
and so much more about the couple that
we rarely scout location, but what we do
is really, really know the people and the
story so that we can know what we need
and plan for that. As you look at your
films and your style, think about whether
scouting the location will help you. In
addition to that, get as much information
as you can and really plan from there. That
could mean storyboards, but more often it
just means shot lists and ideas of what you
want to get when.
studentfilmmakers 2012, Vol. 7, No. 4
and see just how many have no purpose
for the story. If every single shot in your story has a
purpose, which it should, then there is no need to
get coverage that doesn’t add to your story. It takes
time to be okay with that, but the sooner you are,
the more you can really get down to telling stories
and not just covering everything around you.
Safe Doesn’t Work Here
If you have an excess of resources you have the
ability to play it safe, get extra coverage, hold your
shots longer, and cover things you may not need.
If you have few resources, such as shooting by
yourself, you need to resist the pull to play things
safe and really push extra hard to make something
more. Your first instinct is often to shoot wide,
hold shots longer, and really get a lot of coverage.
We can get so worried about getting so little
because we are by ourselves that we then play it
safe for anything we do get. The only problem
with this approach is that playing too safe doesn’t
make a good film or a strong story. Get in there,
make effective lens choices, and push yourself to
catch things before they happen. It won’t always
work, you will miss things, there will be times you
will probably wished you had played it safe, but
the more you put yourself out there the further
you can push what you can do with one person. If
you find yourself often shooting with one person,
you already have a limitation of resources and that
likely isn’t your fault, but it is all on you if you
allow this limitation of resources to also hold you
back from telling strong stories.
Patrick Moreau is one of cinema team leaders at
StillMotion ( Over the years
they have shot weddings from Japan to London, as
well as work for commercial clients such as Canon
and IBM. “A Game of Honor” is StillMotion’s threetime Emmy winning documentary for Showtime,
including best sports documentary for 2012. Patrick
will be on the road as an instructor for KNOW. Visit
2012, Vol. 7, No. 4 studentfilmmakers
Open Calls
Featured Call for Entries
G-Technology™ Launches
“Driven Creativity” Awards
Free to Enter. Open to All.
G-Technology continues to support the
creative brilliance of today’s artists and
offers the opportunity to win $5,000
or professional class G-Technology
external storage solutions.
The G-Technology Driven Creativity
award competition is on the search
for the most inspiring and creative
content – rewarding work not just
for its aesthetic qualities but also the
innovation and drive that went into
creating it.
Entry is free and open to both amateurs
and professionals. Creative work can
be entered in the categories of Short
Film, Animation, GoPro Active,
Photography and Music. G-Technology
will celebrate, promote and showcase
the successful work of the overall
winner and the finalists at a New York
City gallery exhibition in November
2012. Enter online at
“G-Technology is proud to support
the creative process of today’s and
tomorrow’s filmmakers and content
creators. Through this contest, you’ll
have one website to see creativity
through the eyes of multiple, talented
and unique artists. We look forward
to showcasing their work,” said Mike
Williams, vice president and general
manager, HGST Branded Business. “As
we build new relationships with these
entrants and encourage new paths
of creativity, G-Technology wants to
be the storage go-to resource for all
content creators as we strive to provide
the best in both external storage
and ongoing support for the creative
G-Technology manufactures a
comprehensive line of external storage
solutions designed for professional
content creation applications. Our
USB,FireWire®, eSATA, mini-SAS,
Thunderbolt and wireless storage
solutions support all levels of audio and
video production.
For more information on G-Technology
products, visit
to work and Kevin Nealon was the
guest on a morning show. Mr. Nealon
mentioned that he had a million twitter
followers, and the question flashed in
my head, “How much does he make
from that...from him just having those
followers? And what if it was Facebook
and not Twitter where he had a million
followers? Is there any social network
available where he could make money
based on the people that he’d attract
to his page?” Once I researched things
and found out that no such site exists,
then, I knew I had to start one.
What issues does want
to address and provide solutions for?
the New Revenue Sharing
Social Network
Jeremy Jason: I have a great deal of
admiration for Facebook, however, I’ve
talked to more than a few people that
view Facebook as a “necessary evil”. It’s
something that many people feel they
have to use, but they don’t really like
it, and there is no significant alternative
that people have embraced.
AtomicMe is aiming to be that
alternative. A social networking site
where you don’t have to worry about
whether or not your information is
secure, where the privacy settings are
infinitely simpler to use than Facebook
and you don’t have to worry about
site changes being implemented and
forced upon you that you’re not really
interested in.
In addition to all of this, users have
an opportunity to support the causes
that they are passionate about through
social networking as well as have the
potential to make money themselves,
provided that they have a large social
Free to Enter. Your Short Film Could
Win $1000. Interview Jeremy Jason, Founder of
What is
Jeremy Jason: is a
brand new social network that gives
people with a large social following the
ability to make money simply by
maintaining that social following on
their AtomicMe page. AtomicMe users
have the ability to load videos, photos
and music - everything that you’d
expect to be able to put on your social
networking page, and it’s all free to use.
How did the idea for
come about?
Jeremy Jason: The idea came about
for when I was
listening to the radio while driving
studentfilmmakers 2012, Vol. 7, No. 4
Tell us about your new contest on
Jeremy Jason: To launch AtomicMe.
com, a contest is being held that
will award $1000 first prize to
the AtomicMe page that gets the most
votes between now and October 1,
2012. The contest is absolutely free to
enter, so I encourage any-and-all short
filmmakers and artists to participate.
What are some things you’re doing for
education and student filmmakers?
Jeremy Jason: The contest provides an
opportunity for student filmmakers
to monetize their work. With a largeenough following, student filmmakers,
and anyone else that can attract a
social following, can make money on
AtomicMe even after the contest ends. I
love that we provide an opportunity for
artists to profit from their art. I couldn’t
be more excited about that part of
What are some tips for getting started
but you’ll also attract people that you
don’t know, and these friends and
strangers could help make you money.
What are some tips for building
fanbases on
Jeremy Jason: Get creative. Load the
best content that you can. Invite people
to visit your AtomicMe page and have
them also invite the people that they
know to go to your AtomicMe page, so
those people can see your handiwork
and vote for you.
If you could share a piece of advice
with readers around the world in
relation to networking, and the
importance of networking, what would
it be?
Jeremy Jason: You could create the
most brilliant piece of art that any
human being has ever conjured up,
but if people never see it, then what
does it amount to? Being an artist
means showing people your art.
It’s scary, but necessary. AtomicMe
provides a platform for you to not
only showcase your art, but also an
opportunity to generate revenue if
you’re able to attract enough eyeballs.
AtomicMe is a level playing field for
you to show off your creations. So
be proud of what you’ve created and
show it off!
Jeremy Jason: Step 1 is to go to, and sign up by creating
a profile. It’s free, so that’s of course
a good thing. Step 2 is to load your
AtomicMe page with content that
you’re proud of, short films, photos
and /or music. Load anything that
you’ve created that you feel people
would like to see. Go nuts! Act with
vigor! Be bold! And, Step 3 is to draw
a crowd. Invite people to visit and vote
for your AtomicMe page. It doesn’t cost
them anything to do that, so encourage
as many people as you can. If you
load worthwhile content, then you’ll
attract not only people that you know,
2012, Vol. 7, No. 4 studentfilmmakers
Back to School
Get Ready for Back to School
Film and Video Making Tools and Solutions
Edelkrone Announces New FOCUS ONE PRO
Precise, Sensitive, Accurate.
Edelkrone announced their new FOCUS ONE PRO follow
focus unit, which has reverse gear and a whip/crank port
as well as still contains their innovative and awarded
marker system.
FOCUS ONE PRO still follows the standards and directly
compatible with standard 0.8 pitch. The reverse gear
on the unit can easily be put on use to work with Nikon
lenses, as well as other lenses with reversed focus
direction. The unit only occupies one rod and it can be
repositioned easily using the single adjustment knob. The
focus marker which faces directly to the operator makes
you feel more in control, and with the help of the manual
position adjustment, you can focus without the need for a
marker pen.
FOCUS ONE PRO is going to be one the most affordable
follow focus unit in the market if you consider its amazing
build quality, features and awarded ultra-precise marker
system. Expected price is $289.
Studica Announces Exclusive Discounts and Back-to-School Deals
Students and Teachers: Save Big with Special Academic
Studica is the education source for software and technology
products. Studica offers academic software at significant
discounts to Students, Faculty and Schools.
What’s New at Studica?
Studica’s sizzling summer deals include: Autodesk
Entertainment Creation Suite Ultimate, Adobe Creative
Suite 6 Design Standard, and Avid Pro Tools 10 &
Sibelius 7 Bundle. Autodesk Entertainment Creation Suite
studentfilmmakers 2012, Vol. 7, No. 4
Ultimate 2013 is a set of creative tools which are used by
leading artists in game development, visual effects and
3D animation around the world. Adobe Creative Suite 6
Design Standard allows you to take on new design projects
such as video editing with Adobe Photoshop CS6 and use
your design on iPads and other tablet devices with Adobe
InDesign CS6. Pro Tools 10 is one of the world’s most
advanced audio production platforms available. Sibelius
7 is the latest generation of the world’s best-selling music
notation software.
Studica has launched, a Unity Educators
User Group, designed to help bring game design and
ATOMOS Announces Ninja-2
Field Recorder Now Shipping
New Weapon of Smart Production is
now available.
Atomos, the creator of award-winning
field recorders, announced the Ninja-2
is shipping through Atomos’ sales
partners. Priority sales will be given to
pre-orders and registered users who
have taken advantage of the loyalty
“We are extremely proud of the
Ninja-2. It is the culmination of all
we have learned since releasing the
first Ninja. Timecode trigger, higher
resolution screen, pro monitoring
and editing functions that save time
and money are all included. Once
you see the HDMI output of your
Ninja-2 recordings on a big screen you
will never use another device again.
Customers all over the world have
come to depend on their Atomos field
recorders and the second generation
Ninja-2 continues that line of pedigree
at the same selling price” said Jeromy
Young, CEO and Founder of Atomos.
Ninja-2 boasts HDMI output as well
as HDMI input, which means it can be
used to record directly from the
amazing new Nikon DSLR sensor (a
feature of their new D4/D800 cameras)
and the retina-display Apple iPad, really
taking advantage of their stunning HD
outputs. The Ninja-2 touchscreen has
also been upgraded to an 800x480
pixel display, with a viewing angle of
170 degrees, both horizontally and
vertically, with much improved visibility
in direct sunlight.
The Ninja-2 ships with the latest
AtomOS 3.21 operating system. This
includes features such as SmartMonitor,
which turns the Ninja-2 into a
monitoring solution with Peaking,
Zebra, False Color and Blue Only
development to a classroom near you. This online community
is designed specifically to be a resource for educators who
are interested in teaching with the Unity Game Development
platform. The game design industry presents great career
opportunities and game design programs align perfectly with
animation programs. Architecture and Engineering programs
can also be enhanced with this technology.
Studica now offers education discounts for
credits, as well as unlimited character animations from the
Mixamo Unity Asset store. Mixamo, the first online character
animation service, changes the game development equation
by providing game-ready motions which can be selected,
functionality. It also includes SmartLog,
a revolutionary feature that allows you
to edit using keyword tagging, on-set
on location or on the move. AtomOS
3.21 also includes XML support for
Final Cut X.
Developed with approval from
Apple, the Atomos Ninja-2 allows the
recording, monitoring and playback of
pristine, 10-bit uncompressed images
straight from the sensor of your HDMIequipped DSLR or camcorder, directly
to inexpensive HDD or SSD drives
(not supplied), recorded using the high
quality Apple ProRes codec.
customized, and downloaded into a production pipeline at a
fraction of the cost of other traditional techniques. Mixamo’s
growing list of features includes the first-in-industry AutoRigger service, an online service that automatically fits a
skeleton and calculates skinning weights on an uploaded
character model mesh. These rigs can be used for a variety
of animation applications including game production, previsualization, film, simulation, design, and ergonomics.
2012, Vol. 7, No. 4 studentfilmmakers
Back to School
ALZO Video Announces New HDMI & Audio
Stereo Cables
If you shoot video with a DSLR and an LCD MONITOR, then
you need these cords.
When connecting a DSLR Rig to an HDMI monitor and mixer,
you need short Mini HDMI and Stereo Audio cords. ALZO
HDMI cords are the perfect length and because the miniHDMI connectors are Right Angle, they leave the camera
vertically. All other HDMI cords stick out to the left side of the
camera causing camera operation interference and potential
disconnect. These cords also include a side jog to prevent
blocking other cord ports on the camera. Because all DSLR
cameras do not have the same connector orientation, the 2
ALZO HDMI cords have right and left connector orientation.
Therefore this cord set will work will all DSLR models.
• Perfect Length
• Right Angle Offset Mini HDMI
• Gold Plated Contacts
• Works with All DSLRs
• T
he 3 short cord set includes: 2 Right Angle offset HDMI
cords, and 1 Stereo Audio cord with siliconized rubber
jacket for superior flexibility.
• T
he 2 right angle offset HDMI cords have right and left
mini-HDMI orientations allowing for compatibility with all
DSLR cameras.
• HDMI cords are color coded red and white.
• T
he offset of the mini-HDMI connectors prevent blocked
camera connectors.
• A
ll cord contacts are gold plated.
• HDMI cords length = 21”.
• Stereo Audio cord length = 18”.
• Get Exposure, Find Crew, or Join a Production.
• Share Your Ideas, Post Your Questions, and Find Answers.
• Watch and Share Films and Videos, or Enter Contests.
Join Social
Networking at
studentfilmmakers 2012, Vol. 7, No. 4
Good/Peak signal indicators show the
ideal input levels at a glance while the
headphone output lets you monitor
either recording or playback audio.
The enhanced AGC Disable feature
dramatically reduces camera noise
during quiet moments of recording.
Beachtek DXA-SLR and DXA-5Da Adapters
Check them out at the WEVA Booth #
104, Hollywood, CA
byte on the audio adapters and the
difference between the DXA-SLR and
After featuring BeachTek’s new
DXA-SLR PRO adapters at Cine
Gear Expo in Hollywood, California,
ProFusion Expo in Toronto, Canada,
and at the
Workshops in Manhattan, New York
City, StudentFilmmakers Magazine
returns to Hollywood, California
to exhibit at WEVA 2012, the Expo
for Wedding & Event Film/Video
Professionals. This time, we will be
featuring BeachTek’s popular DXA-SLR
and DXA-5Da adapters. Don’t forget
to stop by the
Booth #104, where you can pick up
complimentary print editions and free
DIGI subscriptions.
The Beachtek DXA-SLR audio adapter
gives you everything you need to
connect professional audio gear to your
camera to capture superb sound. The
DXA-SLR is very easy to set up and
use. Two XLR inputs with 48V phantom
power and low noise preamplifiers
provide clean audio to the camera.
The Beachtek DXA-5Da is a robust,
passive audio adapter that is ideal for
wireless mics or as an interface for a
mixing board. The level meters show
the exact signal strength at a glance
while the headphone output lets you
monitor what you are recording. A
unique AGC Disable feature controls
the wild swings of the Auto Gain
Control that plague many cameras.
Passive circuitry provides unity gain
and crisp, clean audio with very low
power consumption. Fits neatly under
any camera and can also be mounted
to a tripod.
For those of you who are not yet
familiar with these amazing audio
solutions from BeachTek, here’s a quick
Filmmakers Motion Picture
Production Forums
Join the discussions or Post your own topics
2012, Vol. 7, No. 4 studentfilmmakers
Filmmakers Networking
Barry Teitelbaum
Member Profile: BarryT315
Job: Filmmaker/Writer
Location: United States
Meal To Die For, shot with a Canon 60D and Carl Zeiss
lenses (35mm/2.0, an 18mm/3.5, and a 50mm/1.4), is a
short film that won three awards. A Meal To Die For is the
story of a young Chef, Matt Moreland, whose career and
quest to be a star has been derailed by several people in the
industry. He has decided to exact revenge on two of them,
a Restauranteur Pierre Strass, and a renowned local Food
Critic, Sally Kendall. He has hatched a plan using his wife as
bait to kidnap these two and coerce them to sign amended
endorsements of his talents otherwise they face death at the
hands of Nutmeg poisoning.
Barry Shares Contest Tips:
“…Looking at your idea and really asking yourself, how can I
present this in a way that has not been overdone? Really look
at every angle and put your personal stamp on it. I also think
that often times contest submissions for young filmmakers
will excel in one of two areas: Production Value or Story. I
see a lot of films, including my own, that excel in one but
not the other. You could have the most amazing production
value, but if the story falls flat, you won’t get far. For me, the
story comes first.
Going over the script.
As far as film racing goes, the best advice I can give is to
make sure you have a tight crew with the right attitude and
be sure to delegate. Whenever I try to do too much, it always
backfires. And it really is okay if you don’t have a big crew,
as long as the crew you have is committed to the project. I
would rather go out and shoot with five people with little or
no experience but are focused and excited to be part of the
film then to go out with 10 extremely talented crew members
who didn’t care about the project and couldn’t wait to get out
of there.
Finally anyone familiar with the exquisite hell that is film
racing, knows how insane it is to try and make a movie in 48
hours. It really is the antithesis of how you would normally go
about doing things, but one of the greatest takeaways is that
you really don’t have any time to over analyze things.”
Photo courtesy of Barry Teitelbaum.
Crew sets up.
studentfilmmakers 2012, Vol. 7, No. 4
Theresa Meeker Pickett
Profile: theresapickett
Job: Actress
Location: Tennessee, USA
SFM: What kind of role(s) do you want to do the most?
Theresa Meeker Pickett: I most want a role which permits me
to reveal emotions that help me better understand the world
around me. I want the roles I take to help me grow as an actress
and become more worldly. Hopefully the roles I take will help
an audience better understand the world around them as well,
although my goal in acting isn’t for me to get a certain reaction from
an audience.
How much do you draw on your own experience when you act?
TMP: I do draw on my own experience to a certain extent. Often
I try to really become the character and respond the way my
character would react. I always have my character’s backstory and
objective in my mind.
What is your favorite character that you have portrayed so far?
Theresa Meeker Pickett. Photo by Beth Boldt.
TMP: My favorite character was playing a model in the short film
Look by Ryan Pickett. I really enjoyed getting comfortable doing
the most mundane tasks on camera, such as just sitting and holding
a teacup. When I was working on Look I was happy to work on
very small actions and to put my best effort into going about those
actions the way my character would. Plus the art design for Look
was really visually appealing. I was very inspired to be there during
the shoot.
Could you share with us a unique scene that has really challenged
TMP: When I was working on Look, some of the scenes were
really challenging because Ryan was shooting an experimental
narrative. Initially I saw the script for Look and I just wasn’t sure how
everything would fit together. The dialogue is not the main focus
of Look, which was challenging for me because most movies I had
worked on relied significantly on dialogue to show the story.
If you could share three acting tips or techniques to aspiring
actors around the world, what would they be?
Theresa Meeker Pickett. Photo by Elle Lee Batalon.
TMP: Be careful about the types of roles you take when you are
starting out. Some roles can come back to haunt you later in your
career. Do student films only if you know they’ll get entered into
festivals. Get some training and education. Ok, one more - get an
IMDb page and put some photos up. If you can’t afford the monthly
IMDb Pro price, get a director/producer to post stills of you in a
movie you did.
2012, Vol. 7, No. 4 studentfilmmakers
Many Thanks
Carl Filoreto
Pamela Jaye Smith
Al Caudullo
Scott Essman
William F. Vartorella,
Ph.D., C.B.C.
William Donaruma
John Klein
Patrick Moreau
Sky Crompton
David Worth
AD Index
Pamela Douglas
David Lent
DV Expo Five Towns College P27
Global Cinematography Institute P11
GV Expo P15
Maine Media Workshops + College P29
Panasonic Broadcast P5
Professional Sound Services P23
Regent University P7
Studica P9
Tiffen P13, P51
University of Memphis P17
Peter Kiwitt
For advertising and sponsorship opportunities,
please contact Kim Welch at 212.255.5458,
or send an email via our online form at
studentfilmmakers 2012, Vol. 7, No. 4
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Workshops 2012
• HDSLR Filmmaking: 9/1~2, 10/27~28, 12/1~2
• Cinematography: 8/11, 9/29, 11/3, 12/8
• RED Production, and More
Presented and hosted by
Venue: Workshop Studio
Manhattan, New York City.
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